Feelings and How to Destroy Them. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “…Ye Who Enter Here”

After the high energy conclusion of the previous episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen in “…Ye Who Enter Here.” I mean, I did wait, because Thanksgiving, but that just heightened my anticipation for the events to come.

Which means that I’m expecting great things from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. once more. “Abandon all hope ye who enter here” would have been an eye-rollingly appropriate commentary on the quality of this show earlier this year, but not anymore. Now I can’t wait to see how Coulson and his Scrappies affect the Marvel universe. The promise that a Marvel television spin-off starring Phil Coulson once represented has been restored.

“…Ye Who Enter Here” is a straightforward part one to next week’s mid-season finale, with its function being mainly to get all the characters and plotlines into one place. The plot is fairly thin and could basically be described as “S.H.I.E.L.D. goes to the hidden city. Hydra follows them there. Tune in next week!” This rote structure could have been a problem for this week’s episode, especially since the majority of the episodes this season have provided consistent pay-offs for the overarching story. “…Ye Who Enter Here” even opens with a dream sequence, a worrying sign that the episode feels it needs to pad out its air time and prop up its tension. As if it doesn’t entirely trust itself to make that tension known more organically.

The dream sequence strikes a false note—which dream sequences tend to do naturally, since they’re a bit of a “show-don’t-tell” cheat in narratives—but it’s the only false note in “…Ye Who Enter Here.” The episode doesn’t have a lot of action to move it along, so it takes advantage of that by highlighting interactions between characters that don’t usually get to talk to each other, and by reminding us how all of these characters really feel about each other. You leave “…Ye Who Enter Here” knowing only a smidgeon more about the Diviner and the city, but you know a lot more about the characters themselves. When things go wrong, as they inevitably do because that’s how this type of episode always ends, the personal implications of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s failure are still fresh in your mind. (It also helps that they squeezed in some exciting action sequences.)

Some of the interactions that I found interesting:

 

Agents of SHIELD: Ye Who Enter Here

Skye and May: SkyeBangs had the unwelcome task of shepherding the plot pieces around in this episode: warning people not to go to things, telling others to go to things, talking to Raina because the writers Coulson say she should… Her big emotional showdown with Ward and her dad are obviously next week, so I’m glad the show took some of her idle time to remind us that May and Skye have a unique relationship, as well.

I figured we were in for something once May reminded Coulson that she is Skye’s commanding officer, but I wasn’t expecting that something to be a full-out brawl. Skye did not hesitate for a second when she saw May coming at her with a gun, and that one sliver of a moment tells us so much about how capable May has made Skye and how trusting their relationship must be as a result of such intensive training. Skye will SkyePunch any threat without pause, including her fake commanding officer’s fake face. Having her stand arm to arm with May against Ward at the end of the episode became a much more forceful statement because of this.

 

Agents of SHIELD: Ye Who Enter Here

Coulson and Bobbi: Coulson’s method of operation feels so improvisational sometimes that it’s easy to forget that he even has a method of operation, so it was nice to see that highlighted in the dialogue between him and Bobbi as they did the otherwise-routine grunt work of prepping their invasion of the hidden city, turning that boring prep work in itself into a key example of the differences between Coulson and Director Fury.

Bobbi is an ideal character to have bring this up, as well, being a proven high-level agent who is nonetheless still new to the dynamics in play regarding Coulson and his team. It’s immediately believable that she would know of Fury’s preferences firsthand, and while May would also fit that role, May is loyal to Coulson and only questions orders in a pragmatic sense. Bobbi, on the other hand, is genuinely curious about something that seems out of place. She reads people with a skill bordering on the sociopathic, but what she’s reading from Coulson doesn’t reconcile with his actions and his role as she knows them. So what’s the deal?

Coulson is happy to tell her what the deal is, and it’s something we already know (right from the pilot episode, in fact) but it’s nice to hear it repeated every so often. His S.H.I.E.L.D. is not an eliminator but rather an integrator between the old world and the new, and an enemy to those who want that integration to proceed too quickly and too destructively. (Like Hydra, and like Raina later on in the episode.) Integration is a careful, precise, curatory process, so Coulson prefers a scalpel instead of a shotgun.

But he’s not an idiot. He’ll use a shotgun and he’ll use it proudly. The discussion is a smart one, beginning with an open question and concluding with the answer to that question being used to answer an unspoken concern from Bobbi and the viewer. Coulson wisely turns it all back onto Bobbi. This is why I do things the way I do, he says, and that’s why I have faith in you and your capabilities. That’s why you, an individual, are on my team, itself the result of an integrative process. Fitz and Simmons are my scalpel this time out, Bobbi, and you’re the shotgun. (Would that her superhero code name was Shotgun instead of Mockingbird.)

