Spy vs. spy escapades between HYDRA and Shield appears to be what will be driving this season. The question I have is – are we going to be delivered the heady results we had in the opening 2-parter, or are we going to slip into more mundane, if not cheesy spy tropes and clichés that Season 1 suffered with overmuch. Let’s see:
It appears now that the markings that Garret and Coulson have been making have some weird power of their own, as a painting with the markings on the back have somehow is the only thing to survive a church fire and is now scheduled to be sold at a fundraising event. Bowing to classic spy convention, Coulson and May infiltrate the event as a couple, hoping to be able to nick the painting. However, they find themselves overwhelmed by heavy action incidental music which was rather distracting to this viewer as not a whole lot was going on. Yeah, sorry, didn’t work guys.
The tone with Coulson and May is light, but then turns depressingly from nostalgia to Coulson’s personal exit plan which he expects May to carry out. Suddenly, they spot General Talbot, and Coulson decides to have a discussion with him. Talbot, however responds thoughtfully and intelligently. What’s going on here? Regardless, Coulson decides they must move up the theft.
The comedy continues while the rest of the disturbed Shield team is treated to sounds of May in full giggling cover. And then we get more dramatic action music, while the plot works on subverting normal Mission Impossible-style tropes. The surprising part is that Talbot seems to be ahead of them. Again WTF? Then he’s talking to Whitehall. Talbot can’t be working with HYDRA, can he? Talbot then offers him the chance of researching the painting. Coulson is finally starting to figure out that something weird is going on, and has May tail him.
Back on the Bus, with nothing better to do, the team starts bonding over their collective exes, and yes, we get another ‘demonic hellbeast’ ref from Hunter. The whole scene feels like its trying just a bit too hard.
Agent May meanwhile catches up with Talbot, but, surprise, he’s Bakshi using the same high-tech update of Mission Impossible masks Black Widow used in The Winter Soldier. To its credit, in this ep the tech is used in a far more entertaining and effective manner than it was in the film.
And what’s Fitz been up to? Mostly sulking while the others bond, which is about as much fun to watch as is sounds. Bitter rarely is. However, things are turned around in the last act, where he does get to save the Bus from Agent 33’s HYDRA virus she (as faux May) she has set to destroy the Bus. The twist, he has to use the least tech-savvy of the team (Hunter) to pull it off. Because… bonding.
On the way back to the trap set by Bakshi, Coulson figures out May isn’t May. This sets up the awesome May on May fight which is choreographed brilliantly (really amazing in air sequence by May), and well cut with Fitz and Hunter saving the Bus by replacing computer cards and networking cables (better than it sounds, really). And hey, this leads to Fitz being welcome to talk about his own personal ex (Simmons) over a bear with Hunter and Mac. Mission accomplished!
Still, I found myself feeling sorry for Agent 33. First she’s brainwashed, and now her fight with May has left her horribly disfigured. That’s just mean.
Later, Coulson has a talk with a confused Talbot, who has something more to worry about. I get it, Shield does his work for him, and that’s he gets to keep his job. Okay. May then finally reveals her own exit plan for Coulson – she will never shoot Coulson in the head (ever!), and he tells her that her Outback plan won’t work (I guess he doesn’t like Kangaroos after all). He demands she kill him instead, when the time comes, but he doesn’t appear to have considered this fact: Garrett (as evidenced by a few of these choice quotes) was a bad guy long before he was given the alien drug.
In the end tag, Raina, en route to investigate the painting, is confronted by Daniel Whitehall, who gives her forty-eight hours to return the Obelisk to him or be tortured horribly, likely for weeks. She is suitably terrified by the thought.
Death is easy, comedy is hard. This episode tries very hard to juggle the comedy with the more serious nature of the lives our spies have to lead by using classic spy movie tropes. The trouble was, they seemed to be using them, then subverting them at random, so it just felt off. Where the opening 2-parter handled this challenge effortlessly, this ep, as with the previous one turned out bit of a slog by comparison, mostly because it didn’t really to anything particularly innovative with its old-style spy identity theft. Just above average, achieved almost singularly by the fanservice May on May martial arts fight in evening wear.