Melinda May has been one of the more enigmatic characters on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But come next week, we’ll finally find out a little more about her past. To commemorate the episode, aptly titled “Melinda,” artist Jenny Frison has stepped up to the plate to highlight “The Cavalry” herself.
An accomplished cover artist, Frison’s work has graced books at Marvel, DC, Image, IDW and Dark Horse, among others. Currently, she is working on covers for the popular Image series Revival written by Tim Seeley and Eisner-award winning artist Mike Norton.
In our exclusive weekly chat, executive producer Jeff Bell teases more about this week’s art, as well as what we can expect from an episode that focuses on one of the show’s more complex characters.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First of all, Jenny’s art is gorgeous. It’s delicate, but it also has that darker tone—kind of like May. She’s calm, but she’s also deadly.
JEFF BELL: Jenny kind of killed it. I think it’s a great likeness of May, and May looks super badass. And you get the Bahrain in the background, and the Arabic in the background says something there that’s relevant to our story. [Ed. note: It says “cavalry.”] And then I like that there’s sort of the multiple shadows of different people. There’s 2 or 3 people that sort of have her backed up against the wall. I think it’s lovely. And her S.H.I.E.L.D. badge is there, because all of them have either Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or our logo somewhere. I thought that was cool the way she did that.
I love how on first glance, the coloring and the atmosphere seem like maybe they don’t fit what we know of May’s personality. But I think that also speaks to the fact that people aren’t always what they seem on the surface, and I feel this art does a good job of representing that.
Without going too much into the story, because this episode tells the story of May’s past, she’s a very different May in this episode. This is the May before this incident happened. And so there are qualities that Ming[-Na Wen] brings to the role. Seeing her married back in the day… we’ve already met Andrew (Blair Underwood), but to sort of see what May was like back at that time is a different color, and I think Ming does that beautifully. And I agree: I think the background is gorgeous and complicated. It’s a very dynamic image.
This episode will focus heavily on May, which is exciting since we haven’t really seen much of her backstory. But in this past week’s episode, we saw Gonzales mention Bahrain and her past, and the reference to why she’s actually called “The Cavalry.”
The first time we met her in the pilot, she was doing her office job. You know, sitting there completely shut down, going through stacks of paperwork. And even to look at where she is now in our show versus a season and a half ago, to see what turned her into that person… it’s always fun when you can find a compelling backstory that feels like it’s still driving the present story. Also, in episode 15, Skye disappeared with Gordon. Where did they go, and what’s that about? We have trouble fitting all this into our timeslot, but there’s a lot of cool stuff on Skye’s end as well.
Based on Gonzales’ words, I’m assuming what May had to deal with in her past will play into her feelings for Skye in the present day story.
Absolutely. And it’s not just about Skye, but about Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. and secrets. There’s stuff that’s happening back then that’s happening now. DJ Doyle wrote this episode, and the same way that 15 was a big episode—you saw Bobbi back in the day, and you saw Bobbi now—it was about finding ways to transition and make those stories relevant. And in 17, we have a similar challenge. We have a backstory, but the backstory needs to be compelling enough so that you don’t mind it being a backstory, so that when you come back to the present story, you’re equally interested. Anytime you’re telling two or three stories, you’re always worried about one being more interesting than the other. And I think this episode does a very nice job in that you’re happy to be in any of them.
And I love the shadow that’s sort of towering over her. The way it’s overpowering her makes me think of everything overpowering May right now at S.H.I.E.L.D., with what’s going on in the story.
Something else I like about her, and I find this is true of this type of character, is because she doesn’t give you tons, that you project a lot on her. She’s who you want her to be. I find more than anyone else, she’s someone you can bring so much of what you feel to her character, and lay it on top of that, and it fits. It answers a bunch of big questions, I think, and I can’t wait to see how people respond to that.
“Melinda” airs Tuesday, April 14 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. Be sure to check in at EW to see the exclusive reveal of next week’s art for episode 18, “The Frenemy of my Enemy.” The art for “Afterlife” will go on sale on Friday, April 10 at www.marvelshop.com/agentsofshield as a $49.99 print (limited to 100 copies) at 12:30 a.m. PT.
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