I’m back with another two episodes of SHIELD to discuss, finally catching up to the present. The last two I covered saw Coulson’s team deposed and scattered, with some on the run, others stuck with the new regime, and Skye off with the Inhumans learning to understand her powers. Our first episode (look for the second on page two), gave us something we’ve been waiting for since the show’s first episode, the story of how Melinda May became the Cavalry in Bahrain. We also got some further intrigue and revelations from Skye and the Inhumans, as well as the situation becoming much less clear back at SHIELD. So let’s jump into “Melinda,” written by DJ Doyle and directed by Garry A. Brown.
- The emotional punch of “Melinda” focused on flashbacks to the events in Bahrain, so we’ll start there. We get a glimpse at her home life with Andrew back when they were married and planning to start a family, with all of the innuendo that goes along with that. They have a fun, flirty sort of connection, where they’re clearly equals despite having such different sets of skills. Andrew cracks about whether May will be exactly like her own mother, while Coulson walks in early and chides Andrew for leaving the front door unlocked. He reveals that they’re on the trail of a powered individual, potentially another patient for Andrew to guide and analyze.
- Onboard the Bus with a troop of commandos, May and Coulson discuss the fact that SHIELD is retiring the fleet of planes in favor of a new initiative uniting earth’s mightiest heroes, though they assure each other that they’ll keep working together. Coulson gathers the team for a briefing and explains that they’re headed after Eva Belyakov, an individual with heightened strength. The goal is to make peaceful contact, but they’ll have to approach her in public, which is less than ideal. If things should go badly, the head of the commandos says, they’ll have to call in his team, the cavalry, to put her down. Their contact in Bahrain leads them to a market where Eva is sitting at a table, but he informs them that she’s been meeting with local gangs of mercenaries. Coulson makes contact while May hangs back and surveys the situation, but things devolve quickly. She has no interest in going with Coulson, and tells him she’s looking for pain, before kicking the table aside and causing a standoff. Her mercenary buddies grab hostages, including SHIELD agents and a little girl, and they retreat into a warehouse, leaving May and Coulson to regroup.
- May is understandably concerned about the little girl, particularly given her desire to start a family with Andrew, and she and Coulson call in the cavalry to rescue her, despite May wanting to go in on her own. The commandos go in, and Coulson and May listen in as they discover that the girl is still alive, only for there to be screams as the feed cuts out and all of the soldiers are disabled. May still wants to go in, but Coulson has to call someone higher up for guidance, however when the request is refused he decides to send her in anyway before the local authorities can make the situation worse. She calls Andrew on her way in, who gives her some advice on how to gain the girl’s trust and advices her to “do good, but come home.” She jumps up to a balcony and infiltrates the building, taking out mercenaries until she comes across the room where the SHIELD team is being held. They all seem alright at first glance, but the leader attacks May, saying that he needs her pain, and he’s backed up by the rest of the team all repeating his statement. She escapes and locks them inside, determined to take out Eva before she can take control of anyone else.
- In the present, Jiaying is trying to guide Skye through exploring her powers. They obviously share a connection, as Skye is more eager to open up to her than she was to Lincoln. Jiaying explains that Skye can sense and control the natural frequencies of anything around her, and that with training she should be able to only effect certain things, rather than simply shaking everything. She hands Skye a stone, but when Skye tries to sense it she instead can hear the entire mountain, and after Jiaying’s encouragement she causes the whole mountain to shake, causing an avalanche and altering the ecosystem despite Jiaying’s statement that she can’t hurt the mountain. Later while talking to Lincoln, Skye confesses that she likes Jiaying and is surprised to learn that she’s in charge of the village and typically never trains people.
- Jiaying’s next experiment is setting up glasses of water, and getting Skye to use the vibrations of the glasses to sound different notes. It works at first, as she gets all of the glasses ringing in harmony, until they explode, sending water everywhere and forcing the village to drink from wooden cups from now on. The broken glass triggers some emotion in Skye, who remembers breaking a crystal decanter in a foster home and being sent back to the orphanage because of it. She tells Jiaying about her life jumping from home to home, never feeling like a part of a family and never staying in one spot for more than two years, but when she tells about how she was sent back from a foster home on her birthday, which was doubly sad because she doesn’t even know when her birthday is, Jiaying can’t take it anymore. She confesses that Skye’s birthday is July 2nd, and tells her the story of her birth on a hot night in China, when Jiaying went into labor and Cal was forced to borrow the village’s one car to take her to the hospital, despite not knowing Chinese.
