Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “Laws of Nature”

Agents of SHIELD Cast - Season 3

Agents of SHIELD is back for season three! We’ve had a long summer, complete with two Marvel Cinematic Universe films, to speculate on the myriad of cliffhangers from last season’s shocking, action-packed finale. We were left with a resolution of sorts to the confrontation with Daisy’s parents and the Inhumans, but also with the promise of plenty more to come as a reunited SHIELD takes a more active role in the Inhuman situation. Coulson lost a hand, May left on vacation, Bobbi was tortured, Ward is the new head of HYDRA, and the Terrigen crystals were lost into the ocean, there to spread into unsuspecting fish oil bottles around the world. Oh yeah, and Simmons was sucked into the mysterious Kree monolith! Our first episode of the fall didn’t resolve all of these mysteries, but it took a first step along SHIELD’s new course, giving us a look at the direction things are heading, introducing new characters and threats, and setting a strong tone out of the gate. So let’s jump right into season three with “Laws of Nature,” written by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen and directed by Vincent Misiano.

  • I have to start with what was ultimately an unimportant part of the story but is a massively important step for the show and for Marvel and Disney: the introduction of the first LGBTQ character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The episode opened by showing the fallout of the sinking of the Terrigen crystals, as we witnessed the immediate aftermath of Joey Gutierrez’s Terrigenesis by fish oil. Joey, now an Inhuman with the ability to melt metal in his immediate vicinity, runs out into the street trying to get to a hospital, and we get a good reminder of the sort of chaos that must be taking place all over the world now that Inhumans can pop up anywhere with no warning. He brings scaffolding down on cars, he sets cars on fire, and generally terrifies everyone. And while his journey of self-acceptance and SHIELD’s handling of new Inhumans will probably be a major element of the story in at least the first chunk of season three, for the moment I’m more interested in what sets Joey apart not from the ordinary humans around him but instead from the host of Marvel characters we’ve seen on the big screen and the small over the last six years. I couldn’t help but grin when Daisy mentioned Joey’s boyfriend, because even in 2015 when marriage equality is the law of the land, representation still matters. Marvel has gotten a lot of (fair) criticism for being a white, heterosexual boys club, and even with upcoming films like Black Panther and Captain Marvel that’s still very much the case. Agents of SHIELD has helped balance out the gender ratio significantly, and things have gotten a little less white as the films and the shows have progressed, but I would never have guessed we’d see an LGBTQ character as part of the MCU this soon. Obviously, Joey is a recurring character (though one with superpowers) on a show watched by only a small fraction of the MCU fans who see the films in the theaters, but even a small step can seem huge when it’s the very first step. I loved how this aspect of Joey’s character was introduced in a way that made it clear that the writers were making a point of including an LGBTQ character while also not making a huge deal about it. Yet it wasn’t some inconsequential, throw-away fact, as Joey’s struggle with coming out provided a parallel to his new secret life as an Inhuman. We may be a long, seemingly infinite, way from a major tent-pole, blockbuster superhero film starring an LGBTQ character, but that doesn’t make this moment in the MCU any less worthy of celebration.
  • Poor Joey had a rough entry into the world of Inhumans, even compared to Daisy. Without warning he underwent Terrigenesis, destroyed his apartment, wandered into the street where everyone could scream at him and run away, and then found himself staring down the barrels of the guns of a massive looking team. But with the order coming to stop him with lethal force if necessary, it was immediately clear that we weren’t dealing with Coulson’s SHIELD. Luckily guns are also made of metal, and Joey bolted after watching them melt in their owners’ hands only to be chased into a dead-end alley. Luckily someone else was after him, and after dropping a smoke bomb we got to see Daisy/Quake (don’t call her Skye) now seemingly in full control of her powers dispatch the soldiers, even sending a car rolling after them for good measure. She gives him the typical “come with me if you want to live” introduction, before whisking him away in a specially-designed, Inhuman-rescuing box.
  • For all of the expertly choreographed precision of their recovery operation, it seems like Joey is the first Inhuman they’ve actually managed to recover, and the new team of Daisy and Mack doesn’t exactly have an ideal time of trying to ease Joey into his new life. They’ve got a specially designed cell for him that will keep everyone safe, but he’s still a prisoner and won’t ever be able to return to his old life. He’s understandably upset and Daisy doesn’t make things any better when she Force-slams him into the wall. She decides they need to bring in Lincoln, much to Mack’s dismay, because he knows more about dealing with new Inhumans than anyone else, but when things don’t exactly work out (more on that in a minute) she finally manages to get through to Joey as he begins to accept how much things have changed. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of Joey, especially after the excellent job Jean Pablo Raba did of bringing heart and humanity to the role. The Inhuman crisis needs a face to give it some emotional depth, and it looks like Joey is going to be that face and I couldn’t be happier with what we’ve seen so far.
  • Favorite Quote: Daisy: “You love your new toy, don’t you?” Coulson: “I very much love my new toy!”
  • Joey’s transformation also helped trigger the other major half of the plot involving Coulson’s attempt to track down the other group hunting Inhumans. This was not the first new Inhuman SHIELD tried to rescue, but the others all disappeared. Now at last Coulson has a few leads, including a weapon recovered from the team sent after Joey and a sneaky cell phone picture of a woman ordering the team around. The gun is turned over to Bobbi for analysis, who is in charge of the lab while her knee recovers from Ward breaking it and while Fitz is indisposed. Coulson tries to match the woman’s face to some known person in their database, and eventually comes up with many matches from someone who worked for seemingly every intelligence organization in the world under countless aliases. She is eventually tracked down and as SHIELD learns her route the find an opening each night during which she rides the subway alone. Coulson and Hunter move to make contact, thinking they finally have her pinned down, but it turns out the subway was just a setup in order to trap Coulson instead. The woman, Rosalind Price, is the head of an organization trying to neutralize the Inhuman threat. She tells Coulson that the laws of nature have changed and until the laws of man catch up she’ll have to do the best they can. She and Coulson playfully banter back and forth, each revealing that they know more than the other thinks but not playing all of their cards, when Rosalind comes right out and asks why SHIELD is killing the Inhumans they find. Coulson denies any knowledge of the bodies with holes in their chests currently under examination at Rosalind’s base, but before they can share any more information both of their cell phones start to ring, which can only mean another Inhuman incident. Rosalind takes the call in another subway compartment while Coulson and Hunter seize the opportunity to escape, leaving behind Rosalind’s unconscious guards and a wrecked car.
