Alrighty, agents, this was a big one. So big that the “previously on SHIELD” showed clips from the first few episodes. We finally get answers we’ve been wanting since literally the first show. Specifically, why May is called “The Cavalry”.
And, again, since half this episode takes place in the past, flashbacks get italics for clarity.
We start off seeing Agent May 7 years ago. Happily married (very happily). She leaves with Agent Coulson to assess a situation in Bahrain. They’re investigating a powered individual who apparently has incredible strength. They only have a small window to make contact before local authorities move in.
In the present, May finds out that Bobbi and Weaver are tracking Fitz’ whereabouts since he left the base. Weaver interrogates May about Project Deathlok and Theta Protocol, and Bobbi informs her that they’ve found evidence of Coulson moving large amounts of money and buying lots of beds. May makes a simple request: give her control of the base, and she’ll talk Coulson in peacefully.
Jiaying asks Skye (I still refuse to call her Daisy) about how SHIELD treated her. She also begins to train her powers. Jiaying believes that Skye’s power is to sense the frequencies of things around her, and resonate with them. Skye focuses on hearing a stone and instead hears the mountain – the loudest thing around. Jiaying encourages her to amplify that frequency, which Skye does (reluctantly) and causes an avalanche without a sound. Skye then realizes that she can literally move mountains, and Jiaying tells her to hold that feeling and not fear her powers.
Coulson and May arrive in Bahrain and approach this woman Eva. Locals with guns are incoming, so Coulson tries to convince her to leave with them and go somewhere safe, but all Eva wants is PAIN. She flips a table and the armed men take a child hostage and run into a bunker with a few SHIELD agents in tow.
Jiaying tells Skye to eat and rest up for the next part of her training, before she leaves to take care of “something else”. Lincoln tells Skye that he’s impressed that Jiaying is training her, because that’s the woman in charge. And she’s never trained anyone ever. Skye starts to slowly realize…
Bobbi levels with May, because she can tell that May knew nothing about Coulson’s secret activities. Bobbi compares that gut punch to what they’ve been going through for months, and that secrets that big need to be brought out into the light of day. May reveals that sometimes doing the right thing hurts like hell and no one understands.
Coulson calls the agents inside the building, and is promptly told to “Leave Us Alone”. The SHIELD tactical team goes in to take over.
Gordon is trying to console Raina after her transformation. He draws a line between physical changes and powers. Raina’s sick of being caged and just wants to see the light of day. Lincoln offers her something to help her sleep, but Raina can sleep easily enough it’s just the nightmares. Her being hunted like an animal, tangled in thorns. Or Skye and her father at dinner with champagne and a bouquet of Daisies, and she’s so happy. Skye’s happy, and Raina got thorns.
Coulson monitors the teams movements inside the bunker, but then there are suddenly shouts of friendly fire and then no one responds.
Jiaying sets up glasses of water and has Skye try holding certain notes. She’s able to get all the glasses shaking, until they all shatter. Skye then starts feeling really uncomfortable because she’s starting to feel like she’s home and that never ends well. She tells Jiaying that she’s 25 and she’s never lived anywhere longer than 2 years. She talks about all her foster families sending her back, SHIELD hunting her down. She starts to question why Jiaying cares so much if she stays or goes. Jiaying responds by telling Skye she was born on July 2nd, and the story of her birth. Jiaying says that Skye probably knew all along, and Skye says she was “too afraid to hope” (and I cried both times I watched that scene, don’t judge.)
Unfortunately, they have to keep it a secret. She waited so long to reveal herself because Skye needed to choose this life, instead of coming into it by accident or being forced. She talks about how she and Cal searched furiously for their daughter, and how Cal became a horrible man and she decided to help others since she couldn’t find her daughter. But there are strict rules that means other wannabe-Inhumans might perceive Skye as a threat.
May reconnects with Simmons. She tells her that Simmons has actually been working on Deathlok technology, even though she’s been told it’s something else. They also realize that neither of them know about Theta protocol, so they have to start digging into Coulson to see if what they’re saying is true.
Coulson is talking with a superior, and advises sending in May but is told to wait. May is confident she can fix this, and Coulson sends her in. He stalls the local authorities with a fake story about a biological weapon. May calls her husband for quick tips on saving a kid from a scary situation. He tells her to be careful and to talk to the kid on her level, or just grab her and run if she needs to. She ninja jumps up the wall and starts battling her way in. She finds one of the SHIELD agents and tells him it’s time to go. What she finds instead is a room full of people saying “I need your pain” like robot zombies.
She realizes that the Russian woman is controlling them, and locks them into the room and barricades the door. She sets off to take out Eva.
May and Simmons compare notes. Coulson’s travel does not match with his calendar appointments. He’s been setting up shell companies and building projects. Also, he’s been meeting with May’s ex for a while. Mack speculates that Coulson might be building a base for powered people – everything Coulson’s worked on has centered around people with powers. If you’re going to be training powered people, you’ll need a lot of bunks and money, and a good psychiatrist. May demands that Simmons opens the box.
Raina realizes she can never leave. Gordon offers to take her to beautiful places, but it’s too dangerous for her to be in public. He tells her that before he figured out he could teleport, he was just blind. He assures her that her physical change will be reflected in a wonderful gift. He offers to be her trainer to help her through the process of finding that gift.
