MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Ep. 9: Repairs (T.V. review)

SHIELD Level 7

The title of this week’s S.H.I.E.L.D. episode – Repairs – comes packed with multiple meanings.  It refers to mechanical repairs for the team’s super jumbo jet, the Bus, necessitated by attacks from a ghostly villain seeking physical repairs for his corporally-ravaged body.  Most significant, however, are the emotional repairs needed for the Bus’ pilot, Melinda May, even though she may not realize it.

Agent Coulson’s team brings in a woman suspected of causing an explosion that killed technicians at the particle acceleration complex where she ironically works as safety inspector (no Employee of the Month award for her).  As if that wasn’t bad enough, she’s also suspected of being telekinetic, a feat that would put her on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s super-powered index.  All this results in a mysterious force threatening the team with haunted house tricks — objects suddenly missing, lights flicking on and off, whacking people over the head with wrenches, etc.

Ming-Na Wen acting serious.

Ming-Na Wen acting dour in close-up.

Meanwhile, Fitz-Simmons haze Skye with prank versions of Agent May’s past, including how May earned her nickname, The Calvary.  Forget forcing pledges to streak across campus, get paddled, or continuously sing “Dancing with Myself” in a vault for 24 hours (which happened to someone I know, not me, I swear!).  Fitz-Simmons’ crazy idea of hazing is to make up a story.  Yup, that’s right.  Make up a story.  They’re science nerds, so be thankful they didn’t come up with something even lamer like the ol’ mop-falls-out-of-a-closet-and-scares-someone trick.  Oh wait, they did.

After the team’s plane makes an emergency landing, they discover that the mystery force isn’t coming from the safety inspector but from her co-worker, Tobias, who regularly sabotaged the particle accelerator in order to get flirting time with her.  One sabotage too many trapped wrench-wielding Tobias in between Earth and “hell” where he gains the ghost-like ability of popping in and out of the two worlds a la the X-Men’s Nightcrawler.

Ultimately, May defeats Tobias not with her usual martial arts expertise, but with empathetic reasoning.  She encourages him to let go of his crush on the inspector, which lets go of his grasp on this world, causing him to disappear.  Along the way, May herself lets go of her guilt associated with how she got the Calvary nickname.

Ming-Na with gun.

Ming-Na Wen acting dour with a gun.

After last week’s deepening of Agent Ward’s character, we now get May’s back story — appropriate given their surprising clandestine hook-up at the end of the previous episode.  Now not only is their knocking boots confirmed, but we learn it’s been going on for some time.  This too feels appropriate after learning how the two share equally dark pasts.

Ming-Na Wen makes the most of her character taking center stage this time around.  She infuses May with the sense of a broken past and glimpses of a future redemption.  Most importantly, she’s not as boring or bored as she’s been since the pilot episode.  I still feel that Ming-Na was better in E.R. and Mulan, but perhaps if future S.H.I.E.L.D. scripts give her more to do than striking a dour pose — a sexy dour pose, don’t get me wrong, but still a dour pose — then she’ll be able to do more with her performance.

Speaking of scripts, it’s nice to finally have one that doesn’t reference Coulson’s resurrection storyline.  As intriguing as that mystery is, we don’t need to be reminded of it every single time out like we have been.  No mention of Loki killing Coulson is a welcome break.

Speaking of Coulson, we learn why he drafted May onto the team and it’s not just to fill a minority quota.  Removing Melinda from an isolated desk job and getting her back into the field amongst people is his way of getting her to escape a personal hell brought on by the real reason she’s called the Cavalry — She rode in and saved the day, but lost her soul in the process.  Think Waco siege with super spies.


Ming-Na Wen acting dour with arms crossed.

May’s metaphoric hell enables her to identify with Tobias’ literal hell, which justifiably scares the hell out of him and his unrequited love.  An episode uncharacteristically laced with deep discussions about God and demons ends up about a hellish dimension eluded to be Muspelheim, one of the Nine Worlds in Norse mythology.  Glimpsed in Thor: The Dark World, Muspelheim is ruled by the devil-like Surtur, the fire giant, so it’s more than understandable why Tobias suddenly finds God.

To transition from a lofty philosophical breakdown of faith to comic book allusions may sound disappointing, but it’s not.  Too much deep talk and the series loses its penchant for fun.  Too much fun and it risks being a light-weight puff piece.  Balancing the two could be the key to this show’s success.  If not, then at least keep giving us geektastic Marvel continuity, such as the Roxxon gas station in this episode’s teaser that connects to Roxxon Oil hinted at in all three Iron Man films, most notably the most recent.  Geektastic!


NEXT UP: The Bridge, but first Thanksgiving.  Happy Turkey Day to all.



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