Agents of SHIELD: 213 “One of Us” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
It’s somewhat surprising that it’s taken this long for us to get a legitimate supervillain team on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: after all, the writers have shown that they’re not afraid to mine weird comic book tropes for inspiration, such as resurrection, colour-changing aliens and as recently as last week with Sif’s amnesia. Unfortunately this particular villainous team-up, much like the episode that surrounds it, is a little on the timid side and doesn’t make much of an impact, other than to show that S.H.I.E.L.D., even the new and improved version run by Coulson, is kind of terrible.
The main plot of the episode concerns crazy Cal rounding up a bunch of people from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Gifted register in order to cause the havoc he promised in the midseason premiere. The team includes Wendell Levi, a tech genius forced to live in the Mojave Desert with one of those S.H.I.E.L.D. anti-technology bracelets they made Skye wear last season; Francis Noche, a fairly nondescript strongman; and Karla Faye Gideon, a woman apparently in no way related to the extremely minor Daredevil character of the same name who grafted scalpel blades onto her fingertips to protect herself from her abusive lover. They’re a suitably grungy-looking group, all greasy hair and seemingly persistently sweaty, and they’re united by their hatred of S.H.I.E.L.D. for ‘containing’ them, but they’re hardly the cream of the crop when it comes to Gifted individuals: although now I come to think of it, most of the good ones we’ve seen are either dead or trapped in a floating ball of gravity and in the possession of an evil billionaire who I’m now slightly concerned we haven’t seen any of this season…
Anyway, they team up and go on a road trip in Cal’s Winnebago to the Brynmore Maximum Security Psychiatric Facility, underneath which exists a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility holding just two prisoners: a master assassin named John Bruno and a Gifted individual named David A. Angar (known in the comics as ‘Angar the Screamer’) who has the ability to induce catatonia using just his voice, and judging by evidence provided later in the episode, a complete lack of bones and tendons in his lower face.
Coulson and Bobbi arrive at the Facility sometime after Cal and his new dream team, and manage to contain John Bruno but find Angar missing: as it turns out, Cal has continued the road trip to a high school football field in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Coulson, having grown up in Manitowoc, works this out from a message Cal leaves reading ‘Fight On’ which is apparently the school fight song, and he and Bobbi track them down.
While all of this is going on, May arranges for Skye to undergo a psych evaluation after the revelation of her newfound abilities last week, and she decides that the best man for the job is Dr Andrew Garner. Garner is a man who has done good work consulting for S.H.I.E.L.D. in the past, and also happens to be May’s incredibly charming ex-husband: after some reluctance, he is brought back in under the assurance that S.H.I.E.L.D. has changed under Coulson’s influence.
He meets Skye, who is resistant to any kind of psychological prodding thanks to years in the social care system, but Garner manages to ‘bargain’ information out of her by revealing tidbits about his relationship with May. Apparently they eloped, May loves Las Vegas and she was the one who called for the divorce for reasons unknown; particularly as they seem to have good chemistry and he still manages to make May laugh, something which amusingly freaks everybody out.
Skye has a dodgy moment as she begins causing tremors in her sleep, and her subsequent session with Garner is interrupted when May takes the Bus, along with them on board, to go and back Coulson up in Wisconsin. When they get there, May tells Skye to stay on the plane, but Skye insists that she’s keeping things under control: she has taken all the stressful information about her psycho father and his band of weirdos on board, and is still managing to keep her heart rate down.
So May takes her onto the football field with a gun to her head, saying that she’ll trade Skye for Coulson and prompting a reunion which is, if anything, even more awkward than Cal’s first one with Skye. He mentions something about wanting her to grow wings when she changed, and tells her that S.H.I.E.L.D. will only try to contain her like they did the rest of the people on the field. However, before he can really do anything violent, a bubble of blue light appears around him and Gordon the teleporter from the midseason premiere appears and takes him away, prompting the remainder of the two teams to get into a bit of a scrap.
Unfortunately, the stress of this frankly very weird situation triggers another tremor, and Skye only manages to negate it by focusing so hard that her arms bruise and she collapses. Back on the Bus, the team tell her that she had never been able to make the tremors go away entirely, and that instead she had been turning them in on herself which in this case caused her capillaries to rupture and her arms to fracture. She is given special casts on her arms (which some have speculated may eventually be re-purposed into Daisy Johnson’s trademark gauntlets) and added to the Gifted register, and Cal’s weird little prophecy begins to unfold: S.H.I.E.L.D. have begun the process of containing her, marking her as different and alienating her, which has been shown only to cause bad things further down the line.
Elsewhere Cal has an angry confrontation with Gordon, who tells him that he was taken away because he has been getting too ‘noisy’ about their operation: when Cal protests that he was getting revenge on S.H.I.E.L.D. for their persecution of people who are ‘different’, Gordon tells him that he doesn’t get to do that. He calls Cal a ‘science experiment’ as his powers came from chemistry rather than genetics, and then basically ousts him from their awesome Inhuman clubhouse, meaning that Gordon is kind of a racist.
Finally, Mack is keeping Hunter prisoner in a safehouse bathroom, and after some deliberation Bobbi decides to bring him in on their ‘thing’. So, as the episode ends, Mack puts a bag on Hunter’s head and takes him elsewhere to show him what they’re doing. As it turns out, they’re working for what Mack calls ‘the real S.H.I.E.L.D.’, suggesting that there were groups other than Coulson’s that splintered off after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and it’s looking more likely that they might be working directly for that lovably duplicitous Nick Fury.
There were some nice teases in this episode, but generally the main plot didn’t really grab me: after posing such a creepy threat in the first half of the season, Cal seemed a little out of his depth in this episode, and even Kyle MacLachlan’s consistently great performance couldn’t quite save it.