I'm having a serious internal debate as to where to put the spoiler-warning on these things.
The fact is, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D is now more-or-less "out of the closet" as to what corner of the Marvel Universe it's actually been most connected to all this time (or, at least, midway through Season 1) ...if you're watching it. If you're not, since the ads aren't really using a lot of the key terminology yet, it might still be a surprise for the binge-watching crowd. And while I'm not of the mindset that TV critics should neuter their reviews to cater to the watch-later set... I do know a few people personally who're doing just that with this series, so... I dunno.
For now, short version: "One Of Us" is basically a catch-up episode, keeping the main plot largely in a holding pattern so the show has time to explain lingering questions about where everything stands and partially-reveal the answer to at least one major remaining mystery. It works, especially the welcome presence of Blair Underwood as an ex-S.H.I.E.L.D psychiatrist who also turns out to be Agent May's ex-husband; but it's also the first episode in awhile to return to Season 1's habit of feeling like a "grownups" episode of BUFFY - and not just because it involved a lo-fi superhero battle on a small town high-school football field.
Still, as has been the case with Season 2's slower installments, the cast and the bigger ideas at play ultimately pull this one out. More details after the Jump...
So where we? Oh yeah - Agent Skye is actually an Inhuman - that is, a descendant of early humans who were experimented on by The Kree (Ronan's people from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) and manifest super-powers (and sometimes monster-like physical forms) when exposed to Terrigen Crystals. Having been thusly exposed, Skye now has the power to create localized earthquakes, but has difficulty controlling them, putting her S.H.I.E.L.D colleagues in a difficult position. More problematically: Her biological father Calvin (Kyle McLachlan), the supervillain Mr. Hyde, has sworn to cause havoc for S.H.I.E.L.D in order to "rescue" her. Also, two of S.H.I.E.L.D's new-hires, Agents Bobbi (aka "Mockingbird") and Mack, are actually double agents for... someone else, and as last week's episode wrapped they'd had to kidnap Agent Hunter to keep it quiet.
The main plot in "One Of Us" is driven by Calvin, whose big plan involves gathering up a makeshift "supervillain" team and driving to Coulson's hometown in a dumpy RV in order to bait S.H.I.EL.D into a fight. There's a super-strong guy, a tech-wizard guy, Angar The Screamer (well, that was unexpected) and Drea DeMatteo as a razor-fingered woman sharing a name (and nothing else) with a DAREDEVIL character, so do with that what you will.
The point of all this, in terms of the bigger-picture, appears to be clearing up what the revelation of Inhumans being in the Cinematic Universe mix means in terms of earlier information: In Season 1, we learned that S.H.I.E.L.D kept an active database of people with super-powers called "The Gifted Index," treating most folks so listed in the manner of a witness protection program but also moving to monitor and "contain" the dangerous ones. Cal's team have all developed their special abilities second-hand through technology or science (including Cal himself, who despite having married and fathered a child with an Inhuman is apparently a normal man who augments his strength with chemicals - making him much closer to the original Marvel Mr. Hyde than some may have thought), confirming that "gifted" doesn't necessary equal "Inhuman" - with Agent Simmons even reccomending that the Index split Gifteds into categories of "enhanced" and "...something else."
In the B-story, Blair Underwood's ex-Mr. Melinda May does some psychoanalysis on Skye that reveals so little actual information he might as well leave the team with a "My storyline will pay off later" I.O.U. The interplay is decent, but the actual progress made (Skye is afraid of losing Agent-hood, she can sort-of control her powers but not fully) is negligible. The main new detail, that keeping her powers in check is literally making her fall apart inside (this will probably be the in-story reason for her to start wearing a super-suit of some kind) comes about mainly because of the big confrontation on the field.
B-story #2 (C-story?) actually had more meat on it: Mack is keeping Hunter prisoner in his house until bringing him "onboard" is okayed by whoever their superiors are. The reveal? They're with another, even more secretive re-grouped version of S.H.I.E.L.D - one that apparently considers Nick Fury's vision of things an abject failure and Coulson's continuing of that legacy a major no-no. As twists go, it's clever, but I feel like they miscalculated the reveal itself: "Gasp! It's... a slightly-different design of the S.H.I.E.L.D Eagle logo!!!"
- Someone's going to need to explain to me how DeMatteo's character is either "gifted" or a supervillain. She has scalpel-tipped fingers she gave herself to fend off an abusive boyfriend, then used to kill some other people. Okay, fine... couldn't the normal police just arrest her and remove those? Was S.H.I.E.L.D and special S.H.I.E.L.D arm-restraints really necessary?
- Now that we know Mr. Hyde not only powers-up with chemicals but is still experimenting with them, that means we get to see McLachlan hulk-out sometime before the finale, right? Because that'd be awesome.
- The Reader teleports Cal to the Inhuman training-room we've seen his wife (Skye's mom) use for helping newly-transformed youths in flashbacks, and implies he has someone to "answer to" while there. I imagine people will be assuming this is Attilan, but I doubt it.
- What's "Other S.H.I.E.L.D" up to? Your guess is as good as mine, but if they're already operating from "Coulson's group is dangerous" the fact that he (and at least Fitz and probably also May) are intent on harboring a dangerous Gifted is probably not going to change their minds. Incidentally, Agent Ward is supposed to pop up for the first time in awhile next episode, so that's also in play.
- Shot in the dark: I wonder if we'll find out that the government started up a "new" S.H.I.E.L.D of its own almost-immediately, and that this powerful entity has been letting Coulson etc believe they're safe to get closer to them (we know they want Fury's "toolbox.") Either way, however this works out I'd bet on one of these teams changing their name to S.W.O.R.D or H.A.M.M.E.R by the end of the season.
"Love in The Time of HYDRA" promises to reveal the new alternate S.H.I.E.L.D in greater detail, and also to pick up Ward and Agent 33's (the brainwashed HYDRA assassin with an Agent May mask fused to her face) yet-unrevealed venture. 33's original actress is back in the credits, so this may involve getting her real face back.
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