This week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was formally (and appropriately) titled “Face My Enemy,” though it should’ve really been subtitled “what happens in Miami stays in Miami.” Once we had passed our season premiere, I admit to being skeptical as to how the show would handle more of a weekly case plotline. But that’s one thing that has so far been an improvement and strength about this season: even the one-off episodes are keeping the mythology in check and working with the overall arc the show is setting up.
We begin with some priests getting out of a car at Santa Maria de las Flores, where a fire has basically destroyed all items in the church—except one. A seemingly innocent photo of the Virgin Mary looks like a simple piece of miracle art, but when the priest flips it over, we see the scrawl of code that Coulson has been writing on the back of the painting. Dun, dun, dun…
In the trenches of Miami, team S.H.I.E.L.D. is getting their undercover operation on, and Hunter’s charm is coming in handy as he swipes an unsuspecting woman’s keys while he canoodles with her on the boardwalk. (Let’s have a round of applause for that cameo by Skye and her motorcycle, because damn.) Coulson and May are undercover (complete with heels, a sparkly dress and all) at a fancy benefit to raise money for the restoration of the church, though May is understandably less than thrilled about the fashion grievances of being a woman at a fancy gala. We get it, May. We totally get it.
Once inside, the two go radio silent (much to the dismay of the team) so that they can dance together and focus on scoping out the situation and security. The whole moment is impressive and captivating, and it makes me wonder if all spies are trained in dance lessons, because in my head Clint Barton and Natasha Romanov have definitely taken these dance lessons together. Anyway, the Philanda game is strong as the two banter about their youth and remise about working missions. May brings up the fact that she’s noticed Coulson’s symptoms are getting worse, and Coulson, ever the pragmatist, wants to talk about what will happen if he starts going the way of Garrett. Before they can get into that discussion, however, Coulson spots Talbot at the party.
Surprisingly, Coulson breaks his cover and makes himself visible to Talbot almost immediately, telling him about the mission and how it will benefit both of them if he’s successful. Talbot promises that he won’t interfere unless he feels he needs to, which is a nice sentiment considering what we’ve seen of him recently. Back on The Bus, the team is having their own bonding moment as they tease Hunter, trying to get him to talk about his ex-wife. Coulson interrupts them to tell them that Talbot is there, and because of that, they’re going after the painting now. May works her magic on the man running the benefit (“just remember, I’m here for the cause,” and boy is she) while the team listens in with a bit of amusement, because it’s quite clear they’ve never seen The Cavalry like this before. Something tells me this night will be referenced throughout the rest of the season, whether May likes it or not.
May calls Coulson over to take a picture, which is really just a subtle way for them to retinal scan the man so that they can get access to the basement where the picture is being held (a hell of a lot easier and cleaner than removing one’s eyeball.) They manage to make it to the room where the painting is, but find it gone. Meanwhile, Talbot calls Whitehall and alerts him that S.H.I.E.L.D. is here, and we groan a little inside because really, Talbot? We were just starting to like you!
May is frustrated with Coulson because she believes that he jeopardized the plan by being too caught up in trying to channel “the good old days.” Coulson still wants to have a real conversation about a contingency plan, but they run into Talbot before they can even address it.
Talbot asks them straight out about the writing on the back of the painting, and says that’s why the government sent him. He suggests working together so that he can examine the writing at a government facility and Coulson agrees, with the condition that he has an hour to tell his team. Coulson and May split up once Coulson lets her know that he’s aware Talbot is trying to play them, and he sends May to try to find out what’s going on.
On The Bus, Mack finds Skye is doing “extra research” which is a really a nice way of saying she’s snooping. Hunter tries to talk about his ex-wife again and as the team continues to bond, Fitz starts to look increasingly more out of place. Poor Fitz. It’s clear that without science and without Simmons, he’s having a hard time finding his place in a group that he used to be so comfortable with.
May finds Agent 33 in a room with Hydra files and attacks her, demanding to know what she’s done with Talbot. Who should show up at that very moment? Talbot. Or really, Bakshi, who is pretending to be Talbot by wearing one of those holographic mesh masks that Black Widow used in The Winter Soldier when she infiltrated Pierce’s Council. Much like the escaping holes, I loved seeing the little nods and inclusions of Marvel tech in both the movies and the TV show. Bakshi eventually gets the best of May, knocking her out with a taser, and use her blood and voice recognition to disguise Agent 33 so that she can infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. The whole process is actually a really cool look at how the mesh masks are made, which is honestly something I had always wondered about since seeing the movie. Hydra may not be moral, but they sure do have some nice technology.