  • The pair of phone calls was triggered by Daisy’s attempt to recruit Lincoln. She and Mack showed up at the hospital where Lincoln has been working, keeping a low profile, sneakily acting like a patient to trick him into meeting with her. He wants nothing to do with SHIELD or Inhumans anymore, considering everything he was told by Daisy’s mother Jiaying was a lie. Lincoln and Mack start getting in each other’s face and the lights in the hospital start to flicker, but Lincoln claims it’s not him. As they move to investigate a behemoth of a man, with blue skin and a mane down his back, breaks in, killing a security guard with glowing powers that ripped through the guard’s chest. Daisy, Mack and Lincoln face him, with Daisy and Lincoln combining their powers as Mack fires bullets into the creature’s bare chest. It proves too much for him as he uses his powers to cut a hole in the wall and flees with the team giving chase. They show down a second time with Mack knocked aside and the beast starts to overpower the combined force of Quake and Sparkplug until Daisy rips a hole in the floor sending him crashing down several stories and vanishing. Lincoln sees his boss on the phone telling someone about his abilities but instead of joining Daisy and Mack he runs off on his own. So we’ve now been introduced to one of the season’s main threats: Lash. Lash, an Inhuman from the comics who killed those he felt were unworthy of his powers, is definitely something new for the show. He’s more menacing and intimidating than what we’re used to, and he’s also more openly hostile than the typical HYDRA double agents our team has faced.
  • Favorite Quote: Hunter: “I have trouble counting without using my fingers but I think there are more of them than us.” (and then later) “One team for each of us… again, killing it with the math.”
  • And then there’s Fitz. Like most of us, Fitz has spent the time since the season finale trying to figure out what happened to Simmons, and hoping she’s still alive. Despite Coulson’s desire for him to spend his time in the lab, Fitz has been chasing down any lead he can find across the globe, and his latest has lead him to Morocco. He’s arranged a meeting with some sort of criminal organization, where he hopes he can trade the contents of the briefcase he’s carrying for an ancient scroll stolen from a museum in Iraq which might contain a clue to the nature of the monolith. It’s a tense showdown, giving us a good look at the risks Fitz has been taking in order to get Simmons back as they threaten to just cut him open if he doesn’t open the case. The man in charge correctly guesses that he’s doing this for a woman, and says that he must really love her. “Yeah,” says Fitz, breaking our hearts. They make the deal and Fitz opens the case to reveal bombs of the sort Simmons used to kill Bakshi at the end of last season. The soldiers laugh as they move to use one on Fitz, leaving no evidence behind, but instead it goes off in their faces in a flash and Fitz makes a quick getaway with the scroll in hand.
  • Back at the Playground, Coulson’s not too happy with Fitz. He runs through some of Fitz’s theories about Jemma’s disappearance in the previous months, including the possibility that Simmons shrank to subatomic size inspired by the Pym Tech incident. However, Fitz is now convinced that the monolith is really a black hole that sucked Jemma through spacetime to somewhere else. He opens the scroll, convinced that he finally has the answer, only to find a blank parchment with one word in Hebrew written upon it: “Death.” Coulson tries to reason with Fitz, telling him that he needs Fitz’s big brain and heart focused on the task at hand rather than devoting all of his time to Simmons. Fitz refuses to give up on her, but Coulson says it’s time for him to say goodbye. It hasn’t been easy on any of them, and nothing will ever feel normal again, but it’s time for Fitz to move on. Fitz seems to accept this.
  • Until he goes right into the sealed box containing the monolith, where only robot probes had been allowed before, shotgunning off the lock and opening the door so he can bang his fists against it and scream for it to do something. It’s a devastating scene, with killer acting once again from Iain de Caestecker, and it all just seems so hopeless and that Jemma must be gone for good. Except at that moment we cut to Jemma, running across a desolate alien world with two moons looming in the sky. She has a gash on her forehead and is out of breath as she takes shelter behind a rock formation. In a panic she starts to dig in the soil until she reaches some mud which she smears over the cut on her head and breathes a sigh of relief. So Jemma is alive, she doesn’t seem to be trapped inside the monolith, and is a long, long way from home. We don’t know much else, but given the Kree origin of the monolith, this might be somewhere in the Kree Empire. It looks like she’s on the run from something, though we don’t know whether it’s a creature or an enemy. Is she putting the mud on her head to help with her injury, or to cover her blood and mask the smell? So many questions, and I’m betting we don’t get an answer to them too quickly. But maybe this will be SHIELD’s big tie-in to Guardians of the Galaxy?
  • Favorite Quote: Coulson: “Is this still cagey banter or are we suddenly being honest with each other?”
  • There were plenty of other developments in this week’s episode; some small, some large. Near the end of the episode we saw President Ellis (from Iron Man 3) give a speech announcing the formation of the ATCU (Advanced Threat Containment Unit) to combat the growing threat of alien incidents on the planet. He didn’t specifically mention the Inhumans, but their primary focus seems to be the same as SHIELD’s at the moment: dealing with people who take fish oil pills. The ATCU however already existed before the speech, and is in fact Rosalind’s team, which when combined with President Ellis using the same “laws of nature” line as Rosalind brings serious questions about who is really in charge of the ATCU. The ATCU is being set up as an American version of SHIELD, but with more government oversight (in theory), but it’s too early to say how their methods will color the organization. I think Rosalind and Coulson will probably see eye-to-eye on some things, but clash on others, which will probably be a recurring theme throughout the season. I bet they both will think Lash is bad, however.
