Agents of SHIELD viewers finally learn the whole story behind Melinda May's "Cavalry" title, Skye finally meets her parents, and Raina may have gained her favorite superpower! But how, if at all, does this tie to the comics?
This was definitely a bridging story, tying together various loose threads, but dang if it wasn't a fulfilling one. May's origin seemed both heartwarming and tragic, and Skye's familial bonds felt genuine – good stuff!
The bigger question is where everyone will go from here. Is Skye getting too powerful to be part of her mundane team? With internal tensions building between Coulson, May, Bobbi and the rest, will the main cast ever trust each other again?
Also, with May now part of Earth-616, the universe of Marvel Comics, will she eventually transition to fulltime superhero with the name "Cavalry"? Hey, Bobbi did. She was introduced rather casually, was eventually revealed to be a SHIELD agent and then jumped straight into costumed heroics.
The Spoiler-Light Recap: This is the origin story.
In the Inhuman community enigmatically known as the Afterlife, Skye is training with her Guide Jiaying. Skye learns everything shakes at its own frequency, and tapping into that frequency allows her to affect specific subjects, like causing an avalanche on a mountain across the valley or maintaining the tune on musical water glasses. That level of range and skill is pretty frightening (especially for any animals or wayward hikers on that mountain), but the implications of vibrational control at a molecular level are staggering. Flash, for example, vibrates at the frequency of solid objects to run through them. Also, the classic method for comic book characters to travel between realities is "vibrational attunement." So, does this mean Skye could one day make things intangible or cross realities? Sure, why not.
Skye also learns that Jiaying is her biological mother and that her real birthday was July 2, 1988 (a year earlier than she was told). It seems when Whitehall tore her apart to find the secret of immortality, Cal was able to piece her back together. Is that creepy or impressive? And here all this time it was heavily implied that she was dead! Skye, meanwhile, was rescued by non-Hydra SHIELD agents and bounced from foster home to foster home, including a stint at St. Agnes (no doubt she ran into a blind teenager while she was there), all the while hoping her real parents were looking for her. As it turns out, they were, but the search drove her father Cal insane.
It's revealed that Jiaying isn't just one of the Elders, but apparently the one in charge, which makes Skye's presence so controversial. Although the Inhumans have many different cultures and cities around the world, they are all very hierarchal and structured. The Afterlife community is very careful about who they select for Terrigenesis, and Skye has the double whammy of not being properly vetted, and being the boss's daughter. Jiaying wants their familial bonds kept secret to avoid accusations of nepotism. Eventually Skye consents to a family dinner, reuniting Cal, Jiaying and Skye for a moment of happiness (which Skye warns never last).
Meanwhile, another Guide, Gordon, is helping Raina, or attempting to at least. While Raina still struggles with her painful transformation and Gordon explains that he can sympathize with her situation, Lincoln realizes Raina may have the gift of prophecy – Raina may actually be clairvoyant. Imagine, after an entire season of her believing in the power of prophecy only to be devastated to learn she was misled, she might be able to see the future all on her own! It's not uncommon for Inhumans to gain extrasensory powers, so this makes sense for Raina (though not as flashy or exciting as causing earthquakes or teleporting).
By the way, Gordon calls Lincoln Sparkplug. Now, it's quite probable that this is just a silly nickname referencing Lincoln's sparky powers, but in the comics it is important for Inhumans to take an "Inhuman name" following Terrigenesis, usually a name that reflects their new self. "Sparkplug" is as good as any in that regard.
Skye also learns that the Inhumans were unintentionally responsible for the incident that made Agent Melinda may a legend while simultaneously devastating her personal and social life. Seven years ago, a super-strong Inhuman named Eva Belyakov, originally from Russia, stole Terrigen Crystals from the Afterlife allow her daughter Katya to experience Terrigenesis. Jiaying previously forbid Katya from the experiencing the mist because she "saw darkness in the girl." Although her name seems superficially like "Yelena Belova" to Western ears, Eva is not the evil Black Widow. Interestingly "seeing darkness" inside someone is the power of the Inhuman Luna, daughter of the Avenger Quicksilver. Does this mean Jiaying has similar powers?
