TV Recap: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ‘One of Us’

shieldheader

One of Us Plot Summary:

To exact revenge against Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and S.H.I.E.L.D., Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) puts together his own team of enhanced people. Skye (Chloe Bennet) meanwhile gets psychological help from a surprising source: Melinda May’s (Ming-Na Wen) ex-husband.

The Index has always been this seemingly universal source of information for S.H.I.E.L.D. Since the very beginning, Coulson has repeatedly mentioned this collection as the ultimate list of dangerous people. In a way, it’s a good source of conflict for the show. It’s literally a record of people that can give our team someone to fight. Yet over the past season and a half, The Index hasn’t been mentioned or used that often despite its apparently massive importance. It was pretty largely untapped source of potential. So imagine my surprise, for the better I might add, that The Index basically took center stage throughout “One of Us” as the main driving force for multiple conflicts. Also, it lead to a fight with small scale villains, which is always awesome.

Photo Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC
Photo Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC

All the promotion leading up to this episode centered around Cal. After getting his quest for vengeance accidentally cut short by Coulson, the man is out for some physical revenge. He does this by gathering four dangerous individuals who are all the product of some sort of human experimentation. Considering how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is now playing a massive long game with the Inhumans, it’s refreshing to watch the above average enemies take center stage again. People like Karla (Drea de Matteo), with razor engraved nails, and Francis (Geo Corvera) who is super strong from experimental steroids could never go toe-to-toe with the “big” heroes. You could make the case that David (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and his nerve paralyzing voice can do some damage, but even that’s a stretch. That’s not the case for the agents though. This is why the organization has existed in the first place, to fight these lower tier baddies. It’s like S.H.I.E.L.D. went back to its roots for an hour.

Tying this to Cal’s quest for revenge was an incredibly smart move too, mostly because it gave us more Kyle MacLachlan. This is easily the most attention he’s received since the climactic winter finale and it lead to some really awesome material. It’s outstanding how much McLachlan is owning this role. The massively psychotic Calvin Zabo requires a lot of care to not be considered a caricature, yet MacLachlan’s range turns the character into a real force of danger. Every tick, loud outburst, and physical activity is given such weight to absolutely sell the threat this man poses.

The insight into what Cal is was nice too. I forgot that we actually know barely anything about him. Turns out his violent mood swings and super strength is the product of multiple chemical experiments that are still continuing. Per Gordon (Jamie Harris), that doesn’t make him “one of them” because he’s a product of human work. It’s a very important distinction that Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) outlines herself toward Coulson by making two new categories on the Index. There are now the Enhanced people, like Cal, and an unnamed second category that will likely be Inhuman, giving us the official declaration of the title.

Photo Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC
Photo Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC

Speaking of the Inhumans, we didn’t get much on that front this week, which is to be expected. “Who You Really Are” was such a massive knowledge dump on that front. We really needed this breather to focus on other material. S.H.I.E.L.D. couldn’t just abandon the story though, so what we got this week was Skye being psychologically evaluated by Dr. Andrew Garner (special guest Blair Underwood). Unfortunately the scenes between Skye and Garner felt a little lacking, mainly because we didn’t learn anything new. Skye’s a jokester! She likes to deflect! She hates authority! Really, the only moment that mattered was at the very end where we visually witness the effects of Skye internalizing all of her seismic abilities. To put it simply, it does not go well for her. It was a good twist that gives us a legitimate reason to support someone helping her control, and maybe even make a case that Cal is right. Would Skye have suffered this much if Gordon got her first? One can only imagine.

Where Garner worked the best was during his scenes with May. It amazes me how the show is still mining May’s mysterious past for more material. Just when you think you have a good idea of her history, in comes Garner telling people about how much May loves Vegas and hates big weddings. This also leads to a nice exchange that shows a carefree and laughing May, something that immediately sets Leo Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) off guard. It was honestly a means to keep some humor alive during the hour. It also lead to Fitz and Simmons somewhat reconciling, which felt a little too early. Right at the beginning Simmons laments that she is immensely burned by how Fitz kept Skye’s abilities a secret. Apparently all it takes is Fitz reacting weirdly to May for them to gossip together again. How are we supposed to get invested in their conflict if it seemingly ends so early?

Lastly, it looks like I got exactly what I wanted with the Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Mac (Henry Simmons) mystery. “One of Us” finally revealed who they are working for after Mac put Lance (Nick Blood) in a sleeper hold. Turns out it’s S.H.I.E.L.D. Not this S.H.I.E.L.D. though, the real S.H.I.E.L.D. lead by someone else. I was half expecting Fury to show up there but this is a great twist to their story. Are they being mislead by someone else masquerading as S.H.I.E.L.D.? Has Coulson not been flying under a sanctioned banner this entire time? How long has this new S.H.I.E.L.D. been in operation? These are questions that will, hopefully get answered next week.

Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal
Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal

“One of Us” took Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. back to its humble roots by pitting the protagonists against a group of lesser bad people lead by Cal. Most of them aren’t meant for large scale destruction, but pitting them against our agents was a great move. This invariably lead to less focus on the Inhumans,which is absolutely fine, but was still a bit underutilized between Skye and Garner. Garner was much better at getting May even further out of her shell. The big reveal near the end with Mac was incredible though. This is the headway I wanted and it looks like next week will be all about this revelation. I’m looking forward to it.

Rating: 8.5/10

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. air every Tuesday night on ABC.

============================================================================================================================================
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.
=====================================================================================