One of the things I've noticed is that “Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is very careful to just show scenes in their “previously on” montage that directly relate to the episode ahead. It makes sense we'd see a little bit of what happened last week to Skye and Coulson and the rest of the team, but I was surprised to see them include a moment of May and Ward discussing their surreptitious sex life.
The show is feeling more and more serialized each week. We pick up immediately after the end of last week's episode, with Lorelei (Elena Satine) still traveling with the groom she stole from his own honeymoon. She finds a motorcycle gang that better suits her ambitions, and she tosses away the first guy like a dirty tissue. She's obviously looking to assemble an army of men under her own control, and because of her powers, it makes perfect story sense for Sif (Jaime Alexander) to be the one who has to go after her.
The scene where Coulson is looking for Director Fury may seem oddly out of place this week, but it's going to be important when we see “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” in the very near future. I've heard the same comment from three people who have seen that film now, and if you're a regular viewer of this show, it's one that you should pay particular attention to between now and the end of the season.
“I just don't understand how they're going to keep making 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' after the end of 'Winter Soldier,'” they've said. Because Marvel doesn't date each new film, the idea of how the continuity works is a little tricky. Last year, when “Iron Man 3” came out, I remember asking Kevin Feige why Tony Stark didn't just reach out to S.H.I.E.L.D. for help. “You'll see the answer to that question when we release 'Captain America 2' next year,” he said. Well, I've heard that same question asked about “Captain America 2” and why Cap doesn't just reach out for help, and evidently the answer is because Tony Stark is busy with the events of “Iron Man 3.”
Sif, during the first briefing scene, confirms that it was during “Thor: The Dark World” that Lorelei was able to escape from Asgard thanks to the invasion of the Dark Elves. From the moment she arrives via a familiar special effect, Alexander is very good as Sif. She brings a certain presence that feels regal and otherworldly, and Elena Satine has to hit the ground running to etch Lorelei as both a character and a threat quickly. Alexander also handles herself really well in the action scenes, and it's clear that if they want to, they can give her a bigger role in the next “Thor” film and she's more than up to the task.
The moment May talks about possibly having to use the ICERs (nicely renamed from the Night-Night guns) on friend or foe, it's pretty clear where the episode is headed, and sure enough, Ward becomes Lorelei's best weapon the moment she and Ward are face-to-face. She controls him, yes, but she also seems to treat him better than she treats any of the other men in her thrall, almost as an equal. I like that May and Sif connect on the level of two warriors, each admiring the other's skill set.
One of the most difficult things to do from week to week is to tell stories that feel like they are important and urgent while also finding a way to keep them self-contained enough for it to make sense that we're still focused on this one small team, and this episode seems to do that especially well. It makes perfect sense that Ward would want to steal the Bus for Lorelei's use, and pitting Fitz and Ward against Coulson and May and Simmons and Skye makes a lot of sense. And when Lorelei uses Ward's personal disclosures as a weapon against May, it pays off what otherwise might have felt like a random bit of soap opera. And even though Lorelei is a new character to the movie universe, she's able to play on character threads from both this series and the “Thor” films. She makes reference to Sif's feelings for Thor, and there's a passing reference that Sif makes to Odin ordering her to bring Lorelei back alive that makes me think we're going to be seeing Elena Satine as this character again sometime in the near future. After all, we know Odin isn't Odin anymore, so Loki must have some plans
The superhero action, the sequence with Sif crawling along the outside of the plane, the Asgardian details… all of it looks great. Everything from the moment the Bus takes off to the moment the special collar snaps closed over Lorelei's mouth, I think this may be the most confident episode yet in terms of energy. It would have been easy for Sif's appearance to feel like a stunt, but it really didn't. The episode is well-constructed and it comes at a moment when these characters are already starting to be fragile.
May's right when she tells Coulson at the end that he's been acting differently since the Guest House, and the episode wraps up with May and Ward reaching a breaking point in whatever it was that was happening between them, while the scene between Coulson and Skye clarifies what we saw last week to some extent. Coulson may not name the alien he saw in the chamber in the Guest House, but he confirms to her that something has been injected into her that he feels guilty about. He's upset because it's no longer just him who is going to have to deal with any fallout from what happened. Skye accepts this fairly easily, but Coulson can't, and it seems like they're heading into a break from the main body of S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson is dropping all protocols, and they're going after the Clairvoyant.
I thought there was a glitch in the player at first when they came back for the tag at the end of the episode, but the double-back gives us a chance to see that May has been listening to their conversation and, even worse, she's reporting back on them to someone. Her one line, “Coulson knows,” suggests that May's loyalties, already strained by what happened with Ward, may never have been what we thought they were.
At this point, I consider this show a fascinating exercise in narrative continuity, and I'm not even sure I can describe my reaction in simple “liked it” or “didn't like it” terms. Week to week, I'm curious how they're going to pay off all of the threads they've introduced, and how they're going to wrap this story around “Captain America: The WInter Soldier,” “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” and the following spring, “The Avengers 2”. I've already got a pretty good idea of which puzzles they're going to deal with in the films, but I feel like we're just starting to get a real picture of which puzzles they're also dealing with on the show.
“Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' airs Tuesdays on ABC.