'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' Recap: What is the Deal with Melinda May?
So far, Melinda May has been Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s stoic and mysterious character. Why is she nicknamed "The Calvary"? Why does she act like a robot? What exactly happened with her and Ward in last week's episode? Tonight's show supposedly answered these questions, but it did so in its special Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. way, which is essentially answering a question with another question.
So here's the part where I talk about this episode's plot-of-the-week, which had another vaguely superhero-y element and two more characters you will never have to care about again. This time, we have a "ghost" that's actually a man who got caught between two worlds after accidentally causing an explosion just to see the co-worker he had a crush on. These superhero procedural episodes continue to do absolutely nothing for the show's development, but this one was at least particularly fun because the whole "ghosts and demons (but not really)" storyline allowed the show to play with some horror-movie elements. The strobe light-esque fight sequence between Melinda May and the "ghost" Tobias was a notable example that turned that trope on its head, with Melinda getting away instead of being ambushed by the "ghost."
Even better, the show's B-story actually involved the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew interacting like humans instead of agents on another mission we don't care about. Fitz-Simmons decide to prank the "freshman" of the crew, Skye, and of course the results are hilariously awful. Even better, Melinda May gets involved in the pranks in the end tag and even goes so far as to let herself smirk. These smaller moments with the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew may not reveal any secrets, but they're almost more important to have in the show since it allows the audience to bond with and care about the characters. Some of the biggest criticisms of the show so far are that people just don't care about the agents on the show, and letting audiences laugh at Fitz "experimenting" with pranks can slowly start to solve that problem.
The pranks also introduce some of Melinda May's backstory when Fitz-Simmons create a grandiose backstory to tell Skye about May's famous nickname (She was on horseback! She defeated 100 men! She had two guns at her side!). Of course, Skye eventually gets the truth about "The Calvary" out of good old Agent Coulson. But true to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. form, even A.C. doesn't know exactly what happened that left Melinda May a completely different person than who she was before. We get to see Melinda May battling some of her demons as far as forgiving herself goes, but we still don't learn what really happened. Sure, she rescued hostages unarmed, but why should we care? Because right now, we don't even know who Melinda May is, much less who she was.
The only Melinda May mystery we seem to get an answer to is yeah, she definitely slept with Ward. Not only was that the least-expected hookup on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Plane of Sexual Tension (seriously, did anyone see that coming?), but we have no idea about how either character feels about the encounter. Is there a magical love connection? Was it a one-night stand? Does the "S" in S.H.I.E.L.D actually stand for "swingers"? Not a clue.
So yeah, we may not have cracked the code of Melinda May in this episode. But we got to have some fun with the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, explore some horror tropes, and no one called Tahiti a "magical place," so not all was lost. And according to the sneak peek of next week's episode, we'll soon see the return of Mike Peterson (cue me throwing my fists in the air and yelling "Hell yeah!" in front of my television). Maybe he'll help us solve some of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s ever-growing pile of mysteries. And if not, well, at least Angel fans will have a nice throwback to the Joss Whedon days of yore.