‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: ‘Who You Really Are’
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. assembles its 12th Season 2 installment with “Who You Really Are,” as Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) is discovered on Earth with no memory of her objective, leading to a surprisingly alien revelation, while Bobbi and Mack find their secret mission threatened.
Last week’s S.H.I.E.L.D.premiere, “Aftershocks,” saw Coulson working to draw out Hydra leadership, while Skye struggled to understand her new Inhuman abilities, and Bobbi concealed a secret from the team. So, how does ABC’s Avengers-adjacent series continue its marvelous new season?
Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 2, episode 12, “What You Really Are”!
Introducing Lady Sif into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has long been one of the series’ smartest moves, injecting some much-needed presence from the cinematic universe with easily-adaptable abilities and an affordable fan-favorite actor. The ground has shifted a bit since then, to the point that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t so much grasping straws for cinematic relevance as it is laying groundwork years in advance, so this time around, it made sense to feature Jaimie Alexander’s Sif in a different context, taking a few moments here and there to play with her amnesia and childlike reactions.
We’ve long since learned not to expect the same kind of knock-down drag-out fights as the movies, even with Asgardians involved*, making the more impressive bit of MCU representation that “Who You Really Are” managed to unload such an extensive amount of exposition on Inhuman origins. It remains to be seen how Marvel deals with the property’s backstory for film audiences in 2019, or if Vin-Tak’s warning of the Kree Empire “renewing” their experiments on Earth says anything about the future film’s plot, but for now, this was definitely the most distinctly Marvel any episode has felt.
*Good visual reference for movie vs. TV budget: the Destroyer gun sent Loki careening through steel walls in The Avengers, but here blasts lower-tier baddies only a few feet. Not that it wasn’t a great callback, and one I wouldn’t mind seeing again, sparingly.
In the meantime at least, “Who You Really Are” struck a fine balance between the amnesiac Sif’s pursuit of her mysterious opponent, and uncovering the Kree’s true objective without leaning too heavily on the secrecy of Skye’s abilities. Last week felt like Agents looking to jump into its usual pattern of Skye or Coulson keeping major secrets from the team, but tonight’s hour instead used the revelation to draw some clear dividing lines among the team, notably between those who instinctively rushed to protect Skye from Sif and Vin-Tak, and those worried about the team’s protection from her, even after the threat subsided.
Of course, Mack and Bobbi have their own reasons to keep under the radar regardless, and while “Who You Really Are” at least negated any possibility of a Hydra swerve, the storyline’s opaque direction shifts focus onto some of the weaker aspects, Hunter in particular. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 hasn’t found much, well, agency for Hunter outside of a foil for Bobbi, and scenes between she and Mack highlight just how much stronger, specific material Adrianne Palicki and Henry Simmons have to play than Hunter (or Trip, for that matter). The closing tag seemed to promise that whatever secret Bobbi and Mack keep won’t stay hidden long, and their talk of dividing the team by its endgame at least offered an intriguing tease.
Seeing as we didn’t quite have the budget for too many major throwdowns between Sif and Vin-Tak, “Who You Really Are” nicely leaned on pivoting a few of its stronger pairings, whether bringing Skye and May’s training full-circle to control her powers, or pushing Fitz and Simmons further apart by the former's secrecy with Skye. It’s nice to see that the team has abandoned treating Fitz with kid-gloves, and as adorable a pair as the two quirky scientists made last year, Season 2 finds much stronger material in highlighting their ideological differences.
If anything Skye and Coulson almost seemed like the odd men out of a busy hour, mostly reacting to the push and pull of other characters, though ultimately Skye seemed to move past fear into a much more active role confronting her abilities. Granted, the climax in getting there felt a bit rushed, as Sif very quickly changed her tune at Skye icing herself out, and a TV-wide moratorium should be called toward characters overhearing tense group discussions about them, and storming off.
It’s really great to see Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. embracing more of its comic aspects, even on a TV budget, keeping Sif underpowered, or Vin-Tak’s alien nature cosmetically hidden. It feels very much like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has begun earning its many Marvel references, rather than the superfluous tossing of recognizable names that plagued early episodes. ”Who You Really Are” may not have had the flash of Sif’s last appearance, but Bobbi more than carried the load for action sequences with unexpected endings, and the strong character work throughout lived up to the bar set by Agent Carter over the last few months.
AND ANOTHER THING…
- I would very much like to see May training Fitz. Wouldn’t that probably aid in regaining his motor-neural connections, anyway?
- Second moratorium on Trip grieving. He’s gone, and no amount of sad referencing will remediate his minimal presence.
- However fleeting time allowed, Sif geeking out with May really was a lot of fun, as were the other moments of bonding between Simmons and Bobbi, or Sif and Skye.
- I wonder if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should steer clear of any Odin references, considering we still have years before learning what’s up with Loki.
- Glad someone brought up Coulson’s resurrection, although it’d have been a great “in your face!” to Sif’s talk of being unable to stem universal tides.
- Skye ended up back in the Bus' interrogation room, which is like, where her S.H.I.E.L.D. journey began, man. It's like, totally symbolism, and stuff.
- I bet Ward ate a hot dog this week. Deleted scenes!
Well, what say you? Did Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s “Who You Really Are” keep up the momentum as you’d hoped? How do you think the show handled Lady Sif’s return, or its Inhuman revelations? Stay tuned for more coverage of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2's latest, and join us next week for our review of “One of Us” on ABC!