Not all Inhumans have powers, and each Inhuman culture careful vets potential Terrigenesis candidates. The Inhuman Iridia went many years before she was finally granted special permission by the king to transform. When Katya does change, she becomes a powerful and mentally unstable telepath – leaching and controlling emotions – desiring the "pain" of others while commanding them to dish pain out. Power-wise she seems very much like the Skull from Earth-X. In that reality, Terrigen Mist transformed nearly every non-powered person in the world into an Inhuman, and one little boy (who was, interestingly not an Inhuman) possessed the power to make everyone in the world do what he wanted, and he was quite mad.
And this brings us back around to Melinda May. See, back then she and her husband Andrew (called "Drew") lived a fairly happy domestic existence and were planning to have children soon, but Agent Coulson showed up to let May know Gifted individual – Eva Belyakov – was causing trouble in Bahrain. Along the way May shares music with Agent O'Brien and receives orders from Agent Hart, and everything seems to go as planned for a bit. During some small talk, Coulson describes the retiring of the current fleet (including ships like the Iliad maybe?) to focus on the Triskelion (the big base from Captain America: The Winter Soldier), and Fury's new "Initiative" to "form a team, take Earth's mightiest and find out if they're heroes." Yes, that's about as blunt as you can get, he's talking about the Avengers Initiative that led to the formation of the eponymous team. "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" has been the tagline for the Avengers since forever and was the name of the best Marvel cartoon of the past several years, sadly canceled before it's time.
In Bahrain they meet up with local agent Faisal Ahmed and track Eva to a local black market. Coulson tries his usual recruitment attempt, but Eva would have none of it as she's already under Katya's control, asking to see Coulson's "pain." She upends a table, joins some local militia fighters, has Faisal killed, and lures the SHIELD TAC team (including O'Brien and Hart) into a nearby building.
As the mission's Specialist (what they call Black Widow or Hawkeye skill level SHIELD agents), May was sent in for a rescue before local military forces or the interested Russian intelligence agencies could arrive. Successfully fighting off a dozen mind-controlled SHIELD agents and the superstrong Eva, May is forced to find an ultimate solution to the threat Katya poses. Shooting the girl dead, May is declared a hero, called the "Cavalry" for saving the agents from "at least 30 men," but the experience traumatized her. Now recoiling from her husband's touch, she seemed to sour on the idea of family life and convincing her to request a desk job in Maria Hill's office. Jiaying blames herself as she and Gordon were nearby when the incident went down, but were unable to reach the Belyakovs in time.
We finally know the story behind May's Budapest.
Back in the present, May has apparently accepted a leadership role with "real SHIELD" and convinces her new co-workers to give her back the Playground base. While Gonzales is in Shanghai, Agent Weaver tasks May with uncovering secrets of the Theta Protocol and Coulson's connection to Project Deathlok. It seems Coulson has been covertly reallocating assets, funding some major construction project through shell companies and ordering 100 bunk beds. Although initially intending to go along with it to placate "real SHIELD," May seems to grow increasingly concerned as she learns more about Coulson's activities. The Theta Protocol was last mentioned in "What They Become " when Coulson assigned the Koenigs with implementing it, but the details haven't been spilled yet.
Meanwhile, "real SHIELD" agents are not-so-covertly monitoring the errant Fitz who finally unlocks Fury's Toolbox and contacts Hunter and Coulson. Although Fitz believes he's trapped in a fast food restaurant bathroom, Hunter assures him that he can use the electric hand dryer to affect an escape.
Next week: the teams gather and SHIELD agents pick sides!
Included in the "special thanks" section as usual was artist Herb Trimpe. It seems Herb passed away this week, but he'll surely be missed. Longtime comic fans will know his work from classic runs of Hulk, GI Joe and even some Savage Dragon comics as recently as a few months ago, to everyone else he'll at least be remembered as the first to draw Wolverine.
Herb, you will be missed.
Kevin Garcia is a professional educator and freelance writer whose work has appeared in Marvel Comics, the Associated Press and on various blogs. As a fan, he doesn't get paid to write Secrets of SHIELD posts about Marvel shows – or any other geeky posts for that matter – but hey, wouldn't that be nice?