Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 3, "A Wanted (Inhu)man" REVIEW (SPOILERS!)

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It feels like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing a lot of juggling this season.  There are about half a dozen different plots running around this season, and they’re trying to do almost every single one of them justice in each episode.  Sometimes it really seems to work; sometimes it feels like they’re trying to do too much.  This was one of those episodes where it felt like there was maybe one too many plots being juggled.  I liked all of the individual parts of the episode, but I would have liked slightly more substance given to slightly less plots.

In my opinion, the one complaint you really can’t have about this episode is everything to do with Lincoln.  The visualization of his powers, seeing him on the run, finding out more about his back story, and seeing just how vulnerable all of this has made him all worked really well.  I loved the first scene of the episode when he used his powers to zap the power lines and buy some breathing room to get away from the A.T.C.U.  His response to finding the tracker Mack had placed on him was very much in character.  The bus scene was pretty cool, especially when he electrified the whole bus to keep anyone from following him.  I think it was about that moment when I realized that he has yet to actually kill anyone with his powers.  He’s used his powers offensively in the past, but he has not used his powers to hurt the A.T.C.U., even though that would have bought him a more time, and he didn’t hurt the soldier on the bus.

Of course, that changes when Lincoln calls his friend John to pick him up and John calls the A.T.C.U. hotline to report him.  They didn’t really explain the relationship there, though it sounded like John talked Lincoln down several times—“saved his life,” as he put it.  I wish we’d gotten more there, but at the same time I really thought that the two actors (particularly Lincoln) really sold their relationship well:  I definitely bought that Lincoln didn’t want to hurt him and felt betrayed by him calling the authorities, and I even bought the betrayal on John’s part in not knowing who or what Lincoln is anymore.

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I wasn’t really sure what happened with John after Lincoln shocked the baseball bat out of his hands.  My first thought was that John was having a heart attack from the excitement, but it’s entirely possible that the charge could have traveled through the metal bat into John’s body and stopped his heart.  Either way, I don’t think it would be considered murder by the strictest definition since there was no premeditation and no intentionality to it—Lincoln was attempting to defend himself.  That doesn’t do anything for Lincoln’s guilt over killing him, but there you go.  The fact that that trauma—combined with the A.T.C.U. bearing down on him—caused him to finally call Daisy was very believable.  At that point he was really out of options; she was his last hope.

Daisy for her part had an interesting arc in this episode.  For as much as she claims that she wants to go after Lincoln herself because she’s trying to put a team together and needs him, I think it was pretty clear that there was more to it than that.  When she calls him, she’s trying to build trust and trying to undo the damage of S.H.I.E.L.D. having planted a tracker on him.  You definitely get the sense that she’s walking a tightrope between her responsibilities to S.H.I.E.L.D. and wanting to help Lincoln.  The scene with Daisy and Lincoln together in the under-construction apartment was very illuminating for both their characters.  For her part she wants to help him not just because he’s an Inhuman or because he helped her, but because she cares for him.  I wasn’t exactly surprised when she kissed him; it was kind of a long time coming.  For his part, Lincoln was every bit as broken as Daisy was when she first arrived in Afterlife, and even more because of the aforementioned incident with John.  I fully expected him to agree to come in with S.H.I.E.L.D. as that was his only option left, but what happened next was very unexpected.

I think this is the first time in the series Coulson has done something which really turned him into the bad guy.  He’s done questionable things in the past, but this goes much further than that.  Coulson setting a meeting with Rosalind made sense since Coulson disagreed so strongly with her methods.  That he made the request by hacking a White House satellite was a stylish move.  And then they met and it easily could have gone differently.  I suppose someone had to make some cracks about Coulson’s arm eventually, and Rosalind doing to was a good move by the writers for setting the tone of the meeting, though Coulson didn’t exactly rise to the bait.  I was a little surprised by Rosalind’s willingness to lay all her cards out on the table—needing Lincoln as a “win” and knowing that Daisy’s an Inhuman working for S.H.I.E.L.D.—but considering what they were, I guess that was the best time to play those cards.  What was most surprising was Coulson’s willingness to make a deal with the A.T.C.U. to hand Lincoln over to them in exchange for them leaving Daisy alone.  I get that Coulson views Daisy as a daughter, but I think that having Lincoln on their side (even if the A.T.C.U. outed Daisy as Inhuman) would have very much been preferable to having Lincoln in A.T.C.U. custody, regardless of the arrangement.  Lincoln’ s reaction of knocking the A.T.C.U. team out and running shouldn’t have been unexpected:  they’d backed him into a corner, and everyone he thought he could trust had betrayed him.  Now Lincoln is back in the wind, and I don’t think he’ll be calling Daisy again anytime soon.

