“The Frenemy of my Enemy” in many ways offers a microcosm of everything Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can do well—and everything it still needs to figure out.
As the show’s cast expanded in this second season, episodes have had to balance a number of different plot threads, relationships, and the narrative complications that come as a result. Sometimes that works. And sometimes it doesn’t, the show’s ambition too big for its own good. But when S.H.I.E.L.D. is firing on all cylinders, interweaving its many story lines and allowing for some exciting and surprising interactions, it becomes a much more enjoyable show than when it keeps everyone apart.
Such was the case in “Frenemy,” which resulted in a climax that pulled together nearly every faction—characters from Afterlife, S.H.I.E.L.D., the new S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra, and whatever Ward is all converged on an abandoned office building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
By smashing all these story lines together, the show immediately ramped up the tension and stakes, unexpected showdowns spelling doom for some while ensuring survival for others. It was a smart, well executed way of bringing all the pieces together. It’s the S.H.I.E.L.D. I hope we see more as we head into the finale.
But before exalting “Frenemy’s” praises any further, let’s rewind and take a look at how everyone ended up in that building.
Family matters in Afterlife
Cal is, believe it or not, happy. He’s seen his daughter and has hope for his family. But while Jiaying puts on a pleasant face for him, she does not share those feelings.
She knows Cal can’t stay in Afterlife, and she plans on unburdening herself of his presence. Skye wants to let the guy down easily, though. She remembers how hard she fought to find parents she didn’t even know, whereas Cal spent his life searching for a wife and daughter for whom he cared and had lasting memories of. He may be a bit of a monster, but he deserves to be treated like a human.
And really, it’s hard not to have some sympathy for Cal. (Or maybe that’s just me, but Kyle MacLachlan’s performance has me feeling for the guy.) He simply wants to bond with his daughter, show her his old stomping grounds, and so he takes her on a trip back to Milwaukee, his home, under the pretense that he’s there to pick up some of his belongings to bring back to Afterlife.
Of course, there are other plans. Skye is going to tell Cal the truth—that this is a one-way trip for him—but she wants him to stay happy. She’s well aware that breaking the news will enrage him, though, so she steals a cell phone off a passerby and alerts May to Cal’s likely inevitable anger outburst. She wants Coulson and May to contain any threat Cal may present.
A divided team… even more divided
May hears Skye loud and clear, but unfortunately Coulson isn’t around at the new S.H.I.E.L.D. to lend a hand. Instead, Simmons hears the call and is able to trace it to her location.
The two are working together under hostile conditions, though. Simmons reveals her duplicity with Fury’s toolbox and that Fitz now possesses it. May is furious, now on a mission to put everything out in the open. She alerts Bobbi and Mack (who are having some doubts about their Coulson manhunt), but hides Simmons’ integral role, instead blaming Fitz for the toolbox’s disappearance. No matter what, it’s caused a riff in their relationship, as Simmons is worried May has turned away from Coulson.
Help from a Frenemy
Speaking of Coulson, the currently defunct S.H.I.E.L.D. director is going forward with his plan to enlist Ward’s help, despite Fitz’s concerns. They corner Ward and Agent 33 down in Tijuana, where Coulson offers his former team member an ultimatum: help them infiltrate Hydra, or Ward can die.
Ward, being the sensible guy that he is, decides to help, though he doesn’t play his whole hand as they negotiate the plan. They’re going to use Bakshi, who we last so being brainwashed by Ward and 33. Bakshi will meet with Hydra’s very own Dr. List to help them find out exactly what Hydra has in store.
NEXT: S..H.I.E.L.D., and everyone else, brings the fight to Milwaukee.