Last week’s Agents of SHIELD left us with everything seemingly in chaos. Skye had shot herself in order to stop a quake she was beginning to trigger with two alien entities after her for the same reason but with different intentions. Hunter confronted Mack about the secret Mack and Bobbi are keeping, and was answered with a choke hold from Mack that knocked Hunter out. And the entire team was hit with the news that Skye now has powers thanks to the Diviner, and Fitz knew and has been lying to everyone. This week we got to see Coulson’s team trying to find some answers and a bit of stability, while being confronted with just the sort of chaos they want to avoid. We got a few answers, a revelation or two, some backstory, and a dose of emotion in “One of Us,” written by Monica Owusu-Breen and directed by Kevin Tancharoen.
- We had two main plots this week which paralleled nicely. On the one hand, you had Coulson and the team dealing with the fallout from last week’s revelation about Skye. She’s still spending all of her time in the Cage onboard the Bus, but she’s still trying to contribute while being brought grilled cheeses from Coulson. Coulson tells her that he’s putting her on the index, which she expected, but she insists that she’s now steady and is ready to get back in the field, something he won’t promise her. He reports back to May and tells her that Skye is acting as if everything is normal, and the two agree that she needs a psych evaluation, both as a part of her new status on the index and to help them get an idea of her current state of mind. For that, there’s only one person they trust, but Coulson won’t ask May to contact him if “it’s a thing.” “It’s not a thing,” she says, and heads off to make contact with Andrew.
- Enter Dr. Andrew Garner (played by Blair Underwood), a psychology professor in West Virginia who also happens to be Melinda May’s ex-husband. He’s understandably reluctant to work with SHIELD, especially after May didn’t return his phone calls following SHIELD’s collapse due to HYDRA. Don’t worry, though, May’s mom filled him in. May insists that SHIELD is different now, and to prove it she immediately agrees to his stipulations that his sessions with Skye be completely private, and that Skye will get a copy of the report he prepares for SHIELD. He’ll be there to help Skye, not to help SHIELD or Coulson. Oh, and his fee’s gone up. Skye’s not so thrilled about seeing a shrink, but her tune changes when she finds out that he’s May’s ex, and she starts pumping him for information on how they met, what the wedding was like, and whether she was a “Bridezilla”. He tries to avoid her questions, but when he sees her start to clam up he offers up some info in exchange for her honest answers to his probing.
- The pair establish a rapport, and she starts to trust him. She confesses that she’s afraid to lose her agent status, and that she shot herself to protect her team. She seems like she’s keeping a good lid on her powers until she triggers a quake during her sleep, and is reluctant to tell him about her dream. She deflects with humor and sarcasm, on which he immediately calls her out, until she finally gives in. She dreamed she was out on a mission, looking at a target through her rifle, when suddenly her position is reversed, and she is now the target staring down the barrel of the gun. I loved everything about Andrew Garner and his scenes with Skye. Of course, Blair Underwood did a great job of being compassionate yet firm, and feeling relatable but still someone whom May would consider an equal. But I also loved these scenes as a way to get in Skye’s head without resorting to her simply explaining to people how she feels. The dream was a perfect metaphor for her changing role in SHIELD, but it wouldn’t have made sense for her to start telling May or Coulson about her dreams. Andrew gave us the perfect opportunity to have these kinds of conversations in a way that feels natural and logical within the universe.
- Favorite Quote – Skye: “Did you guys have actual conversations? Was there pillow talk or just pillow stern looks?”
- Of course, Skye’s sessions are cut short due to the other main plot. Her father, Cal, wants to get her back from SHIELD, and to do so he’s set out to recruit some soldiers from the index. He gets a computer whiz, Levi, to hack SHIELD to acquire the index and help him track down the others. He adds Francis Noche, who has been gifted with superstrength enough to bend the bars of a security gate. But the first person we see Cal attempt to persuade to join him is Karla Faye Gideon (whose name matches a character from the Marvel comics universe, but there doesn’t seem to be a connection). We watch Karla struggling to eat a steak with some kind of metal glove over her hand when there’s a knock on the door and she opens it to reveal Cal and his team. He tells her that he’s not with SHIELD and instead wants to take them down and set her free. He asks how long it’s been since she actually touched something with her fingertips. She then proceeds to slam the door in his face, before considering for a few minutes and reopening it. Cal knows that he sounds “bat guano crazy,” but she lets them cut off her manacles and she pulls her hands free for the first time in years. Her joy at freedom and feeling human again is somewhat marred by the fact that she has scalpel blades grafted onto her fingernails.
