The Good: Decent-enough acting, Good plot progression
The Bad: Subplots seem very soap opera-like, Some troubling character direction
The Basics: “Who You Really Are” adds a new layer to Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. without making it feel like the essential characters are actually moving the series forward.
With Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. embedded on television as a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is in a unique place to crossover and foreshadow the big film events that Disney/Marvel are unleashing on the world. In its first season, the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (reviewed here!) forced a complete change of direction for the series. With the latest episode, “Who You Really Are,” the show sees the return of Lady Sif from the Thor section of the Marvel Universe. Lady Sif appeared in the first season episode “Yes Men” (reviewed here!) and “Who You Really Are” makes direct allusions to that episode. What the episode does not do, alas, is foreshadow effectively into either Ant-Man or The Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
While it picks up after the events of “Aftershocks” (reviewed here!), “Who You Really Are” is much more of a standalone episode than a continuation of the serialized storyline for the second season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The return of Lady Sif does a decent job of reminding viewers just how broad the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, as if they really needed the reminder. The initial conflict in “Who You Really Are” sets up an interesting concept for fans of the supernatural portion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it has Lady Sif without any knowledge of who she is, despite her being aware that she is an off-worlder from Asgard.
Opening in Faro, Portugal, where Lady Sif walks out of the Mediterranean Sea, looking for Cava, it is clear the Asgard warrior woman has memory loss. Back at Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. cell, Skye and May train with one another. While Fitz interrupts the training and is clearly curious about Skye’s abilities and limits, May breaks up the training when one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives contacts her about Lady Sif’s arrival. Recovering Sif, Coulson convinces her that they are allies and he is there to help. Getting footage of a fight between Sif and Cava, Coulson and his whole team become obsessed with aiding Lady Sif and finding the man she was fighting.
Mockingbird and Skye follow clues that lead them to the idea that the man’s blood causes memory loss. Determining that Cava is actually a Kree (and the name is just a Kree word for “key”), Skye tries to convince Fitz to come clean with Coulson about her altered DNA. Capturing Vin-Tak, the Kree, he claims that he is on the side of good and asks for his truncheon back in order to restore Sif’s memories. It turns out that Vin-Tak is telling the truth about restoring Sif’s memories and when he does, Sif’s mission is laid out as a straightforward recovery mission. Vin-Tak is on Earth to recover the Diviner and when his mission is revealed, the S.H.I.E.L.D. science cell is terrified that they do not have them!
Mixed faintly throughout “Who You Really Are” is the continuing character development of the new characters to join Coulson’t team. While Bobbi Morse has integrated perfectly with the team, Hunter has been on the outside and as Mac and Morse pursue an alternate agenda (which appears to be under the direct orders of Nick Fury), “Who You Really Are” dabbles with letting Hunter into their conspiracy. The plotline, which seems very soap operatic at this point, is likened by Mac as the H.Y.D.R.A. conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s a bit of a tough sell at this point to believe that there are so many secrets within Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. After all, here is a guy who is now in charge of the world’s most effective spy community working for the forces of good against super-scientific, supernatural, and extraterrestrial threats and it is in shambles since it was exposed as a tool of H.Y.D.R.A. In other words, either Coulson is being set up as a complete dupe or the audience is being prepared for a remarkably unsatisfying reversal where Coulson admits that he has been on top of Fitz lying about Skye and Morse and Mac’s secret mission all along.
Within “Who You Really Are,” there is the momentary satisfying moment as Skye’s nature is partially-exposed to May and Coulson. Vin-Tak accuses Skye of being Kree (or partially-Kree) and Lady Sif is convinced then that she is a Kree construct, which leads the episode to degenerate into a pretty typical and obvious fight/chase sequence. Every now and then, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. shakes up the usual action-adventure formula; “Who You Really Are” is not one of the episodes that does that. While the plot progresses, this is an episode where the heroic characters of Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. are not the characters that are moving the episode forward. Instead, this is an episode where they react to an entirely external force (Sif and Vin-Tak) and while Skye is somewhat exposed as a result, the revelations are much more externally-derived than as a direct result of the actions of the characters.
Within the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Who You Really Are” becomes the first overt move to introducing the Secret Wars or Secret Invasion plotlines from the Marvel Comic Universe into the Cinematic Universe. The Kree are integral to those plots and that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is bringing them to Earth in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has the potential to elevate the importance of the television series within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While it has been widely teased that The Avengers is headed toward The Infinity War and the next Captain America film will be Civil War, the idea of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fighting the Secret Invasion without many of the major Marvel superheroes (or with them only as cameos) is an intriguing concept.
Roxann Dawson does a decent job directing “Who You Really Are,” but none of the actors are given the chance to deliver truly knock-down performances. This is not a big emotional episode as much as it is a plot-focused one. And while not bad, “Who You Really Are” seems more like a tease and an excuse to bring Jaimie Alexander back as Lady Sif than a story that continues the plotlines of the episodes that preceded it. This is a pretty average hour of television.
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete Second Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophomore season here!
For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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