Friday, November 13, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 3x07 "Chaos Theory" (The Doctor Will See You Now) [Contributor: Alice Walker]

"Chaos Theory"
Original Airdate: November 10, 2015

The smaller and more targeted Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gets, the better it is. We saw this when Simmons was struggling to survive on an alien planet, and we see it again in this episode, now that everyone is focused on one goal: capturing Lash. After last week's big reveal, the writers thankfully don't draw out the Lash mystery. May confronts Andrew almost immediately, and the team soon learns the truth about Lash’s identity.

They also answered the lingering question of how this all happened in the first place. I had assumed that Andrew had somehow gotten a hold of tainted fish oil tablets, but since he was with May that whole time, it seemed pretty unlikely. Turns out he was reading Jiaying's private ledger — a genealogy of Inhumans — that she had rigged with terrigen crystals so that no normal human would survive it. This is such a perfect Jiaying move, and it fit right in with how S.H.I.E.L.D. would dismantle Afterlife following her death.

This storyline is giving Ming-Na Wen an excellent opportunity to show her range, between last week’s impressive fight scenes and this week’s stripped down and emotionally bare confrontation with Andrew. That scene was staged more like a one-act play than an action drama taking place in a warehouse with May handcuffed. She was unable to fight her way out, and her physical restraint added so much depth to her words. Like watching a sandcastle quickly get worked down by a wave, she struggled to understand, to rationalize, to help. But ultimately, there was nothing she could do. Andrew is too far gone; once the team's moral compass, he is now paranoid about the Inhumans and desperately working to justify his need to kill them. As soon as he compared his actions — those of a serial killer — to what May had to do in Bahrain (something that continues to haunt her), it was clear there was no coming back from this for Andrew. 

But why do it all the first place? Why kill all of these people, who have no history of violence or murder? There is no clean answer. In the comics, Lash came from a small village of Inhumans where the selection process for terrigenisis was incredibly exacting and specific. You had to be vetted, proven, chosen. When a mass transformation is triggered, he seeks out each new Inhuman and decides if they are worthy of the gift. If they are not, they die. Some of those instincts clearly bled over to the show, with Andrew acting as judge, jury, and executioner. The transformation somehow made him believe he needed to choose who was good and who was bad. Coulson was right — that is not a cute look on a therapist.

Andrew can stroll down memory lane all he wants, but the moment May sees that he has killed, she knows what she has to do. There's a nice team effort between S.H.I.E.L.D. (plus Lincoln) and the ATCU to catch Lash, which not only shows the two agencies trusting one another, but also demonstrates Daisy's new wind-force power. In the end, of course, it is May who finally gets Andrew into containment, then taking Daisy's advice to leave him in stasis.

Meanwhile, Fitz and Simmons also reminisce about when they first met after the recovery of Jemma's video recordings. Once again, these emotional beats all land, and De Caestecker continues to knock it out of the park. His facial expressions alone should really be enough to earn him that Emmy. They finally address their feelings for one another directly but when Jemma asks what they should do about those feelings, Fitz is content to press pause until they rescue Will. He wants her to choose him when there’s really a choice to make — when Will (and his hog face) is back in the picture. Good man, that Fitz.

The episode ends with a moment that felt straight out of a Marvel movie post-credits scene when Ward reveals his master plan: he is going to end S.H.I.E.L.D. by killing Coulson. This was compounded by the shock of seeing that Rosalind Pike (who had officially moved into sexy-time status with Coulson) is actually working for Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe) and, one assumes, HYDRA. She's got Coulson hook, line, and sinker, but will real feelings get in the way? Coulson is charming, so it wouldn't surprise me if she has a change of heart when it comes to pulling the trigger (when the choice has to be made).

But for these dramatic moments to really land you have to ask yourself: would the show actually do it? Kill off their lead just to prove S.H.I.E.L.D. could rise again? In short: no. Uh-uh. No freaking way. Look, I don't mean to come down hard on the writers here, but this is a symptom of the larger MCU issue. Bucky Barnes. Director Fury. Phil Coulson. Loki. Pepper Potts. Heck, even Groot. There have been too many Hail Marys, too many resurrections, too many "just kiddings!" for it to be believable. I don't buy that the people in charge would take this sort of risk. It's too bad because that means any potential danger significantly lowers the stakes. I'm not actually worried that Coulson could die, and if he does, I know he won't stay dead. This isn't Game of Thrones — here you win or you regroup to try again.

Interviews have suggested there is a "Winter Soldier-like twist" coming by the midseason finale. My guess is that Ward will kill Coulson the same way the Winter Solider killed Nick Fury — in a well executed fake-out. Meanwhile, Daisy will probably then take over S.H.I.E.L.D., waiting for Coulson to return and fulfilling her comic book destiny... only to have everything settle back to some sort of normal by season four. Jaded? Sure, but this isn't my first Marvel rodeo.

Highlights and low lights:
  • Though I was suspicious from the moment Rosalind volunteered to fix Coulson's tie (hello, intimacy accelerator), her working for Malick still surprised me. 
  • Loved that small moment between Coulson and May after they captured Andrew when he realized she was shooting to kill. 
  • We only had a brief foray into the martial issues of Hunter and Bobbi this week, though it's becoming increasingly clear why they've divorced in the first place. 
  • Laugh out loud line of the week goes to Mac's: "Really got to commit to that shotgun axe idea." At this point Mac can basically do whatever he wants; I am here for it.
  • I'm glad the Ward/HYDRA storyline is progressing — Dalton needs something to do beyond twirling his mustache and looking good holding a gun. 
  • The Secret Warriors project is on, y'all! Hopefully Lincoln and Joey develop discernible personalities soon! 
  • Farewell, gorgeous Dr. Garner and your sexy, shiny six pack. Come back anytime. 


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