I had some hope than an episode written by Jed and Maurissa would help elevate proceedings on SHIELD; the direct involvement of showrunners almost always filters out the noise and clarifies a show’s voice. But the only thing clarified here is the fact that SHIELD doesn’t really have a voice. Mae’s background has been one of the few tantalizing bits of serialization on this show, a mystery that promised to make her something other than a stock character if only we gave it a little of patience. Well, after eight episodes of hearing hints about Mae’s background, “Repairs” lets us… hear about Mae’s background. Clunky exposition is not the way build character, particularly when its connection to current events is tenuous at best.
“Show, don’t tell is” the first rule of drama and that alone is enough to make this retelling of Mae’s background perplexing. Some flashback would’ve killed more than a few birds, breaking us out of SHIELD’s formulaic structure, removing the more tiresome characters and oh yeah, actually giving us the story that’s been teased since the Pilot. Instead we get Coulson telling us that she killed a bunch of people and was traumatized by it. Seriously? If you’re going to make the mystery background exactly what we could’ve guessed, then at least give us some badass action sequences. Better yet, actually show us these events in a way that might make us feel some empathy for Mae as we watched her move from carefree rebel to rigid hardass. Coulson telling us what we should feel just doesn’t cut the mustard.
As I said, expositing this story is perplexing enough, but the baffling decisions don’t end there. Even as my hopes of seeing the damage in Mae’s past were dashed, I thought that we were at least going to see it reflected in the present. There’s a “demon” onboard the ship, and that would seem an ample opportunity for Mae to unleash her own but just when it looks like we’re in for a creepy cat and mouse game, she’s moving to a far less interesting venue and using her words to resolve this situation. Since we’ve seen nothing to make us identify with Mae, the climax of her identifying with the ostensible villain just can’t work.
I’d call this episode a ripoff, except that I wasn’t all that invested in Mae’s background to begin with. I was just mildly curious, but that’s about as much interest as SHIELD’s able to muster in anything at this point. Nearing the halfway mark, the goodwill I brought into this series at the outset has expired and it has done little to earn more. Mae’s background was one of the few cards, however small, SHIELD was still holding and for it to have misplayed it so badly does not bode well for the rest of the season.
Skye continues to pull ahead in the worst character ever category. She’s back to baseless insistence in being involved, even where she has no demonstrable qualifications. “But I wanna talk to her!” just comes off as whining and Coulson’s beginning to look like an idiot for keeping her around. Given the fact that her insights are limited to “God is love,” the “maybe the best ever” comment feels entirely unearned.
Fitz screaming in terror at his own prank may have been the only good moment in the episode.
So, Mae and Ward turned out to be more than a one night stand. Ok, I guess.
I know it’s not fair to compare this to real Whedon shows, but Skye joining Mae in the cockpit brought home just how vastly inferior this series is to Firefly. There’s absolutely no chemistry between these two, nor do I get any sense of a budding friendship or deepening respect. Contrast the Bus with Serenity where any two characters could have a scene together and make it seem effortless.