Sunday, May 10, 2015

What's Going on with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans?

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So Jiaying decided to start a war between the Inhumans and S.H.I.E.L.D.  Does that make her the “big bad” of the season?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think Jiaying’s goal here is to destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. or take over the world or anything so dramatic.  I suspect that she wants to show S.H.I.E.L.D. that the Inhumans are not to be trifled with, that they are not a group that S.H.I.E.L.D. can—or should try to—control.

Simply put, I think Jiaying is scared of S.H.I.E.L.D.  I think she’s acting out of character, acting out of fear.  She said as much to Gonzales:  “Fear drives us to do things we would otherwise never do.”  If she were not afraid of S.H.I.E.L.D.—of their Indexing and of their intentions toward her people—she probably would not have killed Gonzales and incited war between their peoples.  And I think the fear runs both ways.  S.H.I.E.L.D. is just as frightened of the Inhumans as the Inhumans are of S.H.I.E.L.D.  This makes me wonder if there is a possibility for the war to conclude without both groups being destroyed.

So how possible is that?

The first thing we need is to understand both sides’ fears.

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Jiaying and the Inhumans

The Inhumans are scared.  That much is pretty obvious.  But what are they scared of?  We do not know too much about their history, but it doesn’t take much extrapolation to figure out that they have been discovered by humans on occasion—even if the humans did not understand what they had discovered.  Regardless, none of those discoveries have ended well for them.  During World War II, the Inhumans somehow came to the attention of Hydra (who somehow acquired one of their Diviners).  Hydra captured Jiaying herself—along with who knows how many other Inhumans.  Jiaying escaped Whitehall that time, but she was captured again by Hydra 45 years later.  Clearly Hydra was looking for the Inhumans (though they did not know they were Inhumans).  In recent years, Hydra has continued searching for them because they are “enhanced” and can be used as potential weapons.  Whenever Hydra has discovered one of them, they have tortured and killed them—by vivisecting them!  And that’s just in the last 70 years.  How many other would-be conquerors have discovered the Inhumans over the course of their long history?

[Edit:  I forgot one minor detail... that Kree Weapon of Inhuman Destruction in the Iliad's cargo hold.  Who knows what S.H.I.E.L.D. is planning to do with that?  Do they know what it is?]

So the Inhumans fear S.H.I.E.L.D. and what they may do to them now that they know of the Inhumans’ existence.  That’s bad enough, but S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t exactly made it easy for the Inhumans to trust them.  Their two demands of the Inhumans make it clear that they expect to bring the Inhumans into line with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s expectations:  They want to place all the Inhumans on their Index, and they want to stop any Inhumans who step out of line.

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Indexing the Inhumans would place them entirely at the mercy of S.H.I.E.L.D.  As soon as S.H.I.E.L.D. knows who the Inhumans are, where they are, and what they can do, S.H.I.E.L.D. can step in and shut them down whenever they want.  And it is not limited to S.H.I.E.L.D.  Look at what happened to Donnie Gill (“Blizzard”):  He was taken to a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, but Hydra brainwashed him into serving them anyways.  He was used as a weapon against S.H.I.E.L.D. agents when Hydra came out of the shadows.  The same thing happened to Carl Creel (“Absorbing Man”), and to countless other enhanced individuals who were on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Index.  Chan Ho Yin’s (“Scorch”) information was stolen from the Index by a hacker and sold to Hydra, who captured him, experimented on him, and eventually killed him.  If the Inhumans are placed on the Index, Jiaying’s fear is that they will be at risk of having the same thing happen to them that happened to all those other enhanced people who trusted S.H.I.E.L.D. with their information.

However, I suspect that the second part of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s “offer” was even more unacceptable to Jiaying and the Inhumans.  S.H.I.E.L.D. offering to keep the Inhumans in line would take away the Inhumans’ independence and secrecy.  It would place them under the jurisdiction of regular humans (whom their ancestors left behind millennia ago).  It would subject them to the whims of S.H.I.E.L.D. and whoever is in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D.  And it is not S.H.I.E.L.D.’s place to ensure that Inhumans do not “misuse” their powers (whatever S.H.I.E.L.D. decides that means); it is the place of the Inhumans themselves.

