A couple of weeks back we were congratulating SHIELD on creating a rarity: a “memory recovery” sequence that wasn’t just random, freaky images, but looked great and made narrative sense too. Sadly, this week’s otherwise strong episode kicks off with a very poor example of another well-worn telefantasy trope; the unmotivated dream sequence that has no narrative value other than a bit of unsubtle foreshadowing.
Actually, the dream at the start of “Ye Who Enter Here” – with Skye in an empty SHIELD HQ finding a music box and fantasising about Coulson and May adopting her – is guilty of an even worse crime: it’s “Easter Egg Spotter Fodder”. Because if you do have an in-depth knowledge of the Marvel comic universe, you may pick up on a big, big clue about something (see below). In which case, it’s a nice “Ooooooh!” moment, but also one that’ll apply to about 1% of the audience. For the other 99% the whole dream could be cut from the episode and make absolutely no difference at all. It’s not even a particularly visually interesting dream sequence.
Thankfully, like most dreams, this nonsense recedes from the memory rapidly, to be replaced by another pacy, revelation-packed episode, with a side order of great gags and sweet character moments. This all culminates in a double cliffhanger that has you gagging to know what’s going to happen next. You can’t ask much more from a show than that. (Well, yeah, some more interesting production design and less bland lighting would be nice, but you’re probably fed up with us going on about that.)
As we get ever nearer to discovering what’s lurking at the heart of Atta… sorry, the mysterious city, the long-simmering arc plot is coming to the boil. Hydra’s threat is closer than ever, and SHIELD isn’t quite as in the driving seat as it thinks it is. The final third of the episode is a perfect balance of mystery, suspense, tension and action, and the fight scenes throughout are excellently shot and choreographed. And the moment when the SHIELD van appears out of nowhere and slams into some Hydra Agents is a peach.
Right, we don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the song that music box in the dream was playing – “A Bicycle Made For Two” was a VERY BIG CLUE. But no, Skye isn’t secretly an avatar for HAL 9000. If you don’t mind spoiling yourself, then click here.
But it’s not all fireworks. Some of the best scenes this week are character-led. Raina’s chat with Skye has an element of infodump, but it also allows for a deeper peek into the mercurial Raina’s psyche than we usually get. Skye’s clearly trying not look too bothered about her dad, but the cracks are still showing.
Simmons has a great heart-to-heart with Bobbi where she admits all she wants is her “friend” back – and it’s not Fitz’s mental problems that are getting in the way of that, but those three little words he said to her. Then just as she attempts to do something about their awkwardness he flings it back in her face by telling her he’d prefer to work with Mack. Even if you found Fitzsimmons irritating at times in season one, their fractured relationship now is heartbreaking to watch. There are little hints that maybe the rift is permanent towards the end of the episode, but then Fitz’s man-crush becomes possessed and pushed down a 100m shaft, so that’s put on hold.
Poor old Mack. Hopefully this isn’t curtains for him; it’d be a waste of a good character. We have faith his possession and supposed death is temporary.
Coulson, meanwhile, now clear of his carving obsession, is back into embarrassing dad mode, playing with hats and wibbling on about local delicacies in anecdotes that are so much white noise. On the other hand, there are a couple of great moments when Coulson exemplifies his different philosophy to Nick Fury when it comes to leading SHIELD: “Come on, Bobbi. You ought to know me by now. I'd rather use a scalpel then a shotgun.”
The surprise stars of the episode, though, are the Koenigs. The lesser-spotted Patton Oswalt suddenly moves centre stage with a dual role as Billy and Sam, and he’s great fun, as is the running gag about, “How many of you are there?” Let’s hope he’s more to the fore again in future episodes.
Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD airs on Friday nights on Channel 4 in the UK and is currently on a midseason break in the US.
|The one where||SHIELD tries to enter the mysterious city but finds it guarded, and Ward swipes Raina and Skye from under SHIELDs noses.|