Friday, October 23, 2015

Who Is Lash?

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The most-recent episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Devils You Know” (3x04), revealed a surprising fact about the main villain of the season, Lash.  I won’t say exactly what that is until after the jump, but suffice it to say that this changes everything with regard to this character.

If you’ve read my article from the summer about Lash’s comic book origins, you may remember the list of abilities which he has in the comics:  energy absorption, energy manipulation (i.e. the ability to literally disintegrate a person), and superhuman strength and the like.  Thus far Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has retained much of the same powers for him:  he shoots energy from his hands, is extremely durable (able to take full hits from Lincoln and Daisy simultaneously), and is super strong.  We haven’t yet seen him absorb energy, but they haven’t shown anything to indicate that he can’t.  However, “Devils You Know” revealed Lash to possess an ability which his character didn’t have in the comics, and which has potentially massive ramifications for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  What is that ability?  It is:


You read that right:  Shape-Shifting.  That means Lash could be anyone, and they wouldn’t know it until he turns into a gigantic blue porcupine that shoots energy from his palms.  And just like that, the internet has exploded with speculation.

I don’t have any single theory which I want to propose this article; instead I want to summarize what we know so far and offer my take on a few of the possibilities.  First, I’m going to go over everything we know about Lash’s mission.

 From the season premiere, it seems clear that Lash had already racked up a sizeable body count before the season even began (I think there were at least 5 in the A.T.C.U. holding facility), and since then he has killed at least four more Inhumans (in “Devils You Know”), in addition to an unknown number of regular humans (such as the security guard at the hospital).  And yet, according to Dwight Frye, Lash’s former I.T. guy, Lash doesn’t enjoy what he’s doing; he considers it to be necessary.  This does not paint the picture of a mindless killing machine or a serial killer.  It sounds more like a thoughtful person who came to a bad decision.  But what is he really?

In the comics, Lash went searching the world for newly-transformed Inhumans and judged them to see if they were worthy of the gift they had received.  The worthy he recruited to his side; the unworthy he disintegrated.  His motivation for doing this partly came from the devastation wrought by a newly-transformed Inhuman who annihilated his entire tribe.  The key here is that his focus was primarily on the newly-transformed, rather than refugees escaping from Attilan or other established Inhumans.  He didn’t fight Medusa and her Royal Guard until they attacked him.

Contrast that to his targets so far on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  We don’t know for certain about the dead Inhumans in the A.T.C.U.’s morgue, but they are probably newly-transformed Inhumans.  However, I think his most recent targets are more illuminating:  Aside from Frye, a newly-transformed Inhuman with whom he had worked in the past, Lash targeted former members of the Lai Shi “tribe” of Inhumans (Jaiying’s group).  He tracked them down through an email and virus specifically designed to target already-transformed Inhumans by proposing that all the OG Inhumans stick together in the face of the Terrigen getting out.  But why would he be going after the established Inhumans?

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One possibility is that he blames the established Inhumans for allowing the Terrigen to get into the water supply and cause an epidemic and panic the humans.  That would explain his usage of a virus to track down those who had transformed before the epidemic.  If he was somehow connected to the Inhumans of Lai Shi before the outbreak, that could also explain how he got their names.  In addition to targeting established Inhumans, I suspect that Lash is also hunting down the newly-transformed Inhumans so he can keep them from inciting more panic by the humans.  However, all of this is just suspicion; next time the story turns back to Lash we may learn that it’s really something completely different.

One thing that doesn’t make a lot of sense is why Lash did not kill SkyeDaisy (first time I’ve done that in weeks!) in the last episode.  However, I wonder if he is intentionally avoiding hurting her:  in the hospital fight he was there for Lincoln and seemed a little surprised to see Daisy and Mack were with him.  And after killing Frye he seemed to give Daisy a long look before turning and walking away.  In both cases, Daisy initiated the fight against him, not the other way around.  That makes me think that for some reason he does not want to hurt her.  Whether it’s because he has judged her worthy or knows her personally remains to be seen.

So that’s about all we can tell about Lash from the first four episodes of the season, at least as far as his mission and motivation.  Now let’s look at his two appearances and see if we can figure out who he might be.  Unfortunately, I’m going to come right out and say that there’s nothing to indicate who he is, just who he isn’t.

We learned that Lash can shape-shift into a regular human from a shadow on the wall after he attacked the A.T.C.U.  The shadow cast looks extremely slight and masculine, but considering the variables which go into generating the shadow, I don’t know how much “slight” needs to factor into Lash’s alias.

