The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. return with new episodes for the new-ish year of 2016. When last we left the team, the alien world had been vastly explored by Coulson, Fitz, and crew, while in the process, Ward had his chest caved in by an angry Phil. Fear not those who may miss Brett Dalton’s portrayal of the MCU antagonist, though, as he is still in the fold having been possessed by the alien organism originally responsible for the formation of Hydra: Hive. Currently swimming with parasites of an Inhuman origin, Ward is residing with the big bad Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe) who is the de facto head of Hydra with the organization currently in shambles. While the heroes are currently still on the trail of rogue Inhumans, and reeling from the loss of Rosalind in the first half of the season, this week’s episode gives us a more personal story and a new direction for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But is it an interesting one?
To keep folks tuned in, the episode shows us a sneak preview of the future of the show with a spaceship orbiting the earth. Inside, everything begins exploding as the logo of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent can be seen consumed by the flames. Is this pointing toward another loss in the series? I’m a sucker for getting brief hints of the storyline and playing connect the dots as events of the present spin forward, much like the current season of Arrow has been doing. From here, we’re jettisoned back into the present in Colombia, where the Policia are having their guns stolen in the blink of an eye. Little do they know that they’re being assaulted by the newest Inhuman, soon to be member of the Secret Warriors, Yo-Yo.
We’ve seen a lot of super powers at this point both on television and on film, and the trick is to present abilities in a new way to keep folks interested. Luckily Yo-Yo’s powers are interesting in how they’re shown here. Granted, she has the ability to move at superhuman speeds, which we’ve seen plenty of with the CW’s The Flash, though her ability — only being able to be used within a single heartbeat, before snapping her back into her original location — is different enough to differentiate her from the pack. S.H.I.E.L.D. has done a good job with introducing new cast members through the platform of Daisy’s Secret Warriors, and continues the trend of introducing quirky, compelling powers to boot. As more Inhuman characters enter the fold, hopefully we can keep following this path, and who knows, maybe another spin-off with these characters could work down the line along with the upcoming Marvel’s Most Wanted.
Back to Coulson and crew, the President of the United States meets with Phil in the apartment of the deceased Rosalind to talk about the group’s future. With the ATCU now effectively out of commission, POTUS wants S.H.I.E.L.D. to take the reins and work as a shadow organization, with the defunct organization as a front for them. In a sense, it’s a nice mixture of the new status quo while also adding in a dash of the old (with the group working for the government), but also being its own thing, reporting to no one. Later on, you can see it coming who exactly they’re going to pick to be the figurehead for the ATCU, but it still works, and plays on the team’s past while offering some promising tension/hilarity in the future. More on that later though, as the team begins their new mission, same as it ever was.
Before going into the weaknesses of this episode, I wanted to cap off another strength of the series in Brett Dalton’s performance. Now a gaunt, almost otherworldly figure in the newly branded “Hive”, former Agent Ward manages to demonstrate a great range here by presenting a slightly spooky antagonist for the team to encounter, even though it’s someone they’ve locked horns with dozens of times in the past. It’s essentially giving Ward fans their cake and letting them eat it too by having the new villain also be the old in a roundabout way. As Hive begins regaining his strength, and learning more about the planet he’s landed on, he gives a stark, emotionless performance that is something we haven’t quite seen in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s great, although I still wish they had devoted a few minutes to explaining how exactly he ended up on Earth … but I suppose that will be something that’s revealed down the road.
Now, onto the less than stellar aspects of the series: it’s facets of the show that we’ve explored before. Once again, the show just seems too top heavy, and there are just too many characters to keep track of at any given time. The team of Secret Warriors is now bigger than ever with a four man team of Daisy, Lincoln, Joey, and Yo-Yo and that’s not even taking into account the team of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. proper that has double those numbers at least, to say nothing of the villains and the ancillary characters such as the President and Talbot. It’s a lot, and it leaves very little screen time for more of the cast to sink to get any real narratives. The show needs to determine a way to be lean and mean moving forward and cut the fat when needed, though I suppose with Hunter and Bobbi on their way to their own spinoff, this may be the case.
Oh Fitz and Simmons, what to do with you two? The “will they or won’t they” road has been mined to the point of frustration, and you would think that now with no obstacles in their way, and with astronaut Will in the ground on an alien world, this would finally be the time for these awkward scientists to get together and put this plotline to rest already. No such luck, though, as Fitz and Simmons decide that the best route to take is to start from the beginning of their relationship and metaphorically “meet each other” once again. Sigh. The series needs to “shit or get off the pot” with them already, as this feels more drawn out than Rachel and Ross from Friends, and that was 10 seasons!
Minus the hiccups, the re-entry into the world of S.H.I.E.L.D. should placate most die-hard fans of the series, but still needs to shrink its cast in order to bring it back to the heights it has previously reached.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Agents of M.I.S.C.E.L.L.A.N.E.A.
-Mack and Yo-Yo relationship on the way? Seems like it.
-Yo-Yo leaving the team doesn’t seem so much as a story necessity as it does the showrunners not wanting to spend the budget/effort on figuring out how to incorporate her full time.
-Talbot acting as the new head of the ATCU, reporting directly to Coulson is a nice change of pace as I really dug what the show had done with the character in past seasons.
-President – “Fox News won’t shut up!”
-Coulson – “I prefer it to bureaucracy.”
– Mac – “You two deserve each other.”
-Ward/Hive – “They’ve advanced but they haven’t changed.”
-Mac – “At S.H.I.E.L.D. we do better than duct tape.”
-May – “You joined the cavalry.”