Episode 19 of this season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. begins with the new record for oldest flashback on Marvel Television, taking place in the early days of human civilization as the Kree Reapers (or Kreapers, as I’ll be calling them) create the very first Inhumans. It’s an awesome scene, and one that gives us a feel of how the rest of the episode is going to play out: it’s all about the relationship between creations and their creators. Whether that’s Hive summoning and fighting the Kreapers or Daisy’s heart wrenching confrontation with Mack, Failed Experiments works both as an individual episode of the show and as a build-up to the final three episodes of the season.
One of the strongest aspects of Failed Experiments is that, despite their best efforts, S.H.I.E.L.D. completely fails at pretty much every aspect of their goal this episode. They fail to take down Hive, they fail to convince Daisy to return, they fail to develop a cure, and they fail to carry out S.H.I.E.L.D.’s mission of protecting the Earth from those who threaten it. Like the old saying goes, the night is darkest just before the dawn, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is in a pretty dark place right before their finale. But enough about how this episode ends, let’s talk about the journey that takes the team into one of its lowest points of the season.
The first two-thirds of this episode essentially follow both Hive’s team and Coulson’s as they attempt experiments that will change Inhuman DNA. Hive wants to recreate the original Kree experiments used to make the first Inhumans in order to turn regular humans into members of his Inhuman army. Meanwhile, FitzSimmons and Lincoln believe they may have created an antiserum that will release Inhumans from Hive’s control. Holden Radcliffe, the doctor in charge of Hive’s experiments, first attempts the process on the last remaining heads of Hydra, and things get a little…melty. Needless to say, Hive isn’t pleased. The exchange between Hive and Radcliffe about why Hive should or shouldn’t keep Radcliffe alive is equal parts very funny and completely terrifying, and shows exactly how threatening Hive can be. But Radcliffe convinces Hive to keep him around and causes him to signal the Kreapers to return to Earth so that Kree blood can be collected.
Meanwhile, FitzSimmons have their first argument as a couple (which thankfully never devolves in to the extremely tired trope of “two dating characters have a work disagreement that ruins the relationship”) over whether or not the potential cure they’ve created is safe enough to be tested on Lincoln. Lincoln is fairly whiny about wanting to help Daisy this episode, which is a real shame considering I was just starting to like him. Nevertheless, despite a direct order from Coulson not to test the serum on himself, Lincoln does it anyway and almost kills himself in the process. As we see at the end of the episode, his efforts were completely in vain as the cure FitzSimmons created doesn’t even work.
Eventually, after finding where Hive and his crew are hiding out, S.H.I.E.L.D. sends in a strike team to either take Hive out, rescue Daisy, or both. During their mission, the Kreapers arrive, which sets up the final act of the episode as a combined strike force/alien invasion, with the climax of the episode cutting between Hive fighting a Kreaper and Daisy fighting Mack. Charged with collecting blood from one of the Kreapers, Daisy shows how scary her powers can be when she makes short work of one before turning her sights on Mack. After a really difficult discussion about ideology, the right/wrongness of S.H.I.E.L.D. and some logic on Daisy’s part that made an uncomfortable amount of sense, Daisy and Mack both realize that there’s no chance of either one changing their minds, and Daisy gets ready to kill Mack before being shot non-fatally by S.H.I.E.L.D.
Hive eventually wins his fight with the Kreaper as well as the S.H.I.E.L.D team watches in horror realizing they have absolutely no way to kill Hive, which will inevitably lead to the Hive vs Lash showdown that we’ve all been hoping for since the second half of this season began. As I already discussed, the episode ends on a note of pure hopelessness for the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, but a promise of an extremely satisfying end to the season a just few weeks away.
4 Kreapers out of 5. The Kree looked great this episode. They would have fit right in with Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy.
“I had to shoot him three times just to shut him up”- Simmons has a great reaction to last week’s confrontation with Hive.
“Why is everyone making this about themselves?” -May’s reaction to everyone bitching about how Daisy leaving is their fault is great enough to make me wish she’d stop by an episode of Arrow.
“Were you like this before you got your powers?” “What, 110% awesome? You bet!” He’s no Hunter, but James is pretty great.
FitzSimmons’ discussion of Simmons’s ex-boyfriend Milton was great. I’ve never met him, but I already hate him.
“I need DNA from a Kree and you gave me DNA from a…dead host. A very handsome, but dead host”