Agent Darryl reporting in with this week’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” mission debrief – S2 Ep.4, codename: “Face My Enemy”
Warning! This debrief is fairly detailed and contains multiple spoilers for “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”! For the best possible experience, it’s recommended that you not read this review until after you’ve watched the MAOS episode “Face My Enemy.” Enjoy!
The episode starts in the burned out wreck of a Miami, Florida church where, miraculously, a Spanish painting of the “Madonna and Child” dating back to the early 1500s is the sole object to survive the flames. When the church officials examine the back of the painting, the same curious alien hieroglyphics we’ve seen all over since last season are carved in the painting’s wooden backing. Shortly after, Agents Hunter and Skye do a little clever spy work on South Beach to wrangle an invite to the church’s quite expensive and very exclusive fundraiser where the miracle painting will be on display. “The rabbit’s in the hutch.” Eww . . .
Mac finally gets an assignment outside of the “Playground!” Aaaand it’s for about 10 whole seconds as Coulson and May’s chauffeur. Gee Mac, think ya can handle it? Although, as he shows off his restored 1962 Rolls Royce, I can’t help but wonder what other four wheeled beauties might be parked in the “Playground’s” garage. Phil still won’t let him near “Lola,” although Mac thinks it’s only a matter of time. I don’t know about Mac, but I’m just glad to hear “Lola’s” still in the game. She took a pretty hard fall outside the Nokia Theater last season . . . after also being shot the hell up by both Deathlok and the vile traitor Ward. I hope it’s not too much time until we see her again. As we all know, May’s “I Hate” list includes working undercover, especially, it seems, when wearing high heels. “”You never know when a better offer might come along!” Hmm. I know May’s just joking “in character,” but I definitely smell betrayal on the wind. Maybe not right now, but something’s going down later this season, I’m sure of it.
Once Phil and Melinda are in the party, they switch off their comms and do a little “private dancing” to do some dance floor recon and review Coulson’s contingency plan. Phil is reminiscing about May’s first field op in Sausalito which started in a coffee shop and ended with 5 hours treading water in the San Francisco Bay before Coulson picked her up. Sure hope we get a flashback to this some day. I’ll bet young May was a wild party girl. Phil’s stuck in the past, but May is all about the personal nature of the mission they’re on in the here and now and doesn’t want to think about Coulson’s possibly very short future. She spots General Talbot mingling amongst the fundraiser elite and Coulson decides to get the worst over with by stepping right up to quietly confront him directly. Something’s off, though. Coulson notices Talbot acting a bit funny . . . like for example, not dropping everything and grabbing him for the kidnap gag they’d pulled a few weeks ago, but Talbot simply attributes it to one too many drinks . . . yeah, right. Sure . . .
Back on the “Bus,” Hunter starts to spill some backstory on him and the ex-wife. Mac’s heard it all before, though . . .
At the party, May chats up the fundraiser’s host and Phil gets a high-res photo of the host’s eyes with his spiffy S.H.I.E.L.D. camera as the team listens in on, and is floored by, May’s chatty undercover performance. She might hate undercover, but damn if she ain’t good at it, anyway. “We’re modern.” Ha! Talbot comes along and gives them the buffalo eye, so Phil figures the jig is up and he and May boogie for the basement vault the painting is being held in. I love when Phil and May do these undercover ops, so much wonderful deadpan humour. Coulson warms up on a pretty beefy guard with just one punch and they crack the vault with an “Avengers”-style digital projection of the host’s retinal scan before facing down a room-wide laser grid. Just when you think we might get some sweet slow motion Coulson acrobatics in a hilarious “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer” type sequence, instead May breaks the moment and the laser trigger since the bad guys already know they’re there. Funny maybe and sure, punching out the big guard in one go establishes him as a badass, but it’d be real cool to see another slo-mo “Action Phil” moment sometime soon.
