‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: A Backstory in Desperate Need of Repairs

By  · Published on November 27th, 2013

“Repairs” gave me a huge bout of wisher’s remorse.

Last night’s stinker of an episode did three things I’d wanted from the show – to reveal May’s backstory and the origins of her very cool but unwanted nickname, to acknowledge that May and Ward had sex, and to show how the existence of supernatural forces affects real-life people

And it bungled all three of them.

“Repairs” was supposed to be the episode that differentiated Melinda May from a catatonic psychiatric patient with a pilot’s license and a black belt in kicking ass, or at least explain how she got that way. On this front, showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon’s underdeveloped script absolutely failed. After a couple of false starts (she killed a hundred people on horseback; no, it was just twenty), Coulson puts an end to the mystery (kind of) with a deflating tale about how May performed the soul-destroying task of being good at her job of rescuing people, and has been haunted by the memory of it ever since. Um, okay.

The nonstop irritation machine that is Skye is pretty harsh to May, at one point suggesting to Ward that the older woman needs to get laid (because that’s the best solution to healing trauma!). So it was clear from the hour’s initial moments that Skye would be forced to eat those words later. Coulson gently admonishes Skye by drawing parallels between the two Asian women – they both like to have fun and break the rules sometimes – but it doesn’t really work because that commonality is shared by most of the main characters. And also human beings in general.

Playing up May’s sexuality was another way to get her character seem more human. But it looks as though the Melinda-Ward coupling was a one-time deal to be swept under the rug and never spoken of again.

But the “A story” of a good Christian woman, Hannah, thinking she’s being tested by God when people suddenly start dying and objects start flying around was the weakest part of the hour. Unless they’re in some kind of mainstream media-eschewing doomsday cult, Hannah’s neighbors should know that some weird mojo has descended upon their universe. (Norse gods, for one.) And yet they all but burn Hannah at the stake for being a witch when she escapes being blown up in a lab explosion and a gas-station fire.

The ongoing denial of telekinetic powers has become an SHIELD in-joke, not unlike Firefly’s gags about the nonexistence of extraterrestrial beings. So when it turns out that the industrial accident at Hannah’s workplace didn’t endow her with special abilities after all, the question becomes, “What’s that weird wisp of a man aboard the plane?”

On that note, let’s dig into some more logical inconsistencies:

  1. Why would Tobias, the dead man who’ll burn down a gas station because the guy behind the counter yelled at the girl he likes, let the SHIELD team knock Hannah out and carry her aboard their plane?
  2. Why the hell would SHIELD bring a girl they think is capable of mass destruction via the power of her mind onto their mid-air vehicle, even with a no-ESP zone?
  3. Why would Coulson and Company, after discovering that the lab where Hannah and Tobias worked was trying to pry open a portal to different dimensions, not return to the scene of the crime immediately and investigate who was trying to create a Hellmouth and why?

Because this is TV, there are a couple of punches and kicks thrown around before Melinda convinces Tobias that he needs to let go of his earthly attachments and just let himself drift off into hell. A happy ending for everyone! Except the audience.