Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The Frenemy of My Enemy
After being on hiatus for a bit, I’m currently playing catch up on both Agents and Person of Interest reviews. I’ll be working to catch up over the course of the next week or so. Once I have wrapped up both shows for the season, I will consider picking up other shows for weekly reviews throughout the summer. If you have suggestions, feel free to post the in the comments or on Twitter to @Korapathy.
The Frenemy of my Enemy is a bizarrely appropriate title given the number factions and relationships at play here. You would most likely need a flowchart to actually explain to a new viewer how various characters relate to one another. It extends well beyond just factions as a decent portion of the episode is devoted to the internal conflict within Coulson’s group as they attempt to work alongside Grant Ward and Agent 33. It’s odd but the back and forth between those two groups becomes oddly enjoyable once the episode gets underway. Furthermore, problems start to form at the Inhuman camp when Jiaying informs Skye that she intends to leave Calvin in Milwaukee under the guise of letting him collect some of his things to make his stay more comfortable. Skye is torn on the idea as, while she understand the difficult position that Cal’s presence puts Jiaying in, she also feels that she cannot allow him to be left blindsided in a city full of potential victims. By having her sit down with Cal, Jiaying forced Skye to acknowledge the flawed and malformed man that lies underneath, and as such she can’t help but feel a degree of sympathy for him.
The episode kicks off with a scene where Fitz shakes his tail which provides a fun opening that quickly connects the beginning of this episode to the ending of the last. It even has a nice touch of slapstick when the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent runs head on into the cloaked quinjet. From there, they are off to try and recruit the services of Grant Ward. It is a bit odd when you realize that, of all the people in the quinjet, Hunter is the only one without a personal reason to rip Ward’s head off. It has occurred to me that Ward’s characterization throughout season 2 has often been characterized by two elements. The first of which is that he always has a personal agenda, and the second one is that I always find myself wanting to trust his character, despite all prior characterization indicating that I shouldn’t. Despite obviously having an agenda or rather because of said agenda, Ward agrees to help Coulson get to Dr. List by using Bakshi as a mole. It is suggested that Ward’s primary purpose is to help Kara a.k.a. Agent 33, but, as always, it is important to ensure that one does not assume to know or understand what motivates Ward. Bakshi ends up meeting with Dr. List with Deathlok serving as his bodyguard/overseer. However, their plans are disrupted when Dr. List’s subordinates detect Gordon’s teleportation, and he directs his plane to Milwaukee with both Bakshi and Deathlok along for the ride. From there we are treated to a… three, maybe four-way fight as Cal, Lincoln, Hydra, and Coulson’s team try and navigate Cal’s old offices.
Cal’s characterization is implemented quite effectively throughout this episode. He’s still the anxious and unhinged individual that we’ve come to know, but aspects of his gentler past have a habit of bleeding through. It makes Skye’s shift in how she perceives him all the more believable and understandable. Small details like how he had been in China with Doctors Without Borders, or his enthusiasm over spending more time with his daughter add a sense of the person that he could have been given different circumstances. When he takes Skye to visit Milwaukee there is a scene where he tells Skye about how he had planned to enroll her in a charter school near his practice so that he could drop her off on the way to work, and, while it still has the odd mix of boyish excitement and underlying darkness that MacLachlan’s characters tend to have, the scene carries with it a peculiar sadness that Cal’s character often hasn’t been afforded due to his erratic temperament. This culminates in Cal bringing Skye to his old medical offices where he shows her his grandfather’s WWII field kit with which he explains, rather gleefully, that he used to piece her mother back together… Family Memories! However, just as Skye attempts to broach the subject of him not being allowed to return to Afterlife, their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Lincoln who was tasked with keeping an eye on the pair of them. Furthermore, as Cal starts to lose his cool, Hydra arrives to offer him the perfect punching bags to take his frustration out on.
The Frenemy of My Enemy is a fun episode, but probably not the one you’d want to show someone who hasn’t watched the show before. I actually know this from experience. Even as someone who has seen every episode preceding this one, I found it slightly easy to forget or overlook the various connections that these characters have. Still, the episode does a good job of painting Calvin as a man who is driven by his unwillingness to let go of the past, and the interactions with Ward offer up a rewarding blend of intrigue and humor.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Is it just me or is the canister that the soldier fires at Deathlok and Lincoln shot from the weakest grenade launcher attachment in history? That looked like it was a little league softball pitch.
- The moment where Skye is informed of her last name straddles the line between awesome and awkward. Fortunately, I think it lands on the side of awesome, despite a strong sense of winking at the camera when she murmurs “Daisy Johnson” to herself. Calvin claims to have changed his name to something “more sinister” when he went on the run. I’m curious as to whether the show intends to have his last name be Zabo or if they are going to jump directly to it being Hyde.
- Kara apparently contacted her mother to get access to an older photo of herself so she could copy it with her mask. The fact that Coulson used her mother to locate her and Ward helped make that feel less like a simple narrative ploy to get rid of her scarring, since it also had other narrative consequences.
- May continues to be distrustful of Coulson’s actions as of late. Since she hasn’t really acted on this mistrust, it’s hard for me to interpret how I feel about this.
- Here is a weird nitpick for you. You see that screen shot up above with Ward dossier? Well the image of Baron von Strucker that is seen next to it is clearly taken from the ending scene of Winter Soldier.
The Frenemy of My Enemy is of the same high quality that I’ve come to expect of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. late in this season. It may not be exceptionally poignant or moving, but it is a lot of fun and even has a decent bit of heart to it in Skye and Cal’s interactions.
The Frenemy of My Enemy is a fun romp and blends intriguing characterization with complex plotting and amusing dialogue. There is a lot to like here.