Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 12, "The Inside Man" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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So I really was not expecting either of the big, shocking reveals tonight.  I just want to put that out there.    There were a few things in this episode that I did expect, but those two twists were quite unexpected.  Nice job by Marvel TV there!

Also, was I the only one who noticed a very blatant semi-political statement partway through the episode?

The episode opens with a flashback of Hive taking control of Ward’s dead body shortly after Coulson murdered Ward.  Hive/Ward is still in very bad shape—so bad that Malick asks if he would prefer a new host (not him though, as Hive can only use a dead host).  However, Hive considers Ward to be a “perfect host.”  I find it interesting that Hive can’t inhabit an Inhuman because he “cannot feed on his own kind.”  What exactly this means doesn’t become clear until near the end of the episode.

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In the meantime, we explore some of what Hive can do.  He has Malick bring Lucio (“Medusa Eyes”) into his room and allows him to freeze everyone there, including himself.  However, he is not really frozen but instead leaves part of himself (spores?) behind.  He sends this into Lucio’s face, infecting him.  It’s not entirely clear yet what his control does, but it seems to leave the subject with a small degree of free will:  Giyera shows fear on a few occasions, and even regret at having procured 5 live humans for Hive.  And what does Hive do to the humans?  It seems that he drains the life from them, leaving behind nothing but charred bones.  And by feeding on them he is able to repair Ward’s dead body, leaving him whole and (if possible) even stronger than before.  I do like the slow reveal of the extent of Hive’s powers, though at some point I do really hope that we will see him go absolutely crazy.

The next plot revolves around Coulson and Talbot and their “buddy comedy” (which really wasn’t all that comedic, unfortunately).  At the beginning of the episode Talbot’s wife Carla is extremely angry at him, though it’s unclear why.  Coulson meets Talbot at the airport and the two of them leave together to begin preparing for the upcoming “Symposium on the Alien Contagion” in Taiwan.  They are being watched by May and Lincoln, who discover Carl Creel also following Talbot and Coulson.  Lincoln engages with Creel, who turns himself to rubber, which is generally unaffected by electricity.  However, May hits him with a tire iron, which he absorbs, giving Lincoln the chance to fry him.  Of course, it isn’t until Creel is down that Coulson gives Talbot a chance to explain that Creel now works for him.  To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting that, considering that Creel seemed like prime Hydra material from everything Coulson said about him in season 2.  According to Talbot, however, Creel is reformed and he never travels anywhere without him, now that he has his own enhanced.

S.H.I.E.L.D. having Creel in custody gives us a chance to learn slightly more about him.  Of course, by that I mean that we now know that he got his abilities from an “experiment gone right.”  I do like that Creel is a man of very few words; that really seems to fit the character.  Of course Hunter and the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. is uncomfortable with the idea of working with Creel after everything they went through the last time he was around.  This provides some of the conflict in the episode.

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However, the main conflict of the episode revolves around the Symposium.  Coulson and Talbot attend the Symposium to find out what the rest of the world knows about the Inhumans, to set the record straight about them, and to identify and trail Malick’s “inside man.”  They don’t know for certain that he has one, but it does seem like a safe bet.  Coulson has Bobbi, May, and Hunter break into the rooms of the other delegates to the Symposium to look for evidence.  Bobbi does find some evidence in the Australian delegate’s room, but only evidence that she has an Inhuman in her custody on whom their military is running tests.  At the end of the episode Coulson reveals that this Inhuman has been rescued, so I’m wondering if he will join the Secret Warriors.  I don’t have too many suggestions for who it could be, but the obvious candidate seems to be Eden Fesi, a.k.a. Manifold, a mutant Australian Aborigine with the ability to teleport.  I actually remember commenting that he could work on AoS fairly well as a completely different character who happens to be an Inhuman teleporter.

During the Symposium, the Russian delegate (Anton Petrov) suggests that the Symposium consider establishing a safe home for the Inhumans, something which Coulson and Talbot fear, as it will put all the Inhumans in the same location, making them easier for Hydra to capture.  Coulson very strongly objects to the plan, as he also strongly encourages the word’s leaders to look at the Inhumans not as alien threats but rather as humans with a little something extra.  I find it really cool to find a show where it isn’t always an easy answer.  A lot of times it seems like fighting is the only option on shows like this; in this case fighting is not the answer but diplomacy is.

