Agents of SHIELD Season 2 Recap, Episode 18: ‘The Frenemy of my Enemy’
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.
This week, Skye and Cal have a daddy-daughter date that's actually not even as creepy as those words put together, an Inhuman fights a cyborg, and everyone goes to the doctor's office. 'The Frenemy of My Enemy' was directed by Karen Gaviola and written by Monica Owusu-Breen.
You've heard the old brainteaser about the farmer who has to get a fox, a goose, and a bag of beans across the river on a raft, right? This episode of Agents of SHIELD is sort of like that. How do you get Old SHIELD, new SHIELD, HYDRA, the Inhumans, and Grant Ward into the same building at approximately the same time without everyone ending up dead? The answer in this, as in the original riddle, is that you use Kyle MacLachlan. (In the river crossing riddle, Kyle puts the beans in his pockets and holds the goose up away from the fox. It's simple when you know how.)
The building in this episode is Kyle MacLachlan's building, where he had his medical practice back when he was a regular doctor, and not an evil doctor who dabbles in mob medicine. He heads there with Skye (Chloe Bennett), ostensibly to get his CDs and his poster and other junk so he can personalize his cubicle at the mountain retreat of Afterlife. Yes, after last week's dinner date with the family, Cal/Kyle thinks he's a guest rather than a prisoner. Jiaying (Dichen Lachman) has been sending mixed up vibes.
In truth, he's neither guest nor prisoner. Jiaying wants him off her mountain, so sending him and Skye to pick up his stuff is just a ruse to get rid of him, and Skye is doing the Inhuman equivalent of one last perfect day with the dog before they put him down. (Though in this case they're not putting the dog down, but letting him off to run wild and ravage people. Given what a murderous psycho Cal is, this seems like the most morally dubious plan in a show that specializes in moral dubiety.)
For their part, HYDRA has been tracking the teleporting signature of Gordon (Jamie Harris), and tracking down the Inhumans he drops off, and cutting them up. Since Skye and Cal teleported to the office, that puts them on HYDRA's radar.
Meanwhile, Coulson (Clark Gregg) is on HYDRA's tail, trying to infiltrate them to find out what they're up to. To that end, he's recruited Lance (Nick Blood), Fitz (Iain DeCaestecker) and Deathlok (August J. Richards), and because none of them can convincingly infiltrate HYDRA, he adds Ward (Brett Dalton) and his pal/prisoner Bakshi (Simon Kassianides) to what could be the worst boyband of all time. The presence of Ward's lover/emotional hostage Agent 33 (Maya Stojan) is the only thing that stops this prophecy from coming to pass. (May, Morse and Simmons are putting together a much more interesting Josie and the Pusscats tribute act back at the base.)
Beyond supplying the Bakshi of it all (which he keeps in the trunk of his car), Ward proves largely redundant to a plan that involves sending Bakshi in to meet with HYDRA number two Dr List (Henry Goodman), supervised by Deathlok. When List picks up a "quantum entanglement" (a teleport signal), that diverts HYDRA to Cal's location, which diverts Coulson's team to follow them.
Lincoln the Electric Inhuman (Luke Mitchell) shows up at the doc's office to watch over Skye and to have them fall over onto each other, which is the universal signal for "hook-up imminent". That only leaves New SHIELD to place on the board, and they basically show up because Skye steals a phone and calls them, not knowing that Coulson isn't with them. (Simmons also hacks Deathlok's eye. Rude.)
And that is how almost ever character in the show ends up standing in a corridor shooting at each other. Boom, bang bang bang, wheee!
Putting all these characters together was an opportunity to shuffle the deck. Lincoln and Deathlok get nabbed by HYDRA; Coulson... goes back to New HYDRA; and Skye... gets 'ported back by Gordon. So I guess the show rented that mountain for the whole ski season. OK, not a whole lot of shuffling there.
This was a knotty episode, and I probably left out some stuff (I can't think where Bakshi ended up, but I lose track of him more than my keys). Don't worry, the comments section is always full of helpful people who will patiently and politely explain what I left out!
But with all those balls to juggle, this ep did a good job of shaking off the cobwebs that have gathered over this show for the past several weeks (excepting the flashbacks in last week's episode). Lincoln got to use his powers, and on Deathlok, no less. Cal very nearly Hyded out. There were at least two powers-on-powers confrontations, which is two more than we usually get. There was confusion, there were missed connections, there was running in and out of doorways. It was like a French farce with guns and superpowers. More of this sort of thing!