Jiaying and Skye keep talking about keeping their secret. Favoritism undermines trust. People have died when the rules weren’t followed. And it’s happened before. There was a women who disobeyed the rules and stole Terrigen crystals and got caught up with criminals in Bahrain, named Eva.
May fights her way in until she faces off with the super-strong Eva, as the terrified child watches on. May fights back Eva and her thugs, and finally impales her with a broken metal pole. Unfortunately, the thugs are still mind-controlled. Jiaying reveals that Eva had sent her child Katya through the mist against her better judgment. The child proceeds to drop the thugs to the floor with a wave of her hand. She asks May to take her hand, the touch of which would leech emotions like a parasite. The kid keeps asking for pain, and walking slowly and creepily toward May, who finds a gun and shoots and kills the kid.
The agents who lived snap out of their haze to see a bunch of dead thugs on the floor, along with the super strong woman. And May holding the child in her hands. And thus the name “Cavalry” is born. Coulson tells May to “let the girl go”, which is what he thought she needed to hear. We then see May going through her home life routine, but barely. She rejects the slightest touch. She applies to be transferred to a desk position.
Jiaying insists on keeping the secret since their people know too well what a woman will do for her daughter. Jiaying convinces Skye to sit down for dinner with Cal. She says that after one dinner, he’ll be taken away from there and she never has to see him again. They walk in and Cal gives Skye a bunch of daisies because name. Skye thanks Cal because it was only because of him that she got to meet her mother for the first time. Jiaying prompts Cal to tell Skye the story of her birth (yes, again, but the dad’s version is always different than the mom’s, eh?). Skye learns that she’s a year older than she thought (which was bothering me until she said it). So now we have Skye and Cal eating dinner with champagnes and daisies and being happy. Lincoln walks in and realizes that Raina isn’t having dreams.
We catch up with Fitz, who has locked himself in a diner bathroom, and finally gets Fury’s box open. He figures out how to swipe through and contact Coulson on his tablet. He asks Hunter and Coulson for tips on how to shake a tail, starting now-ish. Hunter asks if he’s in a bathroom with an electric hand dryer, and launches into spy 101.
Okay, I have to admit I was kind of dreading this episode. The mystery surrounding May’s reputation as “The Cavalry” is one of the foundations of this show, along with “what’s up with Skye”. Now we have both answers. And if it’s not done right, or if it’s done for the wrong reasons, the whole show can start to go sideways. I was very satisfied with this story (not happy – it was tragic, come on), and I felt like it did need to be told when it did. May is forced to reevaluate her relationship with Coulson, and Jiaying has to deal with things that happened in the past, so we hear both sides of that story.
Also, the reveal is that May did not take out a room of 30 guys. She watched a kid take them don effortlessly, and she took down the kid before she could do the same to her team. She saved lives, yes. But she had to put a bullet in the child she initially went in to protect. It completely justified her total transformation into ninja ice queen, and why she hates being called the Cavalry, and why she has such a deep personal connection to Coulson.
Also, I love the fact that this episode was titled “Melinda”. It could have been called “Agent May” or “The Cavalry”, and both would have worked, but that title and the way the episode was written really wrenched the humanity out of this story. Instead of just a good agent making a mistake or a self-sacrificing hero. This was the story of a woman who had to do something she didn’t want to do, and living with the memories.
As it turns out, though, there are a few things bugging me about this episode, and the show in general right now. Not so much stuff that I noticed as I was watching the first time, but the second time around, and now analyzing it for you.
Here’s the summary question: how do they know?
How does Bobbi and Weaver know about Theta Protocol if May doesn’t? Down to the NAME being used. Coulson’s not telling them about it, so how are they seeing his movements and how is May not seeing his movements? I’m certain this will be revealed sometime soonish as we wrap up this part of the story, but man that’s bugging me.
Also, why is Lincoln where he is so much? He seems to be a bellhop, but he’s said before that he’s only brought there when he’s needed, so what’s his REAL role? And the one my mom caught. If Jiaying doesn’t want anyone to know that she’s Skye’s mother, why is Lincoln so able to walk in on them eating dinner, and why does no one notice? And why does Raina’s dream not say anything about a third person at the table? And why does the echo not mention the champagne when she said it the first time?
The other nagging thought, is this. From what we know about Coulson, does it really make sense for him to have this whole double agenda going on and for no one on the plane (or in the audience) to know about it? I believe the Deathlok stuff, because he said it himself, but moving that many resources and manpower…I dunno. One though that occurs is that Fury is, actually, still alive somewhere, and that toolbox may be a means of communicating with him. It may turn out that all of this is true, but I’m with Agent May in thinking that if Coulson is doing any of this, it’s for the right reasons.
Now, what’s going to happen to Simmons when she tells May that Fitz stole the real box?
And can I just say that I think Fitz is getting better! He’s able to say full sentences without help.
Ooooh! Also, apparently we have to watch the next episode before Age of Ultron. “The world faces the dawn of a new age…and Director Coulson’s latest mission may hold the key to saving it.” (FINALLY we’re back to missions that are literally “save the world” level missions)
I don’t know if that’s just marketing tactics, but that seems like a pretty clear indication that these next few episodes are super important. They always are. Like we’re not going to watch them anyway, right agents?
Until next time.