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Oh, and the A.T.C.U. then tried to take Daisy in as a consolation prize.  These people are really bad at their job, considering that Daisy could take the building down without breaking a sweat and deflects bullets on instinct.  In what scenario did Coulson see this arrangement working out to his benefit?  Ultimately he had to make a deal to consult with Rosalind in order to get Daisy and Mack out of the situation, but I wonder if that wasn’t his endgame all along.  He even makes a good case for cooperating with the A.T.C.U.:  they don’t know what they’re doing and he does.  But at this point I’m still wondering if they can trust the A.T.C.U.  Goodness knows, I’m pretty sure Daisy’s trust in Coulson was damaged by the whole thing.  And if that was the goal all along, why not cut to the chase and let Daisy and Mack bring in Lincoln, which would give S.H.I.E.L.D. an edge?  It’s not like the A.T.C.U. would have been able to find them before they escaped without Coulson’s help.

Along the same lines of being betrayed by a supposed friend, Hunter and May put their plan to infiltrate Hydra into motion.  Hunter approaches an old friend at the Hydra bar to see about arranging a meeting, and the two of them get drunk together.  I have to say, I think the funniest part of their scenes was when May called them unintelligible enough while sober and they put in subtitles for the following scene while they were drunk.  We also get some interesting character development from Bobbi and Hunter as she calls to check up on him and May calls him out for lying to her.  It’s pretty clear that their relationship is improving, even though he is lying to her about how dangerous his plan is.  It was an interesting pairing to go from one divorced couple mending their relationship which had been fractured by S.H.I.E.L.D. to another as Hunter asked May about the circumstances of her and Andrew’s break-up.  I wonder if at some point we will see her going all over-protective on Andrew after something bad happens to him.

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Hunter manages to arrange a meeting with Hydra if he can beat one guy in a fight… and that guy turns out to be his buddy.  Hunter is put-out at first by the betrayal, and it’s interesting to see him trying to regroup, though we don’t get a lot of regret or betrayal from him in the heat of the fight.  In the end, Hunter does what he has to do and lays the guy out with brass knuckles (possibly killing him).  At the same time, May takes on 3 guys in another room and destroys all of them in about 10 seconds without even breaking a sweat.  At the end of the fight Hunter is escorted into a room to meet with Kebo, Ward’s right-hand man.

I think this was the plot I was the least invested in for this episode as it’s been a secondary plot at best for the last 2 episodes and has not had quite enough connection to the main plot either time.  Both episodes it was connected thematically, but there was very little overlap with the rest of the plot beyond the phone calls from Bobbi.  I feel like I would be far more invested in Hunter and May if that were the main plot of an episode with very little else going on.  Hopefully we’ll get that in a couple of episodes.  For now, I think I would have preferred for them to cut this subplot out for now (but save it for later) and give us a little more of Lincoln on the run and Lincoln’s back story with John.

The other minor subplot for the episode held my attention much better:  Fitz and Simmons.  Fitz is adorable in this episode escorting Simmons around headquarters and showing her the lab.  She is having trouble adjusting to being on Earth after everything that happened to her, and Elizabeth Henstridge does a very good job of portraying that.  They are creating an interesting parallel between Fitz’ recovery last year (with Simmons unable to figure out how to help him) and Simmons’ recovery this year (with Fitz having trouble figuring out how to help her).  Of course, Fitz has something that Simmons didn’t have:  Bobbi.  Bobbi’s suggestion that he needs to give her something to look forward to and his renting out an entire restaurant for a romantic dinner was sweet, even if she broke down before they tried the wine.  I really like how they are handling the Simmons plot:  they brought her back from the planet really quickly, but it is still having a major impact.  And at the end of the episode we find out that for some reason Simmons “needs” to go back to that planet.  The plot thickens…

Before I close, I’m curious about the effect that her stay on that planet may have had on Simmons physically.  They talked at the beginning of the episode about the negative effects—vitamin deficiencies and the like.  But they also said that the planet had higher gravity than Earth—and we all know what that means in comics:  super-strength!  While Simmons was in the lab, the audio and video went a little wild a couple of times, almost as though her senses were being over-stimulated, which makes me think enhanced hearing (and possibly vision).  This could be reading too much into things, but I think that they will sooner or later explore some positive effects that her trip to the other side of the galaxy had on Simmons.

In summary, I really enjoyed everything in this episode.  I loved the visuals of Lincoln using his powers and all of the development they gave his character, particularly introducing John (though I think they could have done more with it).  Fitz and Simmons finally going out to dinner together was clearly fan-service, but it was done very well.  Hunter fighting his friend was an interesting scene, though their relationship really wasn’t established very well in advance.  In all, I enjoyed just about everything, but I thought that they tried to do too much.  Say what you will about the first season, but it did not have nearly as many season-long plots to service in every episode.  One reason I can see for the broadened scope of the season is that the focus is on S.H.I.E.L.D. as a whole instead of just a single team, and the organization has a lot going on.  But I preferred they way they showed that last year in “A Fractured House” (2x06) when the plot took a backseat to a completely new crisis for an episode.

I’m still very much interested in all of the different plots they are working into this season, and it’s not like they make things impossible to follow.  But I would be happy if they reduced the number of plots in every episode by 1.

What did you think of this episode?  What do you think is going to happen to Lincoln now that he thinks S.H.I.E.L.D. has betrayed him?  Do you think S.H.I.E.L.D. can trust the A.T.C.U.?  Let me know in the comments!

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