Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Expands Dramatically Through “One Of Us!”

The Good: Decent performances, Good plot development, Moments of character
The Bad: Wonky comic book villains, Coulson’s character
The Basics: “One Of Us” does a decent job of bringing a broader (if less real world-based) villains into the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

One of the nice thing about heavily serialized television is that is usually gets to a point where it stops trying to appeal to a broad audience and it focuses on the story it is trying to tell. For Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., that level of commitment finally comes in “One Of Us.” “One Of Us” stops trying to tell bottle episodes and focuses almost completely on serialized concepts for Agents Of S.H.I.E.LD.. The fact that “One Of Us” does not bother with a lot of recapping or repetition in order to move its story forward. In addition to making allusions to past events without simply repeating a lot of the prior information, “One Of Us” starts to fill in a lot of the gaps in some of the key characters for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

As a fan of Agent Melinda May, getting a second season episode that actually focuses on her is a treat. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has bloated its cast steadily since the late first season, while only taking three major casualties (two villains, one hero). So, putting May off to a supporting role for most of the second season is unfortunate. “One Of Us” rectifies that, as it picks up right after “Who You Really Are” (reviewed here!), where Mack had to knock potential Agent Hunter out (as part of his agenda with Morse) and Skye was revealed as a metahuman.

Opening in Coney Island, Cal visits Karla Faye Gidon, a woman whom he found in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s index. Gideon has long, metal fingernails and has not been able to touch anyone else for years thanks to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s influence and Cal recruits her to help him get revenge on Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. Skye, May and Coulson decide to put Skye on the S.H.I.E.L.D. special index and Coulson tasks May with recruiting a specialist to evaluate Skye. May visits her ex-husband, Dr. Garner, and brings him in to S.H.I.E.L.D. to evaluate Skye for the S.H.I.E.L.D. index. Garner is gifted when it comes to psychoanalysis and he insists on sharing his evaluation with Skye, even as he makes the evaluation. Cal breaks into one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s facilities, where he liberates some of the most dangerous criminals from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s index.

Aboard The Bus, Skye starts exhibiting her telekinetic powers while she is dreaming. Garner works with her and tries very hard to keep her calm. That becomes harder when Coulson realizes that Cal has taken his ragtag team of villains to his home state of Wisconsin. There, Cal unleashes Dr. Angar, who is able to incapacitate a pretty large population using just his voice. With Mack waiting for Morse to extract him and Hunter (who is his captive), the rest of the team tries to stop Cal from unleashing his villains on the world. Lured in, Coulson uses Skye against Cal to stop Cal’s public statement of revenge against S.H.I.E.L.D.

“One Of Us” is significant in that it truly changes the nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Up until now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has worked exceptionally hard to maintain a concept that it is a real world with a few minor tweaks. The Hulk is the result of a scientific experiment goes horribly wrong and the villains in that section of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are realistic military personnel who are attempting to contain what they perceive as a threat and soldiers who try to emulate the Hulk. Similarly, Thor belabors the idea that science and magic are not too dissimilar and he and Loki are not so much gods as from a different realm and virtually invulnerable in ours. “One Of Us” expands the roster of villains that has traditionally been limited to superspies and scientific abnormalities to much more comic book-y adversaries. While the episode makes passing reference to how Dr. David A. Angar was created, he is essentially a supervillain with a super-powered scream. He is, for all intents and purposes, a mutant (a la X-Men). The brilliance of “One Of Us” is that it softens the Marvel audience for Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch in Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

Outside the very comic book-ish villains (there’s the super-strong one, the one with the super power and, essentially, the serial killer version of Edward Scissorhands), “One Of Us” is one of the better character episodes of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Skye is still very much being explored. She has been mutated and now S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying to figure out the nature of her powers. “One Of Us” does a decent job of exploring Skye by answering some questions without giving it all away.

Melinda May is given more of a backstory and that is a pretty wonderful thing, as far as I’m concerned. While Cal is an enemy who is hardly monolithic, Melinda May has a richness to her backstory and the surface has only been scratched on that. The nickname of “The Cavalry” from the first season resurfaces in “One Of Us” and that is pretty cool. Unfortunately, in the process of building up Skye and May, “One Of Us” undermines Coulson.

Coulson, now the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. has all sorts of access to the resources of the super-spy organization. Why he and Morse go into the S.H.I.E.L.D. special facility without ear protection (knowing that Angar is there and Cal has unleashed the villains) seems especially stupid. Moreover, the whole idea that Morse is working clandestinely right under Coulson’s nose is disappointing for the character who is supposed to be the smart, ethical, leader of a new S.H.I.E.L.D.

All in all, though, “One Of Us” is well-acted, smart and progresses the story of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. surprisingly well!

For other works with Blair Underwood, please check out my reviews of:
The Art Of Getting By
Something New

[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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