  • President Ellis was one of several references to the MCU this week, but William Sadler’s cameo was obviously the biggest. There were repeated references to the Battle of Sokovia from Age of Ultron, and of course the Pym Tech theory of Simmons’ disappearance. We’re a long way from Captain America: Civil War, but already the developments with the ATCU feel like they could be building towards an eventual confrontation over how to handle people with powers. I wouldn’t expect quite as explosive a tie-in to the MCU this season as we got with season 1 and the HYDRA reveal, but I doubt they’ll ignore Civil War either. I expect something bigger than the revelation that Coulson helped with the helicarrier that deus ex machina-ed the ending of Age of Ultron.
  • I think we’ll be feeling the effects of the Terrigen crystals for a while. Coulson’s analysis predicted the complete spread of the alien matter into our ecosystem in 17 months and 21 days, and at this point I doubt they’ll be able to stop it. The question becomes how to deal with the fallout rather than rushing to prevent developments. He said they’d pulled fish oil from the shelves, but only after an unknown amount had been sold, which means Inhumans could pop up anywhere at any time. I did like the explanation that the Kree “heavy metals” sank to the bottom so none of the fish oil pills will kill humans, only affecting Inhumans by triggering Terrigenesis. It would have been a bit too dark for the show to have countless people turning to stone across the world.
  • Coulson got a new hand! Obviously we knew he would, but it looks like his prosthetic is pretty advanced. I’d love for it to turn out to be a Stark creation, complete with a Robert Downey, Jr. cameo, but I don’t know that we’ll ever see that. I thought Coulson slipping his arm off to escape from the handcuffs was a clever bit of writing, though I can’t imagine Rosalind will let him get away with that again should they end up in a similar situation. It sort of reminds me of Luke’s mechanical hand from Star Wars, which proved surprisingly useful in the expanded universe novels. Coulson could use it for all kinds of things, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it has some sort of secret compartment in it that hides a weapon or a tool. Maybe he’ll end up with a rocket launcher in his arm a la Deathlok. I liked the way Clark Gregg played it, constantly moving his arm uncomfortably, as though he was still getting used to it, even when it wasn’t the focus of a scene. Watching him gingerly try to pour coffee (into a Grumpy Cat mug) was a top-notch bit of physical acting, despite the conversation being about something else entirely. Though it freaks me out that his solidified, severed hand is in a glass case in the lab constantly reminding everyone of what happened.
  • Favorite Quote: Anything Mack mumbles to himself, especially if it involves shotgun/axe combinations
  • And then there’s Daisy Johnson. It was really tough to write this recap and not call her Skye. I know a lot of people feel betrayed by the show for changing her name to the one she was given by her (evil/misguided) parents, because they feel like it’s destroying the character they love. Give her a new outfit/costume, change her name to a comic book character, and turn her into a superhero and suddenly she’s not the character we’d grown to love and identify with. But I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think given Skye’s lifelong search for her parents, it makes sense that she would take Daisy as her name even considering what happened with Cal and Jiaying. The name was given to her out of love, and much of the evil Cal did was also out of love, so I think she’s found a way to forgive him and honor that love without defining herself by her parents. Characters can’t remain static, and I wouldn’t want to watch a show where Skye stayed the awkward hacktivist loner for 8 seasons (or more, hopefully!) any more than I would want Coulson to be the naïve corporate yes man he started the show as. Change is good, and I think allowing Daisy to shape her own identity by adopting Quake as a callsign, stepping into a role where she feels she can help people and to which she feels called, and assuming a new purpose feels entirely in character for our old Skye. It’s early in the season, but I have faith that the writers won’t abandon her personality just because times and roles have changed. Still, it’s going to take me a while to get used to calling her Daisy, even if Coulson and I might be the only ones who struggle.
  • We didn’t get any May or Ward this week, and while I missed them (yes both of them) I’m glad they weren’t forced in. The show is very crowded, especially with the addition of Mack and Lincoln to the main cast this season, so we’re going to have to get used to some characters not appearing every week. If it lets them do justice to May and Ward as characters once they return then I’m all for it. I’d rather have fewer characters per episode but each character have an important part to play than everyone appear every week and only deliver one line. It’s something Dollhouse excelled at in season two, and with a lot of carryover to SHIELD it gives me confidence that they’ll be able to balance this large cast. That being said, I can’t wait to learn what May’s been up to and see her reunited with the team, and to see Ward get his ass kicked by our heroes once again.
  • Speaking of the cast, ABC has officially ordered a pilot episode of the previously rumored Bobbi Morse/Lance Hunter spinoff. It will be titled Marvel’s Most Wanted, which makes me think it will be a teamup between SHIELD and the Muppets, but maybe I’m just confused. They’re saying it’s not technically a spinoff, but I think that’s a load of industry crap because it will continue these characters’ stories. I’ll definitely watch it if they decide to take it to series. I like the dynamic between Bobbi and Hunter, who are still trying to figure out their relationship based on this week’s episode (I think poor Hunter will probably need to get some SCUBA gear at some point and go get his wedding ring back), especially because it’s different than all of the other character dynamics on the show. With a title like Marvel’s Most Wanted I imagine we’d get something a bit less serialized with more stand-alone episodes than SHIELD, more like a Marvel version of CSI, which could work well as a counterpoint to SHIELD. Plus, if it allows the characters to continue on while removing them from SHIELD to free up time for the others, so much the better.
  • As a final note, I just discovered that there is now a soundtrack album for SHIELD available to download on iTunes. (Supposedly there’s a physical CD version on the way eventually.) Despite being a huge film score nut, I honestly hadn’t paid much attention to the music on SHIELD, but Bear McCreary has crafted a complex score for the show over two seasons, with a surprisingly diverse sound to it. The album earns bonus points for being almost a full 80 minutes and featuring music from a wide variety of episodes. It’s also a really enjoyable listen, something even the best scores can’t always claim, and McCreary offers a breakdown of the album and his plans for season three on his blog. You should definitely check it out!

