Friday, November 6, 2015

Lash's Identity: Revealed!

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Warning, there are major spoilers ahead for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3, episode 6, “Among Us Hide…”!  You’ve been warned…

So after this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I think there’s just one question on everyone’s mind.  And that question is:


My goal in this article is to give my thoughts on the revelation as well as where we could see this going in the rest of the season.  Right off the bat I’d like to say that I am really interested to see where this is going.

The Surprise Factor

Before diving into what Andrew being Lash means going forward, however, I want to talk about the concept of the surprise.  Right after the episode aired on Tuesday, I went on Reddit (that site is seriously addicting) to see what the Reddit community was thinking.  There were quite a few comments from people who were excited to have guessed that Andrew was Lash 2 weeks ago after the convenience store explosion.  However, there were also several comments to the effect that Andrew being Lash was disappointing because the writing made it “so obvious” that he would be Lash and that nothing in the series is surprising anymore and it’s written poorly and…  You get the idea.  To those people I just want to say one thing:

A major plot twist doesn’t have to be a surprise to you to be effective.

Rather, there are two different audiences at which a plot twist can be directed:  the viewer and the characters involved.  Sometimes a plot twist is directed solely at you to make you think or deepen the experience or just plain shock you.  Sometimes a plot twist is telegraphed well in advance for the viewer, but comes as a surprise for the characters; when this happens, the purpose of the twist is to alter the characters’ perceptions of events and move them forward in a new and exciting way.  And sometimes the plot twist is directed at both the viewer and the character.

For an example of the first—a plot twist which is more meaningful for the viewer than the character—we can look at the mid-season finale of last year’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., when we learned that Skye’s given name was actually Daisy (as in Daisy Johnson, a.k.a. Quake).  For Skye, it was significant in that she now knew her real name, but it didn’t have any meaning beyond that.  For the viewer, however—or at least those who were relatively familiar with the comics—learning that Skye is a girl with a special gift and a father with anger issues, and that her real name is “Daisy,” suddenly made a lot of pieces fit together.  Even before she went into the alien city, we knew that it was a Kree temple which would activate a Terrigen Crystal, and that Skye/Daisy would undergo Terrigenesis and gain seismic abilities.  The reveal of Skye’s name was far more of a “twist” for us than it was for her!

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For an example of the second—a plot twist which the viewer expects but the character does not—we need to look no further than Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  Can anyone honestly tell me that they didn’t know going in that the Winter Soldier would turn out to be Bucky?  I mean, even if you are not a comic buff (who experienced the “Winter Soldier = Bucky” shock years ago when it was first introduced), all you would need is to know that Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes) was also playing the Winter Soldier.  And if that wasn’t enough, there were even movie posters showing the Winter Soldier without his mask.  No one had any right to be surprised when the Winter Soldier turned out to be Bucky.  Well, no one except Captain Rogers, that is!

That is where the shock really came in:  Steve Rogers believed himself to be a lone relic of the Greatest Generation, alone in a world he can’t hope to understand.  However, it turns out that one of his old war buddies—and not just any buddy, but his best friend in the world—is still alive and still in the prime of his life somehow.  And on top of that, Bucky is a Hydra assassin who doesn’t even recognize Steve.  This is a major development for Steve, and it drives many of his actions for the rest of that movie and even into Avengers: Age of Ultron, culminating with Captain America: Civil War.  With this plot twist, most viewers should have seen it coming, but it still works because it has such a profound effect on the main character.

For an example of the third—a plot twist which surprises both the viewer and the character—we can look at Captain America: The Winter Soldier again with the Hydra reveal.  I really don’t think there were very many who expected the Hydra reveal going into that movie; it caught just about everyone off guard.  And for Steve Rogers, learning that Hydra was still alive and kicking about 70 years after he thought he’d finished them off was quite a blow, driving him to vow to destroy Hydra again.

All of these are valid plot devices when they are used properly.  This is why the reveal that Andrew is Lash still makes sense for the story, even if you had some suspicions going in:  it is going to have a major impact on the characters (especially May).

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Andrew/Lash’s Back Story

As of now we do not know when or how Andrew transformed, though it looks like that will be the focus for next week’s episode, “Chaos Theory” (3x07).  However, I do have a theory for how he transformed and why he decided on this particular use for his powers.

