As Skye and Jaying get to know each other, Skye finds out that the Inhumans played a part in the events that turned May into the Cavalry.
The episode is split between the present day and what happened 7 years ago. In the present day, Jaiying is working with Skye to help her understand how to control her powers. She and Skye talk about her issues with abandonment after being raised by an orphan and Skye presses her about why she cares so much. In a touching moment, Jaiying reveals to Skye that she’s her mother by recounting the day that she was born. Jaiying fills in some of the details for Skye about what she and Cal where doing to find her. Jaiying says that Cal lost himself in the search for Skye and that she remembers that he used to be a good man. She promises Skye that they won’t abandon her and that she’s safe on Afterlife. However, as the episode continues to play out, she tells Skye that she can’t tell anyone about their relation. Despite insisting that they’re different from SHIELD, one thing they have in common is that Skye could be viewed as a threat. Jaiying is in charge at Afterlife and she’s worried that people finding out about Skye could call the objectivity of her leadership into question.
It turns out that there was another woman who had gone through the mist the same way that Skye had (other than Raina) and it didn’t turn out well. That story is told, in part, by Jaiying to Skye as well as in flashbacks featuring May and Coulson. It starts with showing May at home, happily married and planning to start a family. Coulson arrives and the two head out to find a woman named Eva Belyakov, who’d evaded Russian authorities after smashing a car with just her body. They find the woman in Bahrain but the mission goes sideways and an entire SHIELD team is captured. Ironically, they were the men who were supposed to be the cavalry in a worst case scenario. Eva seemed to have been taken over by her own powers and was just looking to cause pain. When May went in to save the agents, she found them under her control and had to take some of them down by force. However, what only May and Jaying know about the events is that it wasn’t just Eva who was transformed. It turns out that Eva had stolen the crystals for her daughter. Jaying had warned that there was darkness in the child, but Eva didn’t listen. The child was the one controlling everything, not the mother. By now, it’s well known that May got the nickname “the Cavalry” because she took down a super powered person. What we find out in this episode, is that she took down two and that one of them was a little girl. The agents that she saved said that May was the real cavalry, but May is distraught about not being able to save the girl. Coulson tells her to let the girl go, but the events of that day changed May. She began to grow distant from her husband and dove back into field work. All of that led her to becoming the May that exists today.
That story is the reason that Jaying believes that the other Inhumans will be cautious of Skye and why she has to be able to protect her. If she hadn’t done so already, she likely would’ve been attacked by the other Inhumans after going through her transformation. The story convinces Skye to agree to keep their relationship a secret, but she has one other request. She wants Skye to have dinner with her and Cal. She believes that Cal has at least earned that much after losing so much to retrieve Skye. Skye reluctantly agrees after she promises that Cal will be taken away afterwards. When the dinner starts, Skye thanks Cal for reuniting her with her mother and Jaying gives Cal the opportunity to tell Skye more details about the day of her birth (she finds out she’s actually 26). Earlier, Gordon and Lincoln had been continuing the seemingly endless task of trying to comfort Raina. Gordon seemed to have finally gotten through to her but, during the exchange, Gordon overheard something. Raina explained that she had a nightmare where she saw Skye and her father having dinner. When Lincoln walks in on the dinner with Skye and her family he realizes that Raina’s dreams aren’t just dreams, they’re premonitions.
In the present day, it looks like May has taken up the other SHIELD agents on their offer. She’s not much help to them in figuring out what Coulson was up to though. They ask her about something called the Theta protocol and Coulson’s relationship with Deathlok, but she doesn’t actually know about any of it. She does get them to give her control of the base so that she’s the first contact for Coulson if they do happen to find him. She and Simmons start to go through the information that the other agents were collecting on Coulson and start to find some disturbing patterns. Coulson has been lying about where he’s going and stockpiling resources for the Theta protocol. Mack and Bobbi both assume that the project has to do with recruiting and training super powered individuals, but they don’t know for sure. Given her experience with powers, May wants to make sure that they’re not dealing with that and orders Simmons to get Fury’s toolbox open. Simmons continues to stall, not wanting to reveal that Fitz has the real toolbox. Fitz is actually being tracked by agents deployed by Bobbi as a precaution. He manages to open the toolbox while in a restaurant bathroom where he’s avoiding his tail. With the toolbox open, he contacts Hunter and Coulson to try to find a way to escape and meet up with them.
- The Cavalry
Finally, we get to see the story full story behind this hated nickname. I thought Ming-na Wen’s performance in this episode was outstanding. I always thought of May as kind of flat. This was the first time that I realized that she’s playing her that way on purpose. The character showed more emotional range than I would’ve ever thought possible in this episode.
- July 2, 1988
The story of Skye’s birthday was a big emotional through line for the episode. Every time someone told that story it seemed to open Skye up a little more. It didn’t hurt that both Dichen Lachman and Kyle Maclachlan really sold those scenes.
There were some really strong performances in this episode related to Skye’s storyline. It really carried an episode that was really just a flashback and a family reunion and made it entertaining. Then again, anytime an episode focuses on May, I’ve been a fan of it. I was surprised that I wasn’t thrown off by the big focus on Skye. Admittedly, she’s changed a lot since the first season and her being a stronger character now makes that easier to do. I thought the scenes with her training with Jaying were good, especially the one with the glasses. I had kind of wondered how they would start to manifest Skye’s abilities without it all being CG or eating up their whole budget, and that was a great example. These kinds of episodes keep me excited about the show overall even if it’s not the absolute best thing on TV. SHIELD continues to be above average and a great tie-in show.