Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 17, "The Team" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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Well, I do think this episode was just about everything I was hoping it would be:  We saw the Secret Warriors come together as a team for the first time, and they fought quite well, though they didn’t do all that much fighting as a team.  The team coming together and rescuing Zephyr One part of the episode was not quite as long as I was hoping or expecting—we’ve waited most of a season to see the Secret Warriors fighting the good fight, after all—but the rest of the episode was definitely worth it.

As an aside before I get to the review, ABC came so close to actually doing something smart with their “Your Voice, Your Vote” interludes this week, but it was still a near miss.  The first time they did it—to let us know that Trump won his home state (what a shocker)—it was before the “Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” had even started.  Great job, guys!  But the second time they did it—letting us know that the carpet bagger beat out the local boy—Daisy was in the middle of a sentence.  Sorry, guys, but it’s another near miss.  Seriously, time it so that you’re cutting in during a commercial break next time!

When I was thinking through my expectations for this episode (after I’d actually written my expectations for this episode), it occurred to me that what I’m really looking for in the remainder of this season is something like The Avengers:  the team comes together, they have their initial successes, they have their squabbles, and they come together to face a threat greater than themselves.  And we actually got the first three in this episode (unless you consider the midseason premiere, “Bouncing Back,” to be the team’s initial coming together, which does work even though Lincoln wasn’t there).  Presumably, the final one—the team coming together to face a greater threat—will not happen until the two-part finale, which really needs to have the look and feel of a movie.  Seriously, Marvel needs to pump money into that thing for effects so we get a Hive every bit as intimidating and realistic as they’ve been teasing all along.

With that out of the way, on to the review.

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The episode opens up right where the last one left off:  Daisy and Lincoln are on their way to pick up Joey and Yo-Yo so the Secret Warriors can go in and rescue Zephyr One and the rest of their team.  Joey is with a new boyfriend (I’m glad his sexuality is rather understated for the most part) but has to ditch out on him when his wrist communicator goes off.  Yo-Yo is about to get on a bus to return home (or something) when hers goes off, and the next we see them they are all strapping on parachutes to dive into a situation on which they have absolutely no intel.  It’s actually quite amusing just how little they really know about this mission:  no floor plan, no idea how many guys, no idea even where the plane is.  But they still bust their way in Hi-C-style.  Daisy and Lincoln go on their own to locate the plane and Malick, respectively, while Joey and Elena go together to clear the base.  Joey got to do a cool thing where he melted bullets midflight (and they didn’t stick to him this time; he’s figuring out his powers better), but Lincoln really took the spotlight in this sequence.  Lincoln took out a half-dozen or so guys, incorporating his powers and hand-to-hand fighting pretty seamlessly, and singlehandedly captured Malick.  Elena didn’t get much to do on-screen beyond knocking out a bunch of guys in a hallway, but she and Joey had some fun banter going.

This part of the episode was really a lot of fun, both the pure action of Lincoln taking out the Hydra goons and the pure fun of Joey and Elena’s banter and teamwork.  However, this only serves to set the stage for the rest of the movie, where Hydra very effectively tears the team apart.

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Malick sets this off pretty quickly in his conversation with Coulson when he describes Hive as an Inhuman god who has the power to sway Inhumans to his cause.  Malick tells Coulson that Hive does not mean any good for regular humans—his loss of Stephanie despite his sacrifice of his brother is proof of that in his eyes.  Finally, he warns Coulson that he cannot trust the Inhumans that he brought to the Hydra base because any one of them could have been turned by Hive.  This sets off a major bout of paranoia in Coulson in which he locks down the base and brings his top humans (Fitz, Simmons, and Mack; May was injured in Zephyr One) together to brainstorm options.  Fitz and Simmons perform an autopsy of Lucio (whom Joey killed on Zephyr One to save Lincoln), which turns up evidence of an infection/parasite within Lucio’s brain.  Fortunately, this infection does not appear to have done permanent damage to his brain, giving them hope that infected Inhumans can be cured.  Meanwhile Mack is monitoring all four Inhumans using the base’s security cameras, but this doesn’t really help as they are all doing things that could be suspicious but aren’t really bad.  At the same time, the Secret Warriors are confused about why Coulson locked down the base and what is going on.  Ultimately, all of this ups the level of suspicion between the humans and the Inhumans.  This was a really good device for increasing the stakes and tension of the episode, particularly since we as fans already knew all of this to be true and were just waiting for Hive’s mind-control powers to come to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s attention.

