As much as TV critics like to watch good TV, if we’re honest with ourselves we’ll admit it’s often easier to do our jobs when we’re critiquing bad TV. When a show’s working there’s often not as much to write about. That’s especially true in the case of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which, at its best, is now functioning like a torpedo speeding towards its season finale.
What’s especially impressive is that this week’s episode makes use of something that, on paper, could appear as mere fan bait — the reappearance of Lady Sif (Thor‘s Jamie Alexander). Yet the character’s inclusion, as well as that of this week’s other guest, the Kree agent Vin-Tak (Warehouse 13‘s Eddie McClintock), is welcome for how well it furthers the mythology that S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s been developing in conjunction with the Marvel Cinematic Universe throughout its second season.
“Who You Really Are” starts in medias res, with the Asgardian warrior goddess washing ashore in Faro, Portgual after confronting Vin-Tak and — we soon learn — having her memories wiped away by his truncheon. Both aliens have been drawn to Earth (or Midgard) by an ancient Kree signal activated by the Diviner, the crystals inside of which transformed Skye and Raina in the midseason finale. There’s no sign of the latter in this episode, but Vin-Tak is hellbent on eradicating the “abomination” Skye, who he explains has been transformed into an unstable weapon, the only purpose of which is to destroy. Skye, after finally calming down last week upon getting released from quarantine by a sympathetic Fitz, loses control of her newfound powers once more, and causes an earthquake that results in all hell breaking loose. Coulson, May, and the rest of the team fight to protect her long enough for Skye to stun herself unconscious, thus convincing Sif that she means no harm to anyone. Vin-Tak, fortunately, is subdued by Bobbi, who uses his own truncheon against him, rendering him with amnesia.
And speaking of Agent Morse… Her relationship with Hunter continues to heat up (seriously, how long has it been since we’ve seen two people in bed together on this show?), to the point that he decides he’s ready to commit more fully to S.H.I.E.L.D. She, unfortunately, immediately shuts him out after Mack (who’s been asked by Coulson, in the wake of Trip’s death, to take a more active role in the field) convinces her that Hunter shouldn’t be let in on their little conspiracy. Hunter’s no dope however (despite the act he frequently puts on), and figures out what’s going on between the two is no mere “support group.” Mack responds by choking him into unconsciousness.
Despite Coulson’s assurance to Sif that his people have flooded the underground Kree city in which the Diviner was triggered, there are still six more artifacts scattered throughout the world. So her final words of warning are more than a little ominous…
Beneath the boost the Kree/Inhuman mythology has given the show of late, the issues of trust at its core are what really demand attention, which is entirely fitting since S.H.I.E.L.D. is, after all, a show about super spies. Simmons, for example, is hurt when she learns Fitz lied to her about Skye’s blood test results. Sif doesn’t trust the Kree. Bobbi is convinced she can’t trust Hunter. May is concerned that Coulson, despite the fact that he’s no longer tortured by the Kree symbols, was compelled by their imprint on his DNA to take Skye to the underground city in the first place. And despite the fact that she’s proven she’s willing to harm and isolate herself in order to protect them, no one seems to trust Skye anymore. Lurking behind all this doubt and suspicion is the cause of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s recent collapse — summed up by Mack when he asks Bobbi to remember how it felt when their friends turned out to be Hydra.
— Sif says that Odin charged her with apprehending Vin-Tak. But since, at the end of Thor: The Dark World, we saw that Loki disguised himself as Odin in order to rule Asgard, we know that it was the God of Mischief who really sent her to Earth. Was Loki looking to rid himself of Sif? Or does he too view the Kree as a threat?
— Yes, it’s a little disappointing that we only get to see Sif battle Vin-Tak on a TV monitor, but I’ll take my Asgardian-Kree tussles however I can get ’em!
— For an episode featuring two aliens — and one newly superpowered S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, “Who You Really Are” isn’t bursting with special effects. But it must be said that the VTOL shots of The Bus look better than ever.
— “Not a lot of laughs that one. And when I say that about someone…”
— Like many fans online, I’d love to see Sif appear more frequently on S.H.I.E.L.D., and perhaps someday join the group’s ranks. Her sheer otherness — not to mention hilarious, po-faced responses to most everything — calls to mine the welcome vibe of other “outsider” TV characters like Spock and Data.
Next week: It’s supervillains versus S.H.I.E.L.D. as Mr. Hyde returns!
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).