Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 3x14 Review: "Watchdogs" (Go Tell A Watchdog) [Contributor: Alice Walker]

Original Airdate: March 29, 2016

We cannot begin this week's recap of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. without talking about last week’s emotional wreckage of Hunter and Bobbi saying goodbye to agency life in to protect the ideals of S.H.I.E.L.D. While their exit is for the sole purpose of creating yet another Marvel show, the departure was well done and far exceeded my expectations. Their final scene was a touching moment, maybe one of the best in the show’s history. I openly bawled through the team’s final moments together, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is not a show I make a habit of bawling through. It was Grey's Anatomy-level tears, and for that, the actors and writers deserve all of the credit. Just when I thought I was out, Marvel pulls me back in (and convinces me to watch Marvel's Most Wanted).

That final scene also solidified the fact that the hunky dreamboat of a man we call Henry Simmons can do drama every bit as well as he does everything else. He got his time to shine in this episode, where we find Mack getting some much needed R&R after his two best spy buddies took off. He's catching up with his younger brother Rubin — who we know is going to be an important character, since he's played by Gaius Charles (a.k.a. Smash from Friday Night Lights, Bunchy from Aquarius, and Dr. Ross from Grey's Anatomy). Rubin's in financial trouble and doesn't get why Mack is so bummed out about his coworkers leaving the insurance business (sidenote: do men who look like Mack actually work in insurance? Is that really a believable cover with his arms the way they are?). The two brothers are obviously not close, and there is some simmering resentment that Rubin has had to take over all the family responsibilities. It's a nice nod to the cold reality we don't see all that often on the show: if you want to be an agent, S.H.I.E.L.D. becomes your family. There's no space for anyone else. That's all fine and good for people like Daisy and Coulson, but might wear more on agents with normal families like Fitz or Simmons (remember when Simmons mentioned her parents that one time?).

Their beer drinking is cut short when a terrorist group called the Watchdogs implode a building. Because exploding one just wouldn't be high-tech enough. Mack is called in, with Daisy and Fitz coming in to help. The episode spent a lot of time analyzing a theme that, frankly, I am sick to death of: the civic limitations of powered people and what lengths they should go to for the "greater good." We've seen these themes everywhere on our superhero shows, and S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't bring anything new to the conversation. The Watchdogs are the small-minded, Inhuman-intolerant group who seem terrifyingly real in our current climate, while S.H.I.E.L.D. is pushing the envelope of due process to protect the innocent. Mack and Daisy have a small clash of ideals, but overall everyone behaves pretty decently.

While trying to take down the terrorist organization now run by former S.H.I.E.L.D. member Felix Blake (who is not recovering from his Deathlock run in gracefully), Fitz gets hit in the neck with the implosion bomb that takes awhile to deactivate. Rather then just ask Simmons for help (who had a ton of free time, she was literally just doing target practice this week), Fitz and Daisy worked together to find a practical cure.  Proving sexism also extends to aliens, their life-saving antics make the watchdog reveal that they had pinned the beefy-Mac as the Inhuman, and sent their goons to kill him instead of Daisy.

What ensues is a nice bit of fighting that simultaneously show’s off Mack’s skills as a fighter and strategist, but bonds the two brothers.  Together they invent the shotgun axe, and defeat the bad guys, with Daisy and Fitz showing up just in time to get Mack to the hospital and learn his real name: Alphonso-nicknamed-Alfie.

Highlights and Lowlights:
  • You all know I have been living in fear that this spin-off would take Mack off of the show, and I am thrilled that it's had the opposite effect. More Mack all the time, please.
  • Last week Mack stayed to take care of Daisy, this week Daisy rushed back to save Mack. Is Dack cannon yet? No? We're still stuck with boring Lincoln? Okay, cool.
  • Oh yeah, Lincoln didn't murder anyone, so he's like 100% ready to be an agent.
  • How much longer until Rubin joins the team? Probably by the end of their super-sized season finale!
  • Whoah, I made two Grey's mentions in one recap? What am I, reading Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes? Yes I am, and it's fantastic
  • Next up: it's time-travel, yall! Let’s all get our Inhumans on.


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