Best of all, HYDRA had an evil plan; catching and cutting up Kreeople. For all that there are a lot of villains and antagonists running around right now, it's been a while since Ward, Cal, Raina, or Jiaying really felt like they were actively pursuing their agenda in clear and purposeful ways. This back half of the season has seen a lot of treading water, and near as I can tell, literally no-one has built a doomsday machine.
So good for you, HYDRA, for tracking Gordon's teleporting signature and cutting up innocent people. (Hey, I'm applauding your go-getter attitude; I actually have some qualms about your methods.) Hopefully now that all the players have crossed paths, and everyone more or less has the same objective in their sights — the Kreeople — we're hastening towards something big.
When Grant Ward is not on this show, I do not miss him. I very happily forget that he ever existed. I think that's the right place for him; forgotten. Never mentioned again. Maybe keep Agent 33 around and have her say he went out to get milk, and that's the end of him. He doesn't need a big blaze-of-glory exit. He obviously doesn't need a stomach-turning redemption arc. And he least of all deserves to hang around as the latest in a long line of villains who are slightly less exciting than margarine.
Ward is offered two possible paths this episode (which may yet reconcile into one). He saves Coulson's life, which keeps that redemption arc alive. He also gets the offer of a mind wipe in exchange for his cooperation, which sounds like classic SHIELD extra-judicial moral compromise. That's so Coulson! Maybe the mind wipe would get rid of him, in which case I repudiate all my moral objections and vote in favor. But maybe it means he'd get reintegrated into the show as a sad sick puppy, and we already did that with Fitz.
I'm actually a big believer in redemption arcs, but in fiction it's too often only the raffish leading men who get second chances, while people like Raina (women, people of color) are doomed forever by any bad choices they make. That's exhausting. As Ward hasn't even begun to show signs of remorse (only regret at things he lost), I'm not at all primed for a comeback. His relationship with Skye is creepy, his relationship with 33 is creepy, and his general sense of entitlement is creepy.
The lowest point of this episode is when master spy and brilliant leader Coulson pretty much lets slip to Ward that Skye has superpowers now. It seems a safe bet that Ward is sticking around for the last few episodes and reaffirming his prurient concerns towards Skye. Shudder.
Phil Coulson is dead. At least, as far as the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is concerned, he's still dead. In an interview with Buzzfeed this week, Avengers: Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon said, "As far as I’m concerned, in this movie, Coulson’s dead. ... It mattered that he’s gone. It’s a different world now. And you have to run with that."
Now, Whedon both killed off Coulson in Avengers and brought him back in the Agents of SHIELD pilot, so he's fully aware of Coulson's situation. But this places the character in an interesting cul-de-sac. Whedon is right; Coulson's death mattered, and his resurrection in the movies would undermine the power of that sacrifice. On top of that, Coulson just isn't the character he used to be. His appeal as a foil to characters like Thor and Iron Man has been diluted by having him headline a show and become a sort of benign monster, rather than a prickly good guy. We can never go back to the way Coulson used to be.
So it's time to kill him. Again. A second death for Coulson would straighten out his Schroedingian state of being secretly alive and importantly dead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It would also give Agents of SHIELD a shot in the arm as it heads into the third season if the characters no longer had a friendly figurehead protecting them.
Now, sure, I've previously called for the deaths of Fitz and Ward. I am totally cool with killing off all three.
Meet Daisy Johnson.
OK, so we've met her before. She's in every episode. And we already learned a bunch of episodes back that Skye is also the comic character Daisy Johnson, created by Brian Michael Bendis and Gabriele Dell'Otto. But until now we only knew that her parents called her Daisy; this episode we learn that her father's real surname is Johnson, not Zabo (a name he chose to sound more scary), which prompts Skye to try her 'real' name on for size. I doubt she'll start using it, though. She'll always be Mary Sue Poots in her heart.
As you may have guessed, there were no actual new comic characters introduced this week.
Last week I asked what the Inhumans call themselves. I was told it's The Descendants, which is a word I've heard them use, but I thought they were using it with a lower case d, and it washed over me. We're all descendants! No, they mean they're The Descendants, with a capital D.
Which is great, because Disney is already making a made-for-TV movie called The Descendants about the kids of Maleficent, Cruella and Jafar, and that looks amazing. Maybe that's the Agents of SHIELD spin-off? Maybe it's a Once Upon A Time crossover? Maybe these aren't Inhumans at all, but refugees from Storybrooke? Lord knows, this show could use a Maleficent.
An exclusive scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron! (And an episode of Agents of SHIELD.)