Last time we saw Calvin Zabo, or Mr. Hyde (MVP Kyle MacLachlan), on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. he was intent on sticking it to S.H.I.E.L.D. This week, he attempts to do just that, rallying a ragtag crew of vagrants from the super-powered Index.
He scoops up Karla Faye Gideon (The Sopranos’ Drea de Matteo), who looked far more depressed eating steak than anyone has a right to be, likely because of her metal Edward Scissorhands. In the comics, Karla’s associated with Matt Murdock, who saved her from her abusive husband. Perhaps we’ll see Drea de Matteo in Netflix’s Daredevil, since this one episode seems like a waste of her talents, and she’s by far the highest profile name of any of the other actors/characters who debut alongside her this episode. Either way, in the MCU version of Karla Faye, she clearly took matter into her own hands (quite literally) against her abusive husband, grafting sharp claws onto her fingers. Calvin and company arrive and take the metal protector hands off, revealing these Catwoman-like razors.
Cal’s joined by Wendell Levi (Ric Sarabia), one of those genius tech hacker types that the world has a never ending supply of (plus, he has no moral compass!) and Francis Noche (Geo Corvera), who’s a super strong dumbass thanks to what sounded like some sort of steroid accident. There’s no straight up comic book connection, though Ajax (his name is Francis and his surname has never been revealed), seems like a likely inspiration. If so, this Francis certainly doesn’t have any Weapon X/Deadpool connections like in the comics. Levi had a chip implanted that kept him away from technology, and Francis was on meds that kept him docile, but Cal has freed them, and does the same for Karla, who joins the Index Rejects. But they have one more to add to the team before they can “teach SHIELD a lesson.” Cal admits that he sounds “bat guano crazy,” but he notes that SHIELD is not what it once was, referring to its new director as a “door to door salesman of a man,” which admittedly, characterizes Phil Coulson pretty well.
Speaking of that man, he’s given what Skye refers as the best grilled cheese sandwich of her life, but then again, she’s locked up in a cell, so anything tastes pretty good. Coulson has a secret ingredient that he’ll never share, but alas, that’s not what this episode is about (any theories on the secret ingredient? Brie for the cheese? Extra butter on the bread? Cumin? Roasted red peppers? Bacon? It’s always bacon, though that’s not exactly secret). Coulson tells her that she’s being put on the Index. Skye thinks she’s close to being back to normal and that she can return to the field…something Coulson and May don’t see happening any time soon. Skye needs a psych evaluation, and Coulson knows who he’d call, “if it’s not a thing.” It’s not one, May claims, and goes off to get her long lost love interest.
Meanwhile, Simmons is staking claim to worst character on the show (or at least, exhibiting signs of the worst writing/character development). While working on Skye’s Index, she says that Fitz’s lies about Skye betrayed her trust. She believes their relationship is different now…that his lies change everything. As Bobbi points out, he was lying for Skye’s safety, but Simmons has tunnel vision, and is such a coward about her feelings, if that’s what this is really about.
Mac’s taken Hunter to a safe house and locked him up. Hunter’s understandably pissed. Over the phone, Bobbi instructs Mac to give him a beer, while Mac awaits an extraction team. An extraction team for what? Are the S.W.O.R.D. fan theories for real? We won’t know for awhile, since whomever it is takes forever to send an extraction team.
May pops by Culver University in Virginia (Culver University is notable in Marvel lore for being the institution of one Bruce Banner and the site of the revitalization of the Super Soldier Program. You’d think the whole Hulk thing would’ve hit Culver University hard, but it doesn’t appear so), where she approaches Dr. Andrew Garner (Blair Underwood of All of the Shows). “SHIELD needs your help.” May gives him the SHIELD update, which seemed like classified information, but hey, this is her ex-husband (and her Mom still hasn’t forgiven her for divorcing him). Andrew agrees to do the psych evaluation, on the condition that Skye gets a copy of his report, and that their sessions are private. This works for May, and he’s onboard.
Cal and the gang of C-level villains roll up in an RV to Brynmore Psychiatric Facility. We learn later that this place has a sub-level basement that houses two of the most dangerous and mentally unstable people on the Index. So naturally, the facility has ONE GUARD, and Karla makes quick work of him, as Noches wrenches open the gate with his bare hands.
Coulson learns about the break-in, bringing Mockingbird along for the ride, giving him a chance to ask after Hunter, who’s disappeared after Coulson offered him a permanent position. Bobbi deflects/lies, like everybody else on the show, intimating that Hunter never liked permanence. Once they arrive at Brynmore, Bobbi’s quickly attacked by John Bruno (Jamal Duff), one of the two freed inmates. Bobbi kicks his ass, and it’s awesome. Mockingbird continues to jockey with May for best action sequences on the show, and she’s the clear winner this week with some other great fights still to come.
Unfortunately, the other inmate, David A. Angar is nowhere to be found. Angar has perhaps the biggest comics reputation of the lot, also known as Angar the Screamer, or simply, Scream, or Voice, or hilariously “Master of the Mind Storm.” In this world, his voice has the power to render people catatonic. This isn’t good, and the words “Fight On” are painted in his cell, a useless message from Cal to Coulson.
Back on the Bus, May convinces Skye to talk with a shrink by telling her the shrink is her ex-husband. Skye’s psyched with the rare information about her SO, and asks after their pillow talk, or “pillow stern looks,” and about their wedding. Andrew drops the psychobabble hammer on her, while also placating her with nuggets about their past (May and Andrew eloped! She loves Vegas!).
