William: “Face My Enemy” is basically Agents of SHIELD’s version of Parents’ Night Out, as Coulson and May go out for a night on the town in hunt for a painting with some of the same writing that Coulson has been etching to walls. It wouldn’t make for good TV if things went according to plan, but the whys and wherefores of how that turn happens make for some damn entertaining television. What did you think of the episode, Justin?
Justin: First off, huge thanks to William for taking the weekly trip to Gotham in my place with a great review of “Arkham”.
Secondly, I got to a point watching this episode where I just stopped taking notes and just fully enjoyed what I was watching. Episode four seems like the show has finally synthesized into the show that it wanted to be and what it will be going forward. We get banter, we get gadgets, we get some genuinely thrilling fight scenes, and we get to see Agent May kicking wholesale ass in a sparkly dress. More over, “Face My Enemy” finally showed the entire team working as a cohesive unit with a clear power structure.But getting into the episode itself, you hit it on the head with the Parent’s Night Out quip. After a cold open that finally nails it, we are off to the races with this week’s mission which involves a church’s prized painting that is adorned with the alien writing that we’ve seen throughout the show. Coulson and May don some adorable disguises to infiltrate a fundraising gala in order to steal the painting in order to study it. I said above that the entire ensemble gets ample time to shine, which I’m sure we will get into later, but this is every bit Coulson and May’s episode. While the first three episodes have relied heavily on Coulson as the new director, “Face Your Enemy” marks the grand return of Agent Coulson, the earnestly dorky secret agent man that we all fell in love with. The chemistry between Na and Gregg is at Mulder and Scully levels of sexual tension/mutual respect during these scenes and it is just a joy to watch.
What about you, William? Did you dig seeing the team finally gel into an effective and charming field team with Coulson and May at the head.
William: Speaking a bit more about the plot itself, I enjoyed that the episode didn’t drag out the hunt for the painting at the party and actually does a pretty good job of subverting typical spy tropes throughout: what looks to be a laser grid navigation sequence is perfectly deflated by May just deciding to walk through it. Talbot is Hydra, until it’s something much more interesting than that. I feel like the Agents of SHIELD from last year wouldn’t have ever have played with our expectations like that.
I’ve always felt that May was a bit a blank slate, but this episode goes to great lengths to give her a bit more backstory and provide some more context as to why she’s become Coulson’s choice to take over SHIELD once Coulson fully breaks down. In fact, all of their interactions throughout the episode are to set up that scene between the two. May basically goes in for a pseudo job interview for the audience’s sake to prove that she’s worth every bit of trust Coulson has placed in her. And that fight sequence at the end! Just how much fun was that, while still having some major stakes. It’s a perfectly matched fight that’s brutal, yet a blast to watch.While I was perfectly content to just watch the kids at home spy on Mommy and Daddy, (seriously – how great was it to watch Hunter talk about his ex and see everyone else’s completely over it response) Agent 33 throws a wrench into that plan and gives Fitz another great hero moment. This serves as a great way to finally begin to bring him into the fold with everyone else. It helps that the pairing of Hunter and Fitz works very well.
But as you said, with Fitz’s in-the-field heroism, the team finally feels fully formed. What stuck out most to you about the episode?
Justin: The two things that stuck out the most for me (and you pretty succinctly summed up one of them just now) were the twists and turns that the story takes throughout and how now the team has become almost a sitcom cast in terms of charm. I mean, that moment with the laser grid was my everything in that moment; Coulson priming himself for some sort of dorky leap across them while May just casually strides across it was both of those character’s personality in a single bit to me.
Going back to the second point though, it finally seems like the cast has nailed down the cadence and patter of a Wheadonverse show. The scenes of the team hanging out around the bus pre-mission was something I desperately needed from the show and I’m glad I finally got it. Of course, it would have been nice not having to wait an entire season and some change for it, but I will take what I can get. This new cast has a rapport and chemistry that finally suits the show that surrounds it and finally makes me care about the day to day life of these wise crackers. Basically, for me to like your show, you have to stick characters around a table and have them bust each other’s balls a bit. Community. I basically just always want Community.
But I digress.
I’m also really happy that Fitz got another big week, in terms of character interaction and inclusion in the larger plot. There is only so long that Fitz could sustain himself as a mopey background player, so writer Drew Z. Greenwood gives him a nice arc and payoff with “Face My Enemy” that hopefully continues the streak for next week. We also get Whitehall finally becoming a major player in the action of the show, also showing a forward momentum that was sorely lacking before.
What did you think about this episode’s tone? We’ve discussed before how the show has taken a bit of a darker tone, while never really skewing into grimdark, but this episode had a certain brutality to it wouldn’t you say? I mean, with May’s final scrap with Agent 33 and her implied torture before, would you say the show benefits from this harder edge?
William: The tone this week is decided lighter than weeks prior. The increased stakes are definitely still there, but it takes about half of “Face My Enemy” for things to really kick into gear. After the ‘darker’ episodes we’ve had over the previous three installments, the first half is a welcome change of pace. I don’t think the harder edge you bring up is entirely new, as last year had some dark moments, but I definitely think being on a later time slot allows the show to get a bit more intense with how it presents its more violent moments (the May vs Agent 33 moment is an example of this). I think “Face My Enemy” allows itself a bit more territory to be more aggressive. Which is fitting considering the episode is so May heavy and her reputation has always painted her as the team’s resident badass. May spends most of the episode like a coiled snake, ready to unfold. Once she does, it’s incredibly fun to watch.
I’m reminded that the fun doesn’t last for long as Coulson tells May (and the viewers) that “hard choices are coming.” While I hope that this isn’t the last fun detour the show provides us (and not that there won’t be humorous moments along the way), it seems that this is the calm before the storm. If that’s indeed the case, I’m certainly glad we had this episode.
– Kudos to my mother of all people for reminding me that Ming-Na Wen was the voice of Mulan. I’d completely forgotten. Shameful, considering that’s probably my favorite Disney animated movies. – WG
– Kevin Tancharoen who directed this week’s episode, also directed the Mortal Kombat: Legacy series. Perhaps this is the reason why the Agent 33/May fight was a bit more violent than what we’ve seen previously seen. – WG
– A nice headnod to The Winter Soldier, as the same face masking tech that Black Widow used on Alexander Pierce is deployed again here. Shame it had to be Hydra using it, though. – WG
– SPECULATION TIME: I’m beginning to think that Hunter’s ex might be Mockingbird. – WG
– I also have to give a shoutout to Adrian Pasdar, who seemed to have more fun than usual this week playing bad Talbot. – WG
– “I will pay you $500 for a pair of flats.” – WG
– “She just said more words than I’ve heard her say in a year.” – WG
– “I can’t believe I’m the only one seeing this right now.” – WG
– “This is fun. Isn’t this fun? We’re having fun. Look! Clufflinks!” The return of dorky Coulson is the absolute best. – JP
– 100% agree with William that Hunter’s ex is Bobbi. I mean, she’s gotta be right? – JP
– “I think he’s still pissed about us kidnapping him that one time.” – JP
– Reed Diamond really makes the most of his screen time as Whitehall finally becomes proactive in the plot. That actor is great and we need much more of him. – JP
– The visual gag of the explosions while Fitz was explaining the systems being compromised was the perfect blend of self aware visual comedy and exposition. – JP
What did you think of the episode? Sound off in our comments.