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Agents Of SHIELD S2.21 "SOS Part 1" review

In America episodes 21 and 22 were shown as one feature-length finale. In the UK Channel 4 is giving us the split-down-the -middle treatment. And you know what? It works fine. It’s been written with sales to foreign territories in mind so episode 21 stands happily on its own two feet. It also means we get the benefit of a mighty fine multiple cliffhanger that was denied viewers across the pond: Jiaying preparing to release the Terrigen mist on the SHIELD ship; Mack preparing to go all Under Siege; Grant leading Hunter into a trap; Cal trashing the SHIELD HQ. It’s all great stuff promising one hell of a climax.

Part one features a lot of set-up but it certainly doesn’t skimp on the action. So much happens, it’s a surprise we get time for the usual info dumps and angst, though they’re still very much in evidence, if much less intrusive than normal. There are some fine fisticuffs, including Skye and May squaring up to each other. May now comes across as so bitterly anti-gifted (is it any wonder she so rapidly agrees to help Hunter search for Bobbi later in the episode? It’s almost like she wants to wipe her hands of the Inhuman situation) it seems unlikely she and Skye will have a happy, backslappy reunion at the end of the season, no matter what the outcome.

Bobbi also has a feisty, excellently-choreographed fight sequence. It’s a shame that – plot-wise – it comes to little (though it does force Grant and 33 to change tactics) but hey, it takes two of them to bring her down. Plus she seriously pisses them off in the process by still refusing to confess. Way to go, Bobbi!

Then there’s Cal going crazy, the Inhumans attacking their own village with a captured SHIELD jet and Team Inhuman taking over the SHIELD ship. While Skye still seems to prefer fists and feet to using her powers it’s satisfying to watch Gordon, Lincoln and Multiple Woman quickly and efficient take the ship using their super-gifts.

The highlight of the episode, however, is a quieter moment, though a shocking one. But let’s get one thing straight. If you see anyone online moaning, “It was so obvious Jiaying was going to kill Raina,” then please, just ignore them. Don’t engage with them. They have missed the point entirely and there’s no point arguing with them. OF COURSE we’re supposed to realise that’s what’s going to happen; it’s the tension that makes the whole scene so brilliant. Well, that and the bittersweet way it brings redemption for Raina.

Ingredients For Your Own Mr Hyde Formula

And discovered by accident later:
• Adrenaline

One superbly placed line of dialogue makes sure we’re on Raina’s side here. She hasn’t simply had some kind of religious conversion. She admits that when she saw the vision of her own death at Jiaying’s hand her first thought was to kill Jiaying and Skye and scraper. The old Raina is still in there, underneath. That makes her choice to see events through even more significant. With every flick of her eyes in her conversation you know she’s looking for Skye to reassure herself that she’s doing the right thing. “I am not a monster,” she says with pride, “I am an angel.” How can your heart not go out to her? A wonderful climax to a superb character arc. As much as it’s sad to see her go, if they ever resurrected her, it would cheapen this moment.

Cal was superb as usual – even more demented, even more entertaining to watch – and Hunter’s irritation at Fitz finishing his sentences was fun character beat, but there were a few jarring elements. Grant and 33’s reasons of capturing Bobbi seem a little artificial, a script construct rather than something that’s totally believable. Similarly, when Kara doesn’t shoot Bobbi, claiming, “It doesn’t feel right,” the following dialogue strains to justify her inaction; it’s the plot leading the characters not the other way round (and a bit of a TV drama cliché to be honest – “Oh, for some reason I find I can’t put a bullet through the head of the still-contracted star character.”) Similarly, Mack “coincidentally” being in the right place on the ship to discover the Inhumans feels just a little bit convenient.

And, be honest – didn’t you find Cal’s Hulk-out just a little too comical? Sure, there are a few lines that were intended to be funny, but the whole sequence came across a more silly than scary.

On the whole, though, it’s great to see Agents Of SHIELD living up to its promise. This genuinely feels like a corner of the MCU and not a parallel universe to it. Roll on next week!

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Best Line

May: “I don’t want to hurt you.” Skye: “You won’t.”

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Clock’s Ticking

Oh look, they’ve given beard guy – who’s barely spoken a line per episode previously – a whole scene to give him a bit more of a character. How much do you wanna bet he doesn’t live very long? They’re clearly trying to make us care for him a bit before killing him.

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Cal’s Karaoke

Expression of the week once again goes to Cal as he sits aboard the SHIELD jet singing along to himself. We hear him warble, “I’m half crazy…” which isn’t just a moment of self-awareness; it’s a line from “A Bicycle Built For Two,” which starts, “Daisy, Daisy…” Yep, the song he used to sing to Daisy when she was a child (as we found out earlier in the season). It was also the song HAL sang in 2001: A Space Odyssey when he was being shut down by Dave Bowman. So… Cal does HAL!

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Catchphrase

Skye inverts Cal’s catchphrase, “Best day EVER!” when she says, “This is way up there on one of the worst days ever.”

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Torture Porn

At first Grant’s torture technique for Bobbi sounds like something designed for prime-time, family-friendly network TV – not too bloody or offensive; nice and censor-friendly. But as the needles go in it suddenly becomes one of the most toe-curlingly wince-inducing scenes outside of an episode of Hannibal.

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Classic!

We’re not sure if we were supposed to laugh out loud at this moment but – considering Cal’s alter-ego in the comics is Mr Hyde – presumably this was supposed to be a not-so-subtle nod to all those off-camera movie Jekyll and Hyde transformations that ended with Mr Hyde’s hand appearing over the back of a camera.

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Carry On SHIELD

On the other hand, we presume super-Cal wasn’t supposed look quite so much like something out of Carry On Screaming

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We Like Her!

Multiple woman was a great character! There isn’t a superhero/villain called Xerox yet – perhaps because of copyright problems – but that’s how we’re thinking of her from now on.

Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD airs on Friday nights on Channel 4 in the UK.

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WriterJeffrey Bell
DirectorVincent Misiano
The One WhereWhen war breaks out between the Inhumans and SHIELD Raina sacrifices her life to reveal to Skye her mothers true nature.

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Available platformsTV