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‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: “Repairs”

Marvel Agents of SHIELD Review Repairs Melinda May
ABC

Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ assembles its ninth episode “Repairs,” as mysterious telekinetic events surrounding a young woman puts the team in jeopardy, while Skye looks to uncover Melinda May’s past as “The Cavalry.”

Last week’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ episode “The Well” saw the aftermath of ‘Thor: The Dark World‘ leading the team to discover an ancient Asgardian relic that granted a terrorist group super-strength, while Ward’s encounter with the mysterious object brought out painful memories of his past, so how does ABC’s ‘Avengers‘-adjacent series keep us marveling at its inaugural season?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s ninth episode, “Repairs!”

A young woman enters a gas station for groceries, though the owner quickly confronts her about her role in a particle accelerator explosion that killed four, with one of them his friend. The woman attempts to leave in peace, though when the attendant confronts her, cans and shelves telekinetically fly at the man, and leaking gas pumps outside cause an explosion around the terrified woman.

Following their tryst, Ward and May learn of the new mission and report to the bus, where Coulson urges Skye to oversee how they handle a “welcome wagon” for those with emerging powers, such as the telekinetic in question, Hannah Hutchins. Upon the team’s arrival to a crowd outside the woman’s house however, the agitation quickly sets off Hannah’s “ability” once more, forcing May to sedate the woman before things get out of hand.

While Fitz and Simmons investigate the accelerator facility, musing that they might prank “freshman” Skye as they had been subject to in the past, Coulson and May greet Hannah within the protected interrogation room aboard the bus. Hannah believes herself to have been forsaken by God and haunted by demons, having had no control over any of the telekinetic events, as we see an intangible figure lurking nearby. Elsewhere, Fitz and Simmons prey on Skye’s frustration with May by telling her the story of “The Cavalry” nickname, how May once liberated 100 agents on horseback.

Skye next takes her issues with May to an uncomfortable Ward, as a number of small objects around the plane seem to go missing. Meanwhile, Fitz takes a break from crafting pranks to retrieve an instrument from the bowels of the plane, unaware of the menacing figure appearing around him. Skye identifies the man as Tobias Ford, while Simmons sees that the particle accelerator seems to have tapped into some alien dimension, before Ford materializes, smashes the display, and sabotages the plane to begin losing altitude.

May manages to make a smooth landing in a clearing, keeping enough power to the shielding around Hannah’s room to keep Ford out, before the group realizes Fitz is nowhere to be found. Ward and Simmons break him out of a closet, while Skye does her best to pacify an agitated Hannah from outside the cage. Fitz theorizes that the man might not be a ghost at all, but rather someone stuck between our world and an alien dimension, possibly exacerbated by the recent Convergence of ‘Thor: The Dark World.’ Suddenly, Ford appears to both groups, locking Coulson, Skye and Ward, Fitz and Simmons on opposite sides of the plane.

Coulson urges Skye not to refer to Melinda as “The Cavalry,” telling her the real story that May had once ended a hostage situation with another “gifted” and his followers, refusing to admit how she accomplished the task. Regardless, the more spirited May was lost in the exchange, and the agent was never the same. Ford appears again, demanding access to Hannah, though Simmons realizes that he loses more and more of himself each time he phases in and out. With no other options, May sneaks Hannah out of her cell and into the wilderness, looking to “fix the problem.”

Once the groups reunite and share their knowledge of Ford, Skye realizes that he hadn’t actually been attacking Hannah, but protecting her, as Ford was the one to loosen the particle accelerator’s components looking to spend time with safety inspector Hannah in the first place. Meanwhile, May leads Hannah into a barn to confront Ford, who follows them and attacks May. Hannah begs him to stop, for which the man finally listens, admitting that he was the one to cause the accident, and believing himself in the process of being dragged to Hell. May urges him to let Hannah go and accept his fate, rather than cling to the person he used to be, after which the man finally dissipates.

The conflict settled, Coulson admits to Skye that her natural empathy with people makes her an ideal candidate for future “welcome wagons” with gifted individuals, before Skye joins May in the cockpit to keep her company during takeoff. After the credits, Fitz interrupts a game of Scrabble demanding to know who pulled the shaving cream prank on him, while May smirks from the cockpit.

OUR REVIEW:

It seems as if we’re always contextualizing ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ reviews in a broader conversation of the series’ progress with managing its Marvel ties, but after the largely disappointing tie-in elements of “The Well,” we thought it deserved another look. Like last week, we again confront one of the larger truths that ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ is often more of a generic procedural sci-fi thriller, eschewing its Marvel connections for one reason or another, in the same manner that made “The Well” almost entirely irrelevant to the events of ‘Thor: The Dark World,’ despite what promotions would have you believe. We never fully expected ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ to access the full comic sandbox from the get-go, but once again, those looking for the “Marvel” in Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ will walk away disappointed.

That proves exceptionally frustrating for franchise fans looking for some kind of relevance within the larger Marvel universe, especially when “Repairs” otherwise-entertaining incorporation of a ghost story misses such seemingly low-hanging fruit. Mutants are understandably tied up with 20th Century Fox, making “The Index” and “gifted” individuals relatively unexplored within the MCU, but is there any reason the writing couldn’t have directly specified the “hell dimension” as one of the nine realms, given the apparent ties to ‘Thor 2′’s convergence? If Fitz and Simmons are to namedrop former academy classmates during their investigation of a sinister scientific corporation, could we not pick names with more significance than “Sally Webber” or “Staticorp?” Is the Marvel name to the series anything more than letters on the marquee, by this point?

We ask that question, because “Repairs” would represent a perfectly serviceable hour of television otherwise, if not for such wasted potential. Staging a ghost story of sorts within the bus isn’t breaking new ground for TV by any means, but certainly shakes things up more than most of the episodes we’ve seen thus far, offering a tangible menace that negates many of the team’s primary strengths. We’re even offered a bit of insight into May’s backstory, though darn it all if Coulson’s vague account of May’s true rescue mission doesn’t get any clearer with repeat viewing.

“Repairs” offers the same labored perspective shift as previous episodes in fleshing out an ill-defined member of the team, though we’d happily ignore that predictability if it actually added any measurable change to the character dynamics. If anything, it seems ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s only real issue lies in an inability to play with its most interesting aspects, glossing over whatever impact Ward and May’s earlier coupling might have had on the team itself. Instead, we’re once again directed to Skye as a cypher for this weirder world, despite the fact that her only real contribution seems to lie in her ability to gauge personality through social media, and offer softer shoulders to lean on than her accredited counterparts.

We’ll grant that “Repairs” at least managed to tackle a few larger concepts within its narrative, ruminating on the nature of religion and faith in a manner that opens up Skye to discussion, but undoubtedly terrified Tobias Ford, as Melinda May essentially confirmed he’d be going to hell for his sins. It speaks to May’s character that she encouraged the man to let go of a past life he’d never get back, though the message becomes a bit muddled without any tangible explanation of what May went through to become the hardened version of herself we’ve come to know, or if she’d only “told him what he needed to hear.”

Oh, and the subplot about Fitz and Simmons pranking Skye, that seemed entirely unsafe given the context of their mission, and its apparent culmination of a startling mop for Fitz? Yeah, we’re just going to pretend that never happened. Let us have our denial, won’t you?

Well, what say you? Did ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s latest outing “Repairs” show you a different side of the series?  Did May soften a bit by the reveal of her “Cavalry” nickname? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and join us again December 10 for another all-new recap of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s latest episode, “The Bridge” on ABC!

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