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Working our way through all of Lash’s appearances, we can start narrowing down the list of possibilities.  His first appearance is in the hospital, when he attacks Lincoln, Daisy, and Mack—meaning that those three can be ruled out.  We can also rule out Banks, Rosalind, Coulson, and Hunter, because the hospital battle was concurrent with Coulson and Rosalind’s “chat” on the train—even if there was a possibility of them showing scenes non-sequentially, the fact that both Coulson and Rosalind received simultaneous calls about the hospital fight would certainly suggest that the two scenes happened at the same time.  “Devils You Know” kind of hinted at Banks as a possibility because he ran off as soon as Coulson insisted on Daisy and Mack observing the A.T.C.U. holding facility—a fact Mack pointed out right before Lash attacked—but I’m pretty sure that he is a red herring.  Likewise, “Devils You Know” has a great jump-scare moment when Daisy tells Mack that “he could be anybody” and Rosalind immediately pulls the curtain back, but I’m also pretty sure that that is a red herring.

Side Note:  based on this first appearance, as well as the fact that Lash was operating from the beginning of the Terrigen spread, we can also rule Simmons out as a possibility because she was still on the alien planet until well after Lash started his Inhuman killing spree.  Likewise, May was playing the doting daughter through the early part of Lash’s killing spree, so she’s probably not Lash, either.

Lash’s next appearance is at the beginning of “Devils You Know” when he attacks Alisha and the Larsons.  Since he attacks and kills an Alisha clone, I think we can safely rule her out (though I suppose it could have been a clone that transformed into Lash and then killed a non-transformed clone… man, that would be weird and unexpected!).  Additionally, I think we can rule out Fitz and Bobbi since I think they were both with the S.H.I.E.L.D. response team immediately after that attack.

The final appearance so far is in the middle of that same episode, when he killed Frye.  However, all we can get from that is that a bunch of A.T.C.U. agents are not him.

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So I think that at this point I’ve ruled out just about everyone… except for Andrew.  And I know that Andrew is the new darling choice for being Lash, but I really don’t buy it.  Andrew’s goal with S.H.I.E.L.D. is to help people by evaluating to see if they are fit for duty.  Yes, this is very close to Lash’s goal from the comics.  However, if we assume that Andrew is Lash and that he’s using his position with S.H.I.E.L.D. to evaluate Inhumans for the purpose of determining their worthiness of the gift before transforming into Lash and killing the unworthy, then apparently evaluation isn’t all that important, considering that he never met any of the Inhumans who were killed.  Additionally, killing regular humans just because they get in the way seems out-of-character for Andrew.  I can see a scenario in which Andrew is an Inhuman and became Lash, but I don’t see it as likely.

To be completely honest, my conclusion is pretty anticlimactic:  of all the people we’ve met so far, I think the most likely option is that Lash is an A.T.C.U. agent.  That’s the only theory that explains everything:  how Lash found Frye, how the A.T.C.U. is consistently beating S.H.I.E.L.D. to the new Inhumans, and especially how Lash managed to figure out the truck’s route to the A.T.C.U. holding facility and why he didn’t kill any of the agents.  Oh, and it was awfully convenient that the attack prevented Daisy and Mack from seeing the A.T.C.U. base.

However, I’m not entirely convinced that he is someone we’ve met.  I think it’s just as possible that we’ve never met his human form.

In conclusion, we can rule out just about everyone we know, but we can’t say for certain exactly who Lash is.  Andrew is an unlikely possibility, as is an A.T.C.U. agent.

At the same time, there is one thing that I think we can all agree on right now with regards to Lash:  S.H.I.E.L.D. and the A.T.C.U. together do not have enough firepower to take on Lash.  In fact, I’m not sure if at this point anyone less than the Avengers has the firepower to take on Lash.  Considering that Daisy and Lincoln put together couldn’t phase him, and Alisha and the Larsons were no match for him, I definitely think my guess from the summer that Lash will bring the Secret Warriors together may have been correct.  If they are going to take him out, it will probably take a whole team of enhanced people to do it.

So who do you think Lash is?  Do you think he’s someone we’ve met already?  Where do you think his story will go from here?  Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Also, it can't be Coulson since he was exposed to the Terrigen mist last year and lost his hand.

    1. Quite true, making him doubly- (triply-) not Lash.

      Actually something I've been wondering for a while is if Coulson could be transformed by the Terrigen even though he is not Inhuman because of the Kree DNA in his bloodstream. The Diviner metal reacted to his non-Inhuman skin; could the Terrigen react to the Kree DNA in his system if he were to ingest a fish oil capsule? My guess is that Terrigen does not react to Kree DNA, however.

  2. I still think there is a decent chance that Lash is Simmons.

    1. How can she be Lash when she was in a different solar system for much of his killing spree? Not dismissing the possibility; wondering about your reasoning.

  3. I have been pressing the theory that Lash is Ward.... The events in episode 4 make that possible, as the Ward shooting/Lash attack take place concurrently during the day; but the Lash attach on the truck happens at night.

    1. It would certainly work for the first Lash attack of the season as well as the attack on Alisha and the Larsons. However, when Rosalind asks Daisy where Coulson is, she replies that he's seeing to a different mission (meaning Hunter and May vs. Ward), which would suggest that the firefight with Hydra took place right around the same time as Lash was attacking the convoy. That doesn't explain the lighting--broad daylight for the one, pitch black for the other--so it's still a definite possibility.