The Symposium also gives us an interesting and appropriate social commentary on the concept of the “Gun-Free Zone.”  Coulson explains to the team that the Symposium has 2 rules:  no aliens and no weapons.  However, that second rule is not followed at all, and Hunter makes multiple comments about the problem with “Gun-Free Zones”:  simply put, it doesn’t work if it’s not enforced.  Hydra does not follow the rule (meaning that Hunter is held at gunpoint at a supposedly “Gun-Free Zone”) and S.H.I.E.L.D. has to break the rule to save the day, too.  This is the second dtime I’ve really noticed Marvel making this kind of social commentary; the first being Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s exploration of the concept of freedom vs. security.  I really like when they do this (though it may just be because they agree with me!).

Fortunately, during the Symposium Coulson does succeed in uncovering who the eponymous “Inside Man” is.  Unfortunately, it turns out to be Talbot, whose son was abducted by Malick and is being held hostage against his cooperation—not something I expected.  This is what Carla was angry about at the beginning of the episode.  Coulson and Talbot are taken prisoner by Hydra (Malick “outs” Coulson as the Director of Hydra and accuses him of wanting to exterminate the Inhumans), which is about the kill them.  And who shows up to save the two of them?  None other than Creel himself.  When Talbot revealed the blackmail, I was expecting to find out that Creel was working for Hydra to keep Talbot in line; instead, he really is loyal to Talbot and saves their lives.  I actually like what they did with Absorbing Man in this episode as far as testing his loyalties.  From this it is quite clear that he is loyal to Talbot and not to Hydra.  And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it seems possible that he could even join the Secret Warriors.

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Bobbi and Hunter take out the Hydra agents in the Symposium building (Creel does come along and save Hunter’s life) while May rescues Talbot’s son.  Coulson then sends Bobbi and Hunter to follow Malick and find out where he’s going, which leads to them stowing away in his plane headed for Russia.  This serves as a direct lead-in to next week’s episode, which looks to possibly serve as a “backdoor pilot” for Marvel’s Most Wanted.  I’m really curious what is going to happen to cause Bobbi and Hunter to leave the team and leave S.H.I.E.L.D.  Whatever it is, it’s going to be big!

The final plot deals with Daisy and Lincoln, whose relationship is continuing to progress.  Their first scene alone together is as they are sparring (without powers) to help Lincoln prepare for his exam at the “Cocoon.”  Obviously the “Cocoon” is a reference to the comic book Secret Warriors, who were part of the “Caterpillar Project” (caterpillars go through a cocoon to reach their final stage of development).  Their sparring is a lot of fun, though it takes quite the turn when they start making out only to have Simmons interrupt them.  Evidently Simmons and Fitz have been running tests on Creel’s blood and determined that it can actually prevent Terrigenesis (using samples of Daisy’s pre-Terrigenesis blood for experimentation).  It cannot reverse the transformation, but it can be turned into an inoculation to prevent Terrigenesis from happening.  This leads to a major philosophical argument between Lincoln and Daisy.  Lincoln for his part thinks that this is a great opportunity to put the “Terrigen genie” back in the bottle and give people a choice of whether or not they will transform.  However, Daisy does not think that Inhumans should be denied their “birthright” and disagrees with him that Terrigenesis is a disease.

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Honestly, I’m not sure which of them is really in the right here, and I think that’s the point.  On the one hand, Lincoln is correct that people should be given the choice of whether or not they undergo Terrigenesis.  On the other hand, Daisy’s fear of this falling into government control is also correct:  if the government has the means to take away Inhumans’ ability to undergo Terrigenesis, then they lose that freedom of choice; the government will use the cure and Terrigen to exert their own control and ensure their own will is carried out.  Personally, I would prefer to see them not use Creel’s blood to synthesize a Terrigenesis inoculation, but I suppose seeing them wrestle with the moral ramifications of using it could also be an interesting direction to go in this show.

This plot concludes with Daisy going to see Lincoln and the two of them making up.  Lincoln reveals that even though he had control of his abilities at Afterlife, he hasn’t been able to control it as well now that he’s working for S.H.I.E.L.D.; he’s jealous of the control Daisy displays.  This didn’t resolve their disagreement over the cure, but it did pave the way for them to have a sex scene.  Even though their relationship seemed a little out of left field in the first half of the season, the exploration of it since then has been pretty good.

I definitely enjoyed this episode, and particularly the double twist with both Talbot and Creel.  First Talbot is a traitor and then he’s not a traitor and instead is on good terms with Coulson.  First Creel is working with Talbot, then he’s knocking Hunter unconscious (possibly Hydra), and then he’s actually working for Talbot.

The politics in the last couple episodes didn’t go in quite the direction I hoped, but it was still an interesting exploration of the political conditions faced by S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans.  I’m really hoping that they will lean into the politics more moving forward, and especially as we get closer to Captain America: Civil War.

What did you think of this episode?  Do you think Russia will set up an Inhuman sanctuary in their borders?  Do you want to see Creel join the Secret Warriors?  Let me know in the comments!

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