TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 2 Episode 17 "Melinda"
EPISODE 17: "Melinda"
SYNOPSIS: The story of Melinda May’s transformation into “The Cavalry” is revealed as she finds herself at a crossroads in the war between Coulson and Gonzales. As Skye learns more about her true heritage from Lincoln, the truth about the Inhumans will send her in a new direction
BREAKDOWN: (The following column contains MAJOR SPOILERS, so I don't recommend reading this if you haven't watched this episode).
Since the premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there have been references to the source of Melinda May's nickname of The Cavalry. Tonight's episode reveals not only the origin of that name but how it ties directly into the Inhumans. In an episode that ranks with the best in series history, this episode is an emotional rollercoaster that answers a lot of questions.
First off, let's tackle May's dual story arc this week. First, you have May being recruited by Gonzales' S.H.I.E.L.D. team based on distrust between her and Coulson. They bring up the fact that Coulson has been using the team to develop new technology for Deathlok as well as something mysterious called the Theta Protocol. While no one seems sure what that is, May is dubious enough that she wants to find out why her friend has been meeting covertly with her ex-husband. Mack believes it was to build a base to train superhumans and that seems very likely.
In the flashback sequence, we see a happy Melinda May as she gets close to retirement from S.H.I.E.L.D. but goes on one final mission with Coulson. As the legend goes, May took down dozens of men by herself, earning the nickname The Cavalry. What we learn actually happened was much different. Even Coulson doesn't know the truth which is relayed to Skye from her mother as an example for the rules the Inhumans must follow, but more on that later. The truth was a woman stole Terrigen crystals for her daughter to give her her destined Inhuman gifts. The effects turned her mad but gave her the power to absorb emotion. As May fights off the zombified agents, she is left with no choice but to shoot and kill the little girl.
THe effect on May is obvious as we see her pull away from her husband and request a transfer to the Level 3 office where we meet her in the pilot episode. Her allegiance to Coulson was tested this week but it feels like we can trust that May will stick with the man she knows rather than the stories being told by Bobbi and Mack. Still, there is distrust there that could affect what happens in the end.
At Afterlife, Skye learns her mother's true identity as she learns to further control her powers. Causing an avalanche on a mountain and vibrating wine goblets, Skye's power is revealed to be controlling the natural vibration in things rather than creating them. She also learns from her mother that there are specific rules for Inhumans, based on May's story, which is why no one can know the nature of their true relationship.
Lincoln and Gordon continue to try and calm Raina who wants nothing but to leave Afterlife. She feels she got nothing after her transformation but her hideous thorns and describes awful nightmares she continues to have, one of which involves Skye having a meal with her father. Lincoln tells her to trust that her true powers will reveal themselves and they soon do. Skye has a meal with her parents, based on her mother's promise she will never have to see her father again afterwards. Skye plays nice with her father who reveals her birthdate, indicating Skye is actually a year older than she thought. As they share a moment, Lincoln realizes what Raina thought was a dream was actually a vision of the future.
The episode wraps with Fitz locked in a restaurant bathroom having unlocked Fury's toolbox and calling his boss for help. Overall, this was a great episode that explained a lot about several characters and felt very organic. The story continued to plow forward on all fronts why still managing to reveal a backstory that fit perfectly into the overall story of the season. I am not sure if May's origin was always intended to be Inhuman related, but this was definitely a well handled retcon if it wasn't. There are only a handful of episodes left and I am anticipating a big S.H.I.E.L.D./Inhuman showdown. If it can be as powerful as this episode, we are in for a treat.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES: The Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s headquarters is referenced as being built and the forthcoming Avengers Initiative is mentioned during the flashback.
NEXT ON MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.:
Episode 18 "The Frenemy of my Enemy" (Airs April 21st) - Coulson and Hunter form a dangerous alliance as they turn to someone unexpected for help; Lincoln and Skye are drawn into a conflict.