I’m so glad Agents of SHIELD is back! As much as I love Agent Carter, I just couldn’t get as excited about it as I do with SHIELD. Perhaps it’s SHIELD’s ability to tie into the MCU more easily, or just the fact that I’ve had many more episodes to grow attached to these characters, but the return of my favorite show gives me something to really look forward to each week on TV (especially now that Galavant is over). Last week’s spring premiere gave us a look at the sort of cases Coulson’s Secret Warriors team will be investigating due to the growing presence of Inhumans in the world, while this week’s twisty episode focused on a more global aspect to the Inhuman “threat”. We got the return of two familiar faces, one a former enemy and the other an ambiguous frenemy. In addition, we also got to dive a little deeper into the relationship between Daisy and Lincoln, as well as some more insight into the creature that returned from the alien world Maveth wearing Grant Ward’s skin. So let’s take a look at “The Inside Man” written by Craig Titley and directed by John Terlesky.
The bulk of the action this week focused on Coulson and Talbot’s trip to a symposium with leaders from around the world to try to figure out how to deal with Inhumans. Talbot is there as the head of the ATCU of course, while Coulson is posing as a doctor who specializes in Inhumans. Their primary objective is to participate in the conference in order to feel out how the rest of the world views Inhumans, but they also expect one of the other delegates is a HYRDA spy and they hope to flush him/her out. What Coulson’s team is unprepared for is the fact that Talbot has a new bodyguard, Carl Creel, the Absorbing Man, last seen having turned to stone by Coulson and handed over to Talbot. Daisy and the rest of the team aren’t happy about this, but Hunter is furious, given Creel’s role in the death of his friends. Coulson allows Creel to tag along on the mission, benching the Secret Warriors since they wouldn’t be able to pass any Inhuman screening at the symposium.
The plan is for Coulson to use one of his new hand’s handy features, scanning the palms of the other delegates in order to copy their prints. The scans are transmitted to a device of Fitz’s creation which prints out palmprint gloves that Bobbi, May, and Hunter can use to access the other delegates’ secure rooms to search for clues as to who might be working with Gideon Mallick. In the meantime Coulson and Talbot meet with the other delegates, each of whom Talbot suspects of being the HYDRA mole based on his prejudices. They all sit down and discuss the Inhuman situation, some reacting in fear and others with empathy, while Coulson tries to keep things civil by pointing out that they’re not aliens, they’re humans with a little “something extra.” The Russian delegate proposes creating a “safe place” for Inhumans to gather inside Russia, but Coulson and his team think that’s a bad idea, allowing either for an easy attack on the Inhumans once they’re in one location or giving one country the opportunity to use the Inhumans as a weapon.
Hunter hasn’t been able to forgive or forget with Creel, and when Hunter spots him outside the hotel’s front entrance he goes to investigate, finding a human in stasis inside a truck. He’s knocked out before he can relay this to the others, and with no warning Mallick bursts into the meeting as Talbot accuses Coulson of being the HYDRA mole. So it turns out that Talbot is the traitor, but was only doing it because Mallick is holding his son hostage, who just happens to be the body in stasis that Hunter discovered. Talbot and Coulson are caged together while Mallick heads off with the Russian delegate to firm up their plans for an Inhuman settlement. Thankfully, Creel rescues the pair, apologizing for hitting Hunter so hard, and the team takes out the HYDRA goons in the hotel. May singlehandedly rescues Talbot’s son while Bobbi and Hunter sneak aboard Mallick’s private jet in the hopes of learning more about what HYDRA is up to.
Meanwhile back at the ranch (or more accurately the Playground), Daisy and Lincoln are getting sweaty. Ok, it’s not what you think, she’s just continuing his training in May’s absence with a little sparring. Daisy ends up on top of him and just as things are about to turn sweaty for a different reason Simmons bursts in. She needs Lincoln’s help as a doctor (wait, he’s a doctor? I completely forgot about that.) with Inhuman experience. She’s been studying Creel’s blood and has discovered something interesting. When Daisy’s (old) blood is exposed to Terrigen, it goes through the typical Terrigenesis transformation, but when Creel’s blood is added to Daisy’s it blocks the process. Effectively, Creel’s blood could be a vaccine against becoming an Inhuman thanks to his absorbing powers, although it would not cure someone who has already transformed. Daisy is furious both at the thought of a cure which might stop people from experiencing what she’s already experienced as well as at the idea of a vaccine altogether, especially when Lincoln shows some support for the idea. She storms off but the pair reconciles later, with Lincoln confessing that he’s jealous of the ease with which Daisy controls her power, admitting that he still struggles to match her Zen. Then they start getting sweaty again, but in a more fun way, though I keep expecting Simmons to burst in again to interrupt.