In the end, it turns out “Talbot” already snatched the painting earlier on. More disturbing however, is him calling Dr. Whitehall of HYDRA looking for more intel on Coulson and May. No, this is definitely NOT the Talbot we’ve gotten to know so well. As they try to extract themselves, Phil is still on May about putting a backup plan in place should the side affects of the GH325 ever cause him to go insane like Agent Garrett did. “Talbot” corners them and, to Coulson’s chagrin, asks for their help deciphering the alien glyphs on the back of the painting. Seriously, even the way “Talbot” is standing in this scene feels off somehow. Coulson buys them an hour and immediately knows something is off. Talbot would never just walk away and let Phil go. NEVER. Coulson heads back to the “Bus” as May follows “Talbot” to verify if his deal is on the level.
On the “Bus,” Skye is digging as deep as she can into the mysterious hieroglyphics as the rest of the gang continue to bond over horror stories involving their “exes.’ Pretending to like Quinoa? Dark times indeed, Mac. “Ghost” Simmons, or “Jemma-ny Cricket” as I’ve taken to calling her, tries to encourage Fitz to play in their reindeer games, but he’s still pretty withdrawn and brood-y.
Tailing “Talbot” back to his hotel room, May surreptitiously spots Agent 33 going through a HYDRA dossier on Coulson like a gas station attendant with a Playboy centerfold. She busts in and tussles with Agent 33 before “Talbot” shows up and a high tech “morph-mask” is knocked from his face in the ensuing melee. Turns out it’s been Mr. Bakshi all along. Now the call to Whitehall and Agent 33’s presence make better sense. Agent 33 gives May a good tasing right in the back and she’s down for the count. She resets the “morph-mask” to appear as May in a scene that plays out like a behind-the-scenes set up to Black Widow’s climactic reveal at the end of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and also gives deeper meaning to the episode’s title this week. Bakshi gives “Maygent 33” a gizmo and after decrypting and checking the call history on May’s phone, she gives Coulson a shout to “confirm” Talbot’s deal and zero in on his location.
Just as an aside here, thanks to the wonders of freeze frame video playback, I took a moment to transcribe May’s call history as it was shown during Bakshi’s decrypt. The last 15 calls May had received were from:
Looking at the list, I don’t recognize every name, but I’m thinking there’s a chance we might see some MI-6/Shang Chi, “Agents of ATLAS.” and/or “Code: Blue” action before too long. Goodie.
“Jemma-ny Cricket” is still trying to get Fitz to come out of his shell and interact with the rest of the team, but he’s too busy complaining about the changes the team had made to the laboratory. We all know how Fitz feels about change, but what it really sounds like, though, is that he’s upset Simmons left without telling him why. “Maygent 33” shows up at the “Bus,” breezes past Fitz mumbling to himself, completely ignores Skye and conspicuously pulls Phil aside to set up what he thinks a is real deal with a suddenly agreeable Talbot, but is really a HYDRA attempt to capture him. She slaps the gizmo Bakshi had given her to one of the panels on the “Bus” with an electric crackle as no one is looking and then she and an unsuspecting Coulson head out.
Bakshi reveals his fondness for sado-masochism by tying May to a chair in her undies as he questions her in an attempt to discover the identity of the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Of course, May’s not giving it up that easily and so Bakshi steps it up and uses a few loose lamp wires as an impromptu electro shock torture method. Meanwhile, “Maygent 33” winds up getting the exact information May is fighting to keep from Bakshi simply by casually chatting with Phil en route to the rendezvous/capture. But she’s setting off Phil’s alarms as he notices some very un-May-like behavior.
As the HYDRA gizmo takes effect, the “Bus” starts shutting down and the team is completely puzzled. Fitz, however, quickly spots the gizmo doing the damage and advises them the “Bus” will explode if they don’t act fast. As Coulson slowly confirms that he’s not with May after all, he finally blows “Maygent 33’s” cover. It appears we can add coffee to May’s “I Hate” list . . . and being tied to chairs! The real May gets loose of Bakshi’s bonds and takes a moment to smash the chair she’d been confined to. My first thought was that she’d use the splintered pieces to smack Bakshi around, but no, as May has mentioned in the past, she prefers to use her hands . . . and she DOES.
