– Spoiler Review –
Agents of SHIELD looks forwards and backwards in “Melinda,” combining two parallel story threads in a surprising fashion while packing some of the series’ strongest moments of emotional wallops ever. I’ll readily admit, even though I didn’t cry, I was right on the verge of doing so and it was all thanks to AoS‘s well-planned out reveals.
Melinda May has always been an enjoyable character: she’s an all around badass, can still make jokes, and has an air of mystery hanging over her, but it doesn’t mean she’s my favorite. After “Melinda” though, where we find out the how and why she became known as ‘the Calvary’ and why she was at a desk job when we first met her, she’s definitely much closer to the top of my list of characters. The way they handled the entire reveal was excellent, preserving the shocking ending and eliciting all the feels I had left.
“Melinda” is all about the great tragedy of May, which interestingly enough ties into some of the emotional beats and story of Skye’s time with the Inhumans. There are a series of flashbacks to 7 years ago, where May and Andrew are a happy couple considering children in their very near future. But a mission to Bahrain–which has been mentioned a few odd times regarding May’s history–pops up and everything changes for the worst. Coulson meets with a gifted woman, Eva, whom they’re supposed to bring in, but the conversation takes a strange turn, where Eva says she’d rather have his pain than his help. Things go south when some armed gentlemen interrupt, grabbing a young girl and taking an Agent hostage. Even though May wants to go in, Coulson sends in their elite squad first. But even that goes awry, leaving their team hostage, and the local government decides it wants to bomb the place rather than waste anymore personnel on it. Without any more SHIELD teams in the area, Coulson makes a choice he’ll soon regret and allows May to go in.
What follows was the second emotional moment of the episode, but probably the strongest of it, if not the entire season so far. May makes a call to Andrew which sounds more like a goodbye than a ‘I love you,’ and proceeds to badass her way into the building. She finds their SHIELD team, but they all seem to want her pain, just like Eva told Coulson earlier. Due to their brainwashing, May locks them up and tracks down Eva, getting into an extremely brutal and well choreographed fight with Eva, which sees May facing off against the brainwashed minions from time to time. May, though severely injured, finally gets the best of Eva and kills her, but the brainwashing doesn’t seem to wear off. Out walks the young girl, who turns out to be Eva’s daughter Katya, who disturbingly reveals herself to be insane and the one in actual control over the people. As the girl approaches, and all those she has brainwashed circle them, May’s hand is forced and she ends up killing the child with a nearby gun. Though my initial reaction was a set of much harsher swear words, can you say holy crap?!
My mouth fell open for a good solid minute after the whole scenario played out as I hadn’t seen the twist coming at all. Better yet, the young actress who played Katya, Ava Acres, did an amazing job selling her character’s insanity, bouncing from happy, to sad, to pained all in a matter of seconds. Ming-Na Wen also did an awesome job for the scene, selling how desperate she was in the situation to find any other resolution than the one she went through. The whole thing was definitely one of the MCU’s darker moments (though I just started watching Daredevil so we’ll see) and I didn’t think they’d go down this road for May’s backstory. But it makes it extremely understandable as to why she was at a desk, why her marriage fell apart, and for why she’d put up the emotional mask she always hides behind around everyone. Bravo, AoS, bravo.
The other emotional moment comes from Skye’s training under Jaiying, who is unable to keep her parentage a secret after Skye starts to unveil her sordid upbringing in the foster system. Watching Skye find out about her mother was kind of beautiful and it was thanks to the performances from both Chloe Bennet and Dichen Lachman. Skye had been putting the pieces together after they first met, but it was both their time together moving mountains and Lincoln’s information that Jaiying hasn’t taken on a student in years that likely pushes Skye to subconsciously uncover the secret. But the happy reunion isn’t without its costs, as Jaiying explains they must keep their connection secret or else others will think she’s playing favorites and could be willing to do anything for her daughter. Why is that such a big deal, you ask? Because Eva was an Inhuman who stole the some Terrigen crystals to help her daughter and well, we all know how that played out. Mixing May’s ‘The Calvary’ moment with the current Inhuman’s story was another well done surprise of the evening and it didn’t feel forced.
But that’s not all, folks. May’s present storyline follows her slowly being worked on by the other SHIELD, as Bobbie starts throwing Coulson’s big Theta Protocol secret at May’s face. Last we heard about Theta Protocol, Coulson told one of the Agents played by Patton Oswalt to use it if things went bad. Simmons joins May in the search for what exactly the protocol is and they uncover Coulson had been misleading even May with his travels and spending, causing them both to briefly doubt their leader. Mack tells them the other SHIELD’s theory, that Coulson is building some base to hold and turn gifted people into his own personal army. I think that’s partly the truth, except Coulson’s looking to get gifted people together and train them to use their powers for good…at least I hope that’s what it means.
Raina even gets some time on screen, as she’s still frustrated with her lack of abilities and the ugly outwards transformation she went through. Lincoln tries to reassure her, but it’s Gordon’s pretty great speech which finally starts her down the path of acceptance. However, it turns out her power has already manifested itself: the gift of clairvoyance, which is ironic since Ward’s old Hydra boss is the one who brought her into things and he called himself the clairvoyant. Lincoln is the one who uncovers it, as Raina told him her dream and he saw it come true when Jaiying convinced Skye to have one dinner with her father before she never had to see him again.
Here are a few other things:
- When they had the shot of Skye’s hand reaching out towards the mountain and she started an avalance, the first thing that popped into my head was, “Use the Force, Luke.” And suddenly it made me wonder how crazy an AoS and Star Wars cross-over would be.
- Fitz’s little phone call to Hunter and Coulson was funny, given his insistence they teach him how to shake a tail and Hunter’s enthusiasm and knowledge on how to help him right away.
- Kyle MacLachlan’s enthusiasm as Cal re-telling the tale Jaiying told Skye of her birth was adorably insane.
‘The Calvary’ story is quite the gut punch and somehow wasn’t the only emotionally charged moment of another entertaining and enjoyable episode of Agents of SHIELD. But besides the big answer about May’s backstory, “Melinda” opened up a lot more questions: What has Coulson been up to? What is Theta Protocol? Who are the Elders at the Inhuman compound? How will Raina take to her powerful gift? And after “Melinda,” there are only two episodes to air before events in Avengers: Age of Ultron possibly change things up.
+ May’s tragedy
+ Jaiying reveals herself
+ Making Raina stop complaining
MARVEL’S AGENTS OF SHIELD REVIEWS:
Season Two: 2.1 Shadows | 2.2 Heavy is the Head | 2.3 Making Friends and Influencing People | 2.4 Face My Enemy | 2.5 A Hen in the Wolf House | 2.6 A Fractured House | 2.7 The Writing on the Wall | 2.8 The Things We Bury | 2.9 …Ye Who Enter Here | 2.10 What They Become | 2.11 Aftershocks | 2.12 Who You Really Are | 2.13 One of Us | 2.14 Love in the Time of Hydra | 2.15 One Door Closes | 2.16 Afterlife | 2.18 The Frenemy of My Enemy | 2.19 The Dirty Half Dozen | 2.20 Scars | 2.21,22: S.O.S.
MARVEL’S AGENT CARTER REVIEWS:
Season One: 1.1 This is Not the End/1.2 Bridge and Tunnel | 1.3 Time and Tide | 1.4 The Blitzkrieg Button | 1.5 The Iron Ceiling | 1.6 A Sin to Err | 1.7 SNAFU | 1.8 Valediction