Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Face My Enemy Review
"Fan Service and Filler"
Agents of SHIELD's darker second season continued this week with its fourth episode, "Face My Enemy". In short, it's an entertaining episode with some satisfying arcing, but kind of left without answering too many questions. Still, this season continues to prove its superiority to at least the first half of the previous one.
Let me explain. Agents of S.P.O.I.L.E.R.S. below.
When a church burns down, the only thing to survive is a 500-year-old painting with the mysterious alien writing carved all over the back. Phil and May then engage on covert mission -- covert even to most of the team -- to retrieve the painting, but when they run up against Talbot, things get... complicated.
Mom and Dad Go On a Date
Does everyone feel like May and Coulson are being pushed into becoming a not-a-couple couple? There's definitely a tension between their characters and the actors play with the chemistry fantastically. It seems like a Moulder and Scully situation where they never really get together, but the electricity between the two is lethal. Not hot and heavy 20-something electricity, more of a... mom and dad electricity. Like cool parents where there's still a fire between them. Am I mixing my metaphors?
Anyway, no other time have I felt this pushing more than in this episode. It was an interesting mission, but seemed more like an excuse to get May and Coulson out on a pseudo-date, much to the delight of the fanbase. What dramatic tension there could have been in infiltrating a party was dissolved almost completely by their banter. Getting past armed guards and avoiding capture seemed less like deadly cat-and-mouse and more like a rude matradee at the restaurant.
When Agent 33 infiltrates the team as "May" there were some good moments of tension, especially when they're riding in the car. My only gripe is that almost anyone could have called how that'd turn out pretty much from the get go. Of course
he was going to trick her into giving herself away. Of course
it was the little imperceptible things that would give her away. No one knows mom better than dad. Most of the real
tension of those scenes came from "May" trying to keep her cover and the question of whether or not Coulson would give away anything vital.
I feel like this was equal parts fan service and setting up May and Coulson's relationship for the inevitable scene later on when she'll be forced to kill him or let him live. It's not bad fan service by any means, but there were definitely more ways to build up this relationship than dancing at a party.
The Continuing Skye Conundrum
For almost all of this episode, Skye stands at a table talking to active characters through comms. It's understandable, after all this is an ensemble cast. She can't be front and center every episode. However, Skye has been made out to be the character we're supposed to identify with and experience the world through. If there ever needed to be a main character, it'd would
be her! And that's the problem. She's boring
She has been, and continues to be in the episode, the least interesting character in the series. Most of these characters are complex with heavy emotional baggage, she's just... I don't know. She's pretty much the same desperately quipping, eye-roll-inducing character since the beginning. The only difference now is that she can shoot a variety of guns and "fight real good".
"But what of her dad?" They ask. "What if she's Inhuman?" They ask. "How did she survive the Kree drug? Why was Garrett so interested in her?" They continue to ask. And I agree. Those are fascinating questions and I really want to know the answers, but that doesn't make her a good character.
Skye herself isn't interesting, the mystery surrounding her is. You take Skye by herself and you have... well, you don't have much. Mostly a few one-liners and a teary, impassioned speech about whatever high-minded moral she has that day.
My biggest worry is that, as the series goes on, they try to pack her up with more mystery to offset her boring character. She meets her dad, but that just adds more questions. More mysteries we have to wade through. She may get abilities, but to what extent? Can she control them? What is she? How do they get them? At that point you cease having a character and just have a collection of questions in tight jeans and calfskin boots.
Fitz and His Adorable Tyler Durden
This episode Fitz again proves himself to be the best part of this season. I had figured that his condition would be something of a quick fix, something done in an episode, but it seems to actually be a long healing process. I've never been more happy to be wrong. His condition is a gift that keeps on giving. Each episode we get crushing, sweet, harrowing scenes of Fitz attempting to reintegrate back into a team he hardly fit into in the first place without the one friend he needs the most.
The other neat surprise about Fitz's condition is that I figured Not Simmons would be working against him, something of a safety blanket that Fitz would regress into. However, it seems to be the opposite. Not Simmons appears to be some small part of Fitz that's trying to get better, that's trying to work out his problems. Of course that part manifests as Simmons, the one person he could depend on and trust. The one person who could've got him through his darkest times. Aw, here come the feels, back again.
The most interesting idea to me, is that of: is Fitz learning to let go of Simmons? I mean, does he fully heal when the real Simmons returns, or does he heal separately and finds that he doesn't need Simmons any more? They had such a great chemistry in the first season, would they just end it? Or would the chemistry be there and Fitz would just be able to look beyond Simmons? It'll be interesting and I can't wait to find out.
So the mask everyone's using in the episode (a somehow less believable version of the Mission Impossible Masks) is obviously the one Black Widow uses in Captain America: Winter Soldier
. I have so many questions about it. Does it reproduce hair? Is it holographic? How is it changing a user's voice? Does it match your skin tone over your entire body? How can it not be damaged in a fight between Mays on minute, but be damaged by a single strike by a single May another? So many questions.
Tripp was good as a Good Ward. Now... he's just smiling in the background. Everyone has a thing. Mac is the repair guy after Lola, Lance is the cocksure ladies man who'll probably get romantically involved with someone (don't be Skye
), and Fitz has... issues. Tripp needs something. He doesn't need a grand drama, just something more than an offer to help or a reassuring head shake.
I'm not sure how to feel about Raina. I get that she's morally gray, that she's not really a good guy or a bad guy, but I find it hard to nail down who she really is. What I mean is, sometimes she appears to be playing everyone like a fiddle. A master manipulator in complete control. Then, she's some wide-eyed follower who cowers in front of someone's leadership. I still think she's a pretty decent character, but you can't have it both ways, show. Pick one.
Oh, and thank god the Mays situation didn't devolve into a "SHOOT HER, I'M THE REAL MAY!" cliche. I was worried there for a minute.