That’s What Friends Are For, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Face My Enemy”
It’s funny that this week’s episode, “Face My Enemy” had so much focus on nostalgia, because when the ticker rolled up and said we were set in Miami, I started feeling positively nostalgic for Burn Notice, a series I loved more than my own family at times (in my defense, teenage boys are gross and their rooms all smell like wet goat. I defy you to love that).
When Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) pickpocketed IDs from a pretty, rich girl, handed off to Skye (Chloe Bennet) on a scooter and she hacked Coulson (Clark Gregg) and May (Ming-Na Wen) into a fancy party, it was like Michael, Sam and Fiona had never left me. Even the fancy dancing as a tool to surveil a room was pure Michael/Fiona (Sam would be at the bar, either serving or drinking). We’ll call it Burn Notice Lite, because Fiona never complained about her high-heeled shoes. Bless.Â
“Face My Enemy” gave us an opportunity to understand, at a deeper level, the relationship between Coulson and May. We’d been told that they go way back, and it’s clear Coulson trusts her (a little too much for Skye’s taste, whose jealousy over not being included on this field mission, and being cut out of audio so Coulson and May could talk privately was painfully apparent. It feels crappy when Daddy picks a favorite and it’s not you, doesn’t it?).
But the reasons why, and the nature of their relationship has never really been previously explored. They have a definite dynamic, and one grown from years of working together and trusting each other.Â It was not only edifying, but gratifying to hear Coulson and May talk about the good ol’ days (some not so good) when they were young cadets and agents, and how they used to have fun with this whole secret agent thing. Because being a secret agent should be fun at times.
But, as May said, life happens. It just happens. One minute you’re young and looking forward to your adventures, actually enjoying sleeping on the floor and eating the SHIELD version of dry ramen noodles every day; you have no real responsibilities or baggage to weigh you down. You still haven’t had any of the experiences that you will eventually carry throughout your life and will wake you, sweating or screaming in the middle of the night.
Then life happens. Life gets in the way. Dance classes at the Academy one day (yes, please!) and tallying up your personal Jack Bauer-esque body count the next. It wears a person down. When it does, everyone needs that friend, that one person who knows you hate coffee and that you would never hold anyone’s hand.Â
Coulson trusts May to kill him if he goes all John Garret/Music of the Universe/Danger to himself and others/Traitor, and snaps, and wants her to become the next Director of SHIELD. That’s a pretty big load for anyone to carry, but Coulson trusts May because they basically grew up together, and he knows she can take care of that, like she’s always done.
I don’t blame May for being reluctant to sit down and have “The Talk” with Coulson as he’s trying to discuss how he wants to be Ol’ Yellered when things go south. Of course she has a plan to get him out if that ever happens: passport, tickets, cash. Because she’s that friend, the one who says, “No matter what happens, I will take care of you.” The one person who can say something like that to you and you actually believe it.Â
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the Fitz (Iain De Caestecker, who is killing it with consistently breaking my heart this season) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) dynamic. They, too, attended the Academy together and subsequently worked together, but their relationship doesn’t have the mileage on it that Coulson and May have.
They love each other, as evidenced by Ghost Jemma keeping Fitz company as he heals from his brain trauma. For Fitz, having a vision of Simmons is better than having no Simmons at all. But Jemma has left him, and he thinks she went away because he confessed his true feelings to her. Now he’s alone, just creeping the perimeter of conversations and observing the team’s interactions with each other without actually getting involved.Â
I have no doubt that this is not the first time Fitz has been alone in a group environment, and that, too, makes it difficult for him to try and integrate himself into the team. Even Ghost Jemma (his Jiminy Cricket Subconscious) encourages him to approach and join the others, telling him what I think is the most pithy comment on being an introvert I have ever heard, “You’re not afraid to talk. You’re afraid of having nothing to say.” Ghost Jemma is wise. Fitz cracking a beer and talking about girls with Hunter and Mac at the end of the “Face My Enemy,” was probably the happiest I felt all episode.Â
Everyone had an enemy to face this week, some literal, some figurative. Fitz and his loneliness; Coulson and what he’s convinced is his inevitable fate; Brig. General Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar: Heroes; Political Animals) and realizing he needs SHIELD’s help (and when did Talbot become the default go-to for comic relief on this show? His scenes with Coulson never fail to crack me up) and most obviously, May and her epic battle with herself (which needs someone with more psychological training than I have to correctly decipher).
And While I’m sure there’s something deeper being represented in those action scenes, it was just a hell of a lot of fun to watch May kick the crap out of herself. Those fight sequences were amazing, and I’d like a lot more of that in future SHIELDs.
Next week: Adrianne Palicki (About a Boy; Friday Night Lights) drops by and makes it look like Simmons’ cover is endangered and Maybe Skye will finally meet her dad (Kyle MacLachlan,Â Desperate Housewives; Twin Peaks). Congratulations, Papa Skye! It’s a girl, and she’s difficult.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC.
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