Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 14, "Watchdogs" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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This Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode puts the focus squarely on character dynamics.  And it works pretty well.  Several of the characters are paired up with characters with whom we haven’t seen them interact that much in a while, and it throws an interesting light on their characters and actions.  However, this episode doesn’t just pair the characters up and set them loose; it sheds light on a dissenting opinion within the MCU which has been gaining traction over the last year or so:  those who object to the idea of superheroes and especially to the results of their actions.

The episode opens with Mack repairing his brother Reuben’s motorcycle at their family home in Naperville, Illinois.  The two of them have an interesting dynamic, as Mack is home for vacation for what sounds like the first time in a long while.  However, everything isn’t all roses and sunshine for them; Reuben was recently laid off from work, and we later learn that he is now upside down on the mortgage on the house and pretty much at his wits’ end.  Mack and Reuben don’t get much time to spend together, however, as Mack sees a news report of a domestic terrorist group called the Watchdogs attacking an A.T.C.U. facility in Chicago.  The leader shoots the building with a number of projectiles that look like orange paintballs, and the group runs off just before the building implodes.  Coulson orders Mack to investigate it before the F.B.I. can get all the evidence and cut S.H.I.E.L.D. out of the investigation.  Daisy and Fitz join him, and Fitz determines that the implosion was caused by nitramine.  If that sounds familiar, it’s because nitramine was the first Howard stark invention explored on Agent Carter season 1, which caused a Roxxon factory implosion.  I like this connection between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter.

Coulson reveals that former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Felix Blake was very interested in nitramine, particularly in improving the formula, giving them their first lead to figuring out what’s going on with the Watchdogs.  What has Blake been up to since season 1?  Evidently he’s been recovering from his attack by Deathlok, and has become embittered by both that attack and the discovery of the Hydra Uprising.  Given that nitramine is an unusual weapon to use, Coulson assumes that Blake is involved with the Watchdogs in some capacity, which turns out to be a good assumption.  Coulson takes Lincoln (who completed his S.H.I.E.L.D. evaluation) and the two of them start checking Blake’s safe houses to find information on his plans.  Coulson and Lincoln have a very interesting dynamic here, as Coulson is unhappy with the results of the evaluation but wants to see it for himself:  Lincoln’s loyalty is not to S.H.I.E.L.D. itself but to Daisy, and he doesn’t listen to orders very well.  By taking him along, Coulson can evaluate him for himself.  None of this is exactly earth-shattering; we already knew most of this information about Lincoln.  However, seeing Coulson’s reaction—and how his reaction is affected by Bobbi and Hunter’s departure—is what makes this subplot worth it.  Coulson personally vetted everyone who joined S.H.I.E.L.D. except Lincoln, and Lincoln is only with S.H.I.E.L.D. for one reason—which happens to be one of the most important people in Coulson’s life.  Can you say, “Overprotective father”?

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We learn quite a bit about this domestic terror group in this episode:  the Watchdogs started after New York (The Avengers) as a reaction to the twin shockers of aliens coming through a hole in the sky and the news that the government was employing superhumans without anyone’s knowledge.  After Sokovia (Avengers: Age of Ultron), the Watchdogs gained traction because one of those superhumans almost destroyed the world (Tony creating Ultron).  Now with the growing alien threat they are gaining even more support from regular people like Reuben who are fed up with the way the country/economy is going.  This is not a new perspective for this series or for MCUTV—season 1 teased it with the “Rising Tide” and Jessica Jones and Daredevil both touched on it—but I think it is significant that this is coming up so close to Captain America: Civil War.  My guess is that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will make some connection between the Watchdogs and the Sokovia Accords.  One element I kind of wish they had used here, however, is to make some connection between the Watchdogs and the Rising Tide.  The Rising Tide was teased as something important in season 1, but we haven’t seen it since “Girl in the Flower Dress” (1x05).