Agent 33 as May calls Coulson and lets him know she’s coming back, and that she believes Talbot is legit. As she makes her way to The Bus, Fitz is having a moment to himself with Imaginary!Jemma, who scolds him for running away. Fitz feels like he has nothing to offer the group anymore, and also out of it and alone without his other half. “I don’t have anything in common anymore. I’m not even a part of the team,” he says, adding that they don’t even have their old lab anymore. Poor Fitz. Iain de Caestecker is really killing it this season in terms of emotional resonance.
Agent 33 as May comes back to The Bus asking for Coulson and gets him alone, using the device Bakshi gave her to compromise the ship. May finally regains consciousness and Bakshi tries to get her to tell him why they want the painting, who’s running S.H.I.E.L.D, and where they’re operating out of. Meanwhile, Agent 33 as May and Coulson are alone in the car, and Coulson once again tries to talk about “the other plan” aka the contingency plan. Agent 33 has no idea what Coulson is referring to but does her best to act convincing, and because of the nature of the conversation, it kind of works, at least enough for Coulson to apparently not be suspicious (though we all agree that at this point, he should be.) But Agent 33 as May tells him that she won’t let him down, and that seems to be enough to pacify Coulson for the moment.
While Skye continues to be Expert Hacker Extraordinaire, the lights on The Bus suddenly go out and the plane suddenly starts to shut down. Fitz quickly finds the device Agent 33 has used and recognizes it as based on S.H.I.E.L.D. tech, while also realizing they’ve been sabatoged–and that if they can’t figure out how to fix it, the plane will explode. As Agent 33 continues her attempt to lure Coulson back to the room where Bakshi is waiting, Coulson continues to try to converse with her, offering her a chance to get coffee with him after the mission is over. For old times sake, of course. Agent 33 agrees and Coulson finally gets confirmation on what he’s apparently been suspecting, punching her out and triumphantly telling her that “May hates coffee.” Atta boy, Coulson!
Bakshi is distracted by the fighting outside, and May uses the moment to get herself free, leading into what is one of the most epic fight scenes that the show has given us so far—yes, even more epic than the Ward/May showdown last season, which, by the way, totally won EW’s season finale award. Agent 33 is still wearing May’s mask and clothes and so May essentially fights herself in a long, drawn-out, and beautifully choreographed sequence that left me in awe of Ming-Na’s talent. On The Bus, the team is trying to figure out how to stop the virus that’s threatening to destroy the ship, and Hunter helps Fitz figure it out so that he can get The Bus back online.
Bakshi tries to escape with the painting, and Coulson gives a long chase while May continues to fight Agent 33. She eventually bests her opponent by electrocuting the mask, and Coulson stuns Bakshi as he’s calling for back-up. When Hydra arrives on Bakshi’s orders, they find nothing but a deserted room. Better luck next time, Hydra.
Hunter and Mack celebrate their survival with beers, and offer one to Fitz out of gratitude. H’s still hesitant, but Hunter congratulates him on saving them, and Imaginary!Simmons pushes him, and Fitz eventually joins in with his teammates. Is this the last time we’ve seen Imaginary!Simmons? It seems like it, but I’m curious to see how Fitz will continue to evolve as the season moves forward, and if he’ll need a little extra boost from his other half. And if he doesn’t, well, that should be something interesting to deal with if Simmons ever truly comes back from Hydra.
Coulson and May talk with Talbot, who is understandably kind of creeped out about someone pretending to be him without his knowledge. Coulson tells him that the painting was destroyed in the fight, but that Hydra was mistaken about its worth. May and Coulson share an endearing conversation about how Coulson knew it wasn’t May after she got captured, before Coulson tries once more to bring up talk about the plan. May gets frustrated and reveals that she already has a plan—a cabin in the Australian outback, for example. If things go south, she’s taking care of him and getting him out, not killing him. She’s determined to find a way to salvage the situation, and it’s a moment where you realize just how much the two care about each other. Coulson is touched by her decision, but tells May that “hard choices are coming. I need you to make this one. For me.”
At the end of the episode, we find Flowers making plans to go to Miami. She’s reading about the painting in the newspaper when Hydra agents trap her in her car, and Whitehall gets in and introduces himself. Before Flowers can try to talk herself out of the situation, Whitehall attaches a device to her hand that paralyzes her, and threatens her with what he can do if she doesn’t obey him. He then tells her she has 48 hours to get him the Obelisk. Oh, Raina. Now I’m especially curious about what role she’s going to play throughout the season, especially given Whitehall’s involvement.
What did you think of the episode? Sound off below!
- “Where are you based?” – Bakshi / “Currently? About five feet from kicking your ass.” – May
- “I would pay $500 right now for a pair of flats.” – May