- Skye’s in shock that the woman standing before her is her mother, but Jiaying suspects that deep down she always knew. She says that she wanted to run up and hug Skye when she first saw her, but that staying in the village had to be Skye’s choice. She tells about how after Cal put Jiaying back together, the two of them spent years looking for Skye, becoming more ruthless as time progressed and Cal became crazier. At one point, Jiaying could no longer recognize herself in the mirror or the woman she’d become, so she left Cal resolving to help others instead. She insists that they keep this a secret, because she has to remain neutral, enforce the rules and not show favoritism.
- It’s here that the flashbacks and Skye’s story merge, as Jiaying tells about a time when Eva was her trainee, who stole some Terrigen crystals and fled. We watch as May faces down Eva, with the little girl looking on, and it’s a brutal fight, with May seemingly at a disadvantage against Eva’s super strength. Things get worse for a battered May, as one of the mercenaries comes in and shoots May in the leg, but May takes a broken lamp pole and runs it through Eva’s heart, killing her and presumably ending her mind control of the others. However, they keep advancing, still saying that they like her pain. Jiaying explains that Eva’s daughter, Katya, was a potential Inhuman, but they sensed a darkness in her and kept her from undergoing Terrigenesis, but Eva wouldn’t hear of it. She stole the crystals for her daughter, who transformed into a monster, feeding off the emotions of others and able to control them. The little girl, Katya, comes out from hiding and kills the mercenaries simply by touching them, taking their pain for herself, but she still wants more. The SHIELD commandos appear, and May pleads with Katya not to kill them, promising that they can help her. Katya reaches out for May, wanting her pain, and we flash to Coulson who is still waiting outside when he hears a gunshot.
- Coulson rushes in and finds May cradling Katya’s body in her arms, while the SHIELD team wakes up from their hypnosis, wondering how May singlehandedly could have killed all of the mercenaries and Eva while saving all of them, pointing out that she’s the real Cavalry. We watch as she cries in Coulson’s arms who tells her that she has to let the girl go, as she returns to Andrew but can’t stand to even have him hold her hand, and as she eventually transfers to Maria Hill’s office in order to work a desk job, returning us to where we first met her way back in SHIELD’s first episode.
- Skye’s story wraps up with a family dinner, which Jiaying talks her into by promising that she never has to see her father again after it, that they will send him away for good. Cal has gone all out for the dinner, setting a nice table and even getting flowers for Skye, saying that he wanted to make everything perfect. He thanks them for giving him another shot, and they reminisce about her birthday once again, with him telling the story this time. One thing stands out to Skye, however, when Cal mentions that she was born in 1988. That would make her 26 years old instead of 25 as she thought. They all raise a toast to 26, while Lincoln looks in from the doorway at this happy family reunion.
- May and the rest of SHIELD also got a present day storyline in this episode, as May was filled in on the latest developments with Coulson. She seems to have had no idea that Coulson had recruited Mike Peterson, and is worried about something called “Theta Protocol,” which was in Coulson’s files but of which she’d never heard. As a member of the new SHIELD’s board, she asks to be put in charge of the Playground once again, and she and Bobbi take a quinjet back to the base. Bobbi comments that the gut-punched feeling that May feels about Coulson’s secrets is the same way she, Mack, and the rest have felt this whole time. Bobbi gives a fine speech about how secrets need to be out in the open, but May dismisses her by pointing out that Bobbi is only worried that May won’t understand Bobbi’s choice to betray them.
