Agents Of SHIELD: 2.17 Melinda
It took almost two years, but audiences finally got to witness the event that made Melinda May the ice queen of today and the nickname of The Cavalry. Given how long it took to get there, the horror in Bahrain should have been epic; what we good was good but ultimately a little underwhelming.
While present day May battled with the secrets Coulson had been hiding from her, we saw something very different in her pre-Bahrain life with husband Andrew. She was happy, enjoyed her job, was very much in love and was even considering a family. I wish we had seen more of this - and more made of the potential for May to become a mother - as it felt a little rushed in the build up to the event that destroyed her.
The mission itself felt a little mundane; tracking down a Russian woman with super strength before the enemies of SHIELD could get their hands on her. But when the special ops unit - the real cavalry - found themselves taken out within minutes of hunting the woman down, we got to see May in action, infiltrating the building and taking out the enemy one by one while avoiding her own team that had become possessed.
The super-powered woman controlling the minds of her victims was a big ruse with ante upped when it was revealed it was her daughter that controlled others to her will. Ava Acres gave a chilling performance as Katya, her cold manner of killing the possessed around her with a flick of her hand made for a very real threat and it was May being forced to kill her just to save her entire team from being slaughtered that tipped our hero over the edge.
If this episode had taken place in the first season, I think the impact would have been stronger. I get that being forced to murder a child was incredibly traumatic, but given may's experience in the field - and what we have seen on the show - it didn't have quite the punch almost two years worth of build up should have had. Still, Ming-Na Wen was on brilliant form, delivering a softer side of May in the past and balancing that with the scenes of her traumatised post-Bahrain and the inner conflict she felt in the present as she uncovered the secrets Coulson was hiding from her.
Over in Afterlife, Jiaying and Skye grew closer as the leader helped Skye develop her mountain-moving powers further. It is nice to have the time to explore what makes a super-powered character tick. In movies the development of those powers gets truncated due to the limited screen-time to tell a full story so I am enjoying seeing the explanation for and experimentation with Skye's abilities.
There were some wonderful moments too as Jiaying revealed to Skye that she was her mother. Dichen Lachman and Chloe Bennet played this beautifully and I appreciated the lack of drama in favour of some tearful regret and warm reunion as Skye found the home she had been looking for all her life. The episode ended with Jiaying , Skye and Calvin enjoying an awkward but heartfelt dinner around the table. Through Jiaying we also learned what led her father to become the monster he is today; his over-zealous attempt to locate their daughter so by the time we saw that family reunion you felt as much sympathy for Calvin as you did for Skye.
There were some over great small moments interplaying between this big stories; Lincoln discovering that Raina's nightmares were in fact prophetic dreams and Fitz making contact with Lance and Coulson and the daring plan to lose Fitz's SHIELD tails with the simple use of a hairdryer. I would love to know how Lance thought Fitz could pull that one off.
Overall, Melinda was another in a run of strong episodes, with the show certainly picking up pace again as it nears the finale. While May's backstory wasn't as satisfying as the build up suggested it still worked thanks in no part to a passionate performance by Ming-Na Wen. Elsewhere, the Afterlife storyline continues to intrigue now that Skye has become the central focus of the Inhuman plot. With Agents Of SHIELD renewed for season three this week, I couldn't be happier. This show still has a lot to give.