Saturday, March 7, 2015

Genocidal Simmons?

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Warning:  SPOILERS for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 11, as well as previous episodes.

The Internet (or at least the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.-related corner of it) has been abuzz this week with “Genocidal Simmons.”  Quick Recap:  In the most recent episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., she made the somewhat startling request to Director Coulson that the team hunting for Raina be given orders to bring her in alive or dead.  Then when talking to Skye she called the process of Terrigenesis a “contagion” at best; a plague at worst.  In her estimation, it needs to be understood, but only for the sake of eradicating it—along with anyone who “suffers” from it.  Everyone’s response has been something along the lines of “No!  She can’t wipe out the Inhumans!  She wants to commit genocide against an entire race!  Noooooo!”

Don’t worry.  She’s not genocidal.  Or at least not intentionally.

In objective terms, yes, Simmons is proposing genocide against an entire race of non-humans (or “humans with the potential to be more” in Raina’s terms).  What else could she mean by saying that her experimentation with alien technology has unleashed a plague on the world?  What else could she mean by proposing that Raina be captured or killed to prevent it from spreading?  In objective terms, this is proposing genocide:  wiping out the entire race of Inhumans to prevent them from hurting the regular humans.

To the viewer looking at it from the outside—who knows and understands what happened in “What They Become” and is excited to see the Inhumans introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe—this is unfathomable, especially from a biologist who’s been interested in studying and understanding these things and helping people with these abilities up until now.

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Unfortunately for her, Simmons just doesn’t know what we know.  She doesn’t know that there was already something different about Raina (and Skye) before the Terrigen Crystal inside the Obelisk activated.  She doesn’t know that the Terrigen Crystal changed something within Raina (and Skye), but did not do so to Tripp (who did not have Inhuman DNA).  She doesn’t know that Terrigenesis only affects Inhumans, not humans.  She doesn’t know that Inhumans only have a little more in common with humans than Asgardians do.  All she knows is that something happened in the Temple which changed Raina and killed Tripp.  Simmons saw that Raina turned into a “monster” with quills/thorns all over her body and sharp claws that made quick work of her colleagues’ throats.  Raina’s DNA was radically different from normal human DNA; almost like she’s a totally different species.  In contrast, Tripp was turned to stone and crumbled into tiny pieces.  To her mind, the only things which can result from exposure to this Mist are death and destruction.

And because she kept on pushing to study it and to understand it—because she didn’t try to stop Skye and Coulson from pursuing it—she feels responsible for the two deaths and three injuries—and counting!—which Raina caused, to say nothing of Tripp’s death.

Simmons is facing something she has never dealt with before, and she’s trying to fit it into her own understanding of how super powers work.  Over the course of this show she has witnessed the effects of dozens of different experiments on alien technology:

·         The Centipede project turning Mike Peterson into a living weapon liable to explode at any moment
·         Her former professor attempting to turn an island upside down with gravitonium
·         The aftermath of Centipede’s experimentation on Chan Ho Yin, a.k.a. “Scorch”
·         The Chitauri virus
·         The Berserker Staff
·         A man trapped between two different dimensions in a reactor explosion
·         Coulson’s and Garrett’s seeming devolution into madness brought on by experimentation with alien blood
·         Lorelei’s ability to take over men’s wills simply by the sound of her voice

And that’s just in Season One!  In Season Two she witnessed firsthand what Donnie Gill, a.k.a. “Blizzard,” could do because of his experimentation with the ice machine—he could freeze people solid with a touch, something she nearly experienced firsthand.  Hydra’s experimentation on the Obelisk produced a poison with the ability to turn people to stone.  Looking at all of these incidents, it’s not surprising that Raina’s transformation and Tripp’s death would have Simmons questioning the benefits of their experimentation with alien technology like the Obelisk.  If the Obelisk and objects like it can cause so much destruction (turning Creel to stone, killing Tripp and countless others, transforming Raina into a hideous monster), maybe it and things like it should be destroyed and avoided.

We know that’s completely ridiculous, but we know what’s going on.  All Simmons knows is that scary things are happening and she doesn’t understand them.  When she realizes that what she is proposing would result in the genocidal massacre of an entire distinctive race/species—a race/species which includes her friend Skye—maybe she will be horrified at what she was suggesting.  And if she is not, then we will know that she really is genocidal.  Until then she’s just confused.

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