Well, now we know why May hates being called The Cavalry.
“Melinda” builds up to May’s ass-kickingest (that’s a real word, right?) moment, the one spoken of throughout her years in S.H.I.E.L.D. She’s supposed to be one of the toughest, boldest, most intimidating members of the organization because of her time in Bahrain.
May’s not the person everyone thinks she is, however, and she’s had to live with that lie all her life. She didn’t become The Cavalry by taking out dozens of enemy combatants. She became The Cavalry because she shot a little girl—a creepy, mind-controlling one, to be fair—only making it appear like she fought off a few dozen foes on her own.
But let’s back up and see how May got to that point, which impacted not just her own current position but Skye’s as well, seven years ago…
Back in Bahrain
The long-awaited telling of Coulson and May’s infamous mission begins on a domestic note. She’s at home with her husband Andrew, very much in love and very much trying to add motherhood to her long list of duties.
Bahrain will change that. She and Coulson are looking for a superpowered woman, Eva Belyakov (Winter Ave Zoli), who Coulson tries to convince to come with them back to S.H.I.E.L.D. She’s less inclined to civil discourse than he is, however—she upends their table and almost causes a firefight. The chaos allows Eva and a few local criminals to kidnap one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents calling for a rescue mission.
So Coulson sends in the entire platoon, save for May and himself, only to completely lose contact. Dead, capture, or worse—he’s not sure what fate has befallen them. May desperately wants to run in and free them, but Coulson wants to follow the commands from base and wait. Unfortunately, the wail of sirens from local soldiers incites the two to action, and May runs in while Coulson provides the distraction.
May stretches her legs and employs some parkour to leap into the building, where she knocks out a few guards and comes face to face with Eva in the basement of a building. A little girl is trapped in there too, and all Eva can go on about is wanting more pain. Well, May is most definitely the person to deliver on that.
The S.H.I.E.L.D. Schism
But present-day May is also dealing with a serious problem. Bobbi and new S.H.I.E.L.D. reveal Coulson kept secret after secret from May, and as she and Simmons do their own digging, they find out it’s all true.
He never traveled to the cities he said he’d been in, he had shell companies constructing something, and it makes May just dubious enough of her leader. She asks Simmons to work on Fury’s toolbox—not knowing of course Fitz ran off with the real one—while she handles the news of Coulson’s secret dealings.
It seems for the moment all of new S.H.I.E.L.D.’s resources are being put into this toolbox, while the hunt for Skye takes a backseat this week. But that doesn’t mean the powered up agent doesn’t have her own drama to attend to during “Melinda.”
A Family Affair
Skye is training with Jiaying, which includes moving mountains and moving water inside glasses. Jiaying’s tests run the gamut of magnitude to help Skye adjust to obstacles, big or small, in her path. What they don’t prepare her for, though, is finding out Jiaying is her mother.
As Skye goes on about being kicked around from one foster home to another, Jiaying can’t handle hearing about the entirety of her daughter’s life that she missed, and so she reveals her secret (and Skye’s actual birthday). The two have a tearful reunion that both sides can fully enjoy—good on the show for not dragging that surprise out too long—but the secret must remain hidden from the rest of Afterlife.
NEXT: May becomes The Cavalry, but at what cost?[pagebreak]
Favoritism is not looked upon well in the community, and as Skye skipped the entire terrigen mist acceptance process Jiaying has in place, she’s already on thin ice. Skye’s mother reveals that a mother/daughter relationship would especially be looked down upon because of someone named Eva.
Jiaying recounts how Eva stole terrigen crystals, but not for herself. They were for her daughter, the little girl in the basement, who is revealed to be behind all the mind control. Even as May, badly bruised and shot in the leg, kills Eva, her daughter Katya appears, bending every soldier and criminal in the building to her will by absorbing their pain.
May only has one option, with a gun by her side and the little girl coming for her. Ming-Na Wen completely sells the difficult choice May has to make in this moment. She knows she has to kill this little girl, but she truly hates the decision, and hates herself for having to make it.
And it’s a decision that irrevocably alters her life. It destroys her marriage, makes her take a desk job, and in many ways leads her to the spot she’s in today. Coulson was there, telling her she did the right thing with the little girl, but she’s clearly never shaken the tragedy. And now, unsure of whether she can trust Coulson, does she regret that decision even more?
Her loyalties will be tested in the weeks to come, but Skye is remaining loyal to Jiaying in the immediate future, promising to keep their familial bond a secret. And she does acquiesce to one more request from her mother—a dinner with Cal, who she promises will disappear after this one meal.
It’s, unsurprisingly, an awkward family sitdown, and as horrible as Cal has been throughout the season, I find it almost impossible to not feel some sympathy for the man. It’s thanks to Kyle McLachlan, who delivers the character’s joy with just the right smidge of pathetic sadness to make him endearing… even though he can be a homicidal maniac.
Correction: As many of you have noted in the comments, I misread the original intent of that final scene with Lincoln and Raina’s voiceover. It is clearly a recognition that Raina has developed some type of clairvoyant, precognition ability, though whether that’s the extent of her ability remains to be seen. it was not necessarily about Lincoln recognizing Skye and Jiaying share a connection as I originally wrote, only that Raina’s dream was not merely a dream. Thank you to those of you who pointed that out!
- Tag: Fitz lives! And he’s using Fury’s toolbox in a diner bathroom. (Not the safest place to hide one of the world’s most important stores of information but moving along…) He manages to crack the thing open and accidentally hacks Coulson’s tablet. He finds the Son of Coul and Hunter on the other side, and by the sound of it, they’ll all be reunited quite soon.
- The episode is obviously intended as a showcase for Wen, and she does not disappoint, paying off more than a season’s worth of buildup to a single moment. That’s no easy task for anyone, but Wen and the writers pull it off.
- Obligatory Avengers reference: In the episode’s first flashback, Coulson talks about taking Earth’s mightiest and finding out if they’re heroes. If only he knew what lied ahead.
- So as I’ve said in past weeks, the show is taking Raina and building to… something. I’m still not exactly sure what, but this week’s episode was a big step, as it revealed more of what she’s capable of doing. Gordon forbids her to go out in public just yet, but he promises her life can still be beautiful. We’ll see if that can be true for her in the weeks to come.
- We have a second Friday Night Lights alum on the show, as Billy Riggins himself Derek Phillips made his debut as Agent O’Brien. If he and Adrianne Palicki are ever in a scene together and no one mentions Texas, I will be sorely disappointed.
- So what is Protocol Theta really about? Has it got to do with the Inhumans, or is it something else entirely? Let me know your theories!
NEXT TIME: ABC really hopes you don’t forget about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with Avengers: Age of Ultron on its way, if tonight’s promo was any indication.