Friday, March 18, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 3x11 Recap: "Bouncing Back" (How Do You Compete?) [Contributor: Alice Walker]

"Bouncing Back"
Original Airdate: March 8, 2016

Welcome back fellow Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans! How I have missed you, and how I have missed this show. Now, I love me some Agent Carter (and am still crossing my fingers for a renewal), but it just doesn’t fill the same cloak and dagger, super-powered S.H.I.E.L.D. space. Unfortunately, this week’s by-the-books episode didn’t bring the show back with a bang. We had a fair bit of fracturing this week, so let’s recap the episode team by team.


We start off at the scene of Coulson’s moral unraveling: Rosalind’s apartment. He’s meeting with the President who basically asks him to hide in the shadows, and keep doing dirty work. Coulson — who is deeper into dirty work than ever before — is more than happy to oblige. As long as it doesn’t get in the way of his hunt for Gideon Malick, Coulson is fine to operate without government sanction for another few episodes. Coulson spent most of the episode trying to get to Malick. He ultimately took down some secret bases, but for a rich and influential man like Malick (with Death/Hive on his side) it doesn’t seem like much of a blow.

We’ve already seen our beloved Director kill, so watching him torture the vegetative von Strucker wasn’t that big a shock, but I was surprised by how readily the team backed him up. Apparently everything is free game as long as it’s been done to him first, so we should be seeing someone get stabbed with an Asgardian scepter any day now. I don’t mind the torture angle — this is a show about spies after all — but it is in direct conflict with what we’ve seen so far. Remember when we had Ward locked up, just waiting for him to feel comfortable enough to talk? These extreme measures are obviously a symptom of his flirting with the dark side, and hopefully the team catches on to this soon.


The show has received a lot of flak lately for becoming the Agents of Inhumans, and when you pull back to think about the show’s original tag line (“not all heroes are super”) you can see why. S.H.I.E.L.D. has long struggled with introducing compelling new characters, while still developing old ones. And adding in a team within the original team only highlighted this issue. This episode seemed to address that directly. Hunter and Bobbi were quickly overpowered by an Inhuman, and spoke for all of us when they wondered how they could possibly compete with those types of powers. The answer turned out to be “have another Inhuman on your side,” which furthers the problem. How can this be a show about regular agents, when those agents will always be trumped by characters with powers? Plenty of shows (Arrow, Daredevil, Agent Carter) are exploring the idea of people beating powers but here, we constantly see Inhumans take the lead.

We meet a new Inhuman this week named Elena Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) – the woman who can move at super speed, but will be snapped back to where she began in a literal heartbeat. Again moving into some moral gray area, they held her against her will (for the good of the people). But after they help her to take down the corrupt police department, she sees the sunnier side of S.H.I.E.L.D. With Elena, Lincoln, and Joey now working with Daisy, the Secret Warriors were indeed on the brink of overpowering the team until a loophole was found.

Realizing that most superheroes have a hometown they want to protect and families they’ve left behind, Daisy decides to build up a remote workforce complete with on-call watches and everything. Except Lincoln, who is all wrapped up with the world’s most boring flirtation/relationship with Daisy. And who, like his lady love, has no hometown to save.


Lincoln did find a little more to do this week (more of that, please!) walking Simmons through Inhumans 101 and reviewing some genetic information. It was nice seeing him interact with more of the team, but it’s largely a set-up to the awkwardness that is FitzSimmons.

Like high school sweethearts trying to get back together after college, these two are struggling with the whole “I killed the monster who inhabited the body of the man you loved when we were on different planets” of it all. Understandable, but after their season two estrangement and the angst that came with Simmons’ return, this felt like a re-tread. Let’s hope their reintroduction sticks, because there are only so many times these crazy kids can yo-yo apart and back together again.

Rounding out romantic subtext were Mack and Elena, proving that you don’t need to speak English to know that Mack is the catch of the century. Personally, I wasn’t that impressed with their chemistry, but we all know that’s because I’m a homeless Dack-romantic, regardless of what the show tells me.

Highlights and lowlights:
  • The heart eyes May was shooting at Coulson. Her ex-husband is a blood thirsty monster, his girlfriend is dead, so are we finally going to see some older spy action? 
  • Of course Hunter popped some fish-oil pills. Of course. 
  • Flash-forwards are all the rage this season. Quinjet’s are the new grave, and even though they clearly want us to think it’s Elena in there, I’m hoping it is a-fake out.
  • I cannot say I’m going to miss any of the Inhumans around; I tried with Joey but I still had to look up his name just to write this review.
  • I loved that May told Coulson he joined the Calvalry, but hated we didn’t get to see her kick butt this week.
  • General Talbut is back! An excellent recurring character, ready to see that mustache again.


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