A review of tonight's “Agents of SHIELD” coming up just as soon as I'm watching Mexican football…
This show has made so many ominous references to both Bahrain and the dark origins of May's nickname that “Melinda” had a lot to live up to. Ultimately, I think the flashback would have been more powerful if it had been the episode's sole focus, but I also understand why the creative team wanted to tie it in with Skye's reunion with her mom, as well as Real SHIELD's fear that Coulson is building an army of pet superhumans.
And Ming-Na Wen gave “Melinda” everything she had, toggling back and forth between the cold and guarded May we've known since the series began and the warmer, more vulnerable Melinda who would be destroyed by what she had to do in that room in Bahrain. All the previous talk of her nickname suggests she got it for some amazing physical feat, and while I certainly wouldn't have objected to May going full-on Bruce Lee against an entire warehouse of goons, this was more effective – and better explained why she hates the nickname so much. The other agents think she did, in fact, knock out an army to save them, when the amazing thing she did required more emotional power than physical. The switch from the mom as the villain to the daughter was an effective sucker punch for May, and was a more legit explanation than the series usually offers for why two characters (in this case, Skye and her mother) have to keep information a secret from everyone else.
Making Jiaying into Skye's main point of contact this week instead of Lincoln also went a long way to restoring some of the Inhumans' mystique. And I'm glad the show has figured out a way to get present-day use out of Dichen Lachman, rather than letting her exist only in flashbacks (or as a supporting player in a hypothetical “Agent Carter” season 2). Lincoln remains a slice of Wonder bread, but here he was mainly used as an excuse to get Raina talking, which eventually led to the realization that she has precognitive powers to go along with her painful spikes. I'm in wait-and-see mode on Skye's response to being at a dinner with dearl old mom and dad, since I can understand why she would feel so overwhelmed by being in that context, even if dad is a homicidal maniac. I'm wary of her letting go of all of her justifiable misgivings about the guy, but “SHIELD” has been pretty smart so far about letting the heroes keep treating villains (like Ward) as villains, no matter the context.
As for what Coulson's been up to without telling May, Real SHIELD or anyone else, the series hasn't established a whole ton of free-floating super-types – at least, any who would be usable by the show, as opposed to a member of the MCU's movies-only contingent – beyond Deathlok, so either we'll be meeting a whole bunch of powered characters in the remainder of the season, or Coulson's plan isn't quite what May and Gonazles fear it is.
Some other thoughts:
* There have been reports in the last week that ABC and Marvel are working on an “Agents of SHIELD” spin-off, which could potentially stand on its own or else replace “Agent Carter” (whose future seems to be a 50-50 proposition, which is disappointing) as the show that airs between “SHIELD” half-seasons. Unless it's meant to be a backdoor spinoff involving characters who have yet to be introduced on this series (a la “NCIS” from “JAG” or “Flash” from “Arrow”), there seem to be a few options. Adrianna Palicki fronting “Codename: Mockingbird” makes the most sense, as this show has too many moving pieces to let her really do her thing (and it would explain why she would sign on as a series regular for what's been a relatively small part), and it gives her something to do on her own in the aftermath of the SHIELD vs. Real SHIELD war. Deathlok or a Skye-fronted Inhumans show could also happen, but those feel more ambitious than I suspect ABC wants, whereas a poster with Palicki smirking at the camera while holding up her battle staves seems very much on-brand. I've embedded a poll at the end of the review with those possibilities and some others, so go vote.
* Hey, it's Billy Riggins! (Or, as I suspect he prefers to be called, actor Derek Phillips.) When will Jesse Plemons appear as a mad-dog killer Coulson has to put down?
What did everybody else think?