- Cal’s last recruit is David Angar (a bigger name from the Marvel Comic world, sometimes known as The Screamer), who is being held in a secret basement in a mental institution, with his mouth covered in a metal mask. (I don’t know who at SHIELD has a thing for metal restraints, but whoever it is was probably a member of HYDRA.) Angar was a volunteer for an experiment on his vocal chords, and as a result any sound he makes, even a whisper, has the power to knock people unconscious. His team assembled, and following a pancake breakfast where he lays out his motivation for revenge on SHIELD and Coulson, Cal sets his plan in motion. He takes the group to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where Angar knocks out a practicing high school football team and its cheerleaders with his power, holding the kids hostage until Coulson can track him down and force a showdown.
- Coulson and Bobbi are on Cal’s trail, but are stymied by a message left by Cal: “Fight on!” After distracting himself by interrogating Bobbi about Hunter’s whereabouts (more on that in a minute), he realizes that it refers to the “Fighters,” his hometown high school in Manitowoc. He and Bobbi head off to save the day, and May decides to join them with the Bus, interrupting Skye and Andrew in the middle of a session. The stage is set for a showdown, which Cal offers play by play of from the announcer’s booth at the football field. He bills it as a matchup between the SHIELD Eagles (someone make that t-shirt!) and the Slicing… Talons? It will be broadcast for all to hear on AM520. Coulson and Bobbi want to wait for May, but when Cal threatens the kids Coulson surrenders himself while Bobbi gets in position. Cal’s ready to exact his revenge when May shows up with a gun held to Skye’s head, wanting Cal to let the kids go or she’ll put Skye down.
- Cal tries to talk to Skye, despite May’s insistence that he talk to her, and is so excited to learn about her new powers. He tells her how she’s been brainwashed by SHIELD, but before things can go too far, there’s a blast of blue light and Gordon teleports into their midst, grabs Cal, and teleports the two of them away again. Coulson acts immediately and knocks out Angar before chasing after Levi. May squares off against Noche while Bobbi takes on Karla. Andrew and Skye watch from the sideline as May eventually kicks Noche’s ass, while Bobbi and Karla take their fight to the locker room where Bobbi succeeds in knocking Karla out with a bench. Coulson tackles Levi to the ground, and as he goes to subdue him, Levi begs and pleads with Coulson before being knocked out. Skye, watching this, starts to lose control as the earth begins to shake once more. However, she suppresses it until her hands and arms turn purple and she passes out.
- Favorite Quote – May: “I taught her how to fire an automatic, of course she likes me.”
- We learn from Simmons that Skye isn’t actually controlling her powers, she’s just directing them inwards on herself. This latest instance caused her capillaries to burst, hence the bruising all over her arms, while further examination revealed 70 hairline fractures in her arms. Despite May’s insistence that they’ll figure this out, it’s clear that the path that Skye is currently on is doing damage to her. It shows a bit of Skye’s heart, in that she’d direct her powers inward rather than hurt others, but it’s still a dangerous place for her to be. Andrew, before leaving, recommends that she leave SHIELD completely, and at this point I think that’s inevitable. She clearly has a new empathy for those on the index whom she previously saw as targets. They’re scared people to her now, and if some of them are bad it doesn’t mean they should all be treated as criminals or Freaks (hence the “One of Us” title for the episode). The question is if/when she leaves, where and to whom does she go? Her father might be a likely choice except that he’s crazy and she hates him. Gordon’s group is definitely possible, although she doesn’t know of their existence yet. But am I crazy to think that she somehow ends up with Ward? I could see Ward, Agent 33, and Skye ending up together as their own freelance team, trying to help some and stop others outside of SHIELD’s rigid system.
