‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Season 1 Recap, Episode 9: ‘Repairs’
Everyone get back on the plane, it’s time for another budget-saving Agents of SHIELD bottle episode! After last week’s Asgardian hijinx, we’re once again bouncing around between the IKEA bunks of the boring SHIELD wingycarrier.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that this was the first episode to give any real time or attention to Ming-Na Wen’s Agent May. But did it tell us anything we didn’t already know?
Episode nine, “Repairs,” opens with a newspaper headline about a particle accelerator lab accident (so far, so very superhero comics), and a woman getting hassled by a shopkeeper. The woman was in charge of the lab, so the man blames her for the accident that killed his friend. Suddenly the man is attacked by tin cans and a falling shelf. He flees, only to get blown up by the petrol pumps.
Cut to a hotel room, where May is getting dressed and the shower is running. Ward (Brett Dalton) emerges from the bathroom. In case anyone thinks the episode is picking up exactly where last week’s ended, Ward says they should “follow the same plan as before” and take separate routes to work to avoid suspicion. Agent May just leaves. There is neither sentiment nor intimacy here; these are two people using sex to blow off steam.
The mission of the week is, of course, the woman we saw in the opener, a suspected telekinetic named Hannah Hutchins (Laura Seay) — though the existence of telekinesis has not yet been established. The agents must conduct an “Index Asset Evaluation and Intake” of the new super-person — a procedure that Skye (Chloe Bennett) wants to rename “The Welcome Wagon” because it sounds cozy, and men in black should strive to sound cozy.
The approach does not go well. Hannah is under siege from a local mob, and an unmanned police car suddenly drives into the crowd. Agent May takes the unilateral decision to tranquilize Hannah with the ubiquitous night-night gun. Meanwhile, Fitz (Iain DeCaestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) decide to haze Skye because she never went through “the academy.” Their idea of hazing is to tell Skye that May rode a horse once, to yell at her for touching a hologram, and to hide a mop. It is pathetic. It’s surely meant to be pathetic, but knowing that doesn’t make it any more entertaining. It’s an awful sub-plot.
Hannah is held in “the cage” (the holding room) on board the plane. She expresses guilt about the accident, but claims she’s not responsible for the attacks. Rather, she’s haunted by demons and being punished by god for failing to prevent the accident. To underline her point about hauntings, a figure appears in a hallway, an object falls off a shelf, and a knife goes missing. Ooo-OO-oo-OO-ooh!
If you’re wondering from my recap when the Agent May part of this episode kicks in… it’s mostly other people talking about her. Fitz and Simmons tell one version of how May got the nickname “The Cavalry,” and it’s meant to sound preposterous, but this is a superhero universe so it actually just sounds like the sort of awesome that this show refuses to commit to.
Ward tells a more boring version of the tale while covering up the fact that he’s sleeping with May by intently peppering a sandwich. Coulson (Clark Gregg) later tells us the real story: May tried to rescue a girl and several agents from the followers of a “gifted individual” who established a cult. We don’t get a lot of details because May didn’t share them, so we still don’t really know what happened, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a Purple Man story in our future.
Simmons’ holographic reconstruction of the lab accident reveals that the particle accelerator opened a portal to a hell dimension. Hooray! Simmons is attacked by a spectral figure with a wrench (Robert Baker). Ghostwrench kills the power on the plane, forcing an emergency landing, and hounds and haunts the agents with his ghost wrench, usually in very dark corridors where it’s difficult to see what’s going on.
The agents realize that Ghostwrench is trapped between our world and another dimension thanks to a portal similar to the ones that appeared in Thor: The Dark World. Ghostwrench wants the agents to let Hannah out of the cage. May obliges, sneaking Hannah off the plane and into the woods.
Skye realizes Ghostwrench is in love with Hannah, because Fitz’s prank with a mop makes her think of the word “childish.” Yeah, it’s… let’s say she’s a latent telepath, OK? It’ll help us get through some of this writing. Anyway, Ghostwrench is protecting Hannah, and that’s why he crashed a plane with her on board. Wait, what?
While May fights Ghostwrench in a dark barn (“Hello, darkness, my old fight choreography friend…”), Simmons fills the air with tennis balls (dubbed the “golden retrievers”) to try to track them. Hannah begs Ghostwrench to stop fighting, and Ghostwrench confesses he caused the accident trying to get Hannah’s attention, and that’s why he’s been sent to Hell. (Or Hel, the Asgardian one. But, from the look of it, it’s actually Muspelheim, the fiery demon dimension.) He’s protecting Hannah to atone for what he did.
Agent May tells Ghostwrench he can never atone, and he should let go of this life and stop dragging Hannah down with him. “Let the girl go.” He lets go, and fades away.
So… that guy’s trapped in an other-dimensional hell world now, right? He’s not actually dead. He’s off fighting Surtur with a wrench. That seems like a peculiar place to end things.
Coulson asks May what she said to Ghostwrench. “The same words you said to me in Bahrain.” Taken literally, that implies May failed to save the girl from the cult leader. Figuratively, it implies she can never atone for her mysterious past misdeed. Possibly it’s both things. We’ll probably find out real soon.
The episode ends with Coulson telling Skye that she’s good at connecting with people and that’s her strength as an agent. I thought it was the hacking? She doesn’t seem like she’s good with people. But I can see how Skye would appear to be the humane one on SHIELD’s special socially-awkward-introverts plane.
Oh, and there’s a kicker scene in which someone pranks Snarf and it turns out it’s Panthro and all the Thundercats laugh.
It was not a great episode. But the good news is, it was the weakest episode in a little while! That’s a good sign, right? I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that last week’s episode was the new average and this was an outlier, rather than last week being the outlier and this being the show we’re watching.
I also really hope that we can go three episodes without one set on the plane. I suspect there’s little chance of that, though. Regular plane episodes may be how they’re balancing the budget on all the location shoots, and I’m not sure it’s worth it.
Agents of SHIELD returns in two weeks’ time.
Credit where it’s due:
“Repairs” was directed by Billy Gierhart and written by Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon. SHIELD and Marvel’s Hel and Muspelheim were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Thor and Marvel’s Asgard were created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby. Roxxon was created by Steve Englehart. Phil Coulson was created by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway.