Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the team encountered another Inhuman in the form of Yo-Yo, expanding the already ever growing ranks of the Secret Warriors. Coulson got a new job in the form of the ATCU’s new director, having to now work alongside long-time annoyance to the team, General Talbot. On the villainous side of the picture, Hive/Ward continues to absorb information, and people, as Hydra regroups following their weighty defeat at the end of the midseason finale. With Talbot and Coulson now paired up to attend a united conference determining the fate of the Inhumans, will things go according to plan? Of course not! What show do you think you’re watching here?
Our episode begins with former Agent Ward’s walking corpse encountering the Inhuman who was previously captured by Hydra in last week’s episode. I didn’t really touch upon this last week, but this new Inhuman, who seemingly takes inspiration from the Marvel villain, Gorgon, with his ability to freeze people in place, has a fairly neat design. His sunglasses being molded into his face so as to flip them down over his eyes at any time is a fairly innovative design, though I would have to wonder if someone shattered them just how far up shit’s creek he would be. Here, Hive demonstrates a new ability in being able to take influence of Inhumans around him, though he makes a note that he is unable to take their bodies for his nefarious schemes as “Inhumans can’t mix with one another.” Again, I had mentioned this in the previous episode, but Brett Dalton has really been given the chance to show off his acting chops throughout this series. From loyal, milquetoast companion to entertaining villain to calm, Hannibal Lecter-esque alien, he has far exceeded expectations when it comes to being a versatile actor. Anyhoo, Ward controls Gorgon and continues his road to recovery.
Meanwhile, the shaky relationship between Coulson and General Talbot kicks off with Glenn’s wife leaving him, seemingly, due to his new work assignment. Certainly not the best way to kick things off on the right foot. Adrian Pasdar has always been something of an overlooked, albeit worthwhile addition to the show with the “love to hate” character that is Talbot. His stuffed shirt approach also makes for some humorous beats, especially when Phil and himself reach the “Symposium on Alien Contagion Summit” and Talbot blunders the fact that his ceremonial garb isn’t a dress. Alongside Talbot is the not so charismatic return of Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man. When watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a lifelong comic book fan, there are just times where it’s tough to separate characters from what we know of them from the comics themselves. With Absorbing Man, it’s a great character with a rich backstory that could be used to great effect even if it were changed up a bit. Here though, he has little to no personality to speak of, simply acting as Talbot’s lackey, scowling and acting menacing throughout the proceedings. For a guy who can literally turn into anything he touches, I wish he’d figure out a way to absorb some charm.
On the Secret Warrior side of things, Lincoln begins to train with Agent May in order to learn how to add “espionage” to his list of skills that already includes shooting lightning out of his hands. Last season, I thought that one of the interesting things they added to Lincoln’s character was the fact that he had been struggling with addiction problems before becoming an Inhuman. Here, it seems as though a lot of his past is pushed to the side in order to placate his joining of the team along with his budding relationship with Daisy. It’s a logical step for the character to move toward but ultimately, makes for a boring one as we just saw this all happen with Daisy and it feels as if we’re simply treading old ground. Speaking of treading old ground though!
With the Inhumans, the concept of the world leaders assembling to try to figure out what to do about them seems sound in theory, but much like the complaints I’ve mentioned, it’s one we’ve seen too many times before. I think the show needs to honestly take a step back, stop putting so much of its focus on all the problems that the Inhumans are creating, and try to move in a new direction because this simply doesn’t seem to be gelling that well with the show overall. The X-Men have long been a Marvel staple and trying to shoehorn the Inhumans into their place does somewhat of an injustice to both properties. I know that Marvel Studios wants their own roster of easy-to-create heroes and villains, but at least with last season, the Inhumans inhabited an out-there locale of the isolated mountains in a society of their own creation. Walking down the same old paths of seeing leaders squabble about what’s to be done with these super-powered folks feels stale, and especially the idea of getting them all into one country to secretly turn them into weapons for that country’s needs. Season 2 had a LOT going on but not everything was Inhuman related; it found its right moments and stuck its landing, whereas Season 3 seems to be floundering a little with this latest episode.
Back to the plot: The rest of the team begins infiltrating the compound in order to try to discover who Hydra’s “inside man” actually is at the symposium. Lo and behold, and in something of a nice reveal, General Talbot is revealed to be the betrayer, immediately calling for Coulson to be carted away, stating that he is the director of Hydra. The truth is pretty much revealed though that Talbot is actually working for Hydra as his son is being held hostage by them as leverage. As Hydra attempts to kill both Coulson and Talbot, Creel saves them both and the rest of the team takes out some nameless thugs in somewhat of a decent action sequence (though again, nothing we haven’t seen). The team manages to save Talbot’s son, in effect saving Glenn’s marriage, as Hunter and Bobbi sneak aboard Gideon Malik’s plane in the final stinger of the episode.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to step things up a bit. I feel like the previous midseason finale was a misstep for a solid season that’s caused something of a tail dive that they haven’t quite yet been able to pull themselves out of. There’s a few neat ideas to be found but it feels like we’re going through the motions on a lot of plot points and character development here. With too many super-hero television options out there, especially with Netflix’s Daredevil dropping this week as well, Agents needs to separate itself from the pack and somehow manage to find a more juicy hook to reel audiences back in. As it stands, the series is passable but I wouldn’t give it a recommendation moving forward if things don’t drastically improve.
Rating: ★★ Fair
Agents of M.I.S.C.E.L.L.A.N.E.A.
– Crusher Creel was something of a Secret Warrior this episode, but in the comics, it’s actually his son with powers similar to Pops that joins the team. We’ll have to see if they decide to keep Creel on the payroll moving forward.
-The Watchdogs got a mention, and apparently will be appearing on the show soon, as an alien-hating band of internet commenters. In the comics, the Watchdogs are a terrorist organization that usually hassle Captain America (and were responsible for the Cap knock-off, U.S. Agent’s family’s deaths). They’re nothing too spectacular to write home about in general, but we’ll see if Agents can bring a new twist to a tired formula.
– Lincoln: “No one would ever intentionally cut their hair like that.”
– Coulson: “S.H.I.E.L.D. remember? We roll like that.”
– Coulson: “We don’t get to kill people in cold blood but we got a great retirement plan.”
– Bobbi: “I love you.”