One of Us – Just as Skye joins the infamous Shield “Gifted Register” her father hacks into it to assemble his own team from its more mistreated cases to take on Coulson. Agent May’s ex-husband Andrew is recruited to psychologically assess Skye revealing a surprising side to her character while Mack reveals to Hunter who he and Bobbi have been working for.
Despite a few points of interest and some nice dark humour from the ever dependable Kyle MacLachlan it’s hard to feel satisfied about the villain team up premise that this episode tries to deliver. Even accepting that they were just looking for single week characters, with the whole Marvel Universe character ranks to choose from why did they settle for what really feels like a bunch of artist sketch pad rejects? Characters that boast such abilities as fruit knives on their fingers or being quite good at tech; even with the big screecher behind the Bane mask (who appears to have same power as the short lived Flash Forward) they feel about as formidable as Justin Bieber in the UFC. Subsequently the action and fights in the resulting showdown carry no feel of threat or danger as though May & Bobbi may be at a strength or weapons disadvantage their opponents demonstrate no fighting skill leaving the outcomes all too clear. Outside the confrontation though the unit members are far more interesting in ways we learn Shield has mishandled their cases or forced them into overly harsh sentences in the interests of protecting the public that boil down to over paranoid parenting. It makes their vendetta against Shield feel believable as they’re victims of the system and serves to broaden some of the central arguments surrounding Skye’s treatment between May and Andrew. Just as May claims it’s a new Shield now we see the mistakes of their past to help us understand why Andrew and indeed Skye should have concerns about placing their faith in Shield to help her; by showing they’re prone to making rash decisions about things they don’t always understand.
Skye’s examination scenes are by far the fascinating part of the episode and it’s a shame they feel a bit condensed forcing Skye to rush into co-operating a bit too quickly. We’d have preferred a bit more resentment and even aggression from her (to see her pain rather than just being told about it) before she admits to being terrified whenever the tremors take her. Although her deflecting and regressing into gossip girly mode is quite fun as she tries to gather all the intel she can on this ghost of May’s past; “Did you guys have actual conversations? Like pillow talk or was it just pillow stern looks?”. Fitz and Simmons also have a great scene scientifically analysing the Andrew/May relationship and its clear lingering chemistry. It’s even enough to make them forget their ongoing fall out regarding Fitz’s deception over Skye and fall back into best friend mode; in the same way common enemy can unit, so can a common curiosity. You have to love Fitz’s observation that “he listens for a living and she doesn’t speak” and her opposites attract response would suggest we will see the pair finally as a couple before the end of the season.
The Mack and Bobbi’s super secret club story is altogether bland and even with the end reveal still a real let down on last week’s cliff hanger. What looked like a turn into very dark territory merely amounted to having pizza in a bathroom. We don’t feel any conflict from Mack or Bobbi about their actions. They’re just mildly worried Hunter will be annoyed with them. It’s a real wasted opportunity that should of scene the pair at least considering having to take their old friend out of the picture or other drastic consequences. Yes, bringing Hunter into the plan eventually was always the right way to go as it will allow the story to be told from his learning perspective, so that had to happen. As for whom the mystery 3rd party organisation turns out to be? Well it wasn’t an unknown option and could tie in nicely to the Secret Wars/Warriors comic material that the show runners are taking much inspiration from. The simple fact is the reveal was just delivered without enough dramatic impact. It does feel like this will still pan out into a great arc but we’ll need much more to go before we start singing its praises.
Finally there’s the briefly touch climactic element of The Inhumans as Gordon/The Reader does his heroic party trick once more (though that’s enough now before it gets predictable) and makes the surprising save of Skye’s father. The scene that follows is intriguing as his relationship with their society is very different to his own implications in past episodes. Despite the key role we’ve seen his wife play, he doesn’t appear to even be a card carrying member. The notions of a decision making level above Gordon imply more insights into their society that we’ll hopefully get next week. Though it definitely won’t be the royal family, hopefully we’ll see a few family faces.
One of Us is sadly not one of the best and possibly the worst episode this season which is not what the show needs right now when it’s long running stories are just getting good (series debut director Kevin Tancharoen will not get a seat on the bus any time soon). It does have a number of good small moments to enjoy (the bad guys shwarma mimicking lunch is brilliant) and Andrew is good new character that’s thankfully been confirmed as recurring. But overall it makes for a dissatisfying whole; especially in comparison to its rival shows and the Marvel in-house competition from Netflix just weeks away. This week, Shield’s are down.