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

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Melinda Plot Summary:

Seven years ago, Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) go on a mission to obtain an enhanced individual in Bahrain. What they encounter is far worse than they could have ever imagined. In present day, May tries to learn another deep Coulson mystery while Skye (Chloe Bennet) makes a shocking personal discovery.

It’s no secret by now that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had some major growing pains when it first began. One of the biggest issues by far was its iron-like grip on certain mysteries, choosing to dangle answers just out of viewer reach instead of giving us what we want. May’s past is one of these. For over a year and a half, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D provided answers to many questions. First very slowly and then incredibly quick. Yet the one thing that was hardly ever touched upon was exactly why May is “The Cavalry” and what transpired in Bahrain to transform her. The show loved to make us think we’d get a full meal of insight, but instead we’d always get tiny nibbles to barely satiate our hunger. It reached a point where I myself actually forgot this was even part of the show. It was that minimal.

Photo Credit: ABC/Patrick Wymore
Photo Credit: ABC/Patrick Wymore

Thankfully “Melinda” finally, and unequivocally, put the matter to rest. It revealed what happened to May in Bahrain in a series of flashbacks. Turns out it was far more entwined with the Inhumans than any of us could have thought. It’s smart that this is the major revelation and connection to our present events. We’ve seen repeatedly that May is capable of fighting practically any force, and is prepared for any threat. That she knows of at least. The intensely sheltered Inhumans are the perfect people to make this exception. S.H.I.E.L.D. has dealt with a lot of threats, but seven years ago, something like this was unimaginable. A woman with super strength and a daughter who can control emotions with a single touch isn’t a common issue, even for S.H.I.E.L.D. Neither is having to kill that same child with a bullet at point blank range.

The flashbacks were wonderfully executed and perfectly outlined May’s personal devolution. In the beginning, we watch her and Andrew (Blair Underwood) in a loving relationship. He surprises her in the shower, they want babies, Coulson is a regular visitor. It’s a great life. The mission was mostly business as normal too. Up until May had to kill the child of course. Then everything is different. She’s cold and skittish, choosing to transfer to a safe desk job to leave the field. Now her reserved attitude makes perfect sense. Her rescuing the brainwashed S.H.I.E.L.D. agents was very exciting too, delivering a satisfying look on this longtime myth. Clearly any fight scene with May will be enjoyable, so giving her an extra long battle scene is great. Her brawl with Eva (Winter Ave Zoli) was especially brutal and supremely choreographed.

Establishing a stable timeline on these Bahrain events was a nice addition too. Turns out this all took place before Iron Man when The Avengers was just an ambitious idea by Nick Fury. Crazy how far we’ve come right? Further proves exactly how long The Inhumans have been involved.

Photo Credit: ABC/Patrick Wymore
Photo Credit: ABC/Patrick Wymore

What really sucks was how much the show teased this revelation, only to learn that there was no way this could happen sooner. Now it all feels very misleading. Supposedly all this Inhuman stuff, specifically with Skye, was planned since the very beginning. This means that the writers were perfectly aware that it was impossible to give us anything really substantial on May’s past until the Inhumans became a primary focus. I’ve already forgotten literally everything that was said about this previously. It almost makes you wonder what the point was. I cared about May for what she did in the present day, not what she did in her past because I wasn’t given any reason to care until now.

Speaking of the Inhumans, “Melinda” was a big episode for Skye as she already learned Jiaying (Dichen Lachman) is her mother and has developed some control over her powers. Isn’t it great that we’re not beating around the bush anymore? Their first real conversation as mother and daughter was very emotional, as it should be. Skye is finally back with her family for the first time in decades! Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) came back too to give us a completely different man. He was calmer and more polite, which makes sense because he has everything he’s wanted for the longest time. I loved that final dinner scene with Cal, Jiaying, and Skye.. As for how Jiaying fits into the show beyond being Skye’s mother, “Melinda” wasted no time establishing her as the primary mentor for new Inhumans.

Raina (Ruth Negga) actually got more insight too, as minimal as it was. She’s still angry at her change and ruthlessly jealous of Skye. Yet it’s clear that she’s developing a connection with Gordon (Jamie Harris), which will hopefully warm her icy heart. Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) also stumbled upon what appears to be the truth of Raina’s powers: she might be able to tell the future. That’s right folks. The woman who was an agent for the “Clairvoyant” might actually be clairvoyant. Sort of provides justification for why she was so involved with that. Doesn’t explain why she’s covered in thorns though so hopefully that comes soon.

Photo Credit: ABC/Patrick Wymore
Photo Credit: ABC/Patrick Wymore

Oh yeah, stuff happened present day for the rest of our S.H.I.E.L.D. team, though not much. It’s understandable considering how much time was focused on May’s past and Skye’s Inhuman present. What we have is essentially preparing us for next week. May has discovered that Coulson intentionally kept a big secret from her, which adds fuel to Bobbi’s (Adrianne Palicki) mission for transparency. This is a pleasant ripple in the previously rock solid May/Coulson partnership. Looks like Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) will follow May down her path for answers too.

Even less time was focused on Coulson’s current events. We only saw him and Hunter (Nick Blood) at the very end as they talk to Fitz (Iain De Caestecker). Apparently Fitz has figured out how to open Fury’s toolbox? That was quick. This clearly is setting us up for next week too so you can’t be upset with this minimal focus. Coulson had plenty to do in the past anyway.

Next week’s episode appears to be an exciting one. It’s two episodes away from the big premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron and the groundwork is being set up early. I’m very excited to see what changes Ultron’s destruction will bring to this show. As for what we have now, “Melinda” was a solid episode. It gave us the insight we wanted into May’s past and outlined how it fits into the present storyline. However, it makes one wonder if all the teases were even worth it. Skye connecting with her family was great though, and I’m on board for another major Coulson mystery. Mac (Henry Simmons) believes that Theta Protocol is actually Coulson creating a secure base for powered people to train and live in peace. Could this be a nod to the recently announced spin-off? A show about inexperienced, aspiring superheroes? Count me in!

Rating: 8.5/10


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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.
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