Previously on Agents of SHIELD, ‘Parting Shot’
Starring: Clark Gregg, Ming Na-Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Luke Mitchell, Titus Welliver, Gaius Charles, Mark Dacascos | Director: Jesse Bochco
LONG STORY SHORT
A bothersome militia suddenly becomes a powerhouse that draws the concern of SHIELD and the ATCU. Mack is called back into service during leave, drawing the ire of his younger brother. With Daisy and Fitz, the three manage to get themselves in all sorts of trouble. Back at SHIELD HQ, Simmons and May formulate a plan to capture (and kill?) Lash. Coulson takes Lincoln under his wing to see if the Secret Warrior has what it takes to do what’s necessary in the field.
A MATTER OF EXTREMES
After the heartbreaking departure of Hunter and Morse in “Parting Shot”, the leads in SHIELD are all having a difficult time adjusting to the sudden change in their group dynamic. Evil never takes a day off, as evidenced with the attack on an ATCU facility by a radical anti-government. anti-inhuman group called The Watchdogs. Once limited to posting scathing rhetoric on the internet, the ‘dogs now have a massive bite to match their bark with the acquisition of Howard Stark’s nitramene formula (introduced in the first season of Agent Carter).
For the duration of “Watchdogs”, it’s basically a race against time as Coulson (who already doesn’t want to deal with anyone’s mess) wants to curb this army of extremists who are obviously getting help from some higher ups. *coughcoughhydracough* Either the Watchdogs don’t know the identity of their benefactors or don’t care, which is kind of the feeling that. Nothing about this faction is intimidating or in the slightest. They feel like a throwaway plot device that’s meant to be a distraction so SHIELD and HYDRA can catch their second wind before their big showdown.
The action was split between three teams (of sorts): Mack and his brother Ruben (Gaius Charles) having a couple tiffs, Daisy coaxing Fitz to take greater action in their investigation and Coulson putting Lincoln through his own brand of trials. In little time, the team uncovers the identity of the Watchdog’s facilitator, Felix Blake (“Bosch” himself, Titus Welliver). The return of the former SHIELD Agent was a bit of surprise. Honestly, it’s a bit stunning that there aren’t more ex-agents running around feeling disgruntled and betrayed. Imagine spending your entire career thwarting terrorists groups only to find out the largest one – your chief rival – is basically running the entire show. What’s a man to do? Become the leader of a militia group that’s only a step above “liberating” federally owned lands. A totally rational and believable stance!
While the domestic terrorists are plotting their next attack, Daisy becomes more extreme as well in her pursuit of these “revolutionaries”. Johnson’s view of the world is narrowing further as she’s taking it upon herself to defend inhumans by any means necessary. As she tries to cajole Fitz into her system of personal justice, Coulson appears to a have taken a hardened approach as well, or at least seems like it to test the resolve of young Lincoln. Right now, SHIELD is hanging on a precipice: the stakes are higher than ever before and they appear to be losing their team unity and more importantly, core beliefs. If they’re willing to kill and violate civil rights, how are they any better than HYDRA?
In the meantime, Simmons and May have a powwow and formulate a new method that’ll hasten their search for Lash. Probably the most authentic and satisfying part in all of “Watchdogs”, Simmons and May have plenty riding on Operation: Doc Hunt as both feel pangs of guilt (more so Jemma than Matilda) about Doctor Garner’s accidental transformation into – and eventual acceptance of being – a superpowered serial killer. It’s obvious that Andrew’s actions are mostly his fault, although how much of his activated genes compel him to kill over consciously pursuing his victims remains a mystery. It makes no difference to Simmons as her decision to release Lash to save her own skin costs the lives of a handful of HYDRA goons along with a dozen or so innocent inhumans.
The most impassioned tête-à-tête occurred when Mack and Daisy were on Zephyr One…
Mack: It’s kinda gestapo, don’t you think? Is that who we are?
Daisy: We’re SHIELD. I’m trying to save lives. I’ll use whatever advantage I have to do it.
Mack: Yeah, the advantage of superpowers, which is something I don’t have. But I’m not so sure you should be using yours to sidestep civil liberties.
Daisy: They gave up their right to civil liberties when they started imploding buildings!
Mack: Maybe, but it’s not about how they act, it’s about how we respond.
Definitely it was when Mackenzie decided to get his MacGyver on and make a shotgun axe in the middle of a gunfight. Hey… blades don’t run out of ammo.
Agents of SHIELD S3E14
No matter what the writers fashion to make the Watchdogs appear as a major threat for SHIELD and the ATCU, it won’t be well received. They simply scream ‘filler’. True, they have some powerful tech that’s been further weaponized and HYDRA is backing them, but I think it’s pretty clear they won’t be a legitimate adversary for both organizations for too long. If anything, they’re a means to further derail Daisy’s progression as a competent agent. Apparently, the inhuman genes in her family are very strong because she’s acting more and more like her mother than cares to realize.
Speaking of family, it was nice to see Mack reacquainting with his brother and having some semblance of a life outside of SHIELD, however parts of it were very heavy handed and filled to brim with tropes. Older brother is more responsible and a stickler for order while little brother is a hothead and a magnet for trouble? Say it isn’t so! Not every week of SHIELD can be a winner, but it’s odd to view such a drop off after a string of bang-up episodes.