It’s been some considerable time coming, but at long last we get to see why May stepped away from being a field agent, and what she has had to overcome in order to become Phil Coulson’s right hand person once more. The primary focus of the episode is on this flashback to Bahrain, but it is neatly interwoven into Skye’s discovery of her family at the Inhumans’ retreat, with the audience provided with more information than any of the characters (even if Kyle MacLachlan feels wasted in this episode – if Twin Peaks isn’t happening next year, they can set more stuff up involving him.)
Thankfully there aren’t major attempts to make the regular characters look younger in the flashback – NCIS Los Angeles proved this week just how dangerous that can be, with a dire attempt to strip the years from Hettie – but SHIELD uses its colour palette once more to indicate when we’re outside contemporary time. Until you reach the end of the episode, you don’t realise how little we actually see of what Coulson is up to at the moment, but what’s being revealed about his recent activity does explain why the “real” SHIELD was concerned! (And I wonder if said activity is setting things up for the mooted SHIELD spin-off…)
There’s one truly shocking moment in the episode, which forms the catalyst for May’s retirement. As I’ve noted in the relevant Daredevil review, it’s a particular theme that that series also tackles as well, and it’s SHIELD, I feel, that does so better, with the consequences of May’s actions reverberating through her personal as well as work life.
Verdict: A shocking moment provides some answers, but the show is continuing to pose new queries. 7/10