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It should be fairly straightforward to imagine what S.H.I.E.L.D. has to fear from the Inhumans.  Simply put, S.H.I.E.L.D. views itself as an international peacekeeping force responsible for protecting innocent people from things they cannot comprehend.  This includes responding to, overcoming, and hopefully covering up anything unusual and “weird.”  They monitor anything that can be considered a potential threat—meaning anything with unusual or extraordinary abilities.  Up until now they have kept a list—the Index—of people with unusual or unexplainable gifts.  Most of these are harmless, like Chan Ho Yin; however, some of these are extremely dangerous (whether due to lack or control as in the Hulk, or due to an evil nature as in Absorbing Man).  Some of those on the Index are simply monitored, while a few need to be eliminated as threats (as they attempted to do to Absorbing Man).  However, regardless of the reason for each person’s inclusion on the Index, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been able to count on one thing:  “It’s a short list.”  At least, it was a short list up until now.

Now that the Inhumans have come to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s attention, S.H.I.E.L.D. has to seriously reconsider their whole purpose—and effectiveness.  There is an entire race of powered people who have been living among them for millennia—of whom S.H.I.E.L.D. was completely ignorant up until now.  Some of these people have powers S.H.I.E.L.D. probably has not encountered previously—Skye can make the world shake, Lincoln can zap all their electrical circuits just by waking up, and Gordon can appear and disappear wherever he wants at will.  And those are just the Inhumans they know about; there are an unknown number out there with potentially more dangerous powers than the 3 they’ve seen in action.  For S.H.I.E.L.D. to continue their mission of protecting civilians from those who might harm them, they need to turn all of these “unknowns” into “knowns” by putting them on the Index and understanding their powers.  Unless they can do this, they—or at least Gonzales—do not think they can properly do their job of protecting people.

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A second source of fear for S.H.I.E.L.D. comes in the form of Gordon himself.  In the MCU we have not seen teleportation before.  The closest we have come are the tractor beam-esque device used by the Ravager ships in Guardians of the Galaxy to transport people short distances and the Bifrost.  However, neither of those comes close to bona fide teleportation.  With teleportation, Gordon can appear anywhere he wants without any advance warning.  He can bring anything or anyone with him if he so desires.  And he has done both of those things in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s presence on multiple occasions:  He abducted Raina, Cal, and Skye right out from under S.H.I.E.L.D.’s noses.  He teleported himself and Raina inside their aircraft carrier without any advance warning.  And if he can get himself and Raina into the aircraft carrier, he could just as easily transport an army into the aircraft carrier and out again after blowing it up.  When you think about it in these terms, S.H.I.E.L.D. has every right to be terrified of what the Inhumans are capable of.  And this isn’t the end of it.

Above all else, I think the scariest thing about the Inhumans for S.H.I.E.L.D. is that S.H.I.E.L.D. does not know their motives.  When it comes right down to it, I think S.H.I.E.L.D. would prefer to know for a fact that the Inhumans want to attack S.H.I.E.L.D. and kill innocent people for fun; at least then they would know that there is a problem.  As it is, they know nothing about the Inhumans or their motivations beyond two snippets:  The Kree, Vin-Tak, who came to investigate Skye’s and Raina’s transformation in “Who You Really Are” (2x12) called the Inhumans “weapons” designed by the Kree as foot soldiers in a galactic war; Skye told Coulson that the Inhumans “just want to be left alone.”  Which of those most closely describes the Inhumans and their intentions vis-à-vis the humans whom S.H.I.E.L.D. protects?  S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t know.  And that scares them.

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So How Can This Conflict Be Resolved Positively?

In most cases, the solution to fear—especially fear of the unknown—is knowledge.  Based on this, the only way this S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. Inhumans conflict can be resolved without mutual annihilation is for both sides to learn about the other.  I think S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to learn about the Inhumans and their history.  Knowing how ancient the Inhumans’ culture is and how long they have maintained their (relative) isolation and privacy with only a handful of incidents like Bahrain may be what it takes for S.H.I.E.L.D. to believe that the Inhumans desire nothing more than to keep to themselves and stay out of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s way.

On the other side of the equation, I think the Inhumans need to learn about S.H.I.EL.D.’s intentions toward them—from someone they trust.  If the Inhumans understand and believe that S.H.I.E.L.D. consists of good people who want to save lives and keep innocent civilians safe from things they do not understand, I think that would go a long way toward alleviating their fears of S.H.I.EL.D.’s intentions for them.  The fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. was infiltrated by Hydra—and that Hydra used the Index to “recruit” and brainwash enhanced people into doing their bidding—may prevent the Inhumans from ever fully trusting S.H.I.E.L.D., but knowing that S.H.I.E.L.D. has rid itself of Hydra may help.  Finding out that S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to protect people may help the Inhumans decide that S.H.I.E.L.D. is not their enemy.