- Back at the Playground, Simmons and May are reunited with a hug, and May points out that the battery pack Simmons has been working on was actually a secret upgrade for Deathlok/Mike Peterson, though Simmons refuses to believe May at first. May asks about Theta Protocol, but Simmons is just as in the dark. Simmons questions whether the new SHIELD might be lying to them about Coulson, pointing out that he must have had a good reason if he was keeping secrets, but May isn’t as convinced. They start digging through his files, uncovering that he lied about the destinations of some of his trips, and that he was burning through money, consulting with Andrew on the side, and setting up safehouses with hundreds of bunk beds all in secret. Mack walks in and backs the new SHIELD’s theory that Coulson was building a base for powered people, which given May’s experience with powered people in Bahrain is alarming to her. The truth has to lie in the Toolbox, which they no longer have.
- Speaking of Fitz, SHIELD put a tail on him, hoping he would lead them to Coulson and we catch up to him in the episode’s final scene, in the bathroom while his tails wait impatiently outside. He successfully hacks into the Toolbox, bringing up Coulson’s holographic interface and after a minute he hacks into Hunter’s tablet and makes contact. Hunter is understandably surprised, as they’re apparently hiding in Mexico given the soccer game on the TV in the background. Coulson shows up on the screen and Fitz explains that he stole the Toolbox and is being followed. He says that he knows they’re supposed to be hiding and that SHIELD wants him to lead them to Coulson, but “would it still be ok if I came and hung out with you?” But first Hunter will have to show him how to lose his tail. Hunter asks if there’s a hand dryer in the bathroom, and when Fitz confirms that there is, Hunter tells him that everything will be ok.
- The episode’s other big revelation came from Raina. We see her arguing with Gordon to let her leave, but he won’t let her back out into public, despite her assertion that she can take care of herself. She’s still in constant pain, can’t sleep, and she’s not thrilled about Lincoln sticking up for her with Gordon. She tells him that every time she sleeps she dreams of Skye and her father, happily eating dinner surrounded by flowers, and it comes off as jealousy when she goes on about how Skye got everything while all she got was thorns. Later she’s told that she can’t leave, although Gordon can take her to many beautiful places, she still has to remain with them. He insists that her gift was more than just thorns, that there must be something else wonderful about her transformation. We finally get a hint at what that could be when Lincoln walks in on Skye’s dinner party and realizes that Raina’s dream was more than that, it was a vision of the future.
- After two weeks of heavy plot development, “Melinda” was more focused on the emotion. The biggest was obviously the Bahrain story, which was predictably tragic in an unpredictable way. After hearing stories of how she’d single handedly taken out dozens of guys and rescued the entire team, it was heartbreaking to see that she actually only killed a few people, one of them a little girl who had killed all of the rest. It completely explains why such a fierce warrior chose a desk job, but also her seeming mistrust of Coulson following the new SHIELD’s theory that he’s stockpiling powered people as part of the “Theta Protocol.” We’ll see a little deeper into her current attitude in the next episode on page 2, but I like that her confusion and mistrust stems from a very reasonable place. Melinda always felt slightly broken to me, but now I’m surprised that she was ever able to come back from what she went through. On the other hand, she’s Melinda May and can handle anything, and if anyone could pull her out it’d be Coulson.
- There were a lot of little moments I liked in this episode. I got a good laugh out of Coulson debating with himself what story to tell the police and settling on a bioweapon because “bio always works.” I loved the fact that Fitz asked if he could “come hang out” with Coulson and Hunter, it was so dorky. I really liked the surprise to Skye about her age. It’s the sort of revelation that has no bearing on fan theories or the mythology of the show, but is the sort of thing that I imagine would really shock someone in that situation. It felt real and it really helped to ground the sense of a reunited family despite the larger than life circumstances. I love that Bobbi is trying to justify her actions to May, as it seems like the two of them are on opposite sides of the same coin, both doubting their path and their choices, and wondering who to trust. Both believe in their cause, but are having second thoughts, and I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.
What do you think? Did you enjoy “Melinda?” How do you feel now that we finally know what happened in Bahrain? Do you think May will turn her back on Coulson? Do you think Bobbi will turn back to Coulson? Could Fitz be any more adorable? What do you make of Raina’s potential ability to see the future? What’s your feeling on Skye’s reconnection with her parents? Do you trust Jiaying/Lincoln/Gordon and the Inhumans? Let me know in the comments, and click on to the next page for a look at “The Frenemy of My Enemy.”