Welcome back to another week of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This particular episode, “Face My Enemy,” was screened at New York Comic Con this past weekend, with a quick walk-on hello from Coulson himself, and the excitement afterwards was ELECTRIFYING! No, wait, the other thing, tepid.
I already thought it was kind of weird that they didn’t screen the forthcoming Mockingbird episode, since that was the most exciting takeaway from their SDCC panel, and after showing us a clunker like “Face My Enemy” I was even more confused. Having Agent May beat up Agent May is a really fun idea (just like it was on Alias), but they kind of forgot to write an episode around it. Why shine a spotlight on that?
In this episode, Coulson and May go undercover to retrieve a 500 year old painting that has alien writing on the back, the same alien writing that Coulson goes into weird fugue states to doodle. (Also, notice that the show is calling it alien writing now? That was never really confirmed, even by the Obelisk, but thanks for giving us that one anyway, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!) Hydra is also looking for it, because they’re always looking for the same things that Coulson is looking for, probably even at the most mundane levels. “Sorry, Agent. I bought the last of the French Dark Roast at this Trader Joe’s. MWA HA HA! Oh, orange line? Thanks. And hail Hydra.”
Anyway, they get the painting, but along the way May fights a Hydra agent who is wearing her face thanks to a slick-looking future tech skin thing. So the show gets to have May ninja-ing herself. Then Coulson insists that she kill him someday. And that’s the episo…wait, what?
Okay, this thing? About Coulson insisting that May kill him when, not if but when, he goes crazy like Garrett is probably what the episode should have been about, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. You could have still had your Miami mansion and your Spy vs Spy and your sweet reminiscing dance scene and your alien painting while making the episode about how Coulson is losing his grip. What if, and I’m just spitballing here because this was a boring episode and I had a lot of time to spitball, Coulson was the agent actually central to the mission, as opposed to May? And what if his alien-writing fugue state got triggered during the mission and May had to extract them both while also getting the painting and also fighting her evil twin?
You don’t even have to stop there! What if, having established how close May and Coulson are in regards to their work history, you establish that May is the only person who can get through to him in his fugue state, but when she tries during the mission he snaps on her and starts going all starry-eyed and kick-punchy like Garrett?
Do you see what I’m getting at here, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? It’s not enough to have Coulson say that May needs to kill him, you have to show that there is a genuine concern behind that. We need to see, as viewers, that things can go wrong with Coulson, because so far we haven’t had any indication of that. Honestly, all we’ve seen is that sometimes he zones out and writes. I do that, too. Surely you’ll have to kill me before I go crazy.
Seeing some real consequences would have also added weight to May’s faith in Coulson. For us it’s easy to sympathize with her stance, but if this episode had portrayed her sticking to her faith in him despite that looking like a really bad idea, then we would have been forced to stick to our faith in the character of Coulson more fiercely. Or maybe we’d have begun disagreeing strenuously with May’s stance, but either way we would have been more engaged as viewers.
All in all, aside from the fight scene with the Mays, this felt like an entirely skippable episode. We don’t end up learning anything further about the alien writing, besides the fact that someone else out there is also doing it, and besides some incremental progress from Fitz—which could have been placed in any episode, really—everything remained status quo.
I probably should have known better. Any episode that opens with Lance Hunter, professional beer drinker, squirming all over some lady on a beach is probably not going to end well.
- I do love how awful May’s dress was. DO YOU THINK IT WAS SHINY ENOUGH? MAYBE YOU COULD ADD SOME GLITTER TO MAKE IT SHINY.
- Oh, Talbot’s there but he’s not. It’s just the vaguely British Hydra guy pretending to be Talbot. Although that does lead to a fun dialogue when Coulson calls Talbot to say that Hydra just impersonated him.
- Does May say the Spanish equivalent of “I’m the best there is at what I do” during the party? I couldn’t make out everything but she definitely says she’s the best at something.
- Lance got four scenes in this episode! In the second one Trip is visibly antsy in the background, wondering when the season is going to give him anything to do.
- Lance calls his ex-wife a goddess and a hell-beast and this being the Marvel universe he might actually be telling the literal truth.
- Fitz mostly mopes uselessly around the episode (even him fixing The Bus is easy and takes like two seconds) but I did like how he just blurted out that Simmons never reciprocated his feelings. Progress! Adorable progress.
- Beer and feelings make GhostSimmons disappear.
- “Did you punch her in the face?” “I did.”
- May after a faux laughing-and-smiling fit. “My face hurts.”
Chris Lough’s face always hurts.