Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 11, "Bouncing Back," REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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About the only thing I can say to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. midseason premiere is “Awesome!”  This episode offers some good payoff for a few of the bigger moments in the midseason finale, particularly with regards to Ward and Coulson’s confrontation on Maveth.  We also get the much-hyped debut of Elena Rodriguez (whom Mack dubs “Yo-Yo”).  Oh, and there’s also that somewhat wild opening to talk about!  Let’s get right into it.

The episode begins with a flash-forward of 3 months, in which we see what looks like a debris field around the Earth (but could instead be a large number of small spacecraft).  The view pans pack to reveal that we are inside a spacecraft which is clearly Terran (the crucifix kind of gives it away), and in which at least one person is wearing a S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform.  What on Earth (or “off Earth,” as the case may be!) is going to happen to lead to S.H.I.E.L.D. taking to space in only a space of 3 months from now.  It seems like a good bet to me that this will be resolved in the season finale, but what that actually means is beyond me.  I’ve been interested in seeing this series explore the idea of S.W.O.R.D. ever since they announced that Constance Zimmer would be appearing this season as the leader of another government agency—I was thinking S.W.O.R.D. would be an interesting direction to go.  Does this opening mean that S.W.O.R.D. will be coming sooner than later?

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The episode next turns to the introduction of Elena Rodriguez, a newly-transformed Colombian Inhuman who has learned to understand and use her power of super speed and has been taking advantage of this new power to fight against the corruption within her country.  However, we do not see anything of her in her introduction; we just see things happening for no reason as a police convoy carrying weapons is attacked and all the weapons are stolen.  Of course S.H.I.E.L.D. responds to a report of something weird happening.  While investigating they discover what look like drag marks in the pavement, which lead Mack to Elena, who steals his gun, pushes him in the back of a car, and abducts him.  Eventually the rest of the team realize what happened thanks to some grainy security footage (kudos to them for not “enhancing” the grainy footage to clearly see exactly what was happening).  Daisy, Bobbi, and Hunter manage to find Mack just as he is starting to communicate with Elena and explain to her what happened (though he does use the words “Alien Invasion”).  It’s not exactly clear what they used, but they managed to knock Elena out with a force field of some sort and capture her.

Elena wakes up in one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s adaptable pods and tries to break her way out (that was a funny scene of her simultaneously standing in front of the window and running at all the walls).  Joey attempts to explain to her what happened and convince her that they are actually the good guys and not connected with the police.  There are some definite misunderstandings in here—Daisy and the team assume that police = “good guys,” while Elena says they refer to the police as “thieves with badges”—but they eventually all understand that what Elena and her cousin did was to steal the guns from the police so no one would be able to use them.  In other words, Elena’s simply a suddenly-empowered citizen trying to fight corruption in her country (sounds a bit like Daredevil from last year!).

Unfortunately, Bobbi and Hunter are captured by the police, who are apparently employing an Inhuman of their own who possesses some sort of paralysis power (he looks at you and you freeze up temporarily).  Mack and Joey ask Elena to help them break into the police station and rescue Bobbi and Hunter, and she agrees.  She also explains that her ability is tied to her pulse:  the distance she can run is however far she can move in a single heartbeat.  I really liked that explanation because it gives a good reason for the “slingshot” portion of her ability (and at least sounds logical).  I’m not sure if that was ever explained for the comic book character of the same name, but I don’t think it was.

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Elena brings a level of fun to her powers that we have not seen since Afterlife, almost a full year ago.  I figured pretty early in the episode that it was just a matter of time before Elena received the “slow-mo shot” treatment that we’ve seen from just about every speedster brought to live-action (Quicksilver twice, just about every episode I’ve seen of The Flash…), and sure enough we did get exactly that.  It wasn’t anything spectacular, but I suspect it is just the beginning.  The police station scene was absolutely awesome in that we got to see Daisy, Joey, and Elena all fighting and working together as a team.  The three of them working together to defeat “Medusa Eyes” was also cool because it demonstrated just how Joey can use his ability in an offensive situation, by melting “Medusa Eyes’” glasses onto his face.  I was actually really impressed with the development from Joey over the three-month period:  he is not only more capable in the field but more comfortable with his other S.H.I.E.L.D. responsibilities.

