Many S.H.I.E.L.D. fans might have been worried when they learned that Bobbi and Hunter were leaving the show. After all, they’re two of the best characters on the team, and Hunter was the comedic core of most episodes. And it’s true, you can really feel their absence in this episode–but not in a bad way. For what might be the first time since the beginning of season two, Watchdogs manages to give every single character on the team something to do. Don’t get me wrong, even when its main cast was pushing double digits, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was generally pretty adept at balancing most of its characters, but every episode always seemed to give one character or another the short end of the stick. This situation led to the unfortunate case of Lincoln Campbell, a character who has now been in the show for over a season, is in a relationship with one of the main characters, and yet has almost zero depth or character development. In fact, I’m willing to bet at least one of you reading this didn’t know his last name was Campbell (I only know because I looked it up). Fortunately, that looks like it’s about to change with Watchdogs.
Despite being action-packed and jumping between three different major plots, this episode feels like the show finally getting to catch its breath. For the first time since the show returned from its break, May is actually doing something. That something turns out to be tracking her ex-husband so she can put an end to his Inhuman rampage. In a few touching scenes with Simmons, the two women discuss pain and guilt and how to deal with the knowledge that you’re responsible for others getting hurt. It’s a great scene that sets up the eventual return of Lash later on in this season, and it explores a new character dynamic that we haven’t seen very much of before.
Meanwhile, the main focus of the episode goes to Mack, another underdeveloped character, who is visiting his brother when a hate group known as The Watchdogs attack an ATCU facility. As Mack struggles to keep his real job a secret from his brother, he also gets in a heated argument with Daisy about whether or not ends justify the means. Obviously, the past several episodes have been laying some groundwork for Captain America: Civil War, and this episode is just the most recent in a series of episodes presenting two opposing arguments about the Inhumans/powered individuals that are both rational and compelling in their own ways. However, the crux of this week’s argument rests on whether or not it’s right for Daisy to shake down (no pun intended) a member of The Watchdogs to get information about a possible terrorist attack, even though he may or may not be involved. Now, the episode does a pretty decent job presenting both sides of the argument here, but it’s hard to see why this is where Mack is drawing the line. S.H.I.E.L.D. has done way worse shit than anything Daisy talks about doing during this episode (remember Thomas Ward?). Mack is great as the voice of reason, and his disagreements with Coulson make him one of my personal favorite characters. Still, his moral code seems somewhat flexible based on the writers’ needs.
The action in this episode is a lot of fun, and very different from the kind of stuff we usually get from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The home-invasion style sequence when Mack and his brother were under threat of The Watchdogs was very well done, and it finally delivered on the long-promised Shotgun-axe combo.
However, as great as pretty much everything in this episode was, the highlights for me were Coulson’s interactions with Lincoln. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Lincoln have any extended interactions with anyone other than Daisy, and now that he’s trying to become an agent it’s about time we start seeing him spend more time with other members of the team. Coulson is basically speaking for the audience when he tells Lincoln that he’s personally vetted every other member of the team, but he doesn’t know Lincoln. Who is this guy? Why do we care about him? This episode finally starts to answer some of those questions, and while I’m not quite ready to say that Lincoln is one of my new favorite characters, this is definitely a step in the right direction.
4.5 Shotgun Axes out of 5. Seriously, that moment was better than the boxing glove arrow showing up on Arrow
In their terrorist video, The Watchdogs mention “The Avengers, and more like them every day”. A line almost exactly like this is all Captain America: Civil War needs to acknowledge the Inhuman epidemic on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. We don’t need a name-drop, but just an acknowledgement that there are more powered people than just the Avengers.
Nitramene was a big plot point in this episode, which we of course first saw in the first season of Agent Carter. Daisy needs to brush up on her S.H.I.E.L.D. history though, because apparently everyone except her knows that it was invented by Howard Stark.
Mack and Fitz have some great banter this episode. Mack: “Should we take this debris back with us? Study it?” Fitz: “Uhh…yeah, sure, have you been working out? Because it ways 100,000 tons. It’s a building.” Mack: “So…no, then?”
Another one, when Ruben sees Mack on a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission: Fitz:”What does he think you’re doing?” Mack:”Insurance” Fitz:“Well, not anymore, I wager.”
Anyone else catch the name-drop for another upcoming Marvel show? Daisy:“S.H.I.E.L.D. will take all the wounded men into custody and Damage Control will clean up”