Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 15, "Yes Men" RETRO-REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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“Yes Men” is probably one of my favorite “tie-in” episodes with a Marvel movie—at least in terms of pure fun value.  It diverges from the main storyline which has just started picking up steam, but I actually like that they will occasionally diverge; it seems realistic for an international peacekeeping agency to be called on to juggle a number of different threats simultaneously.  The episode gives us a little insight into a few of the characters, but it blows the doors wide open on the possibilities for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the wider Marvel Universe.

Note:  All "Retro-Reviews" contain spoilers for all of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seasons 1-2.

The episode begins with Skye still recovering from her two gunshot wounds and subsequent miraculous recovery.  Simmons is taking multiple blood tests in an effort to recreate the GH-325, but Coulson is blocking her efforts to bring in outside help.  Coulson is afraid because he now knows that the “miracle” that brought him back to life and saved Skye’s life came out of a dead alien, and he doesn’t want it getting out until they know if there will be any side effects (spoiler alert:  there are).  I actually find Simmons’ efforts to crack the secret of GH-325 interesting, particularly her statement that as a S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist she has a duty to pursue the GH-325 because it may save lives.  This is the beginning of a major arc for Simmons which extends through the remainder of this season and the full second season.  Pursuing the GH-325 ultimately leads into their pursuit of the mysterious writing, which placed Skye and Raina in the Kree temple with the Diviner and resulted in their Terrigenesis.  It is only after all of this that Simmons realizes that she has been tampering with things she can’t control.  And that is a major turning point for her character.

Meanwhile, we find out that Coulson has been spending a lot of time away from the Bus trying to track down Fury.  At the beginning of the episode Coulson is in Lola having a flashback to his discovery of the blue alien.  He wakes up and we see that he is waiting in a parking garage for a S.H.I.E.L.D. car driven by Agent Sitwell.  Unfortunately, Sitwell does not know where Fury is because he is off the grid.  Apparently, no one knows where he is.  Where this falls in the Captain America: The Winter Soldier timeline is uncertain, but I’m pretty sure the attack on Fury’s life is still a week or so away (after the events of “End of the Beginning” (1x16)), so this can’t be happening during the time that Fury was presumed dead—and if it was, I’m pretty sure Coulson’s contacts would have told him as much.  I think the likelier possibility is that Fury found out that Coulson was close to finding out what had been done to him, and had decided to dodge all his calls until he absolutely had to explain everything to him (which happens a lot sooner than he would hope).

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Coulson’s search for answers is interrupted temporarily when S.H.I.E.L.D. picks up atmospheric readings consistent with the Bifrost being opened.  S.H.I.E.L.D. sends Coulson’s team (sans Coulson, who is off with Sitwell) to act as the “welcome wagon,” along with a few SUVs of backup agents.  As they are nearing the site, the readings suddenly spike again as the Bifrost is opened and Sif appears in the middle of the road.  Fitz runs facial recognition on her and identifies her as a friend of Thor’s at the same time that Sif notices the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo and realizes that they are friends.  Sif tells them that their world is in grave danger, and Coulson’s team agrees to help her with her mission to recapture Lorelei, the Asgardian woman who first appeared at the end of the previous episode, “T.A.H.I.T.I.” (1x14).  Lorelei has the ability to bend men to her will simply with the sound of her voice and with a touch.  She escaped from the prison on Asgard in the confusion when the Dark Elves attacked during Thor: The Dark World, and came to earth through one of Loki’s passages.  Sif was sent by Odin himself to recapture her and return her to Asgard.  Sif also has a collar which will render Lorelei mute and break the spell on her victims.  I like how this ties the events of the episode directly into the prison break in Thor: The Dark World:  this is a natural result of the events in the movie.

The team brings Sif back to the Bus, where she is surprised when Coulson walks into the briefing room, reaching for her sword and demanding, “What dark magic is this?  Thor said you perished at the hand of Loki” (would you want an angry Sif reaching for her sword the moment she saw  you?).  Coulson quickly calms her down by explaining that S.H.I.E.L.D. had a few tricks up its sleeve and managed to bring him back.  Sif is glad to see him alive and comments that Thor will also be pleased because he considers Coulson a friend, a feeling which Coulson reciprocates.  However, Coulson asks Sif not to tell Thor about him because he would prefer to do it himself, and Sif consents.  In other words, Thor’s not hearing about Coulson from Sif.

That is not the only fan theory that Sif debunks with her visit to Midgard; she also answers the age-old fan question of “Do Asgardians understand human technology, or will they go into a Berserker rage the moment a wall talks to them?”  The answer comes when Coulson tries to explain the holo table to Sif:  “I’m familiar.  It’s an antiquated system we and other realms had ages ago.”  Boom!  So Sif has absolutely no trouble in using S.H.I.E.L.D.’s advanced technology.  In fact, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s most advanced technology is as exciting to the Asgardians as a first-generation scientific calculator is to us today.

