Review: ‘Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’ – ‘The Frenemy of My Enemy’: Daddy’s day out

alan-sepinwall
Senior Television Writer
04.21.15 20 Comments

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A review of tonight's “Marvel's Agents of SHIELD” coming up just as soon as I can bench press a small hatchback…

Last night, the various Hollywood trade sites reported that the would-be “Agents of SHIELD” spin-off would focus on Bobbi and Hunter, about which I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, a “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”-style show about bickering exes who do spy work together sounds like a lot of fun, Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood have been among the highlights of this second season of “SHIELD,” and “SHIELD” could stand to have fewer moving parts. (The focus on the two characters, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach of “SHIELD,” is one of the reasons the new show sounds so promising.) On the other, I enjoy those two so much more than so many of the people who would be sticking around the parent show that I wonder if it might just be simpler to trade in my “SHIELD” DVR pass in favor of the spin-off.

Neither character has a ton to do in “The Frenemy of My Enemy,” which focuses mainly on Coulson making an uneasy alliance with Ward(*), and all of the show's current players – Coulson's splinter group, Real SHIELD, Hydra, the Inhumans – converging in the Doctor's Milwaukee office building for a variety of misunderstandings, double-crosses and plans being kept secret from the audience. By the end of it, Cal and Skye are headed back to Afterlife (but with Cal now enraged about their attempt to abandon him by the side of the road), Deathlok and Lincoln are in Hydra custody (because Bakshi appears to be more immune to his own brainwashing than Ward thought, unless this is all part of an elaborate long con), and Coulson is offering himself up to Real SHIELD, where he will have some 'splaining to do about his collaboration with Ward and 33.

(*) Anyone who thinks Ward will actually wind up being brainwashed, please take one step back.

Not all the elements of the climax work – a few episodes ago, Skye was able to call for Gordon's help in an instant, where here he doesn't show up until after Lincoln has been abducted – but it was still satisfying to have so many of the show's disparate factions interacting directly with one another. This season, “Agents of SHIELD” has had a tendency to split up its cast to places far and wide, like “Game of Thrones” if “Game of Thrones” had a much cheaper budget and less interesting characters, and it hasn't really served the show well. (Most of this season's best episodes: “Face My Enemy,” “Making Friends and Influencing People” and last week's “Melinda,” benefited from trying to do a few things strongly rather than a lot of things decently.) So getting a lot of people in the same space helped, particularly Ward, who worked better as a direct opponent/ally to Coulson rather than as an outlaw starring in his own embedded spin-off with Agent 33.

I hope that now that Skye has seen Coulson in person – even if it was in the unexpected company of Ward – we'll see a bit more conflict between her SHIELD agent side and her reunited daughter side. Her family history has always been baked into the character, but it's never been the most interesting part of her, even when her parents are played by compelling actors like Kyle MacLachlan and Dichen Lachman. Her most successful incarnation was as a sarcastic, bitter, effective spy under Coulson's command, and using her as a way to introduce the Inhumans into the Marvel film and TV universe has taken away a lot of that edge and replaced it with a character who's more powerful on the superhero scale but less so on the emotional one.

Maybe it'll turn out that the whole season has (again) been in a holding pattern for a Marvel movie (“Avengers: Age of Ultron” comes out on with a couple of episodes left to go in the season), which wouldn't be a great look for the show – and would be yet another reason to look forward to a smaller-scale Bobbi/Hunter spin-off, which presumably wouldn't have to devote nearly as much time to brand extension as this show has, even in its improved second season.

What did everybody else think?

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