Given its holiday break and extended seven-week hiatus while Agent Carter’s second season played out, it would have been understandable for Agents of SHIELD to slowly return to form, but tonight’s episode quickly felt like it never left.
The episode kicks off with a teaser of three months from now gazing at the planet from a space shuttle. A cross necklace, a splatter of blood floats while a SHIELD insignia is visible just before an explosion. My immediate thought was the show is going to be doing its take on The X-Men’s Phoenix saga with an Agent having to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Mack quickly discovers the culprit, an Inhuman named Elena (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) who gets a superspeed boost in a heartbeat. Who needs Quicksilver? On a foreshadowing note, Elena is sporting the chain the mysterious space agent was wearing, but that’s clearly a red herring.
After the usual miscommunication fight, Mack and Elena realize they’re on the same side. It helps that the police captain unleashes his Inhuman officer on Bobbi and Hunter thanks to a nifty paralysis power and kills Elena’s cousin. I’m glad Mack hasn’t gotten lost in the shuffle of the more powerful team members and having a non-Inhuman leading the Secret Warriors will help them stay grounded.
Elena isn’t ready to commit to SHIELD full time so she gets a cool SHIELD watch/communicator that can alert her or SHIELD in case of emergency. And a code-name of Yo-Yo from Mack, who seems to have a little crush. By the way, where was Fitz or Simmons with the portable translator so everyone could understand and communicate with Elena?
I wasn’t a fan of also placing Joey on reserve status. The Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t have a lot of prominent Latino characters and his skill set isn’t something that’s constantly been overdone. Perhaps the writers backed themselves into a corner having such a powerful character on the team, but I would have kept Joey 100 times out of 100 over Lincoln in his spark-free romantic subplot with Daisy. Never one to miss out on a new asset, HYDRA snatches the Inhuman officer to add to their squad.
With Mack leading the field team and battling/fighting alongside Inhumans, Coulson’s subplot felt boring by comparison. Despite killing Ward, the trigger man who assassinated Rosalind, Coulson wants the man who ordered the hit — Gideon Malick. But no one, not even President Ellis (William Sadler) wants to cross him.
From what we’ve seen so far, Malick hardly seems this intimidating, untouchable figure so it felt more of a storyline convenience for Ellis not to offer any assistance in tracking Malick down than fear of retaliation. Ellis did offer his secret endorsement of SHIELD even if the ATCU has to be the public face of the Inhuman response team. Coulson needs to hire a P.R. team.
Coulson opts to do the next sensible (?) thing and tap into Werner Von Strucker’s brain to get some insight. Lincoln is opposed to it and seems like he’s being positioned as the Season 3 version of Sky constantly questioning Coulson’s decisions while everyone else happily follows orders. This paid off with a neat modern spy thriller scene where Coulson comes to the secret room with just a phone and a table and warns Malick they’re going to take him down.
Fitz and Simmons’ storyline also felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. Killing off Will felt like such an uninspired decision and it had the predictably expected consequence of eliminating all the tension with Fitz and Simmons. Now there’s no obstacle for them being together beyond the writers wanting to drag it out as long as possible.
It’s still early, but I’m not feeling reanimated Ward in the worst way. Evil Ward was by far the most interesting character on the show and his effort to restart HYDRA in his image was a lot more intriguing than him playing host body for an Inhuman. What’s most annoying is the writers could have had it both ways and let Ward retrieve the Inhuman, who was using Will as the host body. That would have put Simmons in an emotionally conflicted state desperate to save Will, thus giving her and Fitz something to do for the remainder of the season and allow Coulson to continue his blood feud against Ward. What we have now seems like the worst possibility.
In the post credit scene, Ellis has lined up Rosalind’s replacement as the head of the ATCU – Glenn Talbot. The show has been hot and cold with Talbot’s portrayal. One episode he’s every bit the tactical equal to Coulson and the next he’s slightly more serious than comic relief. This has potential though so I’m curious to see how it plays out.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: ABC