After slowly building their villains over the last few episodes, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings them to the forefront. Both Lash and Ward battle S.H.I.E.L.D. tonight, but instead of an epic clash, both conflicts are disappointing. The Lash storyline keeps adding enticing new details, but Lash himself remains a nonentity. And Ward is brought to yet another shootout with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, but the show isn’t escalating the tension of the storyline, merely prolonging Ward’s villainy. After Daniel Whitehall and Jiaying provided great Hydra/Inhuman villains last season, it’s a little disappointing that we’re four episodes into the second season and still waiting for the villains to have some sort of a plan or ethos. Instead they just exist, acting generically evil so our heroes have justification to try (and fail) to kill them.
After weeks of lurking in the shadows, Lash finally steps into the light. Well, figuratively; they still keep that awful, stiff rubber mask mostly in the shadows. Lash is a monstrous hulk, killing off Inhumans not because he’s merciful, but because he’s “necessary.” Yet Lash isn’t all monster; at episode’s end, Daisy watches as his shadow morphs into human form and slinks into the night. The episode plays Lash’s identity as something of a mystery, that it’s not just some random dude moonlighting as a vampire, but maybe someone S.H.I.E.L.D. knows. The episode hints that Lash is Rosalin, clearly as a misdirect (Inhuman diviner Dwight Frye didn’t react to her presence). The mystery of Lash’s identity could be fun, but Lash’s fight scenes are still terrible. His blue soul-sucking is pretty but sanitized, and the holes he leaves in walls look like ACME gags from Looney Tunes.
Daisy and Mac are together again in this subplot. I’m beginning to wonder if the Daisy/Lincoln romance is a red herring to hide a Daisy/Mac romance. Chloe Bennett and Henry Simmons have tons of chemistry together, and the show has gone out of its way to pair them up every episode. I like their professional rapport, but a romance would offer an all-too-rare glimpse into Mac’s personal life. But S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t playing coy at all about setting up Rosalin and Coulson. It makes sense, and definitely makes a different dynamic than last season’s similar setup with the competing S.H.I.E.L.D.s. I’m sure it’ll make Rosalin’s betrayal of Coulson and eventual death all the more palpable.
Hunter stupidly rushing to confront Ward is an apt metaphor for tonight’s episode, which rushed Hunter’s so-far stellar infiltration of Hydra to a needlessly fast conclusion. It squanders the excellent setup of Hunter’s infiltration in the first three episodes. Based on the last few episodes, I was expecting Hunter to slowly work his way through Hydra, until he’s finally close enough to Ward to squeeze the trigger. Instead, the episode dumps Hunter into Ward’s lap, delivering an incredibly bland shootout where he and May casually walked between cover. This shootout stands out as some of the worst fight choreography on the show, with poor choreography and uninspired camerawork. And while tonight’s firefight isn’t without consequence, it does nothing to really ramp up Ward’s intensity as a villain. We’ve known for ages that Ward is a merciless killer, ever since he killed his first Koenig in season one. To truly ramp up the stakes, either Ward, Hunter, or May really needed to die in that shootout. Instead, all three walk away alive, and this storyline has officially overstayed its welcome.
When I said last week that S.H.I.E.L.D. desperately needed to kill someone, Andrew was decidedly not on my list. While I don’t have a lot of love for Andrew as a character, I love what he did to the rest of the team. He was the only character who fleshed out the inner voices of the rest of the cast, providing a sensible counterpoint to the brash and impulsive Coulson. My biggest worry is that with Andrew dead, Coulson will fast-track his Inhumans into a Secret Warriors team, which will narrowly save the day in the end. This will make Andrew’s valid concerns look timid and petty because it all worked out in the end, right? Daredevil ran into a similar problem this year, when (SPOILERS) the show killed off a major hero in the penultimate episode, only to reveal he was wrong about major aspects of the case against Fisk. The villain was defeated, but in death, Urich looked like a fool.
This episode doesn’t spend much time on its most enticing mystery: Jemma’s motivation for returning to the alien world. I don’t mind not exploring this in detail quite yet, because the episode gives us a beautiful scene between her and Andrew. Andrew is trying to draw Jemma out, to get her to talk about her traumas on the blue world. But Jemma remains clammed up, only revealing that while on that blue rock, she’d lost all hope. It’s my favorite scene of the episode, and really shows Andrew’s worth on the show. In a show where every cast member is a redundant archetype, Andrew stood alone, trying to find the humanity in the endless parade of tough brawlers, snarky spies, and alien hybrids.
2 Discarded Cocoons out of 5. Dwight implies that he’s been Inhuman for awhile, but he just leaves his cocoon sitting on the floor like that? What a slob.
Having said that, Andrew’s death scene was appropriately horrifying. I like how they captured the claustrophobia of the random convenience store; he really had no chance.
So far, between Andrew and Triplett, the only heroes the show has killed off have been black men. And Mac and Mike Peterson, while alive, were also presumed dead at one point. Just sayin’.
“Director Ward.” Ah, Grant. Even growing a beard and turning evil won’t stop you from being a massive tool. I think Ward’s downfall will be Werner Von Strucker, who will seize Hydra from Director Slab BulkHead. After all, Hydra really should be lead by a Strucker.
I’m really curious about the structure of Hydra under Ward. It seems very vaguely defined. Martin Donovan, who played a Hydra agent in Ant-Man, is listed on IMDb as appearing this season, but I’m not sure how accurate that is.
So with Alicia, the multiplying Inhuman, Daisy’s Secret Warriors pool is at four, including Lincoln and Joey. He’s not Inhuman, but I’d really like to see Deathlok up for consideration as well.
Best line of the night wasn’t a line at all. It was this exchange:
May: “We’re all professionals.”
Coulson: “Yeah, but we’re also friends.”
May: [deadpan glare]