Perhaps one of the hardest parts of becoming an adult is letting go of your ideas about what life should look like. As we grow and mature, we head into adulthood with all these expectations and ideas of how the world ought to look and how life ought to treat us. These are pretty weighty ideas, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D handles them deftly in one of its most personal episodes.
In the last episode, Skye moved a mountain; in this episode, she has to survive an afternoon with her dad. It’s hard to tell which is more difficult. Skye’s concern for Cal is kind of sweet. She wants to keep Cal calm, so he doesn’t flip out and go on the warpath, leaving a trail of bodies on his way back to Skye. Chloe Bennet is at her best when playing off Kyle MacLachlan, and the two manage to find a lot of great jokes and touching moments on their tour through a seedy part of Milwaukee. It’s particularly heartbreaking when Cal describes the charter school they would’ve sent Skye to, how he was going to be the perfect father to his perfect daughter.
But Skye would never be Cal’s perfect daughter. Skye was a wild child, uninterested in letting anyone tell her what to do. She would’ve rebelled against Cal as much as she rebelled against the nuns in her orphanage. Cal would’ve taken Daisy out for ice cream, when she really would’ve preferred a 40 ounce. Skye has made peace with her life, with her identity. It’s not a perfect life, but it’s hers, and she’s making the best of it.
Cal, on the other hand, is trapped inside his own jumbled head. He’s fixated on that perfect life, and he is so angry that it was robbed from him. And Skye’s attempt to let him down softly only backfired, with him forcing his way with her and Gordon back to Afterlife. I love that the plights of Skye’s family make up the drama of season 2b. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a very mature outlook on Skye’s relationship with her father, using his weaknesses to highlight her strengths.
May finds herself at a similar crossroads. She’s thought for so long that S.H.I.E.L.D. is safe with Coulson, but now Coulson’s motives are under suspicion. After spying on him last season, May has become Coulson’s most ardent supporter. But she’s questioning him now, wondering what exactly his agenda with Skye is. If Coulson is assembling an army of superpowered soldiers, he could be as dangerous as Hydra.
And Coulson, robbed of his infrastructure by Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D., is forced to connect with one of his most hated enemies, Ward. When they meet in a nondescript restaurant, the normally affable patter of Clark Gregg’s voice is replaced with complete disdain. Coulson likely knows he’s being played by Ward, but hopefully his plan includes figuring out what the hell Ward’s play even is.
This is a pretty quiet episode on the whole. It’s mostly transitional, setting up a rift between Cal and Jiaying, with Skye caught in between. Hydra has its hands on both Deathlok and a fully powered Inhuman, which makes them more dangerous than ever before. And Coulson, a man who views himself as the rightful head of S.H.I.E.L.D., will be forced to compromise to face a greater enemy.
But as strange as it sounds, Agents S.H.I.E.L.D. could use more episodes like this. It isn’t forcing action or mired in exposition; instead, it’s a modest examination of how two characters react to lost dreams. Though this episode is transitional, it also has some of the best Skye’s best character moments of the series.
3.5 Surgical Kits out of 5. Aw, Cal, how sweet: you show your daughter the surgical kit you used to put your dismembered wife back together.
You can tell this episode will be light on action because there’s an extensively choreographed sparring scene between Bobbi and Mac; lots of complex stunts and editing for an inconsequential scene.
Deathlok knew how armed Ward was because of an ocular pat down.
Dr. List’s first appearance is actually the post-credits scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as the doctor who spoke with Baron Von Strucker. It’s a lovely callback, using the same actor and character for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
I love how Simmons prepares a long list of lies to tell Bobbi, only for May to shoot them down after five seconds.
Deathlok is one of the strongest people in the MCU, right? He has the strength and healing of Extremis coupled with all his cyborg implants. He should be able to go toe-to-toe with Iron Man at least.
Line of the episode: when ~~Carol~~ Kara tells Coulson, “I don’t work for you anymore.”