‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: Enemies Unite in ‘The Frenemy of My Enemy’
Recap and review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 2 Episode 18 – The Frenemy of My Enemy:
Part of the challenge facing Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season is illustrating that good and evil are relative. This is a season rife with traitors and compromises between clashing ideologies, and “The Frenemy of My Enemy” illustrates this better than just about any episode this season.
The episode centers on a very tentative alliance between Ward (Brett Dalton) and Coulson (Clark Gregg), who needs Ward’s help getting an in with the remnants of Hydra. For this purpose, they enlist the help of Sunil Bakshi (Simon Kassianides), whom they send undercover for a meeting with Baron Von Strucker, and a possible hint on Skye’s location. Naturally, the partnership comes with a huge incentive for Ward, albeit one with an equally huge catch: if Ward helps S.H.I.E.L.D. out, Coulson will let him go free. “No more looking over your shoulder,” Ward promises, noting that he and Ward can finally go through separate ways, once and for all. The catch? Before they would let him go free, Ward would have to go through the T.A.H.I.T.I. program to erase his memories. In essence, Coulson is offering Ward the chance at a clean slate, to be the man he wants to be without being plagued by the crimes of his past. And yet, it’s not an obvious deal for Ward. “I like who I am,” he explains, adding an even darker shade to Ward’s non-existent morality, as it comes across as Ward fully committing to being a terrible person. Of course, he ends up helping anyway, since there’s more to this unfinished Hydra business than meets the eye. I admit I was far more interested in the idea of the partnership with Ward and Kara/Agent 33 (Maya Stojan) than I was by the brass tacks of what they were setting out to accomplish, since I thought the end result seemed to be fairly obvious. On the one hand, I totally bought Ward’s justification for why Coulson needed to let Bakshi go off-script. They needed to earn Strucker’s confidence and trust, and only through offering up Deathlok’s services to Hydra could they get their foot in the door. On the other hand, it seemed obviously self-serving on Bakshi’s part. When he betrays the group and rejoins Hydra at the end, I can’t exactly say I was surprised, anymore than I was by Cal’s complete psychological collapse.
Yes, the real point of interest here is the father-daughter relationship between Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Cal (Kyle MacLachlan). I haven’t always loved Cal as a character, since his unhinged nature and harsh ways make him difficult to sympathize with at times. However, this was a downright touching look into how Cal’s grey-shaded morality is driven by very human emotions. In short, Jiaying (Dichen Lachman) rationalizes that Cal can’t stay at Afterlife, since he isn’t one of them, and she can’t afford to make exceptions. Skye volunteers to accompany Cal away from Afterlife, under the guise of a daddy-daughter day. I can’t pretend I wasn’t tickled by seeing Cal in full fatherhood mode, particularly since Skye seems so keen on indulging, however briefly, the possibility of being plain old Daisy Johnson for a day. Granted, we know (as she does) that this just isn’t possible. She needs to break it to Cal that she’s leaving him here, and that he can’t return to Afterlife with her. But it’s understandably difficult for Skye to let it out, and MacLachlan’s performance illustrates why: in his eyes, Skye can see just how much Cal has lost, and just how badly he’s wanted to become a family again with she and Jiaying.
Realistically, Cal is a man who has had everything taken away from him. He’s been searching for Skye longer than Skye has been searching for him. So when Cal spies Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) tailing them, he deduces that Jiaying has turned on him. That they’re disposing of him “like yesterday’s garbage.” It’s easy to understand how that would collapse his fragile psyche. And yet, he’s still willing to risk his life to keep Skye safe once Hydra arrives on the scene. The big climax is exciting as hell, because it involves all the disparate story threads coming together in a conclusion that inadvertently puts Bakshi back in power at Hydra, while compromising both Lincoln and Deathlok. Making things even more complicated is the revelation that the mysterious Ethan Johnston (Kris Lemche) is missing from Afterlife. In addition, May (Ming-Na Wen) is more furious than ever at Coulson for all the secrets he’s been keeping, and she’s livid that the talent for deception is extending to Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), particularly once she learns Simmons sent Fury’s box away with Fitz (Iain De Caestecker).
Not all of these stories are able to converge at the building Cal owns, but the ones that do are better for it. The shootout between Hydra and their opponents (since there are many factions on-hand) is exhilarating, particularly the brief confrontation between Lincoln and Deathlok. Granted, the fight leaves both men captured by Hydra, but it might actually help to have a good guy or two on the inside. That is, if they’re even able to do anything within Hydra, since it’s very possible that Lincoln’s powers might be somehow inhibited, and Peterson might have a new compliance chip installed to make Deathlok loyal once again. But I guess we’ll see what becomes of them in the coming weeks. For now, Ward shows he’s actually dependable, saving Coulson just moments before a Hydra agent would have shot him dead. But even with Ward’s assistance, they’re unable to get to Skye before Gordon (Jamie Harris) arrives and warps her away — this time against her will. But they don’t go alone, as Cal is able to tackle his way into Gordon’s portal before it closes. Coulson is angst-ridden to have lost Skye again, but he has a backup plan of sorts. He essentially allows himself to be captured by Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Mack (Henry Simmons), with the hopes that they’ll take him to their leader. To what end, I guess we’ll see. But I’ll admit, I’m certainly intrigued.
The best parts of “The Frenemy of My Enemy” explored the complicated emotional dynamic between Cal and Skye, but the action climax also did its job exceedingly well. Everything is reaching a crescendo on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and it’s helping the overall narrative feel more exciting, even in moments where not a whole lot is happening. It feels like things are building to an explosion beneath the surface. And, really, that’s exactly how stories should feel as we near the end of the season. Consider my interest piqued.
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