Things at HYDRA, on the other hand, have gotten just plain creepy. We learned this week that Hive (I’m not going call him/it/they “It” or Ward anymore) can control Inhumans, but can only inhabit the bodies of regular humans. He’s gained some measure of control over Giyera and Medusa-man Lucio, shedding a kind of dust or particle that infects them. Hive orders the pair to bring him five ordinary people, and they do with some reluctance, even commenting that the victims are innocents before being ordered to wait outside. Hive sucks these sacrifices dry, leaving just skeletons behind and regenerating Ward’s body to a more healthy looking (if goo-covered) state. Giyera listens outside as Hive pulls a Mummy in the other room, and starts to look more than a little worried about where this all is headed.
I really enjoyed the Coulson/Talbot team up this week. They play so well off each other, both always seemingly at the end of their rope where the other is concerned, and provide lots of laughs. SHIELD has become a pretty serious show, and it’s nice to get moments of lightness, whether Talbot in a “dress” and his complete disregard for other cultures or how uncomfortable he was carrying Coulson’s disembodied hand. I didn’t feel like Talbot was particularly interesting his first time around on the show, but he’s definitely grown on me, and the gruff, oblivious military officer is a staple of comic books. Plus his reconciliation with Coulson at the end where he told him, “Call me Glenn……. occasionally,” was great.
I’m intrigued by the Inhuman vaccine. The idea of a mutant cure has been done before (see X-Men: The Last Stand and many Marvel comics), but I think a vaccine is far more interesting. Where a “cure” would remove an Inhuman’s powers, effectively robbing them of a part of themselves (whether willing or unwilling), a vaccine brings much more nuance to the debate. It allows humans to ensure that they stay as they are, and prevents them from developing powers they may not want, but it raises issues of whether Terrigenesis is something that people should be avoiding as well as what are the ethics in denying a group of people the ability to increase in number. Will the vaccine become mandatory in some countries but remain optional in others. If the vaccine goes public does that involve teaching the public the truth behind the Inhumans and where they come from? Is this just the first step towards a “cure” down the road? It’s obviously way too early to be worrying about these questions, but clearly this has the potential to become a major plot element moving forward, particularly with regards to how Daisy and the Secret Warriors feel about it.
Speaking of Daisy, I’m happy she’s going after what she wants with Lincoln, but I’m still not 100% on board with him. He definitely grew on me in this episode, however, with his confession of how much he struggles to keep his powers in check and his jealousy over Daisy’s level of control. They may have made up after their little fight, but I doubt we’ve seen the last argument regarding an Inhuman vaccine between these two.
I feel like we’re building towards an inevitable schism within HYDRA. Hive is already starting to creep out some Giyera and Lucio, even if Gideon Mallick seems on board with whatever Hive wants. I foresee a day when HYDRA and SHIELD might have to team up in order to stop Hive. Won’t that be fun?
As one final note, I liked the interplay between May and Hunter this week. Hunter is a far more interesting character than I gave him credit for at first, and I like that May sees through his façade to the true motivation behind his actions. I agree with her that Hunter is loyal to SHIELD only as far as it’s what Bobbi wants and what he needs to keep her safe. We know that there have been discussions about a Bobbi/Hunter spinoff series, and this felt like the first rumblings in that direction. It’s not a stretch to imagine a scenario where the pair leaves the team to follow their own path. But nothing is better than May following Bobbi’s “I love you” by telling Hunter “I don’t hate you quite as much.”
What do you think? Did you enjoy “The Inside Man”? Did you see the Talbot as the mole twist coming? Are you glad that plotline wasn’t drawn out for weeks? Happy to have Talbot back? What new uses and gadgets would you like to see from Coulson’s latest hand? What do you make of the idea of an Inhuman vaccine? Does it conjure up X-Men memories, or do you think the show can find a new take on the idea? How creepy is Hive? Does he/it have to juice new victims on a regular basis, or was this a one-time thing? How long with Giyera stay by his side and how much do you think he can put up with? Did you miss Mack and Joey this week? Are Bobbi and Hunter destined to strike out on their own? Let me know in the comments!