Be warned, ye who enter here: thar be spoilers ahead.
It’s Agents of SHIELD time again! That means weird alien powers, shootouts in fancy locations, betrayals (maybe?), and Coulson’s detachable hand. And boy, do we have all of those things in spades this week with episode 12, “The Inside Man.”
The major happening of this episode has to do with General Talbot, newly appointed head of the ACTU and long time not-friend of SHIELD, and Coulson, in particular. President Ellis revealed his choice to put Talbot under Coulson’s jurisdiction at the end of last week’s episode and it took literally zero time for it to become clear this was a terrible idea. Talbot’s having marriage troubles, which is maybe the reason why the General is immediately a jerk to Coulson when they meet up (aka when Coulson stalks him). More likely, Talbot’s is pretty much just a jerk. Well too bad for both of them, because they spend the entire episode together at an international symposium called by the POTUS to discuss the Inhuman crisis on a global scale. Coulson’s goal is to figure out which of the members is secretly a Hydra puppet being manipulated by Gideon Malick, but he can’t pass up an opportunity for weird fake-identities, so he’s pretending to be a scientist.
The symposium is the perfect showcase for Talbot’s completely painful American idiot routine–he pretty much thinks everyone is Hydra because they’re not American (or they have a sinister scar). Well guess what– turns out TALBOT WAS THE INSIDE MAN ALL ALONG. So just remember: if you encounter a racist xenophobe, they’re probably Hydra. Talbot announces to the symposium members that Coulson is the inside man–the “director of Hydra”!!!!!!!!–and Malick appears to shmooze and assure them that he’s the good guy here. “C’mon guys, I’m cool. I served on the World Security Council” (with Alexander Pierce, the SHIELD leader of Hydra–don’t you dare think I would forget the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier). None of the symposium members seem to think it odd that Malick just showed up unannounced to this very exclusive secret meeting at the exact moment the supposed mole is outed. They’re not the smartest world leaders, it seems. Anyways, Talbot’s guards cart Coulson off to steal his fake hand and push him around a little before Malick comes in to spout his sociopathic Hydra nonsense. Then Talbot follows, revealing that Malick has actually blackmailed him into being the inside man by kidnapping his son–also the cause of his marital problems. So maybe not all xenophobes are Hydra. But they probably are.
In the background of the symposium, the SHIELD spy team is moving through the fancy Taiwanese estate housing the meeting. They are supposed to be infiltrating the members’ rooms to find out who the inside man is, but Hunter is off-task as usual. Talbot’s bodyguard is on the mission with them and is none other
than Carl Creel–aka Absorbing Man, Hydra baddie who killed Hunter’s friends back in season two. Needless to say, Hunter isn’t a fan. He leaves his post to run after Creel for walking around like a bad guy, but surprisingly, he actually doesn’t screw everything up like he normally does! Hunter also has my favorite line of the episode again–after complaining about the no guns policy on this mission (and promptly ignoring this policy) Hunter is surrounded by a bunch of Hydra goons outfitted with guns and snarks at them, “I hate to be a buzzkill but this is a gun free zone.” Oh Hunter, you are so lucky May and Bobbi are there to kick butts for you. And they are lucky you literally always ignore orders and brought a bunch of guns anyways.
So, the team has a shootout with the Hydra dudes, Creel (who is actually a good guy now) helps Coulson and Talbot escape (with Coulson’s detachable hand), and May rescues Talbot’s son single-handedly because of course she does. And they all ride off into the sunset, friends forever.
Meanwhile back at the Hydra ranch, Hive-in-Ward’s-body is getting stronger and scarier. As a terrible person who loves Grant Ward, I really appreciate that Hive respects Ward and his dedication to the cause (even though that cause is world domination–don’t judge me). The fact that Malick thinks he can control Hive is laughable–but like, a terrified nervous laugh. Hive has some way to control Inhumans, and that alone is enough to make him incredibly powerful, but in this episode he shows off his most terrifying power to date. Watching him turn five humans into bloody skeletons and goo to heal his broken body is the coolest, most violent thing we’ve seen this season, possibly the entire series. There’s no knowing how powerful Hive can get with the human and Inhuman resources available to him on Earth. The otherworldly way in which he gazes straight through the camera lens draws the viewer into the terror in an amazingly creepy way. This is definitely spelling danger not only for SHIELD and the rest of the world, but for Hydra too. Hive is becoming a thing too big to control.
Finally, back at SHIELD HQ, the aliens are left out of the symposium showdown, so why not engage in a sexually charged sparring session? Daisy and Lincoln–perfectly nicknamed “Shake and Bake” by Hunter–are butt-hurt about being left out, and being called aliens, and being told they need a cure for their conditions–well, Daisy is. She is shaping up to be quite the Inhuman Rights Activist. She and Lincoln have an interesting debate about whether Inhumans should embrace their powers or be allowed to cure them. This debate is made real by Simmons’ discovery that Carl Creel’s blood somehow acts as an Inhuman gene cure, reverting Inhuman blood to its previous human form. A set up, I’m sure, for the rest of the season.
So my question is: where the heck is Mack?
Next week, we’ll see what misadventures Mr. and Mrs. Bobbi Morse get into as they follow Malick to Russia, and we’ll probably get more awkward detachable hand moments from Coulson. And hopefully Mack. And Elena. And Joey.