“Training is not a group activity”
Well, last week’s episode ‘Aftershocks’ was a bit of a dud. Nothing really happened of much substance. It represented the worst of Agents of SHIELD; those episodes that are merely padding, and not much more. However, maybe we needed a dull episode to break us into the second half of Season 2. And ‘Who You Really Are’ everything ‘Aftershocks’ wasn’t: gripping, entertaining and moving along at a rapid pace. Also, the added benefit of guest star Sif really boosted proceedings.
A guest star from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is always welcome, and this episode brought us kicking and screaming into that same universe (because, let’s face it: why else are we watching it?). Sif, as it happens, had a spot of short-term memory loss. We find out that it was caused by a Kree named Vin-Tak (the aliens from Guardians of the Galaxy) with a special mind-erasing truncheon. He comes equipped with Star Trek-esque bulges in his forehead, and only turns blue every so often (part of his disguise). Those two plus an appearance of the Destroyer/BFG used in ‘The Avengers’ made it feel that SHIELD was part of something larger.
Unfortunately, Vin-Tak was a one-dimensional character (I have a mission…and that’s all you need to know about me!). However, what seemed to me like a throwaway enemy turned into something that explained some SHEILD’s various plot strands. The Diviners and the Kree city under San Juan were given origins. Namely, they were part of a Kree attempt to build super-soldiers, or ‘abominations.’ The revelations bring together all the other things bubbling under the surface of ‘Who You Really Are.’
“You were designed to be put down”
Sif and Vin-Tak both want the same thing; to destroy the Diviners. However, when they find out that Sky has become a product of the Diviners, they want to destroy her (a similar attitude to that of the radicalized Simmons). Coulson and co. protect Sky from the raging duo, and in the end Sif allows Sky to live (and Vin-Tak has his memory erased). Whilst Bobbi and Mack are fighting Vin-Tak, Bobbi mentions ‘real back-up.’ What are they planning? The truth about Sky sends shockwaves through the rest of the SHIELD members. Simmons in particular is horrified that Fitz kept Sky’s secret from her. Earlier on, Simmons advised that SHIELD use heavier suppression in their fight against aliens…
The episode comes to a fully-realised climax, and everything that has happened before comes to a head. It’s something that rarely occurs in the average SHIELD episode, and it had me glued to the screen. The title of the episode really says it all. Sif eventually finds out who she really is. Fitz’ radicalization becomes apparent to all. Everyone finds out what happened to Sky in the Kree City. And, in a cracking post-episode teaser, Hunter finds out that Bobbi and Mack are up to something…but is quickly put in a sleeper hold by Mack.
“There are tides in this universe that you cannot swim against”
That’s what Sif says to Coulson near the end. In the same sense, an episode of SHIELD cannot passion without a few flaws stinking the place up. The plot relies on more than a few conveniences; SHIELD find Vin-Tak awfully quickly, for example (and with little explanation). They surround him with the greatest of ease at one point! A fear I had in the last episode was that the conspiracy between Bobbi and Mack would drag on and on. That fear hasn’t been realised yet, but every scene between the two shoved the fact they were hiding something down our throats. A little subtlety, please? Like I mentioned before, Vin-Tak is another cardboard cut-out character. But I cannot grumble much. This episode rates among the best that SHIELD has to offer.
VERDICT: 8/10. If SHIELD can be more like ‘Who You Really Are’ and less like ‘Aftershocks,’ we are in for a hell of a treat in the coming episodes!
(Click here for my review of Episode 11: Aftershocks)