- The big revelation for the evening came from Hunter’s story. He was taken hostage by Mack after their confrontation, chained to a bathroom sink. Coulson was suspicious of his absence and questioned Bobbi, but she evaded by confessing that she and Hunter had been sleeping together but she broke it off so Hunter went away to sulk. (The side-eye that Coulson gave her makes me think that Coulson didn’t buy that for a second). At the very end of the episode, Mack and Bobbi decided to let Hunter in on the truth, telling him they work for the real SHIELD, complete with different emblem. What exactly this means is anyone’s guess, but the preview for next week showed us Edward James Olmos as the head of this alternate SHIELD (Secret Warriors?) and their plan to take Coulson out as SHIELD’s director. Who is this other group? What is their mission? Why are they at odds with Coulson? Did Nick Fury set up this team as a backup? Is a confrontation inevitable, or will they find a way to work things out?
- We learned a few new things about Cal this week. In particular, we learned that his current condition, consisting of some extra strength and a healthy dose of crazy, is a result of him trying to improve himself via chemistry. He says that he’s always tweaking things. This, of course, fits in with his comic book persona as Mister Hyde (a la Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde), and perhaps gives us an idea of where he’s heading. If he’s still working on a chemical formula to “improve” himself, might he eventually become more monster than man?
- One of the more interesting ideas this week was the various levels of people on the gifted index. Simmons pointed out to Coulson that “gifted” was insufficient and too broad a term for the people on the index. She suggested one category called “enhanced” which would be filled with people like Cal’s team, people who tried to alter themselves whose abilities are a result of human tinkering. The other category, presumably, would be the Inhumans, people with a genetic basis for their powers (even if those genes are a result of Kree tinkering, and must be triggered by Terrigenesis). Gordon’s attitude toward Cal at the end of the episode seems to feed into this. He said that Cal wasn’t “one of us” and that he’s just a “science experiment.” He clearly looks down on what Simmons would call “enhanced” individuals. Perhaps this plays into some of Cal’s motivation as well. Is he trying to “improve” himself to a point where he’ll be accepted by the Inhumans? Does he want to reunite with Skye because she might be a ticket in for him? It brings up a possibility that commenter Lindsay made last week, that perhaps Skye’s mother was kicked out or even betrayed to HYDRA because of her romance with Cal and having his child. I think things are going to get very complex regarding people with abilities, considering the different tiers of powered individuals, the different organizations that approach these people in specific ways, and the wild cards who bring public attention to them. Skye might get trapped in the middle, leaving her with some big decisions to make. And who was Cal walking off to meet?
- Favorite Quote – Cal: “What’s your thing? I was hoping it was wings.”
- There were a few other developments this week, but they were largely overshadowed by bigger moments. Simmons insisted to Bobbi that her relationship with Fitz could never be the same as it was now that he’s lied to her, but then Fitz and Simmons bonded a bit by gossiping about May and Andrew while Simmons said that spending time together might bring May and Andrew closer. I still want to see more FitzSimmons, but I understand there are bigger things going on at the moment. Simmons also featured in another development, when Coulson gave her secret orders to work on trying to understand people with powers. I’m not sure why this needed to be a secret, or what he expects her to uncover, but now she’s having to lie to the group after having just admonished Fitz for doing the same.
- As a final side note, there were a couple really cool shots tonight that I enjoyed. First was when Angar screamed and knocked out all of the kids on the football field. After a few moments of silence, a flock of birds rained to the ground, also knocked out by his power. The second was just a moment before May started to fight Noche, where she was given a badass hero walk towards him in slow motion that only lasted a second or so. I like little touches like these that keep the show visually interesting and make it feel more cinematic.
What do you think? Did you enjoy “One of Us”? What did you think of May’s ex-husband Andrew? Where do you think Skye goes from here? To whom will she turn? How heartbreaking was it to see the damage she’s doing to herself? What is Gordon’s agenda, and why did he kidnap Cal? Who is Cal going to meet? Who is the “real SHIELD” and what are they up to? Why are they out for Coulson? How will Ward fit into all of this? Are you excited for Edward James Olmos next week? Let me know in the comments!