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Things finally start happening when the lights go out.  Fitz and Simmons discover the door to Malick’s detainment room ajar and him dead.  However, before they can do anything one of their advanced grenades that was in the room detonates, throwing the two of them back and slamming them into the wall (and hiding any evidence of Malick’s cause of death).  Coulson, Mack, and a S.H.I.E.L.D. team get the Secret Warriors surrounded in the base’s main hallway, where Coulson finally explains what’s going on:  he suspects that Hive has turned one of them.  This doesn’t go over too well, and the Secret Warriors barricade themselves into the common room to figure out what’s going on.  They are all suspicious of each other and accusing each other of being the turncoat—and not a single Mind-Stone-powered scepter in sight!  Finally they Joey and Elena convince Daisy that they need to make a run for it, and she agrees:  this way they can investigate it themselves and no one has to get hurt.  Daisy leads them to Coulson’s secret elevator, but it turns out that she actually led them into a containment unit where Coulson is waiting for them.  Coulson accuses Lincoln of being the traitor as the Kree orb was in his locker and he was alone with Hive at the Transia facility.  Lincoln reacts by charging his body and knocking out Elena when she touches him and then by attacking Coulson before Daisy finally knocks him out.

All four Secret Warriors are split up into isolation chambers for observation until Fitz and Simmons can run the appropriate tests to figure out which (if any) of them have been turned by Hive.  This gives Coulson and Daisy a moment for bonding as Daisy is disappointed in how badly the day went despite the promise that her team showed in the field.  Coulson however tells her that this isn’t the end of the road for the team and they will bounce back from this setback.  At this point it seems pretty nicely set to wrap up with a neat little bow and Lincoln as the traitor.  Too bad this is a spy show doing a suspense/thriller episode and there are about 10 minutes left!

So it turns out that the real traitor was actually Daisy the whole time.  She was turned while in the control panel after Lincoln captured Malick.  She went back to get the Kree orb.  She killed Malick so he couldn’t spill any more of Hive’s secrets (he told Coulson a lot), and even did it in exactly the way that Malick saw in his vision.  Daisy framed Lincoln as the traitor so that Coulson could find his mole and take the base off of lockdown.  Now she used her access to break out of her isolation cell and wants him to join her in leaving so that he can also find fulfillment in Hive.  Lincoln, however, refuses her request—and who can really blame him with the way she talks about being Hived!  Daisy leaves without him, takes the Kree orb, and leaves, bringing down the hangar as she goes.

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I really liked this surprise twist, and particularly how well they avoided telegraphing it throughout the episode.  There were a lot of reasons to suspect Lincoln, several reasons to suspect Joey, and even a couple reasons to suspect Elena.  But there was never a moment when I really said, “I think that means Daisy’s the traitor.”  Near the end I did come to the realization that there was nothing to make me suspect Daisy, and coupled with a promo picture for next week’s episode showing Daisy and Hive together I did start to put the pieces together, but it was still a satisfying twist when she revealed herself to be the traitor.  It was definitely better than the obvious choice, Lincoln!

Surprisingly this was a very focused episode; the only real additional plot revolved around Fitz and Simmons, who finally seem to have found happiness together.  While trying to figure out how to test for Hive parasites they were sitting on the floor in one of their rooms and talking about everything that has happened.  One thing led to another and they started kissing.  Fitz pulled away first, apologizing for moving too fast, but Simmons said that she thought 10 years was long enough for them to wait.  Seeing the two of them actually happy and actually exploring their relationship is quite sweet, and feels especially necessary after the Secret Warriors broke up, Daisy turned traitor and abandoned Lincoln, Joey talked about quitting the team, and Elena and Mack went from close to at odds.  With all the tension and broken relationships, someone needs a win!  Of course, as soon as they were happy my wife’s first words were “Great:  now one of them is going to die.”  This is a Whedon show, after all…

I really enjoyed this episode a lot.  The fight scenes were a lot of fun, the character dynamics were a lot of fun.  Even the stakes of the Secret Warriors’ infighting seemed much higher than they were in the comparable scene from The Avengers:  in that movie we all knew that they were going to come together in the end to fight Loki; the marketing made that much pretty clear.  The same is not true of the Secret Warriors, particularly now that Daisy has turned traitor and Coulson said that the he can’t let the Secret Warriors fight Hive.  Odds are still pretty good that we will see the Secret Warriors fight again before the end of the season, but we have no idea what the team will look like at that point.  All in all, this was a great episode, in part because it focused in on the characters and their interactions, and everyone got their moment to shine.

What did you think of this episode?  Were you surprised that Daisy was the traitor?  What do you think the Secret Warriors will look like next time they are called together?  Let me know in the comments!

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