"Melinda" is the seventeenth episode of the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
The story of Melinda May’s transformation into “The Cavalry” is revealed as she finds herself at a crossroads in the war between Coulson and Gonzales. As Skye learns more about her true heritage from Lincoln, the truth about the Inhumans will send her in a new direction.
In 2008, Melinda May and Phil Coulson were assigned to a mission to assess a potential gifted person in Bahrain. Should things go south, Agent Hart will call in a team of heavily armed TAC agents, "the Cavalry." Coulson tries to convince their target, Eva Belyakov, to come with him, but when he asks her what she wants, she only says "to feel his pain" and attacks him. A group of armed thugs help her get away and take a small girl hostage as they make their escape. "The Cavalry" follows them into a building to subdue Eva and rescue the young girl. Coulson and May listen on in a van and hear the activity in the building go silent. They hear sirens nearby, and Coulson sends May inside after the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents while he keeps the locals busy and away from Eva.
May calls Andrew, who she was still married to at the time, before she goes in. Once inside, May finds Agent Hart and his team in a hypnotic state. They surround her and say they want to feel her pain. Agent May fights her way out of them and goes to look for the little girl, but instead finds Eva Belyakov. She fights May with an inhuman strength. May however impales Eva on a broken piece of furniture, killing her. However, the hypnotized agents do not return to normal, and May soon discovers the young girl is controlling them all. Little do they know the girl is Eva's daughter Katya, and she has the ability to drain the emotions from a person with a touch, living off them like a parasite. Katya holds out her hand for May to grab and giver her her pain. Left with no other choice, May grabs the gun behind her and kills the girl.
Coulson, who was keeping the Bahraini army busy the whole time, rushes into the building when he hears the gunshot. He finds the bloodied May holding the girl's corpse. May was traumatized from the event, grew emotionally distant from Andrew, and soon after asked Maria Hill to be moved to a desk job. The members of Hart's team called May "the Cavalry" for how she took down so many of them, giving her the nickname she would despise until the present day. Meanwhile, Jiaying and Gordon watch these events from afar, as Eva and her daughter were both Inhumans who had defied Jiaying's orders.
In the present day, May was aboard the Iliad, the headquarters of the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D., after accepting Gonzales' offer to join his inner circle. Agents Morse and Weaver confront her over what she knows about Project Deathlok and the Theta protocol. Although she knew Coulson had some relationship with Mike Peterson, she truthfully has no idea what the Theta protocol is. At Afterlife, Skye begins her training under Jiaying. She has Skye cause an avalanche on a nearby mountain and hold a musical note to teach her to control the vibrations everything gives off. Meanwhile, Lincoln interrupts a session between Gordon and Raina that is going poorly. Lincoln tries to intervene, but Gordon brushes him off since Lincoln didn't undergo a physical transformation like he and Raina had. Once Gordon leaves, Lincoln tells Raina he could help her sleep, but she says her real problem are the vivid dreams she's been having. One of these is of Skye and her father having a dinner nice dinner with her father. Just as she thinks Skye could settle in at Afterlife, she goes into her troubled history with foster homes. When she says she doesn't even know what her birthday is, a heartbroken Jiaying reveals to her that she is her mother. Just as she thinks Skye could settle in at Afterlife, she goes into her troubled history with foster homes. When she says she doesn't even know what her birthday is, a heartbroken Jiaying reveals to her that she is her mother. However, she tells Skye to keep this a secret from everyone else at Afterlife, since they might find her too much of a threat and lose faith in Jiaying's judgment.
May returns to the Playground and asks Simmons if she knows about the Theta protocol, but instead finds out Simmons didn't even know she was working on parts for Agent Peterson. They eventually uncover Coulson has been operating a large number of shell corporations and burning through money, and that he has even been meeting with Dr. Garner in secret. Mack reveals they believe Coulson is building another base for powered people so he can train and exploit them. May orders Simmons to open Fury's toolbox. Back at Afterlife, Jiaying tells Skye the story of Eva Belyakov and her daughter Katya, to show how far a woman might go for her daughter.
Later that day, Jiaying arranges for her, Cal, and Skye to meet. Cal is grateful they would give him another chance, but instead Skye thanks him for causing her to reunite with her mother. Cal gives his daughter a bouquet of daisies and starts to tell her the story of the day she was born (which leads to Skye finding out she is a year older than she thought) over dinner. Lincoln sees this, and realizes Raina's dreams are actually visions. Meanwhile, Fitz manages to get the Toolbox open in a public restroom, and contacts Coulson with his findings. He doesn't know what to do next since he correctly believes the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. is following him in hopes he will lead them to Coulson. Coulson and Hunter tell Fitz not to worry, and they're coming to get him.
- Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson
- Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May
- Chloe Bennet as Skye
- Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz
- Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons
- Nick Blood as Lance Hunter
- Adrianne Palicki as Bobbi Morse
- Henry Simmons as Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie
- Ruth Negga as Raina
- Kyle MacLachlan as Calvin Zabo
- Jamie Harris as Gordon
- Christine Adams as Anne Weaver
- Blair Underwood as Andrew Garner
- Dichen Lachman as Jiaying
- Luke Mitchell as Lincoln Campbell
- Kris Lemche as Ethan Johnston
- Terrell Tilford as Agent Hart
- Derek Phillips as Agent O'Brien
- Winter Ave Zoli as Eva Belyakov
- Ava Acres as Katya Belyakov
- Brendan Wayne as Jiaying's Assistant
- Ben Wise as Blue Jacket
- Omid Zader as Burly Gangster
- Hani Al Naimi as Faisal Ahmed
- Houshang Touzie as Colonel
- Branden Morgan as Tac Agent #1
- Alex Paez as Tac Agent #2
- Antonio Leon as Bahranian Soldier
Continuity and References to the Marvel Cinematic Universe
- Triskelion is mentioned.
- Anne Weaver returns.
- Jiaying returns.
- Saint Agnes Orphanage is mentioned.
- The Avengers are mentioned.
- Project T.A.H.I.T.I. is mentioned.
- Avengers Initiative is mentioned.
- Fury's Toolbox appears.
- Andrew Garner returns.
- Several Quinjets appear.
- Nick Fury is mentioned.
- Lian May is mentioned.
- Mike Peterson appears on the monitoring video.
- Project Deathlok is mentioned.
- Gordon returns.
- Lincoln returns.
- Terrigen Crystals is mentioned.
- Terrigen Mist is mentioned.
- Kree City is mentioned.
- Raina returns.
- Calvin Zabo returns.
- Lola miniature car appears.
- Maria Hill name appears on the document files.
- According to Jiaying, Skye was born on July 2, 1988. In real life, Chloe Bennet was born on April 18, 1992.
- In the first flashback, which takes place around 2008, Agent May mentions that S.H.I.E.L.D. is putting every dime into the construction of the Triskelion, as seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, this is flawed. At the beginning of Ant-Man, the Triskelion was already under construction, in which that sequence took place in 1989.