Having now introduced somewhere just under a dozen new yet-to-be-solved mysteries in it's second season (what's "Real S.H.I.E.L.D's" real agenda, what's really going on at Afterlife, what's in The Iliad's super-secret cargo hold, what exactly is Cal using to gain his strength to name just a few), "Melinda" finds AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D doubling back to explain a leftover from Season 1: What really happened to earn Agent May the nickname "The Cavalry" (official story: She singlehandedly took down a superhuman villain and their entire army of henchmen) and why is she so cold and mysterious about it?
The answer and more (SPOILERS!) after the jump...
So, the idea that something a lot darker than "just" a rescue went down with May in Bahrain has been a given since they decided not to reveal it right away; but the actual reveal (she actually only took out two henchmen, the rest were killed by their own master - a pre-teen girl Inhuman who'd transformed without authorization from... whoever is making that call - that May was forced to kill) was a lot darker than AGENTS is usually prepared to go, so that's interesting in itself.
Interesting enough, in fact, that it probably could've stood to be it's own story. Weaving it into Skye bonding with Jaioying works narratively, but it also ends up giving away the twist too easily: "Gee, I wonder if May's story will somehow pay off in a way the ties-in with the 'not every Inhuman should transition' infodump?" On the other hand, it feels wrong to criticize the show for wasting no time getting Skye to her "learning its your mother" moment so quickly when the lack of padding had been so praiseworthy all season - especially since I've also been watching through DAREDEVIL this week, which (while overall a solid series - review likely pending) is padded and stretched-out to the point of near absurdity at times.
Meanwhile, our new big piece of information is that Coulson actually does seem to have been secretly assembling what sounds like a personal army of superhumans, as part of something called "Theta Protocol." This is, apparently, where a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D 2.0's money has gone, and the majority of the actual data is in the toolbox that just walked out the door with Fitz last week. Oh, and if you were guessing that Raina's complaint of constant nightmares was foreshadowing an Inhuman power for future-telling? Congratulations - you've seen a superhero show before.
Still, the "showpiece" for this episode was seeing Ming-Na Wen stretch her acting chops alongside her action work, and it delivered on that front - she turns in a hell of a performance that momentarily turns so "real" it almost feels out of place with all the broader genre-series business going on. There's only about 4 - 5 more of these left, and there's a lot of plot to tie up, so this might have been our last shot at a "character piece" episode before a sprint to the finish like last season. If so, it's a good note to transition on.
- I missed it myself the first time, but Coulson has mentioned Theta Protocol once before - to the Koenigs, as an "if we don't come back" measure. So there's that.
- So what is Theta? At this point it could be anything, but it would be a weird coincidence for a S.H.I.E.L.D spin-off to be announced the same week we start hearing "our main character might be building a training-camp for superhumans" as a plot point. SECRET AVENGERS?
- Piggy-backing on that: Remember, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR *is* apparently going to still be about the government trying to regulate powered persons, so it'd be convenient to have a whole bunch of them ready to go.
- An exchange between Gordon and Lincoln suggests that there's some tension between the human-looking and non-human-looking Inhumans. Seems a bit late to bring that up.
The ads are acting like "Frenemy of My Enemy" is an AGE OF ULTRON tie-in, but I'm a bit skeptical - there's at least one more episode between this and the film's U.S. release, and other than the still sought-after Dr. List the prospect of a WINTER SOLDIER-level tie-in seems unlikely from a logistical perspective.
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