What do you think? Did you enjoy “Laws of Nature”? Are you excited for season three? Where is Simmons stranded and what’s after her? What is the ATCU really after? Who is Rosalind? Do you think Bobbi and Lance will get remarried? Will you watch Marvel’s Most Wanted? Do you like the partnership of Mack and Daisy? Are you going to keep calling her Skye? Are you pissed at the show for changing her name? How heartbreaking was Fitz this week? Who built Coulson’s new arm and what secrets does it hold? Who is Lash and why is he killing Inhumans? Where is May? What’s Ward been up to? Do you like the new Bus? Why has it taken this long to get an LGBTQ character in the MCU? What do you want to see this season on Agents of SHIELD? Let me know in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “Laws of Nature”

  1. I’m glad you liked it. I personally thought it was a bit heavy on exposition, but then again that just means we’re headed for more action as the season goes. I also really enjoyed the twist that the ATCU weren’t the ones hunting Inhumans. It kind of adds a layer to the group in the case that they’re not really the bad guys here. After all, some of these people like Joey have shown to be destructive when they can’t control their powers. It’s like the Olmost-SHIELD from last year in the case of they’re just trying to find another way of navigating through this chaos while at the same time protecting innocent people. Like last season, I’m sure they’ll eventually put their differences aside when an enemy like Lash becomes a threat that they would both want to take down.

