The idea of Cal recruiting a rag-tag hotchpotch of second division supervillains to take on SHIELD from their evil base in a winnebago is so wonderfully quirky it’s almost a shame when Gordon teleports in and ruins their fun. Then again, Gordon is so serenely chilling in the final stinger scene with Cal (“You are not one of us”) you can forgive him. Indeed, Cal even looks a bit sheepish when he’s had a hissyfit and broken the furniture. Then again, if you are going to invite Cal as a houseguest, you’d better check your insurance is up to date.
This was an impressive instalment of SHIELD that managed some seamless changes of tone. While last week’s Sif shenanigans were fun, the silliness occasionally felt a tad inelegantly grafted on. Here we move from stroppy Skye to garrulous Skye thanks to the insertion of one line (May revealing that the shrink is her ex-husband) and it’s totally believable. Similarly, the “Slicing Talons” gang are both buffoonish and a genuine threat at the same time. Fitz and Simmons have an amusing conversation about May and her ex (“They’re a bizarre pair. He listens for a living and she doesn’t speak”) which is also tinged with sadness.
The show’s always had its fair share of witty lines, sure, but often it feels like the witty lines come with signposts saying, “You are entering the badonage zone!” The humour here felt a degree more organic, genuinely growing from the characters and situations and so offset the serious moments more effectively. It’s the kind of balance the show needs to retain.
Sadly the title has nothing to do with Abba and we don’t get SHIELD’s tribute to Mamma Mia! (We’d love to hear May’s version of “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)”.) Instead it’s a reference to the film Freaks (1932) in which it is chanted by the eponymous circus sideshow “freaks” after a “normal” girl agrees to marry one them… but she’s only after his money really and is having an affair with the circus strongman.
Besides, it’s hard not to love an episode that has a guy in what looks like a metal bondage mask sucking a milkshake through a straw in a diner.
We’ve also complained before about the clunky exposition in Agents Of SHIELD. Again, this episode largely avoids that. It was there, of course, but instead of two people chatting in an office for what seemed like days, it’s Coulson giving Bobbi intel when they’re already on the trail of the bad guys, guns in hand.
There was more subtlety than usual here too. When Angar used his powers, there was a pause between the students dropping to the ground and the birds falling from the sky. It was a highly effective way to reinforce the extent of his powers. Later Coulson sees a dead bird and simply says, “Angar.” That’s all you need. Also, Cal’s tantrum after being captured by Gordon isn’t shown; we just see the aftermath. It’s enough. Point taken.
Admittedly the May/Andrew relationship was laid on a little thick, but in a 42-minute episode you don’t have time to do a full-on Richard Linklater. The main reason for having him appear seemed to be the reaction of the other agents, anyway, and his sessions with Skye worked well enough.
Visual flourishes included Karla’s gruesome fingernails, Angar’s self-dislocating jaw and the now requisite top-notch fight scenes. Perhaps the best image, though, was the reveal of the rival SHIELD insignia. Suddenly Bobbi and Mack’s “betrayal” became about 10 times more interesting…
Comic Connection 1
There is a very minor character who appeared in the comic miniseries Daredevil: Redemption (2005) called Karla Faye Gideon but she had no super powers, enhanced or otherwise.
Comic Connection 2
Angar the Screamer first appeared in Daredevil #100 (1973) and he had very similar abilities to those in this episode. He’s an odd choice of villain, considering we’re building up to the big Inhumans arc, and the leader of the Inhumans, Black Bolt, has pretty much the same powers. You’d have thought the architects of the MCU would want to avoid confusion.
One great moment was the way May convinced Skye to see the shrink: May: “You’ll like this one.” Skye: “Yeah? How do you know?” May: “Because I was married to him.”
“The director’s a door to door salesman of a man.” Isn’t that a little too uncomfortably near the truth?
Sadly not. Though we did get excited when Coulson received a phone call from an agent Broyles, he turned out not be the tall, gaunt, bald guy from Fringe. But we’d still like to think Broyles could have worked for SHIELD at some point.
And Nobody Freaked Out?
How come nobody at the diner batted an eyelid when bargain basement Bane, Lady Deathstroke-wannabe and Captain Sweaty turned up? Is Wisconsin the cosplay capital of the States or something?
May had Skye wear a heart monitor earlier in the season when she was training her to be in the field. That now turns out to be nice little piece of foreshadowing.
Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD airs on Friday nights on Channel 4 in the UK and on ABC on Tuesday nights in the US.
For more on top sci-fi TV shows like Marvel's Agents Of SHIELD, subscribe to SFX.
|The one where||Skye is evaluated by a shrink who happens to be Mays ex, while Cal enlists some super-powered help in his fight against SHIELD.|