Saturday, 19 March 2016

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 3x12 - "The Inside Man"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 3x12 - "The Inside Man"

Synopsis

In an effort to flush out Hydra spies at a world conference about Inhumans, Coulson finds himself aligned with two former enemies: General Talbot and the Absorbing Man. Can the Head of SHIELD navigate the intrigue and double-crosses to discover the identity of Malick’s inside man?

Review

After some off-world action and super-powered shenanigans, this episode of Agents of SHIELD saw the series return to its spy drama roots as Agent Coulson partnered up with General Talbot to infiltrate a symposium about the Inhuman threat. Incorporating false identities, espionage and double-crosses, this episode borrowed plenty of plot elements from previous installments and as such felt slightly derivative of past episodes. Even the ‘twist’ with Talbot felt reminiscent of past storylines, resulting in a slightly raised eyebrow, rather than open-mouthed shock. There just wasn’t anything exciting here, really. The most interesting aspect of the episode, The Absorbing Man, felt side-lined and aside from the discovery that his blood contained an antidote for Terrigenesis, he didn’t have much impact on the plot at all.

It was great to see the show adopt a streamlined approach to its narrative, placing all of the focus going towards Coulson and Talbot’s infiltration of the symposium, rather than presenting a range of different storylines for each cast-member. That said, the episode did develop some of the season’s secondary plot threads, particularly with the revelation that Fitz-Simmons had devised an immunity to Terrigenesis that could prevent further outbreaks. Of course, Daisy got on her high horse about the discovery – once again presenting herself as a holier-than-thou expert in all things Inhuman, despite the logic behind the decision. The relationship between her and Lincoln doesn’t quite ring true and lacks the same spark and chemistry that she had with Ward, which makes it even more annoying that he has been killed off – we’re not likely to see any more plot developments on that front.


It was great to see Adrian Pasdar return as the inimitable General Talbot, providing some much-needed non-SHIELD presence. His banter and interplay with Coulson is always fun to watch and I’ve enjoyed seeing their relationship develop over the past season and a bit. While the episode addressed The Absorbing Man’s past as a Hydra assassin and the fact he’d survived absorbing the Obelisk, there was very little time spent on the character himself – he didn’t seem to exhibit any remorse or guilt about his crimes and could arguably be called “the two-dimensional man” for all the personality he displayed. Even Hunter seemed to be phoning it in with his distrust of the man who’d killed his colleagues, whining in typical Hunter fashion without backing it up. If the show’s writers intend to keep Creel around, they really need to develop him beyond his “cool absorbing powers”. That said, I did like the opening battle and how May used his absorbing powers against him to allow Lincoln to electrocute him.

With its streamlined narrative, this was clearly a “filler episode” designed to occupy some space and build dramatic tension before the inevitable reveal of Ward’s new powers. There was a sense of “déjà vu” about certain scenes in this episode as the show appeared to re-tread old ground, offering nothing new and exciting. While its mysterious flashbacks suggest that there is plenty to be excited about in the remaining half of this third season, Agents of SHIELD is struggling to recapture the same energy seen in the early episodes of the season, losing its way somewhat now that its heroes (and chief antagonist) have all returned from the alien planet. Clearly the show is building towards a big battle between the good and evil Inhumans, but it runs the risk of repeating similar story-arcs seen during the second season. What the show really needs now is a jolt of energy, either through the death of a lead character or a big-name guest-star, as these past couple of episodes has seen it spin its wheels slightly.


Score - 9.0 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • This episode sees the return of Carl “Crusher” Creel, the super-powered Hydra agent known as The Absorbing Man. Creel first appeared in the Season Two premiere “Shadows” and was responsible for the deaths of Hunter’s teammates, Isabelle Hartley and Idaho.
  • The Inhuman being kept locked-up by the Australian minister is Eden Fesi, also known as Manifold in the Marvel Comics Universe.  Manifold is an aboriginal Australian mutant who has the ability to teleport himself and others over great distances, and mostly recently joined the Avengers. (First app: Secret Warriors # 4)

Mysteries
  • What Inhuman powers does Grant Ward now possess? He is able to absorb the life-force from his victims, as well as take on the form of dead humans.

Next Episode - "Parting Shot"
After tracking Malick to Russia, Bobbi and Hunter become involved in an assassination plot; the team is changed forever as they race to save lives in the balance.

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