Agents of SHIELD Season 2 Recap, Episode 12: ‘Who You Really Are’
Welcome back to the ComicsAlliance post-show analysis for Agents of SHIELD, the spy show set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is where we break down each episode using our unique S.H.L.E.I.D. recap system — recapping the show, looking at highlights and lowlights, and exploring the show’s relationship to both the comics and the wider Marvel movie world.
In this week's episode, Lady Sif is back, but her memories are missing; secrets are creating tensions among our paramilitary chums; and Eddie McClintock is a Kree. 'Who You Really Are' was directed by Roxann Dawson and written by Drew Z. Greenberg.
An amnesiac Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander) strides out of the sea onto a Portuguese beach demanding Cava, which is a sparkling Spanish wine. We've all had nights like that. The Agents of SHIELD rally to her side and track down and apprehend the man she was seen publicly brawling with, a Kree named Vin-Tak (Eddie McClintock).
Vin-Tak is here because he sensed the terrigenesis of Raina and Skye. Long, long ago, the Kree tried to turn humans into super-soldiers, but humans are a difficult bunch, so the effort was abandoned. (We're very special, as all sci-fi likes to reassure us. What makes us special is how needy we are.)
Now Vin-Tak wants to retrieve the terrigenesis doorstops left on Earth and destroy anyone who has been transformed, so that the other Kree aren't prompted tp come back to Earth to resume their monstrous experiments. Happily for us and our prospects for future superhumans, the crate of doorstops he tries to retrieve is empty.
All this talk about murdering Inhumans makes Skye the Secret Inhuman (Chloe Bennett) so nervous that she reveals she's an Inhuman by triggering an earthquake. The agents stop Vin-Tak from killing her, and Skye shoots herself with a night-night gun to end the quakes.
Sif, her memory restored, takes Vin-Tak (his memory wiped) back home via Asgard. Awed by the sight of two extraordinary alien beings, everyone at SHIELD HQ bickers about whether Fitz (Iain DeCaestecker) should have shared Skye's secret. Skye goes to live in the cell on the wingycarrier, and Mack (Henry Simmons) chokes out Lance (Nick Blood) for basically no reason.
These people are all terrible.
Sif vs. a Kree. The idea of two powerful hunters from two terrifying alien civilizations clashing on our little planet and the Agents of SHIELD getting caught in the middle is a compelling one, and this story only really scratches the surface of the pitch.
But Sif always brings something great to this show; not just a taste of real superpowers, but some amped up super-adversaries. Now, the Lorelai episode last season wasn't great, but at least she was a real threat, and this show has to raise its game when it pits its non-super characters against super-opponents. We know Adrianne Palicki's Bobbi Morse probably can't defeat Vin-Tak in close combat, but we know we'll have fun watching her try, until someone shows up with a shoulder cannon.
Eddie McClintock is such a blue-collar human-looking guy that he's a fascinating choice to play the agents' first contact with a living Kree, and the show seriously undersold the importance of that encounter, but I suppose it's a good sign that it's no longer coy about the whole alien thing.
Other highlights: The Bifrost effect still looks awesome. And Lance has an extended shirtless scene (he and Bobbi have his-and-hers sheets, so that hers can cover everything and his can leave him free to glisten). This reminded me of yet another core tenet of the Marvel movies that the TV shows do not embrace; beefcake. But it's never too late, and we thank you for your service, Nick Blood.
Mack choking out Lance rather than answer a question is sort of perfect for this show's treatment of interpersonal relationships, except increasingly the team just seem to bicker, so it might be more fun if they all kept choking each other out. (Mack has the good grace to pull the sort of face you normally see in dog-shaming photos when he realizes what he's done.)
I was excited when Coulson (Clark Gregg) acknowledged that he'd kept Mack on the bench for too long (read: the writers forgot to put him in any stories), but if his impulse control is this bad, I'm beginning to understand why he's not on the field.
The reason for the choke-out is that Lance wanted to know about Mack and Bobbi's secret. Conversely, I don't care. "We have a secret, shhh," is the most boring storyline a show can do when there's literally not the slightest hint what the secret might be.
On a related note; I can't be the only one who just doesn't buy that Bobbi and Lance ever hated each other. Neither of them seems to exhibit the flaws that the other one attributes to them. But maybe that's marriage?
Vin-Tak and Sif both agree that anyone transformed is an abomination that needs to be dealt with. Agents of SHIELD is stepping into some deep waters here; the same questions about outsider status, fear-mongering, and population control that lie at the heart of the mutant metaphor.
Because Marvel Comics still has mutants, its attempts to introduce the Inhumans as a parallel take are questionable at best. Inhumans in the Comics Universe are basically gentrified mutants, with class privilege and institutional benefits. Inhumans in the Cinematic Universe don't have the comics history, so they could go either way.
The question is, do the writers of Agents of SHIELD have the necessary sensitivity and deftness to tell stories about an over-powered under-class? Or is it just going to be week after week of, "Should we kill these monsters or save these... well, monsters?"
As far as I can tell, Vin-Tak and his memory-erasing truncheon are not based on any specific Kree from the comics. You'll let me know if I'm wrong. I can tell you that Vin-Tak is also a brand of tackboard.
Sif mentions the Kree homeworld Hala (which I've been pronouncing wrong all my life; not HA-la but HAR-lar), and that may be a first for the show, but I'm sure it was mentioned on Guardians of the Galaxy, no?
Are there no pink Kree? We learn this episode that the Kree need a hydrogen-fuelled device to turn pink and pass for human. In the comics, there are pink and blue Kree. We've yet to see any evidence that I can recall of pink Kree in the MCU, but maybe that's for the best. An alien race that has one human skin color and none of the others is problematic.
Did Coulson's resurrection plant a suggestion in him that led him to Skye? May (Ming-Na Wen) touches on this idea very fleetingly. Has that been part of the game all along? Is Coulson effectively a Kree puppet? Or is this just some retroactive noodling?
Did Simmons give up on her 'destroy all monsters' thing already? On learning that Skye is an Inhuman, Simmons stresses that her new anti-freak philosophy does not extend to her friends. A fatal flaw in her new-found racism, but probably not the end of this story.