Plot: With the city in his sights, Director Coulson (Clark Gregg) sets up a small team to find the entrance. He’s forced to divide up his forces however when Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond) starts making moves to pull in Raina (Ruth Negga).
It amazes me how far Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will go to split the team. So far this season, we’ve only had a couple episodes where every team member was working in tandem on the exact same goal. More often than not the division worked really well. It gave us a chance to intently focus on small groups as opposed to one giant mass. It also helped that most of the stories we’ve seen so far didn’t actually necessitate large numbers. A small team investigating Coulson’s drawings makes a lot of sense, for example, because clearly there’s a lot of ground to cover in the quest to find the city. “…Ye Who Enter Here” doesn’t have that same benefit. Despite dedicating most of this episode to Coulson reaching the city entrance, something the show has been building up to for a few weeks, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. still found a way to move everyone apart. Strangely enough, the “extra story” was actually more interesting than what should have been the main grab.
It’s only natural that the writers wanted to keep the group from actually entering the city until next week’s big winter finale, “What They Become.” This is what we’ve been building towards and it’s fitting to make this the big final moment before the break. But with this in mind, it’s easy to see the big inherent issue with “…Ye Who Enter Here.” There’s no way Coulson was going to actually get in this week. Going into this with that expectation is a surefire means for disappointment. Yet even if you do know this isn’t actually “the moment,” you can’t really prepare yourself for how slow most of that story was. A lot of the hour was spent on Coulson and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) trying to meet some politician who doesn’t become anything more than a blurry figure in the background. There was a nice moment where Coulson really sold why they do what they do (to save the world obviously), but that brief display didn’t justify the stretched time.
This is also where the division issue can rear its ugly head. Even though we know Coulson won’t actually succeed this week, the first foray to this ancient metropolis is a huge deal. It’s impressive that they already know where the entrance is. What this means is that this is definitely not the time to divide the team up. I get that Raina is an important asset to have, but putting that in now lessens the impact of the other team going underground. It’s almost a surefire means for something to go wrong, which unsurprisingly happens in a really spectacular manner. Because the team goes in half powered, Mac (Henry Simmons) most likely is dead at the bottom of a pit. Granted, that fight scene was easily the highlight of this Coulson arc. The fact that the team was so weakened actually made it that much more intense. Plus, the physically imposing Simmons actually got a chance to kick some ass and not be a mechanic. I wish he’s still around because I’m not quite ready to part with Mac.
In contrast, the Raina recovery mission was engaging from start to finish for several reasons. For starters, we got more Patton Oswalt as he too took the field. This time we had both Billy and Sam Koenig, supposed brothers of the long deceased Eric. Are these triplets? Are they clones? That’s joked when Triplett (B.J. Britt) asks, but I personally love the idea of thirteen Koenig’s out there. It’s fun watching Oswalt work off himself for dialogue and it definitely brings a strong sense of comedy to the show. Their presence makes sense too because the Koenig brothers have a very personal reason to hate Hydra. I’m actually glad we don’t see Oswalt that often. It just makes his reappearances so much better.
Skye (Chloe Bennet) benefited immensely from the Raina mission too. Based on all the hints provided, Skye and Raina have a lot of similarities, the biggest of all being that they are “chosen” in regards to the Diviner. Okay, we don’t actually know Skye can touch it without dying, but I doubt anyone out there doesn’t already consider that as fact by this point. The only people who can really give us an answer to that though are Raina and her father The Doctor (Kyle MacLachlan). So when Ward (Brett Dalton) came in to take both Skye and Raina away together, I was ecstatic. There’s no more left that we can learn about Skye if she’s in Coulson’s protection. By keeping her with Raina and reuniting her with her father, we have a legitimate chance to move the Skye mystery forward by leaps and bounds. She also got an awesome fight scene with the Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) disguised Agent 33. I had no idea Skye already learned to fight like that.
During some intense dialogue between Raina and Skye, we got a very major confirmation: The blue alien 0-8-4 is actually a Kree, the same aliens that came to Earth and met with their ancestors. We already saw the Kree in this summer’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy so this is now one of few legitimate connections between that movie and what’s going on with Earth. Also, the history of the Kree and the Inhumans is deeply intertwined, further pushing the theory that Skye is one of them and that the city is Attilan.
I’m glad that the show is still working the rift between Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) too. Neither character was particularly important to the overall episode, but it’s tough not to care about their plight. Simmons is having trouble coping with Fitz’s personal confession and his willing sacrifice last season, while Fitz can’t get past the fact that Simmons left him in his time of need. The two clearly have some big issues to work through. We’re given a taste of what can happen if nothing is fixed, which is Fitz leaving the team permanently. These two have been the big “will they/won’t they” relationship since the beginning and I highly doubt the show will want to do away with their main romantic angle.
The primary goal for “…Ye Who Enter Here” was definitely to set up next week’s winter finale. Coulson’s arc especially was a means to stretch out the time by an extra episode. Even though the final fight with an enraged Mac was really exciting, everything leading up to it was incredibly slow and inconsequential. In contrast, the other story surrounding Raina was interesting from start to finish. We got plenty of teasers into who Skye is, along with her leaving the team to meet with her father, along with a couple fun scenes featuring the always welcome Oswalt. That cliffhanger at the end was a great set up for “What They Become” too. If the writers were smart, they created next week’s episode as an immediate follow up to Agent 33 calling an airstrike down on the Bus. There better be a crazy aerial attack in the first few minutes or else I’ll be very disappointed.
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.