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However, I don’t think any of this will happen by itself.  I think that both sides need to learn about the other from someone they trust—specifically, the one character we’ve met who has had good experiences with both sides:  Skye.  If Skye can convince S.H.I.E.L.D. to treat the Inhumans with a greater measure of deference—and the Inhumans to afford S.H.I.E.L.D. some measure of trust—it may be possible for this “war” to conclude to everyone’s satisfaction without major loss of life.


Assuming that the Inhumans and S.H.I.E.L.D. decide not to destroy each other, I don’t think things are going to go back to the way they were before S.H.I.E.L.D. knew of the Inhumans’ existence.  How can they?  S.H.I.E.L.D. now knows that there is a large group of enhanced people living alongside the regular humans.  That is both a potential threat and a potential opportunity.

I doubt that the Inhumans will ever allow S.H.I.E.L.D. to Index them—and to be honest I will be disappointed if they do.  In fact, I doubt that S.H.I.E.L.D. will be able to exert any authority whatsoever over the Inhumans at the end of the day.  However, that does not mean the Inhumans will vanish into the shadows never to be heard from again.  If the Inhumans decide to trust S.H.I.E.L.D. (to some degree), I think the two groups will find ways to work together to protect both the innocent humans and the Inhumans themselves (or at least I want them to).  If an Inhuman goes rogue, I would expect the Inhumans to deal with the situation themselves; if that Inhuman threatens innocent lives, I would expect them to call in S.H.I.E.L.D. to protect the innocents while they deal with the rogue.  Likewise, if an enhanced human becomes a problem, I expect S.H.I.E.L.D. to deal with it; if S.H.I.E.L.D. is unable to deal with it (say, the Hulk), I would expect them to call in the Inhumans to help them deal with it, and then S.H.I.E.L.D. would cover up whatever happens.  S.H.I.E.L.D. may even assist the Inhumans in covering up any incidents when Inhumans use their powers around humans or when humans discover the Inhumans—after all, that’s what they have specialized in going all the way back to Iron Man!

Long story short, I don’t think S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans are irreparably placed on a collision course which will destroy both parties.  I think it is entirely possible for the two groups to avoid mutual destruction and learn to work together.  And I think both groups would benefit from the cooperation.  Will it happen this way?  Well, we’ll find out in exactly 60 hours (from this posting) on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2-hour season finale!

How do you think the season finale will go?  Do you think S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans will decide to work together at the end of the day?  Do you think there will be so much bloodshed that nothing anyone says will prevent one group from destroying the other?  Turning it around, how do you want the season finale to go?  Let me know in the comments!

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  1. I till think Jiaying did right with her limited knowledge about SHIELD. She could never accept indexing and Coulson saw indexing as only choice. These were two organization with polar opposite aims so conflict was inevitable. Season last episode did't solve the problem with these organization. It only enforced that SHIELD is evil and from SHIELD stand point Inhuman are great threat to public security. Coulson did't see any problem with indexing in end of episode. Only Skye saw problem with indexing.

    Both organization in general saw that other side started conflict. Only few people know truth.

    1. That is very true. Jiaying thought that SHIELD was going to be a problem for her people. However, her actions definitely didn't help SHIELD's opinion of her people.

      Do you think that the surviving Inhumans were Indexed at the end of the episode?

    2. I would say yes and if Coulson goes through with SHIELD protocol they are sent straight to maximal prison. Jiaying only brought a small trusted force to aircraft. So the most inhuman are free but in hiding.

    3. That would make sense. However, remember what Lincoln said while fighting alongside May: "We're not bad, just misled." I don't think SHIELD is going to punish those like Lincoln and Alisha ("Ginger Ninjas") who were misled by Jiaying. That would make them no better that Hydra. I expect them to Index them and interrogate them, but if they didn't know Jiaying's plan I think they will be free to go.

    4. It just depend how much control Coulson have in SHIELD. Normal thing is to prison if powered person is threat to general public or person cannot control his/her power. I don't think that most leader of SHIELD are really interested that inhuman were misguided. Important is they attacked and this way showed that they are threat.

      We need to see how SHIELD is organize in next season to know fate of captured inhuman. Is very possibly show just forget these captured inhuman if they don't want to think about moral grayness of SHIELD.