“One of Us” is a title filled with meaning on this week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It could refer to Skye’s ongoing dilemma about trying to fit in with the team since developing earthquake powers, it could refer to whatever covert operation Bobbi and Mack are working, it could be a reference to Calvin Zabo’s US Festival of super-villainy, and it could also refer to the nature of S.H.I.E.L.D., an organization that’s gone through tremendous changes and is struggling still with its own identity: is S.H.I.E.L.D. now the kinder, gentler door-to-door salesman version, or is the Draconian S.H.I.E.L.D. of old sitting somewhere under the surface, still ready to react with severity in the threat is super-human in nature?
The main delight of “One of Us” was the return of Calvin Zabo played with wonderfully deranged charm by Kyle MacLachlan. MacLachlan’s performance as Skye’s insanely determined father has been a highlight in season 2, and now outside of the relationship to HYDRA or Whitehall, Calvin was free to be as mad as he wanted to be.
So, you’re a madman whose vengeance obsessed, and you want to get payback against the man that turned your daughter against you and took your place as her father figure. What do you do? Form a super-villain team, of course.
Yes, Zabo forms a Legion of Doom – sorry, wrong universe – a Masters of Evil out of a bunch of criminals that S.H.I.E.L.D. put away on their “gifted index,” a watchlist of people with peculiar powers. Zabo recruits Karla Faye Gideon, a woman with metal nails; Wendell Levi, a wizard with technology; Francis Noche, who’s super-strong; and the final side of the quintet, David A. Angar, who can make you unconscious just by opening his mouth. I’m not sure if their was a tacit bit of foreshadowing there, but it’s worth noting that the King of the Inhumans, Blackbolt, has a similar ability in that if he speaks with more than a whisper, he can lay a mountain range to waste.
With the villains set, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. did something I wish it would do more of, show what happens at the intersection between the ordinary and the extraordinary. The scene where Zabo and the others are eating in the diner was perfectly weird for how hard it tried to say, “Hey, we’re just five people out for breakfast.” I love how nobody asked why Angar was sitting there with a metal muzzle strapped over his head, or how no one seemed to react when Zabo smashed a cup in a fit of flashback rage (“I have some volatility issues,” he says candidly). Are people in the Marvel Universe getting used to the abnormal?
In the end. poor Zabo’s second best revenge plot also hits a snag though. Luring Coulson to his hometown of Manitowoc, WI, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team prove themselves a match for the quintet of villains, thanks in part to Skye, who was volunteered to use her father’s concern about her ending up in a deep dark hole against him. But ultimately, it’s not S.H.I.E.L.D. that ends Zabo’s sorta half-hearted revenge scheme, it’s Gordon, the eyeless Inhuman. Zabo was making too much noise, but it’s not for Gordon to decide what happens to him.