‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ appreciation series: Melinda May’s 5 best episodes
Since the news broke at San Diego Comic Con that Phil Coulson is no longer with us (though Clark Gregg makes his presence known, as director of the first episode of season 6), I’ve been optimistic about what the current team lineup could mean – new dynamics, for sure, but with so little knowledge, no one can really know.
To celebrate the current lineup, I thought it would be fun to do a series of articles looking back on some of the team’s greatest episodes. With over 100 episodes under their belt, narrowing down to five episodes per character was damn near impossible, but I’m happy with what I ended up with.
Today, I’ll be focusing on Melinda May – Coulson’s right hand woman with a traumatic past, who has arguably gone through some of the most development on the show. Without further ado, let’s look back on the Calvary’s greatest hits.
“Melinda” by DJ Doyle
“Melinda”is the ultimate May episode – I mean, how could it not be? It’s titled after her, for God’s sake.
After two seasons of vague references to what went down in Bahrain that left May so traumatized, “Melinda” finally brought us the answers we wanted. Just as Coulson explained in season one, she and Coulson were meant to be the welcome wagon for an enhanced individual, that quickly went awry.
The enhanced individual, a woman named Eva, takes both locals and a S.H.I.E.L.D team hostage, so May offers to go in to rescue them. She soon discovers the hostages are being mind controlled, presumably by Eva. A fight between May and Eva ensues, and during the struggle, May kills Eva…
Only to discover it was never Eva controlling them to begin with, it was her young daughter, Katya. May tried to reason with her, but Katya kills some of the hostages with her mind, and May is forced to kill Katya, releasing the other hostages.
When Coulson and the rest of the squad rush into the building, they find a distraught and bloodied May clinging to Katya’s body, utterly broken. The flashbacks continue with a montage contrasting the May we knew before Bahrain – the one that happily showered with her husband, and joked with her best friend – by showing her alone, and afraid to be touched (Katya’s powers were activated through touch).
It’s a tearjerker for sure, but the story was a much needed insight into May’s character.
“Face My Enemy” by Drew Z. Greenberg
Not only is this a great May episode, it also happens to be one of my favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes in general.
When a painting miraculously survives a church fire, Coulson and May go undercover at an auction to recover it before Hydra does, due to its surprising connection to Coulson: the same alien language Coulson has been compulsively writing is carved into the back of the painting.
“Face My Enemy” is pure Philinda fun – it’s pretty much straight outta fan-fiction. Coulson’s adorable glee about going undercover contrasted with May’s bitter exasperation is a pairing I’ll sorely miss in season six.
The episode isn’t all fun and shippy goodness, though. It’s revealed down the line that Coulson is afraid he’ll go down the same path as John Garrett, and comes up with the plan that, if it becomes necessary, May will put him down. Throughout the episode, Coulson attempts to broach this subject, but May refuses to acknowledge it until the end, where she reveals a plan of her own: ship him off somewhere, alone, but very much alive.
Although Coulson shoots down this plan (though admitting it’s the sweetest thing anyone’s offered him) leaving the two in silence, as May finally accepts.
Not to mention, you have that incredible fight scene between May and Agent 33. What’s not to love?
“Beginning of the End” by Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon
A lot of things went down in the show’s first season finale – between the FitzSimmons love confession that left me sobbing uncontrollably (thanks guys), Fury (!), and Director Coulson, it’s hard to focus on just one character, but May easily shines in this episode.
Although “End of the Beginning” doesn’t give us insight into May’s character, it does give us some of her most badass scenes, and a kick ass one-liner (literally): “I’m just ready to kick some ass.”
But honestly, the reason this episode makes the list for me is because May kicks Ward’s ass, specifically. After watching him all but condemn FitzSimmons to death the episode before, May absolutely wrecking him was quite the therapeutic experience – for me and for her.
“The Man Behind the Shield” by Matt Owens
Honestly, season 4 is my least favorite season of S.H.I.E.L.D, but it did have its gems – like “The Man Behind the Shield,” a flashback-heavy episode that explained why the Superior loathed Coulson so much.
Although my reaction to the Superior’s pity party backstory was similar to Coulson’s, the episode is an absolute delight because it gives us insight into May and Coulson’s dynamic before Andrew and before Bahrain. Hint? There was a lot of flirting.
After May being absent for most of season four (thanks to Aida and Radcliffe kidnapping her and uploading her into the nightmare world known as the Framework), having an episode with so much May was a breath of fresh air – and all the laughs were a must, too, during such a serious storyline.
It was a nice bit of levity and shippy fun before the writers decided to traumatize me for life with the next episode, “Self Control.”
“The Last Day” by James C. Oliver & Sharla Oliver
After seven episodes of the team trying to figure out what the hell happened to Earth in between surviving a post apocalyptic nightmare box run by the Kree, “The Last Day” brought us answers, albeit from a now aborted timeline.
The team arrive on the remaining part of Earth’s surface, and is brought in to the Zephyr – which survived the apocalypse, alright! – by the remaining true believers, a group of people who still believe in the possibility of the S.H.I.E.L.D squad saving the earth from destruction.
Among them is Robin, an Inhuman woman with prophetic powers, who – once upon a time – had trouble distinguishing between timelines. During the episode, we have flashbacks to Robin’s life, wherein it is revealed that May raised her after her mother, Polly, died.
The flashbacks give us a glimpse at the life our beloved characters would live after the catastrophic event that would lead to Earth’s destruction – we learn that Coulson, Daisy, Mack, and Polly all died, and that, at some point, Jemma would die as well.
The episode gave us a good glimpse at May’s softer side, and probably the best glimpse of the season six lineup so far – despite Daisy and Mack’s absence – with May and FitzSimmons working tirelessly to figure out how their previous selves could be successful where they were not, once the loop starts over.
In that timeline, May is the one to keep the hope alive – calming a distraught and panicked Fitz down, promising Robin that one day she would see a timeline where they did succeed.
At the end of the episode – and in the current timeline – Robin is killed, and May holds her as she dies, comforting her one last time as Robin gives her final prophecy: the team would save the world.
And they did, but at a cost.