This article titled “Agents of SHIELD recap: series one, episode nine – Repairs” was written by Graeme Virtue, for theguardian.com on Friday 29th November 2013 21.00 UTC
SPOILER ALERT: This blog is for people watching Agents of SHIELD. Don’t read on if you haven’t seen episode nine
Click here to read Graeme’s episode eight blogpost
It’s fair to say that no-nonsense ninja Melinda May (aka the Bus driver, aka “The Cavalry” aka actress Ming-Na Wen) has been, by a considerable margin, the least chatty character in Agents of SHIELD. Even compared to stoic Ward – now her regular agent-with-benefits, judging by their bedroom scene in tonight’s episode – May has remained a mystery swaddled in an enigma wrapped in a tight flightsuit. In situations where other team members, including Coulson, throw out pop-culture references or wisecracks, May just rolls her eyes or, more commonly, jabs a flattened palm into a throat.
This episode dove deeper into May’s backstory, but surprisingly little of it came from her directly. The team were sent to Utah for an “Index Asset Evaluation and Intake”, scoping out a suspected unregistered gifted. After surviving an accident at the local Particle Accelerator Complex(!), the devout Hannah (a haunted, plausibly frantic Laura Seay) had exhibited signs of telekinetic ability – rattling cutlery, levitating tinned fruit, blowing up petrol stations – that had put the wind right up the local community, who already held her responsible for the four deaths caused by the particle accelerator incident.
As a mob descended on Hannah with metaphorical pitchforks and real-life eggs to throw, things looked like they were going to go full Carrie until May defused the situation with the night-night gun. Back on the Bus, what had started out as a story about someone coming to terms with uncanny powers – an X-Men comic, basically – sidestepped into something else: a full-on slasher movie homage. A hulking figure in overalls appeared and disappeared around the Bus, moving things around, stealing stuff and, in a failed attempt to access Hannah’s shielded Blockbuster cell, sabotaging the plane’s power supply, which led to yet another hard landing for the battered Bus.
Belatedly, the team figured out the slasher was Tobias Ford, a blue-collar worker thought dead in the accident who was actually bouncing back and forth between Earth and another less-friendly dimension, clinging on to his wrench but still losing a little of himself each time. Ford was really just a big, volatile softie trying to protect and impress Hannah. After he had trapped Coulson and Skye, and clocked Ward in an unfair fight, Ford went looking for his crush, unaware that May had already used her ninja skills to spirit Hannah away to a nearby, poorly lit barn.
We had previously heard three stories about how May acquired her Cavalry nickname: Fitz and Simmons’s over-the-top version involving two pistols, 100 baddies and a horse; Ward’s only slightly less fantastical version about taking down 20 opponents single-handedly and, finally, Coulson’s almost eye-witness report, about a fearless but warm-hearted agent who had gone into a Bahrain building to save civilians from a twisted gifted and his mind-controlled army, emerging victorious, but fundamentally changed. In her final confrontation with Ford, high-kicking, hard-punching May opted to talk him down, pointing out that by clinging on to Hannah, he would drag them both down to hell, or at least a hellish dimension. “Let the girl go,” she whispered, apparently the same words Coulson had used to try and comfort her post-Bahrain, and Ford obligingly dematerialised.
Repairs was written by showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon, so you could look at it an exemplar of what they’re looking for in an episode of Agents of SHIELD, or an encapsulation of where they want to take the series. It balanced banter and emotion, character moments and action, and while it didn’t crack open the entire mystery of Agent May, it made her seem more relatable and moved her icy character forward a few steps. Besides, that final, shy smile was worth a million bucks.
Notes and observations
• “Let the girl go.” Could Skye be the young girl May rescued in Bahrain, then subsequently ditched at an orphanage, unable to deal with the guilt of not saving her parents? Let the theorising commence!
• Not one reference to Coulson’s resurrection this week, which was fine and dandy.
• Wrench-wielding teleporter Ford was played by Robert Baker, who turned up in the most recent series of Justified as a bare-knuckle fighter who seemed, briefly, to be the physical equal of Raylan Givens.
• Well done to the commenters who spotted the lines lifted directly from Joss Whedon’s previous series Dollhouse in last week’s episode (“Did I fall asleep?”; “For a little while …”) In-joke or deliberate foreshadowing about consciousness-downloading?
• On the sing-along DVD commentary to another previous Whedon production, Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Maurissa Tanchareon wrote and sang a trenchant, hilarious song called Nobody’s Asian in the Movies. It’s really quite something.
Biff! Bang! Quip-ow!
“Alright, I get it! I didn’t go to your stupid SHIELD Hogwarts or whatever …” Skye pouts after Fitz pulls rank at the hologram table.
“You can catch a lot more flies with honey than napalm.” Skye throws some shade at May.
“Did we crash? Who was screaming?” Fitz, locked in a cupboard, always comfortable talking to himself.
“This guy’s travelling back and forth between alien worlds … with a wrench?” Ward can’t quite believe the threat he has to deal with.
The SHIELD games club
This week’s before-credits tease scene was notably breezy, with the recently terrorised SHIELD agents unwinding over a game of Scrabble (or, more specifically, Scrabble Upwords). Simmons showed off her mad vocab skills by playing “aglet”, the name of those little plastic sheaths at the end of shoelaces, while the board already contained “strange” and “tales” – presumably a nod to the Marvel Comics anthology series that first introduced Nick Fury as an agent of SHIELD back in 1965.
As well as the Strange Tales callback, the Roxxon logo featured prominently on the petrol station Hannah seemed to explodify in the opening scene. This rapacious oil company has already featured in the background of all three Iron Man movies and has a long and generally villainous hinterland in the comics, where it first featured in Captain America issue 180 in 1974.
Meanwhile, in the real world …
Agents of SHIELD is taking another scheduled break next week before returning with its final episode of the year, a mid-season finale featuring the reappearance of J August Richards, the super-hot supersoldier last seen in the pilot, and Ruth Negga, the evil fixer in a flower dress from episode five. It comes billed as SHIELD attempting to take down the mysterious Centipede organisation, and is apparently a two-part cliffhanger …
What did you think of Agents of SHIELD episode nine? Will you be back in a fortnight for episode 10? Let us know below
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