    Speaking of Joey, I was surprised by how much I liked him. He reminded me of the earlier Mike Peterson in the way of him being a ordinary man caught up in an extraordinary situation. Likewise, I hope that he can reappear just like Mike Peterson once he gains control of his powers, but it’s still a long path in this season. I was also surprised by the reveal of Joey to be a LGBTQ character, though I would have guessed that Marvel would have tried in AoS before the films. Since the movies have a larger budget and risk, I can understand why they would be dragging their feet in introducing more diversity in the films. However, since the shows have less risk and TV is already becoming more diverse, Marvel can test the waters in diversity through introducing characters and leads in AoS and seeing how people react. It’s a bit disappointing since Marvel has less incentive in film projects, but it also proves how important it is to watch and like shows like SHIELD. It tells the company that we can watch and will things that have LGBTQ characters like Joey or female leads like Peggy or Daisy.

    Speaking of Daisy, I was aware of the name change since SDCC when they formally introduced Chloe Bennett as Daisy Johnson. I was a bit upset at first mostly because I don’t care for a rapid change, but I have since gotten used to it. Especially since being not only a comic-book character but a comic-book character with superpowers guarantees her longevity as a character…and the fact that she will probably never be killed off. Plus, with that entrance in that costume with the gauntlets, I didn’t care what I called her.

    I’m excited that the next episode might see the return of May and Simmons. Even though I know that May’s likely in a better place, I really missed her in this episode, and the show’s moving pretty quickly through the story. Like Simmons’ mystery last season, I’m not even going to try and guess where she is now (though other guesses range from Hel to Titan). But maybe the more intriguing storyline will come from what will happen when she comes back.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Haven’t seen this yet, watching on ABC.com and have to wait for it to go out of “verify to watch” mode (grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, smite, snarl, smash, really? this is free TV with commercials!)… or is it ever going to go out of verify mode? Much much much easier to keep up with Doctor Who by paying Amazon $2 an episode. These producers need to understand that some of us don’t have the high tech and can’t commit to a subscription. Meanwhile, keeping an eye on these pages!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Recap: Agents of SHIELD – “Purpose in the Machine” | The Love Pirate

  4. Pingback: Recap: Agents of SHIELD – “4,722 Hours” | The Love Pirate

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