Public Service Announcement: This is NOT a spoiler-free review.
Guess who’s back. Back again. Coulson’s back. Tell a friend.
That’s right, Director Coulson and his merry band of agents are back with a vengeance–literally in Coulson’s case, since his dearest Rosalind was killed by the now also dead Grant Ward before the winter hiatus. Son of Coul did exact some revenge in the winter finale by crushing Ward’s sternum and leaving him to die on a distant planet, but, unbeknownst to him, that was not the end for Ward’s beautiful face (though likely the end for Ward’s less than beautiful personality). So with that, let’s see what’s in store for the crew.
The episode opens in space, three months from now. The opening shot, floating in space, is masterfully done, introducing a number of questions before anything even begins–how are they in space? Why is there blood? Whose necklace is that? Is that a current SHIELD agent or one we haven’t met yet? And immediately after, the latter two questions are seemingly answered with the introduction of a new Inhuman (later revealed to be Elena Rodriguez). This introduction is fascinating and very well done, introducing way more questions than answers in a way that perfectly matches the shadowy SHIELD.
Now cut to the reason the show exists in the first place: Director Phil Coulson, backed by his bestie Agent Melinda May, meeting up with the POTUS (played by William Sadler). Their discussion of the bureaucracy that forces SHIELD to operate underground is an interesting fleshing out of the MCU world as it stands right now. Clark Gregg teased tie-ins to Captain America: Civil War (out in May of this year), and I’m thinking this bureaucratic stuff might be a part of it. Pres Ellis and Coulson are at odds in the way that they are allowed to operate, but their mutual respect is apparent, and their shared sadness over Rosalind’s death was touching. Ellis’ “I thank you for your service” was a really nice touch, showing that the President himself acknowledges and appreciates Coulson’s many sacrifices for his job and country.
Let’s go back to our new Inhuman friend. I love her. Throughout the episode she is both adorable and badass. She kidnaps Mack when the team starts investigating her theft of police weaponry and has a hilarious half-Spanish, half-English non-conversation with him while he’s tied to a chair.
Elena believes that her Inhuman power is a gift from God, which is really interesting. In a show that is full of reason-based scientists and cynical spies, seeing a devout character whose desire to do good in the world is inspired by her faith rather than just “doing the right thing” is refreshing. Plus, it falls nicely in line with her being Colombian, as it is a predominantly Catholic country. I enjoy the turnabout when the team discovers that Elena isn’t the bad guy stealing from the police, but instead she is trying to fight against their corruption. I love love love the shot of her in the containment unit, seething and bouncing off the walls. Her powers, both her Inhuman ability and her power of will, are really on display. Every use of her power is really cool looking and she’s genuinely a good person–plus the name Yo-Yo, of course given by nickname master Mack, is the cutest thing ever. I need lots and lots of Elena this half-season and I will be very upset if she’s relegated to the side after this episode.
Let’s talk about the other Inhumans that got some screen time love this episode. Joey is also adorable and badass. I want to see more of him this season, please. He seems to be bonding with the team, specifically Daisy, but we haven’t really gotten to see a lot of his powers at work. I hope we can see more of that melting-your-glasses-to-your-face awesomeness from here on out. He was introduced as the show’s first gay character, but that hasn’t been a big part of his story (or even a small part really) yet, which makes sense since he’s been a little busy trying to not melt everything around him or die. But perhaps in the future? Who knows. We do know he’s a family man who misses his mama’s cooking, and how can you not love a man like that?
Medusa-eyes Inhuman is also super cool. He is definitely a villainous caricature type of character, which is actually refreshing to see in this season, which has tended to be more sci-fi-spy thriller than comic book camp. And watching him get snatched up by Hydra’s claw machine seriously reminded me of a Spy Kids type of campy, which I will admit to fully enjoying. Meeting Medusa-eyes and Elena here in Colombia paints a bigger picture–Inhumans are starting to learn to use their powers on their own now, all over the world. I’m excited to see more dastardly Inhuman baddies popping up and wreaking havok.
Hunter and Bobbi don’t get as much screen time this episode, which I’m hoping is due to their impending spin-off show Marvel’s Most Wanted. Really, all I ever want is to watch Bobbi kick ass and Hunter snark about it while cowering behind her all day. #Huntingbird forever! Hunter always delivers my favorite dialogue of each episode–including his musing that an Inhuman can be changed by “one tainted fish taco” and reminding everyone that “Andrew was a lovely head shrinker before he turned into a not so lovely Inhuman serial killer.” Funny as it was, that also presents a thought-provoking question: do Inhuman powers change a person? In some cases, the answer is yes.
And finally, WARD. So, I fall into the category of sucker that always felt like Ward might have a chance at redemption–every time he simpered that he just wanted to help or that he still loved Skye/Daisy, I totally bought into it, like a fool. So I was really sad to see him crushed to death, but I’m definitely glad that Brett Dalton is still around playing host to the creepy Hydra god, Hive. And he does a magnificently creepy job. Watching him hunched over, munching on raw meat is truly unnerving. The sunken eyes and chest help transform Dalton into the furthest thing he could get from the smarmy charm of Grant Ward, and his quiet intensity promises a controlled power worthy of being worshipped for centuries. With as much hype as Gideon Malick heaped on this guy, I’m really looking forward to seeing his real power unleashed on the world.
The denouement of the episode is a sort of strange sequence that parallels a bunch of couples: Mack & Elena, Fitz & Simmons, Daisy & Lincoln, May & Coulson. Mack and Elena have a nice rapport, despite not being able to speak the same language. I’m looking forward to finding out where this relationship goes. I really have a hard time caring about Lincoln for some reason, and I feel like he doesn’t have nearly as much chemistry with Daisy as Ward did (#skyeward forever! I’m kidding. Sort of). Speaking of former chemistry: is it just me or have Fitzsimmons lost their adorable spark? Both of them have given superb individual performances over the last season, but their connection has been getting more and more strained and complicated. I did finally feel a little of that old spark though, when they introduced themselves to each other again. “Jemma Simmons, biochem.” “Leopold Fitz, engineering.” Squee! And finally, a touching moment between besties May and Coulson where she tells him he’s joined the Cavalry, which has a lot of weight, knowing May’s history. May is another character that didn’t have enough to do this episode. More May, please.
So it looks like SHIELD is changing up their game plan quite a bit from here on out. They’re dispersing their Inhuman team, letting Elena and Joey live at home while being on-call via Apple–I mean SHIELD Watch–definitely a step back in terms of micromanagement for Director Coulson, the king of micromanagement. SHIELD will also now have oversight of the ACTU with General Talbot, professional moustachioed jerk, as its new head. This promises to get ugly, fast. And don’t forget that Lash, aka Andrew, aka Mr. Agent May, aka Inhuman serial killer, is still at large. This was definitely a set-up episode for a lot of things to come. Lots of big bad baddies out there and I’m sure they’re not the only ones.