 

Agents of SHIELD: Ye Who Enter Here

Bobbi and Simmons: And Bobbi is integrating, albeit slowly. She tends to keep to herself, you may have noticed, keeping her own counsel and leaning on old relationships where she already know the parameters. It explains why she, in her words, treats romantic relationships like a car race. The track is predictable, the movements are known, and an outcome is assured. She can move on or retreat whenever she needs to.

It’s not clear why she reaches out to Simmons here, but it doesn’t need to be clear. Empathy, annoyance, investment in her previous rescue…pick one. The important part is that Bobbi brings her skills and perspective to Simmons and both end up revealing more about themselves than we’ve ever really learned. Simmons’ feelings about Fitz, or anything, are elusive. She demures and disappears in a puff of British science whenever put on the spot. It’s why she’s such a bad liar and why it’s surprising when she actually confronts someone forceful like Whitehall or, later on in this episode, Mac. She tries her disappearing routine with Bobbi, too, but as we know Bobbi reads people and she reminds Simmons of that. Too late, Bobbi says, you already told me a bunch of stuff through body language and now we’re both invested in this conversation. Might as well go forward. Bobbi essentially tricks Simmons into a safe space, a skill undoubtedly honed through previous interrogations of bad guys like Bakshi.

The two of them have a nice chat, though, and Simmons comes clean about Fitz. There’s never been a past relationship (there goes my theory!), and she doesn’t love him, but also he’s kind of her Wookiee lifemate. She can’t imagine life without him but at the same time she can’t deal with the weight of his love, can’t deal with not being able to reciprocate the sacrifice that Fitz made for her last season. Their pairing is blossoming into one hell of a love/hate relationship.

 

Agents of SHIELD: Ye Who Enter Here

Mac and Fitz: So Fitz comes to the decision, wordlessly to himself in yet another sign that he’s becoming his old self, that he’s going to transfer to another department so he can be separate from Simmons and be closer to Mac. Mac loves his little Turbo, but he doesn’t want any part of the repeating anguish that Fitz has become. Neither does Simmons, really, but Simmons still enables it, still finishes Fitz’s thoughts, while Mac just lets him sink or swim. Ironically, that detachment just makes Fitz feel more attached to Mac.

So it’s understandable that Fitz can’t bring himself to put a bullet through Mac when Mac touches down on the hidden city and flies into a berserker rage. As soon as Raina lays out that the Diviner and the Temple choose “the worthy” in the same manner, we know Mac is a goner. He doesn’t get turned to stone, thankfully, but he doesn’t come back up to Coulson and the infiltration team fully human.

And wow is Berserker Mac a pillar of power! Once it becomes clear that the team will have to take him down physically then you don’t know what will happen next. This guy looks like he could just keep punching through walls until he hits the ocean. Coulson goes down, Fitz cowers, Bobbi makes a game attempt but realizes quickly that she can’t overpower him by herself. Even Simmons tries to clobber him. “…Ye Who Enter Here” delivers an eyebrow-raising fight here, respecting the power in play and making it a stroke of luck that the team survives at all. Good thing Coulson’s shotgun was there, even if she does win the fight through finesse more than brute force.

And here’s hoping Mac can stick around, but if not…well, Fitz’s emotional escape hatch probably doesn’t seem so appealing to him now.

 

Agents of SHIELD: Ye Who Enter Here

Raina and Raina: Raina’s scenes with the team aren’t all that great since they’re mostly exposition dumps, but I loved them anyway. She’s increasingly batty, always seemingly somewhere else… Just her apology for trying to run off to Hydra is so incredibly cursory. Now that she’s THIS CLOSE to her DESTINY she’s getting even weirder. At some point she’s just going to walk straight off of the show, mid-scene. Maybe even in the next episode.

Because the next episode…! Yet another Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode that I can’t wait for. At least this one isn’t delayed a week. Do you think they’ll actually unleash a Terrigenesis upon the world? Are we about to get a hugely pivotal moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

 

Thoughts:

  • The aliens are the Kree. Raina’s grandmother told her stories about them. Raina was a con artist teenager in Asia. She seduces old white men in coffeeshops during her idle time. One wonders what the next chapter of her life will include.
  • Think Agent 33 will recur throughout the series or is this it for May-Face?
  • DAT UMBRELLA THO. It wards off rain AND light!

Agents of SHIELD: Ye Who Enter Here

  • The umbrella, the face mask, the walkie-talkie paper… There’s been a lot of great gadgets this season.
  • Koenig, Lance Hunter, and May-Face bring some much-needed levity to what could have been a pretty dark episode. I’m just going to think that Koenig is an LMD with 10 other models rather than just triplets.
  • It was nice that Koenig got to acknowledge Ward’s murder of his brother.
  • What would Mac and Fitz’s ship name be? Mitz? Facz?
  • Probably the biggest question coming out of this episode: What are Bobbi and Mac up to aside from S.H.I.E.L.D.? And what did it have to do with Hartley?

Chris Lough bets that the Diviner would find Matthew McConaughey alright alright alright. He reviews Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and things here on Tor.com.

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