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Daisy decides to take very drastic measures to track down the Watchdogs:  she finds out who a couple of the Watchdogs are (or at least sympathizers) from their online activity.  She decides to use this information to “interrogate” one into telling her where they meet.  However, Mack refuses to be part of this because this is exactly the kind of Gestapo tactics which give groups like the Watchdogs ammunition; they need to be better.  Daisy is taking this (particularly the Watchdogs’ anti-Inhuman stance) very personally, and gets Fitz to help her terrify one of the men she found.  The scene of Daisy stopping the guy’s truck, getting in, and blowing out all his windows to scare him into talking was pretty cool (in a horror kind of way), but I don’t think she’s exactly helping her cause here!  The guy spills on where the Watchdogs meet, and the three of them (Mack, Daisy, and Fitz) go to check it out.  For the first time in a while, they use Icers to knock out the guard at the front door and send in one of Fitz’s Dwarfs to see what’s going on.  They hear Blake at the Farm, but can’t see him.  Reuben shows up out of the blue (I think he heard Mack say where he was going), but is shocked to find Mack not being an insurance adjuster and instead doing surveillance on a secret meeting.  The Watchdogs hear the noise and come out, and Mack Ices a couple while Daisy knocks a couple out with sonic blasts.  However, the Watchdogs thought from the angle that Mack was the one using the sonic powers.  Reuben gets angry at Mack for lying to him and leaves, and Mack follows him home.  Meanwhile Daisy and Fitz stay to find out if Blake is there.  Daisy leaves Fitz alone, and one of the Watchdogs shoots him with a nitramine projectile, which they can’t disarm the normal way.  Daisy extracts Fitz with a pod, and Fitz realizes that they can freeze the nitramine off before it burrows into his skin and implodes, which they succeed in doing with liquid nitrogen.

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Meanwhile, Coulson and Lincoln are searching one of Blake’s safe houses (in Atlanta), when they hear noise from the basement.  They go down to find Blake, who starts giving a speech about how he signed up for S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to protect people from threats, including alien threats, and that Coulson is betraying everything S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for by working with aliens.  However, Coulson realizes that there’s something off about Blake and orders Lincoln to kill him.  Lincoln doesn’t like the idea, but blasts him with lightning anyways, which shorts out the hologram.  Interestingly, this leads Coulson to approve Lincoln, even though he knows Lincoln wasn’t exactly trying to kill Blake.  The two of them search the house for information on Blake’s next target—Coulson knows Blake was stalling for a reason—but Coulson suddenly realizes that the target isn’t a location, but the team he sent to the Farm:  they are after a powered person that they can kill to make an example.

About that same time, the Watchdog Daisy captured laughs and comments that if they realized she was the powered one, they would have gone after her, instead of Mack.  Oops.

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At their parents’ house, Mack and Reuben are having it out again over Mack lying to Reuben about what he really does.  However, before they can resolve anything, Mack hears something and looks outside to see the motorcycle on fire.  He realizes that the Watchdogs are there to get them, and they need to get out.  He grabs their father’s old shotgun (loaded with nothing but birdshot), and turns the lights off at the breaker, giving them the advantage of familiar ground.  Mack shoots one of the Watchdogs but gets shot by another as he and Reuben fight their way to the kitchen.  Another Watchdog comes in, and Mack has to resort to a butcher knife to incapacitate him.  When the 2 Watchdogs outside start coming in, Mack quickly duct tapes the butcher knife to the end of his shotgun to fight them off:  he finally has his “shotgun-axe.”  Mack succeeds in fighting the Watchdogs off with a little help from Reuben, just as he passes out from blood loss.

The next scene shows Mack being wheeled out to an ambulance while Daisy talks to Reuben.  At this point Reuben finally realizes that what Mack is doing is important and that he is helping people as part of S.H.I.E.L.D.  The scene ends with Daisy suggesting that Reuben could have a future with S.H.I.E.L.D., since Mack says that Reuben is as good a mechanic as he is.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Reuben in this episode; I thought that he was far too one-note up until the end.  The entire episode seemed to turn on Reuben being angry at Mack and/or life for one reason or another.  However, this is precisely why I want Reuben to return in a future episode:  I want to see if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can deliver better on the promising premise of a family member discovering that one of the characters is a secret agent.  I also want to see if introducing his brother could help to further develop Mack’s character.

