For a change, “Frenemy” provides an opportunity to properly/honestly appraise an AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D episode up front without dropping spoilers (since Season 2’s entire second half is now a big-deal Marvel Universe mythology-reveal) and incurring the wrath of binge watchers.
So, then. Short version: This is the season’s stupidest title, but possibly it’s best episode. Want more than that (with SPOILERS?) keep reading after the jump…
One thing (among many) that Season 2 of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D has done better than Season 1 is to “answer” the justifiable criticism of the series failing to measure up to its (implicit) promise of staying fresh and vibrant by flitting between the various worlds of the Marvel Universe by quietly building a fairly substantial “sub-universe” of its own: As this second season winds down, AGENTS now has enough levels, strata and moving parts between Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D, “Real S.H.I.E.L.D,” The Inhumans, the attention they draw from The Kree and Asgard (well, okay, just Lady Sif for now but still) the adjacent machinations of rogue supervillain Calvin “Mister Hyde” Johnson, rogue vanilla-villain Grant Ward and HYDRA that it’s that much easier to “forgive” Coulson and Company for not bumping into Iron Man or The Hulk more often (or, y’know, ever.)
On the down side, in recent episodes those moving parts had begun to move a little too far apart from one another – to the point where there wasn’t much connecting (in the most obvious examples) the S.H.I.E.L.D vs S.H.I.E.L.D story with Agent Skye’s discovery that she’s actually one of the (still unnamed) Inhumans beyond the prior relationships between the characters. “Frenemy” sets about bringing these (and other) divergent plot-threads back to one place and (shockingly!) manages to feel almost organic while doing so.
The setup(s): May and Simmons are pretending to help Superhuman-phobic “Real S.H.I.E.L.D” look for Fitz and Coulson, who’ve absconded with Nick Fury’s “Toolbox” and its index of… everything, basically. Coulson, Hunter, Deathlok and Fitz meanwhile have scooped up Ward and Agent 33 to help them find the two surviving HYDRA bigwigs, Dr. List and Baron Strucker (this appears to be our big tie-in to AGE OF ULTRON) on the logic that they’ve been abducting/experimenting on “powered people” (we’re still not calling them Inhumans, I guess) and thus might be behind Skye’s disappearance or at least know about it. Skye, of course, has actually been hanging out at The Inhumans’ (or, more likely, a smaller community thereof) secret retreat, getting to know her surprisingly still-living Inhuman mother Jaiying and less-surprisingly still-insane science-enhanced father Cal/Mr. Hyde.
Since this is AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D, all of these huge interests and powerful characters ultimately converge on… a relatively-inexpensive shooting location – in this case Cal’s abandoned Milwaukee doctor’s office, where Skye is supposed to be letting him down gently about not being allowed to hang around Afterlife (The Inhuman’s refuge) any more because of the whole evil/not-Inhuman thing. Misunderstandings abound, mostly because people keep first glimpsing Coulson either in the company of “complicated” individuals like Ward or Deathlok. Things wrap up (so to speak) with Skye and Cal vanished again (List was actually chasing Gordon’s teleportation energy signature around) and Coulson seemingly pretending to hand himself over to Real S.H.I.E.L.D; setting up what’s being promoted as an action-heavy episode next week.
- We now know that the Bobbi and Hunter are getting a spin-off, so… I guess that sort of spoils whether or not they’ll A.) survive the season or B.) still be good guys (unless it’s a prequel?)
- Unless I’m forgetting, this is the first time Skye has referred to herself as “Daisy Johnson.” Did Calvin not mention his last name previously?
- Raina (not actually appearing in the episode) is suggested to be the first known precognition-powered person (Inhuman or otherwise?) documented on Earth. The idea that precognition is the big red-flag “not real yet” superpower has been repeatedly brought up back to Season 1, but at this point I’m at a loss as to what this is building to.
- We’ve been told a few times now that we’ve not seen Cal at his worst – is it too much to hope that there’s a shape/form to him that’s closer to how Mr. Hyde is typically portrayed in the comics, then?
- Sidebar: Is it just me, or has Cal/Hyde very gradually evolved into one of the more compelling MCU villains? It’s easy to forget that McLachlan is a really great actor in the right part, and that he’s been able to find (and convey) relatable humanity in such an over-the-top character (he’s basically playing a Hulk who doesn’t transform – so far). The business with him and Skye wandering around his old city, which has changed to a degree he can hardly cope with in the decades he’s been living in a supervillain rage-haze, is genuinely moving stuff.
“The Dirty Half Dozen” purportedly finds the two S.H.I.E.L.Ds working together for an attack on what looks like it could well be the same facility Baron Strucker was hanging out in during the post-credit scene of WINTER SOLDIER and is (assumed to be) occupying during whatever point he turns up in AGE OF ULTRON. I wonder if they’ll be brazen enough to suggest that this is taking place in the same relative time-frame, i.e. “Oh wow, The Avengers just got here! I mean, it’s too bad we were just leaving so we can’t meet or in any way interact with them, but hey it’s cool they’re here, huh?”