Everyone’s surprised to see May laugh and chat amiably, as Andrew and May share a drink and chat. It’s wonderful really, and Fitz eavesdrops (May’s not a good cook! Haha!) Fitz and Simmons have a moment of connection, forgetting their feud, lighting up at the two former love birds, wondering what happened to them, a not so subtle nod to the fact that we’re wondering what happened to FITZSIMMONS.
The fun and games are interrupted by an earthquake, which means Skye’s… asleep, and having bad dreams. Now she can’t even sleep without her powers activating? Shitty. They wake her up and calm her down, leading into another session. The session’s interrupted by more shaking…but this time it’s the Bus, taking off and heading to Wisconsin, where Coulson and Bobbi have tracked Cal’s Crew down. “Fight On” is the rally cry of the Fighting Outlaws of some High School in Wisconsin, one where Coulson’s dad taught. It’s hilariously stupid when Coulson makes this connection, because it happens at the same time as when Bobbi gets a satellite hit on their location, so the whole “Fight On” nonsense was just that, nonsense, and a plot contrivance to get vague information about Coulson’s past in the episode. Oh, also: Bobbi continues to sell Hunter under the bus, admitting that they resumed sexual relations and “history repeats itself,” that he resorted to bailing and booze, and now Mac’s following him. I’m really tired of lies on this show in general, but this subplot is the worst. Or at least, it’s been handled the worst.
Cal removes Angar’s mask and unleashes him on the football field (but not before they get earmuffs). Angar does a horrible Mummy-like scream that somehow has worse FX than a 1999 movie, and it knocks out everyone on the field, as well as a ton of poor birds flying over head.
Skye wants to join May in the field for back up, which is quite obviously a terrible idea, but…they’re admittedly outnumbered, and could use Cal’s affection for her against him.
Cal’s the best part of this episode, as he takes over the announcer booth at the football stadium, calling the “game” between the SHIELD Eagles and the Slicing Talons. He calls out Phil, who of course, walks onto the field on his own. They remove his weapons and it’s really unclear what they’re actually going to do (Cal wants to “expose SHIELD’s barbaric antics,” but it’s not sure to who, with the town all knocked out), but thankfully May arrives, with a gun trained on Skye’s skull. Before Cal can lose it, Gordon/The Reader arrives within his resplendent crackling blue portal/shield, and steals Cal away.
Then it’s fighting time, as Bobbi goes after Blades/Karla Faye, May takes on a massive man with super strength (so it’s a fair fight), and Coulson tackles Levi before he can escape, making use of the football field backdrop. Bobbi’s locker room fight with Karla is a highlight, while the even fight with Francis has Skye on edge, who predictably begins to lose it. Instead though, welts and bruises explode onto her skin and she passes out.
She wakes on the Bus, with a fancy cast on her arms. Turns out, when Skye thought she was controlling her power, she was really just directing it inward, creating 75 mini-fractures in her arms. She’s creating her own body quakes, guys. OWIE.
Simmons meets with Coulson, and tells him that she can’t label Skye as merely “Gifted” like the others on the Index. Her enhancements aren’t man-made, like Mike Peterson (remember Deathlok? When is he coming back?), they were inside her (and Raina) all along. She’s an “Other.” Coulson continues the bad precedent: “keep this between us.” Because we know lies have helped SHIELD so far. Has Coulson learned nothing?! The whole point of Fury giving Coulson the keys to the castle was to change things, to improve, to rely on his morals and honesty and build something different.
But that hasn’t happened; “SHIELD hasn’t changed,” Andrew explains to May. He recommends that Skye should be taken away from SHIELD, like Cal and everyone else. But they’re her family, May argues, but Andrew’s leaving; they’ll need a new consultant. As an added dagger, he mentions that yes, he is in a relationship now. Sorry May.
But have we been watching the SHIELD this whole time? Hunter’s brought in to base, and Mac welcomes him to…”the real S.H.I.E.L.D.,” the infamous eagle emblem on the walls. It’s a moment that reminds me of the twist in the second season of Alias, when Sydney Bristow found out that she had been working for a villainous spy organization (SD-6) posing to be the CIA. That was handled a million times better and was way cooler and more surprising and heartbreaking. Right now, we don’t know what to believe or what this even means. Is Coulson a patsy, believing to be recreating SHIELD but really just a silly team operating of its own volition (which is what it’s doing regardless)? Are Mac and Bobbi truly a part of the real SHIELD? Did Fury create two SHIELD’s? Are they the good guys? Can SHIELD ever be truly good? Are they S.W.O.R.D.? Will we have to learn new acronyms? Is Hydra involved somehow? Does it matter?
The last scene is better, with Cal, in a room, everything around him destroyed. We’ve clearly missed another outburst. Eventually one would hope we get to see his Mr. Hyde alter ego, but that probably won’t happen until the season finale. Gordon enters the room and Cal rounds on him, wondering why they didn’t bring Skye either. Gordon avoids the question, probably because he doesn’t have a good answer; he merely explains that Cal was “making too much noise.” Cal wants to know what their endgame, but Gordon tells him…”You’re not one of us. You’re a science experiment.” He’s gifted, not “Other.” Not Inhuman. His fate isn’t up to Gordon’s to decide, motioning to another room, and a meeting with someone important enough that it inspires Cal to put back on his dirty suit jacket. It probably ain’t Black Bolt, but I’m certainly thankful that this episode doesn’t climax with an eerie, horrifying “One of Us” chant, like in Freaks. But maybe that’ll be saved when Skye meets her Inhumans brethren for the first time.
All in all, “One of Us” is saved by Kyle MacLachlan and guest star Blair Underwood, who gave Ming-Na Wen’s May a lot to play off of. While it was fun to see some more super-powered folks in a silly Brotherhood of Evil Mutants-y like set up, none of them were characters I’d care to see again (none of them were really defined characters to begin with), which says a lot.