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There are a couple other plot points to talk about with this episode.  The first deals with May and Simmons.  May comes into the range to find Simmons working on her target practice because she feels overwhelming guilt for everything she’s done and that has happened because of her.  May tells her not to blame herself for Andrew’s actions or for anything that happened on Maveth, and asks for her help tracking down Andrew/Lash.  Simmons explains that May has been trying to track Andrew, when she should really be focusing on Lash, who is driven by much baser instincts than Andrew.  Simmons also reveals that her Terrigenesis vaccine might work on him since he hasn’t completed the transformation yet, but May rejects the idea immediately:  she doesn’t want hope.  This is an interesting pairing:  the scientist with the Cavalry.  And yet it makes sense:  Simmons needs someone like May to absolve her for being helpless, and May needs a scientist like Simmons to help her find Andrew.

The other point is a quick comment on the A.T.C.U. facility implosion.  S.H.I.E.L.D. is able to figure out that Malick was behind it and has been feeding information to the Watchdogs by tracing a van seen leaving the scene of the implosion back to one of Malick’s companies.  The implosion was just a cover for the theft of a bomb of some sort from the facility.  The episode ends with Blake (in a wheelchair) delivering the bomb to Giyera and saying that he wants more and better weapons so he can really hunt down “those freaks.”  Giyera didn’t seem thrilled to be called a “freak,” but let it slide.  It’s interesting that Malick is feeding both Hive (the Inhumans) and the anti-Inhuman group.  I wonder if his play here is similar to Killian’s in Iron Man 3:  he can pretty much control the war by using one force to drive recruits to the other and selling to both sides.  The Watchdogs’ actions will drive Inhumans to join Hydra, thus benefiting Hive.  We will have to see where this goes.

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This was a really interesting episode.  I especially liked the whole plot with the Watchdogs, as well as seeing Lincoln and Coulson play off each other.  After watching this episode, I do not agree with the sentiment I’ve seen a couple places that Lincoln will betray the Secret Warriors:  his loyalty to S.H.I.E.L.D. is questionable; his loyalty to Daisy, however, is not.  I just don’t see him betraying her.  The one part of the episode that didn’t work as well for me as I hoped was actually Mack and Reuben.  It’s not that it was bad; it just wasn’t enough.  I didn’t learn too much more about Mack than I already knew, and Reuben was just too angry at Mack for the entire episode (of course, I have a brother, so I know that sometimes that’s what they’re like!).  Hopefully he will come back in a future episode and we will see more of that family dynamic from them.

Update:  One thing I forgot to mention is the Damage Control namedrop near the end of the episode.  I guess now that theyve successfully spun off Marvel's Most Wanted, its time for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to start laying some groundwork for the next Marvel ABC series!  Thus far we havent heard anything about this one beyond the fact that Ben Karlin is developing it.  However, if we find out about anyone being cast to appear in it, I think its a good bet theyll show up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. first.

What did you think of this episode?  How do you want to see the Watchdogs’ story continue?  Do you want to see more of Reuben and/or the shotgun-axe?  Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Click agents of shield season 3 netflix watch free online now. This show is not about The Avengers it's about S.H.E.I.L.D. S.H.E.I.L.D appear in most Marvel comics X-Men, Spiderman, Fantastic Four etc. This story is about their fight not the super heroes. If your watching this show because of the Avengers, you will probably be disappointed.

    The story is very straight forward, new technology is out there, the rich, powerful, individual's and organization's around the world are trying their best to get their hands on it. Of course there doing this illegally and of course the innocent will get caught in the cross fire. S.H.E.I.L.D's job is to protect the world form it's new reality, since the Avenger battle in New York. The general dialogue and interaction is not great, but the humor of Agent Coulson(Clark Gregg) is good and the dialogue improves in the more 'serious moments'. The character's and acting again have some positives and negatives, Agent Coulson is a treat to watch, the two main S.E.I.L.D agents are solid and I am optimistic about their development over the season. The rest are cliché in a bad way and very annoying, I'd have to get into spoiler's territory to explain in detail.

    It'll be interesting to see the how the grand scheme of the season develops(there better be one), I assume there will be an organisation or individual who will be the main focus down the line. Watch movies on yidio very great!

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