I find it interesting that the episode concludes with Elena agreeing to join the Secret Warriors, but only if she can remain in Colombia (to fight the corruption there, I assume) until needed.  Joey likewise receives the opportunity to resume his normal life until he is needed, and they are both given S.H.I.E.L.D. communicator watches to call for help or be called in to help.  I think at least part of the impetus behind this is to give us more of a “superhero team” sense:  the team members have their own lives and own adventures, but when something big happens they can all be called together.  That’s something that we don’t really get (explicitly) from the movies.

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The other major subplot in this episode involves Coulson’s vendetta against Gideon Malick.  The episode begins with Coulson meeting with President Ellis in Rosalind Price’s apartment, where the two of them discuss the Inhuman problem (which is evidently being discussed by world leaders and regularly appears on FOX News—X-Men cross-promotion?).  Apparently Ros thought that the two of them should be working together, so the President wants to give S.H.I.E.L.D. free-rein to deal with the Inhumans, even though he can’t do so officially at the moment.  Instead, President Ellis tells Coulson that he’s running the show behind the scenes, but officially the A.T.C.U. will still take point—and report to Coulson.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that Ellis is willing to officially go after Gideon Malick, but he does give Coulson the green light to handle things himself on that front.

Coulson tracks down Malick by subjecting Werner von Strucker (who’s been in a coma since S.H.I.E.L.D. rescued him) to the memory machine.  When Werner’s memory got stuck on his beating, Coulson had Lincoln zap his brain with electricity to reset it—that was definitely a different and unique use of his powers.  Werner was able to give them the code that he used to contact Malick, so Coulson goes to the same location and uses a phone to call Malick… and then he traces the call to find out everyone else he’s talked to and uses the information to attack Malick’s company, costing him several million dollars.

Meanwhile, we also learn some more about Ward/IT/Hive, which was seriously weakened by its time on Maveth and has spent the last 3 months recovering and gaining its strength.  I’m really impressed with Brett Dalton’s range with this character, going from a Boy Scout to a traitor, to something akin to a zombie!  Hive definitely has a terrifying presence to him, thanks in no small part to the makeup on his chest and ribs as well as Dalton’s performance.  I also like the perspective that he gives on the human race:  the technology has improved but the people themselves have not changed at all.  The episode ends with Hive seemingly “making a believer out of” Giyera (the telekinetic Inhuman) by turning his hand to dust (or something like that).  Additionally, Hydra also managed to capture “Medusa Eyes” from S.H.I.E.L.D. with a specialized helicopter that drilled through the police station roof and used a claw to extract him.  Based on the promo for next week it seems pretty obvious that he’s going to become a “believer” as well.

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The stinger at the end of the episode pays off President Ellis’ promise to inform Coulson once he’s decided on his next appointment as head of the A.T.C.U.  Who is it?  None other than General Talbot, of course!  Ellis thinks it’s perfect as they’ve worked before and people implicitly trust military officers, but Coulson’s not too sure.  This has the makings of a hilarious buddy comedy, with Coulson and Talbot trying to work together.

As far as midseason premieres go, this was a really good one in my opinion.  It set a lot of things in motion for the next half-season, as well as a couple of possibilities for the lead-in to Captain America: Civil War.  They didn’t give us a ton of development on either of the new characters, but Elena/Yo-Yo definitely received more development than “Medusa Eyes” (did he even have a name?), and that’s really the way it should be, as she’s going to be one of the heroes while he will just be an extension of Hive.  I think my favorite part of the episode was the fight scene in the police station because it really showed off the powers, and that’s really what we’ve been waiting to see for over a half-season.  Hopefully they will continue to do a good job with the special effects and introduce some more Secret Warriors soon!

What did you think of this episode?  How do you think the “S.H.I.E.L.D. in Space” flash-forward fits in with what’s happening now?  What comic book Secret Warrior do you want to see introduced next?  Stonewall?  Phobos?  Let me know in the comments!

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  1. I loved the episode. I just wish more people were watching. I know that it's been renewed for a fourth season but I hope that it doesn't mean that fans are going to get complacent.

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