Week of August 7, 2022:

One of Us (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. s2 e13) released March 17, 2015 (where to watch)
Love in the Time of Hydra (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. s2 e14) released March 24, 2015
Erik Bates | June 12, 2022

One of Us

The *real* S.H.I.E.L.D.? I hope this isn't more people being snowed over by Hydra. But also, what?

I'm wondering if, instead of making razor-finger lady wear those horrible contraptions they couldn't have just, I don't know, *removed the razor blades*?

I suppose the idea of May having an ex-husband is another step toward making her more relatable. I get that.

Nice to see Fitz and Simmons working toward making up a bit. May's ex-husband apparently did more than he was paid for!

This isn't X-Men, but Skye's dad really has a Magneto-like mission statement, doesn't he?

Erik Bates | June 12, 2022

Love in the Time of Hydra

Well if that opening scene wasn't a direct call-out to Pulp Fiction.

Talbot continues being the J. Jonah Jameson of AOS.

Still not sure who this "real S.H.I.E.L.D" is supposed to be. Are they really a splinter group? And what have they been doing?

More importantly, who finances *any* of these people?

Scott Hardie | June 22, 2022

One of Us: Zabo gathering supervillains for his Semi-Sinister Six was goofy and dumb but also kind of fun, like the first half of a heist movie when the protagonist is putting a team together. Drea de Matteo was so good in The Sopranos (she won an Emmy!) that it's hard to see her reduced to playing Edna Scissorhands like this, but her IMDb profile suggests that she hasn't gotten many good parts since she left that hit series. Erik, I agree that even if the blades were "permanently" welded to her fingers, an agency with the capabilities of S.H.I.E.L.D. could have found a better solution to her dilemma, and it would have been a nice touch if Coulson had made an effort in that regard, as a way to say that his more principled new S.H.I.E.L.D. is better than the heartless old S.H.I.E.L.D. I liked the restaurant scene, where Zabo gave us a bit more information on his own powers and gave more context to his rage, but if I were on his team, I'd be annoyed that he smashed the coffee mug and sprayed ceramic shards all over my pancakes. I don't believe that Zabo had a plan when Coulson arrived at the football field, since he didn't strike when he had the chance; was there really an endgame there that I missed, or did it seem anti-climactic to anyone else?

Blair Underwood and background information on Melinda May are both welcome any time. I'm very tired of the TV & movie trope of people resisting therapy who obviously need it (Kelly and I recently watched season two of Ted Lasso which leaned extra-hard on that trope), so Skye's deflections were more annoying than her usual nervous void-filling chatter: She more than anyone should want to get to the other side of what's happening and want to talk about it. Skye's powers breaking her own arms when she won't let them out was a creepy idea, well-executed by the show. Morse pressuring Simmons to make nice with Fitz made me want to vomit, but I've written enough about the problems with FitzSimmons. The ending twist with the "real S.H.I.E.L.D." was not what I was expecting and a terrific cliffhanger. (7/10)

Love in the Time of Hydra: Erik, good point about the diner scene echoing Pulp Fiction; I'm impressed that they managed not to make some kind of "Bad Motherfucker" joke as a wink to Samuel L. Jackson being in both universes. I'm not sure that I buy the attraction between Ward and Agent 33, partly because he's a lying psychopath and I never buy anything he says, but at least he acknowledged that Skye wants nothing to do with him. When 33 smashed the vase near Ward's room-service meal, all I could think was, "Can anybody on this show just get to eat a nice plate of pancakes without ceramic shards in them?" I'm delighted that Bakshi continues to go in unexpected directions on this show: I read online that he was only supposed to appear for a few episodes and have his neck suddenly snapped by Zabo in Whitehall's office, but the writers liked him and decided to expand his role, and he's now going on an interesting journey for such a minor character. Talbot continues to be an idiot and he works much better when the show plays him for comedy than for tension. The Skye subplot was a mixed bag: I really liked her familial bond with Coulson, and it's neat that she thinks she's the Corvette in his father analogy, when it's clear (at least to me) that her career and her new powers are their Corvette. But Coulson trapping her at the cabin and making clear that she's a prisoner was really unpleasant, and a bad reminder that S.H.I.E.L.D. can't really be "good guys."

As for Robert Gonzales (great casting!), the returning Agent Weaver (nice callback to season one), and their alterna-S.H.I.E.L.D., my interest was piqued when Gonzales said that he wants a transparent and accountable agency. But if he doesn't want to operate in the shadows like he accuses Coulson of doing, how come we never heard of them until Hunter exposed them almost by accident? Erik, I love your point about their funding: These people have a helicarrier (unknown yet whether it's the flying kind), so they're obviously extremely well funded, but that means that either 1) they're stealing money from "bad guys" or otherwise getting it through ill-gotten means, or 2) they're semi-legitimately funded by one or more governments, and if it was the latter, I'd like to think that Coulson or Talbot or someone would have been aware of their existence. This show once again seems incapable of conceiving of a version of "good guys" that aren't huge hypocrites. I also think that Hunter could have given more than a tepid defense of Coulson in the conference room; much of Coulson's erratic decision-making since they met has been forced by difficult circumstances, not by some kind of impairment on his part, give or take a few alien carvings. But all of that said, I'm still really fired up for this alterna-S.H.I.E.L.D. storyline, because I'm really hopeful despite the odds that the show will finally take its flawed morality seriously and explore that topic, and because a true S.H.I.E.L.D. Civil War, one driven from inside by differing principles instead of one forced by outsiders like Hydra, could be fascinating to watch, especially as characters are forced to take sides. This is a very interesting development and I can't wait to see what's next. (7/10)

Scott Hardie | June 23, 2022

There was a scene earlier this season, as Coulson had the team gear up for a mysterious mission, when someone mentioned having doubt in Coulson's judgment, and someone else expressed faith that Coulson is trustworthy and that he always has reasons for what he's doing even when nobody else is privy to them, and that man was proven right by end of episode. I can't remember if it was Triplett or Mackenzie who defended Coulson, but if it was Mackenzie, then I have to give props to the writers for some very subtle preparation, laying the groundwork for his undercover mission. I'm impressed.

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