While he has an expert on other planets available, Coulson decides to press her for information about his blue alien problem.  Sif mentions 7 races of blue aliens, including “Interdites, Levians, Pheragots, Kree, Sarks, Centaurians… Frost Giants.”  Of the 7, three should be familiar to us.  The Kree control a major empire in the Marvel Universe, and several of them have appeared both in the comics and in the movies:  Captain Mar-Vell (the original “Captain Marvel”) and his assorted family members, Ronan the Accuser, and Vin-Tak (the Kree from “Who You Really Are” (2x12)) are the most obvious that come to mind.  Centaurians are aliens from Alpha Centauri—and the same species as Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy.  And of course the Frost Giants should be self-explanatory.  However, the other four races she mentions are also from the comics, though we have not seen any representatives in the movies yet. Be that as it may, Sif assures Coulson that the only race she mentioned which had been to Midgard was the Frost Giants, whom Asgard defeated a millennium earlier.  Of course, we now know that to have been inaccurate as the Kree experimented on early humans many thousands of years ago, producing the Inhumans.  However, even at the time we knew that it was not entirely correct; there was some sort of blue alien in the Guest House.  We didn’t know who or what he was, but the best guess was that he was alien.  Was Sif lying?  She might have been lying to protect Coulson and the humans from the truth, but she could just as easily have not known that the Kree had experimented on humans.  The latter may in fact be true; in “Who You Really Are,” Sif told Vin-Tak that Asgard knew of the Kree Terrigenesis Project, but seemed surprised that Earth was one of the planets involved.

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The team finds several police reports from the area around where Lorelei first appeared showing that she is beginning to amass an army.  S.H.I.E.L.D. goes to investigate, and we learn that Lorelei has enthralled a biker gang and turned them into the core of a new army.  The gang tries to protect Lorelei from Sif and S.H.I.E.L.D., but Sif defeats them and puts Lorelei to flight, at which point she take Ward as her new man and he escapes with her to Las Vegas.  While in Vegas, Lorelei and Ward have sex before luring the team to their hotel room.  While S.H.I.E.L.D. is distracted, Ward and Lorelei sneak onto the Bus, where Lorelei enthralls Fitz, who locks Simmons and Skye into the med pod before tricking Sif into entering the Cage.  Lorelei and Ward meanwhile go to the cockpit and take off as soon as the team is back on the Bus.  When they are in the air, Ward opens the Cage roof, causing Sif to be sucked out, though she manages to grab onto the outside of the plane and avoid getting blown away.  Coulson frees Skye and Simmons (giving us an amusing moment when Simmons tries to brain Coulson, fearing that he is under Lorelei’s control).  He tells Skye to open the Cage again on the assumption that Sif is still out there, and uses Simmons to lure Fitz down to the lab, where he knocks him out.

In the meantime, May goes for the cockpit, confronts Lorelei and Ward, and engages in a vicious fight with Ward that ends with him holding a gun on her and her holding its magazine (one of the benefits of a no-magazine safety).  While May and Ward are fighting, Lorelei goes to retrieve Sif’s sword from the Cage, but stumbles upon Sif.  The two of them fight, with Sif defeating her.  Before Sif can put the collar on her, Lorelei first begs Sif to leave her on Midgard and then tries goading her into killing her.  However, Sif puts the collar on her, breaking the spell.

The episode ends with Coulson explaining the blue alien to Skye and telling her that the two of them together would have to track down Fury to find out exactly what had been done to Coulson and what the blue alien really was.  However, May is listening in, and makes an encrypted log update that “Coulson knows.”  What is going on with May????

I really enjoyed just about everything about this episode.  Bringing Sif into the mix was a lot of fun, especially seeing her with first Coulson and then May.  She and May in particular seemed to hit it off—and that’s not surprising since they share certain personality traits.  I think Sif has gotten more character development from 2 episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (this one and “Who You Really Are” (2x12))—less than 1½ hours not counting commercials—than she has gotten from 2 Thor movies.  She was hurt deeply the last time Lorelei was loose, when someone she loved was placed under Lorelei’s control—and odds are that it was Thor.  She really wanted to kill Lorelei, but in the end her duty to Odin prevailed and she brought her back to Asgard instead.

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Lorelei was an interesting villain who showed just how much variety is possible in strong female characters.  On the one hand, Sif warns that Lorelei is a skilled warrior (though not as skilled as Sif herself).  On the other hand, Lorelei does not fight her own battles, but uses her “feminine wiles” (and magic) to entice men into fighting for her.  She is every bit as powerful and strong as any other character in the MCU, but she uses her sexuality (her “femininity”) as part of her package of abilities rather than repressing or ignoring it.  However, at the same time there is someone whom Lorelei fears:  Sif.  Lorelei is a strong and powerful woman, but she is afraid of another strong and powerful woman because Sif is her match physically and immune to her magic.  This makes her a really interesting and nuanced villain.  I really think that Lorelei has a chance of reappearing in the MCU at some point—probably in conjunction with 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok.  We know that after the events of Thor: The Dark World Odin is no longer Odin, but is actually Loki in disguise.  So when Sif brings Lorelei back to Asgard and delivers her over to “Odin,” she’s really handing her over to Loki.  It is entirely possible that Loki will be using Lorelei in some way, shape, or form—either using her powers to ensure that all the men in the kingdom are completely loyal to him, or simply using her to keep Heimdall from seeing through him and warning the others.  Either way, she could be the key to Loki’s control of the Nine Realms.

In all, I thought this was worlds (*ducks*) better than the actual Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tie-in episode with Thor: The Dark World because it picked up key story beats from the movie, brought in a character from the movie, and even introduced a new character who could transition back to the movies in the future.  It gave us a lot of nice humor, answered a few fan questions, and helped to develop several characters (particularly May).  There were plenty of better episodes in season 2, but I would rank this one as one of the top 5 for season 1.

What did you think of “Yes Men”?  Do you want to see Lorelei again in a future movie or TV series?  What was your favorite Sif moment on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

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