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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Melinda

“The cavalry went in after all.”

After almost two seasons of buildup, we finally get the Melinda May backstory that we’ve been promised since episode two. After such a long time, the story of what happened in Bahrain had a lot to live up to. And it did.

Specialist Melinda May is not the ice queen we’ve come to know and worship. She was lighter, brighter. She just seemed... happy. She had a loving husband who she was trying to start a family with, a work husband who was always early, and a job she was awesome at. Until Bahrain. The writers managed to assemble a story for May that was unbelievably tragic and yet amazingly free from cliché. Maybe it was the acting. Ming-Na Wen did amazing work here.

May really didn’t have a choice. It was her and everyone in the building or one disturbed little girl. The inevitability of Katya’s death didn’t make May clutching her lifeless body any better. The tragedy is compounded by the legend that springs up before our eyes. May killed all the enemy agents and saved all of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s men. In reality, she watched helplessly as a little girl killed everyone in front of her and was forced to sacrifice the life of that little girl to save her colleagues. No wonder she hates being called the Cavalry.

The stuff between Skye and Jiaying was really sweet. But, having been a Whedon devotee for over a decade now, I have serious trust issues when things are that sweet. It may just be baseless paranoia, but I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop with Jiaying. And I don’t like the sound of the Inhuman elders one bit. Even with her high rank, Jiaying is obviously scared of them.

My focus this week really wasn’t on the current goings on at S.H.I.E.L.D. It seemed to be mostly set up for later episodes. On the yay! front, Fitz was able to open Fury’s toolbox and contact Coulson and Hunter, meaning their road trip just got the potential to be a lot more adorable. On the uh oh front, Coulson may have been lying. To everyone. For a long time.

Building a new base is a huge step and not one I’d think Coulson would take unilaterally. I see three possibilities. One: May (and/or Simmons) knew about Theta Protocol and was pretending not to for H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F.’s benefit. If this is the case, I think the time may have come for Melinda May to quit S.H.I.E.L.D. and become an actress. Two: H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F. is framing Coulson. I wouldn’t put anything past them at this point, but if they were going to frame Coulson for something, I think they’d probably make it worse. Unless they knew May wouldn’t believe anything worse. Three: Coulson isn’t the man I think he is.

Aside from the secrecy, I have to say, hiring powered people and using their skills for S.H.I.E.L.D.’s benefit absolutely seems like something Coulson would do. He knows the Avengers and he knows how something or someone others see as a problem can be hugely beneficial for his agency and for the world. He may not have the tragic past May has, but he has had negative experiences with powered people as well. Remember that whole thing where Loki killed him? Ringing any bells? But, unlike H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F. and Director Robert “Jan Brady” Gonzalez, Coulson isn’t willing to write off an entire group of people based on the despicable actions of one individual.

Intel and Assets

-- ‘Specialist’ seems to be S.H.I.E.L.D.ese for ‘muscle.’ That was Ward’s title when he joined the team back in season one.

-- Before her transfer, Coulson wanted May to join him on the Avengers Initiative.

-- If Theta Protocol was the main reason for H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F.’s invasion, why are we just now hearing the words “Theta Protocol?” Gonzalez had a whole conversation with Coulson and did not once bring this up.

-- Raina’s psychic. Which doesn’t really have anything to do with whatever the heck is growing out of her head. But then, what does eyelessness have to do with teleportation?

May: “Sometimes that’s the price of doing the right thing. No one will understand, and it hurts like hell.”

Coulson: “Oh what are we saying this time? Nuclear? Bio? Yeah, bio always works.”

Coulson: “Let the girl go.”

four out of four avalanches
sunbunny, in this week for Mark Greig


  1. Like you, sunbunny, I'm having serious trust issues with Jiaying. I really loved the scene where Skye learned Jiaying was her mother, it was very sweet. And I've got tremendous fondness for Dichen Lachman, so I want to believe in her character's goodness. But I've still got those niggling doubts. Definitely waiting for the other shoe to drop with her. For instance, what was up with Skye's birth year suddenly being different than what we've thought all this time? Just a funny retcon, or something more significant?

    The thing I liked best about May's backstory was the stakes it establishes for her connection to Skye. Here's another powered young person, struggling to control things she didn't want and doesn't understand, and May has an even stronger "daughter" bond with her. Is she going to be confronted with the same choice she had to make in Bahrain? Will she be able to make that choice again? I've got my doubts.

