Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Episode 3.11: “Bouncing Back”

And we’re off like a shot (a Slingshot, that is).

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Our ever-expanding and technically nonexistent agencies return with new characters (although not necessarily new actors), new conflicts, and a new outlook on Inhumans.

As with the last half-season, I’m cross-posting these on The Mary Sue. You’re welcome to read them here, or go to the TMS page and join the Disqus fan chatter.

The Recap

Granted unofficial approval from the U.S. government, Coulson uses Season One nightmare machines and troubling methods to kick Malick’s ass…ets. He also gets an underling: Brigadier General and Super Best Friend Glenn Talbot, new head of the ATCU and “official” leader of the Inhumans initiative in the U.S. This will surely end well.

Elsewhere at SHIELD base, FitzSimmons take a moment away from helping Coulson brain-torture people to try to reboot their relationship.This will also surely end well.

“So what do you do for a living?” “Help my boss brain-torture people.” “Shut UP, me too!”

“So what do you do for a living?” “Help my boss brain-torture people.” “Shut UP, me too!”

In a secret bunker, YeerkZombieWard is slowly coming back to life thanks to a little TLC from new lackey Malick. He is still less creepy than Season Two StalkerWard.

And in Columbia, Team Mackaisy encounter Elena (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), a new Inhuman with “yo-yo” superspeed who believes her powers are a gift sent from God to help her fight injustice. After a recon mission goes awry and Elena’s cousin loses his life, she joins forces with SHIELD to rescue Bobbi and Hunter from corrupt police forces who also have an Inhuman on their team.

He likes to shout "Freeze, punk!" and then giggle for like 10 minutes.

He likes to shout “Freeze, punk!” and then giggle for a solid minute.

The mission succeeds, but HYDRA captures Officer McFreeze before SHIELD gets the chance. Daisy respects Elena’s decision to stay home and fight the good fight on her own terms, but gives her a SHIELD communicator in case she ever needs back-up (or vice versa). Team Secret Social Justice Warriors begins to form. Joey finally gets to go home for Sunday dinner. And isn’t that the real victory here?

Afterthoughts

Agents of SHIELD is starting to split into two shows whose tones/genres are strongly influenced by their leaders. On the one side we have Daisy, Mack, and their budding superhero team, a group of practical idealists who focus on helping individuals and try to stay on “this side of the law,” as Daisy puts it (a line that’s immediately blurred this week, suggesting that navigating this will keep proving difficult). Then on the other we have Coulson, May, and SHIELD, hardened spies willing to make some serious moral compromises in the name of “the big picture” (or maybe just in the name of vengeance).

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The guy in the cockpit is suddenly super proud of all those quarters they spent as a kid trying to get stuffed animals out of claw machines.

The last AoS arc kept tapping at the window of a serious ideological conflict between Daisy and Phil, but the two always found a way to set it aside in favor of stopping common enemies. Now they’ve apparently decided to exist almost in their own spheres, with Coulson (himself recognizing that he may not be the best leader at the moment) giving Daisy and Mack more-or-less total control of their team while he does what he thinks is needed for his. This is either a recipe for some strong A-plot/B-plot variety, or a good way to create major tonal dissonance. Or, if this episode is any indication, probably a bit of both.

SHIELD’s group this week is the most concerning in terms of the roads our characters are walking: Coulson’s becoming more comfortable with “compromises,” leading to some outright cruel decisions, while FitzSimmons are trying to bury major events rather than work through them. May makes a good point about the need to accept trauma and change, that you don’t “get over” some things but instead just move forward with them, and I worry that FitzSimmons are going to find that out the hard way. Or maybe I’m just paranoid because the writers love to put our science puppies through the ringer at every possible opportunity.

While it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, the scenes in Columbia were significantly brighter and easily the episode’s strongest, focusing on some of our more endearing relationships and letting AoS’s comic book roots gleefully break through. (Although I confess to also enjoying Zombie!Ward far more than I should have, likely because Brett Dalton is so fun to watch.) Elena’s a great character, fully realized despite her limited screen time, and I hope we see more of her even if it’s just for occasional appearances.

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“When I get out of here I am stealing SO MANY guns, like you don’t even KNOW.”

Her story also embodies a lot of AoS’s latent potential when it comes to using its fantastical universe to touch on real-world issues. Lincoln talks about Inhumans as an evolutionary force intended to “create equilibrium,” and Elena echoes this when she decides to use her powers to fight the corrupt police forces subjugating her people:

“They are only powerful because they have guns. Now I have actual power. To protect my friends from being arrested…killed in the streets.”

And if that ain’t a topical piece of dialogue, I don’t know what is.

If previous arcs were largely about the bigotry facing Inhumans, then it looks like this arc is going to focus more on the “gift” of Inhuman powers; i.e., that it gives individuals and smaller groups a chance to fight back against forces previously too strong for them to face, which could in theory help combat systemic corruption and oppression. AoS has an unfortunate tendency to hint at big ideas early in its arcs and then swerve away from them in order to focus on plot (and killing off characters I really like, dagnabbit), so I have no idea how hard they’ll press on this, but if this season turns into an extended commentary on social movements, that could lead to some smart (and oh-so-relevant) story lines.

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“Boop! Got your gun~”

For now, we have a ragtag team fighting both an evil businessman with widespread influence and corrupt law enforcement abusing their power to harm innocents. Yeah. Troubling methods on Coulson’s part aside, I reckon I can cheer for our heroes to defeat all that.

This, That, and the Other

  • A busy schedule has got me trying a more streamlined recap format this half-season. Fewer words for you all to wade through, too, so hopefully it benefits everyone.
  • There’s an undercurrent this week about faith and a question of where the line between direct (Kree) and indirect (The Powers That Be) influence lies, and if both might have played a part in the Inhumans outbreak. It’s kept intentionally vague, but is respectful of the characters who fall on both sides of the conversation, and I quite appreciated that.
  • Hunter would pop a fish oil pill just to see if something cool might happen.
  • Also, please enjoy these out-of-context notes I scribbled while watching this on TV last night:
    • BLOOD AND SAD
    • Joey’s gun art ♥
    • they kiss boringly
    • Um. Skin dust flies away?? UM??
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2 thoughts on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Episode 3.11: “Bouncing Back”

  1. I can’t help but wonder if that separation you mentioned, between Coulson and Daisy, might end up playing into the events of Civil War. As in, might Daisy and Coulson end up on opposite sides?

    Just a thought.

    Like

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