In trying to gather my thoughts to write this review of this week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I found myself struggling to make up my mind about how I felt about Parting Shot. On one hand, it’s hard to call this episode anyhing but a failure: the tone was completely inconsistent with the rest of the season, all momentum that was built up by the last two episodes was lost, and the show’s usual talent of juggling multiple intriguing storylines was completely lost in favor of a single, almost unrelated mission. But Parting Shot is only a failure when judged as an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Now, considering that it is an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., that doesn’t sound like much of an excuse. But if you judge it for what it actually was, a backdoor pilot for the upcoming Most Wanted spin-off, many of she episode’s traits seem much less incongruous.
Admittedly, this is an odd time for a backdoor pilot for Most Wanted. As I said before, the first two episodes since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s return have built up a lot of momentum, so abandoning any traces of the Secret Warriors and Hive is an absolute shame. Besides, Most Wanted won’t be airing until September at the earliest, so getting rid of Bobbi and Hunter now seems a little premature. But presumably, there were real world factors that influenced the timing of this episode, so rather than dwell on unfortunate external circumstances it seems the only fair way to judge this episode for how well it accomplished its goal is to consider it as an episode that exists on its own, outside of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s third season.
With that in mind, this episode follows Bobbi and Hunter (and occasionally the rest of the team) as they follow Gideon Malick to the proposed site of the Inhuman Sanctuary/Prison Camp in Siberia and stumble into a plot to kill the Prime Minister of Russia and replace him with one of his generals, who happens to be an Inhuman. It’s kind of a clunky plot, and there are some elements (especially near the end) that don’t exactly make a lot of sense, but it serves as a relatively un-distracting backdrop for Bobbi and Hunter to do the whole “spy” thing. For a show that’s ostensibly about a spy agency, it’s surprising how different a Burn Notice-style espionage episode feels from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s normal fare. When Most Wanted was announced, many (including myself) were worried that taking a show about S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and using it to spin off another show about S.H.I.E.L.D. agents was a surefire way to rob Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. of its best characters and put those characters in a pale imitation of the same show at the same time. Fortunately, that looks like it’s definitely not going to be the case: if tonight’s episode is any indication, Most Wanted will have a very different feel from its sister, more like a traditional spy/cop show that you might find as a re-run on USA Network. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is entirely up to your opinion on that format of shows, but the characters and world of Most Wanted seem interesting enough to make it the best possible version of that format.
For reasons that don’t completely make sense, the death of three Russian officials force Bobbi and Hunter to resign from S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to avoid an international incident. While admitting they work for S.H.I.E.L.D. is obviously not an option, the show doesn’t do a great job of explaining why the Russian Prime Minister is so suspicious of them in the first place. Yes, they were directly or indirectly involved in the deaths of three officials, but, as Hunter points out, two of those officials were attempting to kill the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister seems skeptical of the threat to his life for some reason, even though he had just finished being attacked by a shadow monster and rescued by Bobbi. At one point, he tells President Ellis (who drops in at the Interpol black site where Bobbi and Hunter are kept because he had nothing better to do) that “Someone must pay for what has happened here.” Um, really? It wouldn’t be enough to say “There was an attempt on the Prime Minister’s life, those planning the coup were killed,” and leave it at that? In a show with superpowers and science that might as well be magic, I understand that it’s hard to create a problem that Coulson can’t think his way around, but I still feel like the writers could have come up with something better.
All that being said, the contrivance of the situation doesn’t take away one bit from this episode’s ending, which is likely the most emotional moment the show has ever attempted. Unable to say goodbye to their teammates for fear of attracting unwanted attention, the entire team individually sends shots to Bobbi and Hunter’s table in a bar and raises a glass to them before wordlessly walking out of their lives. It very easily could have felt silly and cheesy, but the whole cast sells it well. And if you don’t get at least a little bit teary when you see Mack cry, then then there’s something wrong with you.
As an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode: 2 cups of mushroom soup out of 5.
As a Most Wanted pilot: 3.5 manly tears out of 5.
I’m guessing some people will be really down on this episode, but for me personally it gave me a lot of faith that Most Wanted will be worth checking out.
Is it just me, or did the guy interrogating Bobbi and Hunter look like a discount Jimmy Smits?
Bobbi: “He was just doing his job.” Hunter: “So was Stalin.”
I laughed at “Amadeus Ravenclaw Hunter,” but is it really that much more ridiculous than “Lance Hunter”?
Best line of the night not uttered by Hunter or Bobbi: “The letter that looks like New Hampshire with legs. That’s D, right?”
The Shadow Inhuman was a really cool idea, but pretty disappointing in this episode except for that one fight scene.
Alright, I’m just going to say it. Malick’s daughter is hot.