Fitz plays charades with the team on the “Bus” while trying to describe the computer virus running through it causing system shutdowns in increasingly deadlier intervals. Just outside Bakshi’s hotel room, Coulson grapples with “Maygent 33” . . . until the one true May steps through the door. Then, it’s May vs. May as Phil stands speechless. That is until Bakshi recovers from May’s beating and scrams with the painting in hand. Phil pursues and we see flying fists, whipping hair and a lot of fast camerawork as May beats up on herself . . . in a manner of speaking.
Then, in a ”no brakes” sequence, Fitz steps up and gives Hunter a crash course in saving the day tech support-style as the “Bus” continues to fall apart. Phil runs down Bakshi and gives him the business end of an “Icer” in the back as May gives “Maygent 33” a gorgeous drop kick to the face. Phil scoops up both the painting and May . . . after her amazing table stomp finishing move. As HYDRA’s back up squad storms the hotel room, they duck out just in time . . . but Bakshi and Agent 33 are left behind, as well as the sensitive info she’d gathered from Coulson.
Later, back at the “Playground,” Hunter swings by the lab with a six-pack to tip a few celebration beers with Mac and invites Fitz to join them after a job well done saving everyone’s butt. Finally feeling accepted as part of the team again, Fitz opens up and shares his own tale of heartbreak . . . a tale we all know too well at this point, but is completely new to both Mac and Hunter. That’s TWO original agents Hunter has gotten to open up to him. You sly boots, don’t think I can’t see what you’re doing there . . .
Meanwhile, I have no idea what’s going on between Triplett and Skye. There’s a weird energy between them this episode and I’m having some trouble reading it.
In his office with May, Phil Skypes the one and only Glenn Talbot to fill him in and they do the banter dance. But when it comes to handing over the painting – this week’s big, bad bugaboo MacGuffin – it seems Coulson can’t quite let it go, not even to buddy up to Talbot. He casually lies that the painting was destroyed and essentially valueless, but as soon as he hangs up, he confides to May that while the painting is actually 500 years old, the carvings are far more recent. Seems there’s someone else out there with an alien carve crave. I’m thinking Skye’s father might be the connection there, but who knows really. Frankly, that’s interesting and all, but I’m more intrigued by May’s distaste for coffee. Seriously, what caused such a bitter animosity? Was it a Colombian op gone sour? The Sausalito coffee shop/5 hour Bay swim? We saw a lot of May this episode *insert sexy growl here*, both literally and figuratively (we even got that very detailed cellphone call history peek!) and now it’s left me wanting more.
Phil presses May one last time and she lays out her contingency plan if he ever goes Garrett-level cuckoo. Which pretty much amounts to hanging out in the Australian Outback with the kangaroos. Phil sees it for what it is, though, and is touched, but ultimately unmoved. His orders in that scenario? Shoot him in the head, be sure he’s dead. Shocking? Not all that much really, when you consider we’d seen him begging to die last season. A situation it sounds like we may see again before too long.
Somewhere in the wide world, Raina steps out of what appears to be her office while trying to schedule arrival plans in Miami when HYDRA thugs surround her car and Whitehall himself steps into the backseat. Before she can lay on her patented charm, one of the thugs slaps a tiny button-sized gadget on her hand which painfully locks her to the steering wheel. Whitehall gives her his first name, Daniel, and 48 hours to retrieve the “Obelisk.” He takes off and Raina looks worried, conflicted maybe . . . or maybe she’s just feeling pressed for time now.
At first blush, the episode as a whole feels like a filler episode, a breather between two major arcs. But when you break it down, even without any cool new character introductions (unless you count several of May’s gentlemen cellphone callers, that is) there was another great expanded view of S.H.I.E.L.D. spy tech first shown in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and a lot of much needed focus on Melinda May: still S.H.I.E.L.D.’s deadliest weapon . . . unless she somehow runs afoul of Whitehall’s “Faustus Method!”