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Review: Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” episode, “Repairs:” May Day

UPREVIEWS_S.H.I.E.L.D._01Episode Grade: A

Since “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” started, I’ve been wanting to know a lot more about Ming Na-Wen’s character, Melinda May. May is stoic, no-nonsense, and a one-woman S.W.A.T. team—she’s probably the strongest member of the Agents. However, the show has mostly left May on the sidelines unless it needs her to fight some bad guys.

“Repairs” changed that, being a very May-centric episode framed by a horror movie-like storyline with a good balance of action, terror and some very funny moments.

As the episode begins, a woman, Hannah (Laura Seay) walks into a rural gas station. Hannah, implied via a conveniently placed newspaper to be the cause of a horrible lab accident in the town, is harassed by the gas station owner. He blames her for the death of his friends, ignoring Hannah’s plea that the victims were her friends too. Things quickly start to go the way of “Carrie,” as things start flying at the owner and a shelf falls down on top of him, all while Hannah is screaming for things to stop.

The show then continues with something even more shocking than the opening scene: May and Ward (Brett Dalton) getting out of bed together. A potential relationship was teased at the end of the last episode, and this episode wastes no time in taking that plot point and running with it. To have May and Ward come together this suddenly was a surprise. Time will tell whether or not this is a one night stand or an ongoing affair, but it showcased what would become a key theme in this episode: There’s more to May than meets the eye.

The Agents set out to find Hannah in her close-knit, Bible Belt town, only to find a mob outside of her house wanting her head. This is a very unsettling scene, especially considering the repeated mentions of these bloodthirsty people being Hannah’s friends and neighbors. Seay conveys Hannah’s shock at both the mob and the Agents telling her she might have superpowers extremely well, her tears and voice cracks sounding extremely natural. Things escalate into an old-fashioned western standoff, ending with May tranquilizing Hannah as the Agents take her aboard the Bus.

To offset this drama, the show gives us a very humorous subplot. Fitz (Ian de Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), upset that they never got a chance to pull any pranks on freshmen during their time at S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy, determine that Skye is the closest thing to a freshman the team has and decide to use her as their unsuspecting victim. The two of them—and Skye—are probably the youngest members of the team, so it’s fun to see the child-like glee they have at the idea of pulling pranks on Skye.

Back to the drama, Coulson (Clark Gregg) enters the Bus’ holding cell with May to talk to Hannah about what happened in town, suggesting she has telekinetic abilities given to her by the accident. Hannah disagrees, claiming instead that she is haunted by a demonic force as punishment for her role in the lab accident alluded to throughout the episode. While everyone is skeptical of this, when something attacks Simmons and then vanishes into thin air, the Agents realize that Hannah’s claim may not be as outrageous as it seems.

This episode, like “Fzzt,” is very influenced by the horror genre. Where “Fzzt” was a slasher-movie homage, “Repairs” takes a lot from movies like “Paranormal Activity.” There are a fair amount of jump scares in this episode, and a lot of camera tricks you’d find in found-footage movies. The episode handles these tricks extremely well, using them effectively enough so that the tricks don’t overstay their welcome.

As mentioned earlier, this is a May-centric episode. We get an explanation—three, in fact—for her in-show nickname “The Cavalry.” What we find out is that May used to be a very different person—a lot more like Skye, in fact. We get further hints to May’s own mystery and her connection with Coulson as well—both of which have to do with a dangerous mission in May’s past that left her changed for life. The writers do a fantastic job giving us just enough information to whet our appetite for future episodes. Na-Wen gives a rock solid performance throughout the episode, but she really shines in the final minutes. Her speech about moving on after tragedy at the end is tearjerking in its delivery, and the final shot of her at the end of the episode shows a lot more depth that I hope gets followed up on in future episodes.

Chloe Bennet’s Skye is the secondary star of the episode. She plays Skye as the good cop to May’s bad cop, taking care to think about their “cargo” as a fellow human being. The character has come a long way in nine episodes, and Bennett shows the growing compassion Skye has for people in Hannah’s situation naturally. The character is definitely the soul of the group, and Bennet handles that role quite nicely.

Henstridge and de Caestecker as Simmons and Fitz are a riot this episode. They show off their natural chemistry in their dialogue, continuing and finishing each others’ sentences like psychic twins. Their prank on Skye—convincing her that May rode into a mission on a horse—was the funniest thing I’d seen this show pull out in a long time, and seeing the two act like sinister high schoolers was a blast. I hope to see more of this side of them in the future.

Dalton is in usual form this week, playing Ward as stoic as ever, albeit slightly confused at how casually May’s taking the whole one night stand they had. He doesn’t get much to do this episode outside of jumping out of May’s bed and getting thwacked in the head with a wrench. Still, he does a fair job in his action scenes, enough to make up for his lack of anything really memorable this episode.

Gregg has Coulson mainly provide exposition in “Repairs,” whether it’s on Hannah and her potential abilities or on May’s backstory and history. Honestly, after the spotlight stealing he’s been doing on this show, it’s somewhat of a relief to find in a more subdued role this week. He’s still good, but it’s nice to see he’s not taking away from the rest of the cast this episode.

Seay’s Hannah is the third strongest performer in “Repairs,” next to Na-Wen and Bennett, really showing the fear and shock that Hannah is going through. Her bloodshot, teary eyes and cracking voice, as mentioned earlier, sell the fearful victim role very well. Still, that’s pretty much what she is for most of the episode, and her character is used mainly to lead to realizations about other characters like May and Skye. Seay provides a memorable performance nonetheless.

“Repairs” isn’t as good as the previous episode, “The Well,” but it didn’t have to be. It was poignant, it developed May and Skye very well and it gave us a lot to look forward to uncovering in future episodes. “Repairs” gets an A.

“S.H.I.E.L.D.” is on break this week, but it returns next week with a two-part special.

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