I think it is entirely possible that Andrew was exposed to Terrigen and underwent Terrigenesis while he and May were in Hawaii during the season break.  That would explain why he ran off on her without any explanation.

As far as the reason for his self-appointed mission of hunting down Inhumans, I think we need look no further than “Melinda” (2x17) for a reason.  Before May’s mission to Bahrain, she was happy and fun.  They were planning to start a family.  After that mission, however, May changed:  she became cold and distant, even toward Andrew, and lost all interest in him and their future family.  What happened in Bahrain was so traumatic that it ruined May’s life for a good 5 years before Coulson dragged her out of her cubicle kicking and screaming and pushed her into the field.  Andrew must have been asking himself for years what could have happened in Bahrain to “ruin” his Melinda so much.  And near the end of last season, he learned the answer:

Inhumans happened.

Daisy returned from Lai Shi/Afterlife to inform May and Coulson that the two enhanceds that May had faced in Bahrain were both Inhumans.  This coupled with the Inhumans’ attack on the carrier must have fueled a rage inside Andrew:  these people hurt May.  They tried to do it again.  They must be stopped.  And when he discovered that he himself was Inhuman, I think he viewed it as a chance to set right what they did to May.  It was a chance to punish the “freaks” who hurt May—freaks who are given ungodly power to harm those who can’t defend themselves.

If this is the case, I think it would account for some of Andrew/Lash’s choices in targets.  I noticed a couple episodes back that we’ve only seen him directly targeting members of the Lai Shi Inhuman community:  Lincoln and the Larsens.  And the virus he used to track down the Larsens was almost certainly directed toward established Inhumans—Inhumans who transformed before all of this—rather than new Inhumans.  Now, we don’t know for a fact that all his victims are established Inhumans, but none have been confirmed to be new ones, so I’m running with it.  Why would he be so singularly focused on Inhumans who transformed before the outbreak, at least three of whom share Lai Shi in common?  I think he knows that they are responsible for both what happened to May and the release of Terrigen (which transformed him) and that he is punishing them first.

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I think the biggest payoff of Andrew being Lash will come with its impact on May.  After everything May has been through, I think that she is really looking for stability, and that she was trying to rekindle the romance with Andrew in part because he offers stability.  We don’t know exactly how long they have known each other, but I would suspect that it’s quite a while.  She thought that she knew him and could rely on him.  Now, however, it seems that she doesn’t know him nearly as well as she thought she did.  Rather than the good man she thought he was, he is a monster who was given tremendous powers which he uses to hurt and kill people.  How will this affect their relationship?  She could turn him in to Coulson right away and disavow everything having to do with him.  She could also hear him out and decide that she agrees with his self-appointed mission.  However, the one thing she cannot do is ignore what she has learned.

Beyond this “benefit,” this revelation will also have a major impact on Daisy, who is so far the only Inhuman Andrew/Lash does not seem interested in killing.  Why is that?  Is it because she works for S.H.I.E.L.D.?  Is it because May vouched for her?  Is it because he knew her before he transformed?  Whatever the reason, Andrew/Lash seems to care about Daisy—at least enough to not put a scorched hole through her chest the first chance he gets!

Further, this places Andrew in a completely different light, now that we know his secret.  How can he as a psychologist justify the senseless murder of people who need help?  You may remember that this was one of the key factors I listed for why I doubted that Andrew would be Lash.  Now that he has been revealed to be Lash, I think the point still stands:  he is a psychologist who specializes in helping gifted individuals and evaluating their mental state.  How does killing Inhumans he’s never met before fit in there?

I am very curious to learn the story behind how he became Inhuman and why he has taken it upon himself to kill his own kind, both of which I expect will be partly answered this coming week.  At this point Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has deviated significantly from the source material, at least as far as Lash is concerned.  That is not necessarily a bad thing; it could turn out to be a smart move in the long run if Andrew’s story is handled well.  Here’s hoping that Andrew will become every bit as sympathetic and interesting as Jiaying and Cal were last season!

What did you think of the Lash reveal?  Did you see it coming?  Why do you think Andrew/Lash is doing what he is doing?  Let me know in the comments!

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