  2. Not trusting Jiaying at all. Maybe it's paranoia, but that story when Skye was born was just too specific. And when Cal told the same story it just felt...rehearsed. There was a difference though. Jiaying said "it was a hot night and for some reason I cleaned up the house before I woke up Cal". Cal said "it was a glorious(? can't remember the exact word) day". Hmmmm...Am I just being paranoid?:)

    And what was that with Lincoln and "it's not a dream"? Did I miss something?

  3. TJ - Lincoln was referring to the dream Raina described earlier in the episode. She saw Skye and Cal having dinner and there was a bouquet of daisies. When Lincoln saw them at the end he realized that it wasn't just a dream, Raina had seen the future.

  4. Sunbunny - thanks. Kinda proves that I can't speak on the phone and watch MAOS at the same time...

  5. TJ, I think both of them said it was at night. But great catch on how the similarities of the versions of the story make it look rehearsed. And I’m with Jess, I don’t think the age bit was random. In fact, the looks on Cal’s and Jiaying’s faces were suspicious when Skye asked about the year.

    If Cal had access to Jiaying, why didn’t he take Skye right to her and the other Inhumans so she could transition in safety? Initially I thought it was just because he’s crazy and wanted Skye to transition on his own way, but what if Jiaying was with him on that one? I wonder who will be dangerous for Skye: the elders or her parents? Maybe both.

    Dichen Lachman rules, though. She just rules.

    But, having been a Whedon devotee for over a decade now, I have serious trust issues when things are that sweet.

    Yes! The second they showed Happy Bizarre Family together, I thought “oh, ok, that’s a Whedon show, now things will go to hell”. And Skye will be emotionally tortured.

    If Theta Protocol was the main reason for H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F.’s invasion why are we just now hearing the words “Theta Protocol?”

    Because the writers deliberately decided not to, even though that decision makes no sense? I have to admit I didn’t think this episode was all it could’ve been. There’s something that just seems off with this second half of the season for me. I’m so over the speech of “Coulson kept secrets” the hufflepufflers keep repeating. And now May and Simmons are buying it. Snore.

    If Coulson is secretly assembling a team of super powered people to fight the good fight, then he is awesome and much more competent than I assumed! The head of a worldwide spy agency should have awesome projects like this and keep them a secret. Only he and the agents that are working on the project should know about it. Period. I hope May is either lying about not knowing or will eventually trust Coulson’s judgment.

    May’s backstory was great! I spent half the episode cursing the writers, thinking that they were going for the cliché of May being unable to save the kid, but, wow, it only got to me that the kid was the villain a few moments before it was revealed onscreen. Good twist there. However, there were a couple of moments of “look at Happy Pre Trauma May” that could have been better written or not been there at all (like May getting distracted by a child during her mission). In any case, Ming-Na Wen did excellent job and I was completely with May on her breakdown.

    This episode was great for the leading ladies, so much so that our three regular males only appeared on the end tag (except for flashback Coulson). I love series that dedicate time to their women, but please, show, don’t underutilize Fitz, he’s your best character right now.

  6. Lamounier - you're right. I had to rewatch the episode as I obviously (thanks Sunbunny) didn't quite follow it at the beginning.

    Jiaying said: "It was a hot night" and Cal said "It was a gorgeous summer night, beautiful big moon in the sky"...and then the stories work together with the cleaning up the house, the car and the lack of Cal's Chinese language skills.
    But how could Cal remember (and why would he say it) that Jiaying cleaned the house before she woke him up? It is a silly detail in the story that makes it all suspicious...

    Well, as I said, I am probably just paranoid:)

  7. Maybe we're all sharing in a paranoid delusion, but I think the show is telegraphing something with the sweet but reheated sounding story of Skye's birth. They're hiding something, we have no idea what yet, and I can't wait to find out.

    I guess I'm cynical or something, the moment I saw the child I thought she was superpowered and May had to put her down. Didn't make that moment any less devastating though. Poor May.

    I have to applaud the show, for all the heavy story lines in the main episode, the tag was really funny and swept the gloom away. Well played!

  8. While I think the story about Skye's birth might be off, I can tell you that you remember details like cleaning the house and some people think hot weather is glorious especially if it was the night their child was born. Wasn't everyone in that village slaughtered though? Not so glorious.
    I don't want Coulson to be messed up but it would make for a very interesting story line - very Whedon.

  9. "I think they're hoping I'll lead them to you first. The thing is, would it still be okay if I came and hung out with you? Maybe you could show me how to shake a tail? Maybe you could start, like, now?"
    "You in a bathroom, with one of those electric hand driers?"
    "Oh, yes."
    "You're gonna be okay, mate."

    I would totally watch a show that was just Coulson, Hunter, and Fitz on an endless road trip. Of course, I'd also watch a show with May, Bobbie, and Simmons doing just about anything.


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