Agents of SHIELD: 3.11 Bouncing Back
So we're back with a flash forward to three months from now. Whilst it can be fun to put the puzzle pieces together, they can be a frustrating device. Let's hope the writers have the skills to make it work in a satisfying way.
In the present day we're straight into the action. New Inhumans. New powers. There's something nice about the fact that, in a world where Donald Drumpf is promising to build a wall around it's borders, we have a couple of South Americans protecting the old US of A from threats.
The episode also sees the return of William Sadler as President Matthew Ellis. First seen in Iron Man 3 it's good to see him back on our screens. Ever since the close of season one the official status of SHIELD has yet to be clarified, leaving them little more than vigilantes with a seemingly endless budget. It's nice to have that particular point cleared up; The ATCU remains the public face of enhanced law enforcement but with SHIELD acting as a black ops service. That we have Glenn Talbot as the new ATCU head means that, though we might not be getting a Hulk solo movie any time soon, between this show and Civil War some of his regular antagonists have something to do. The President's order gives the show agency, gives the team an (un)official purpose.
The show does a good job of quickly setting up the new status quo following the events on the alien planet. Powers are the new normal. The show is at danger of losing sight of many of it's non powered heroes. Scenes sometimes feel overpopulated simply so an actor can justify their series regular status even if they have nothing to say or do. The secret warriors work well together. Excellence balance of powers, though making sure the powers don't unbalance the show is key. The Inhumans shouldn't start to suffer Sonic Screwdriver syndrome - an easy fix to difficult problems. Cool can very quickly become lazy.
The solution seems to be in keeping the team spread around the globe to be called on when needed. It's a decent fix and the closest we might ever get to a Global Frequency TV show.
Elena (Slingshot to comics fans) is a great addition to the show and hopefully we won't have to wait three months to see her again. The reveal that she is fighting for the people, challenging the team's assumptions was a neat reversal (if not unsurprising). The team are in danger of judging an Inhuman by their powers (Hunter worries about "powers in the wrong hands"), and thematically there is much that can be done here. We learn that Inhumans are the product of natural equilibrium. Heroes on one side. Villains on another. Hydra and Shield are both reflections of the other. It's a neat idea and something the show can really play with.
In terms of structure, the writers do a good job of balancing the fairly "monster of the week" A plot with the overall Arc plot of the series. They also deliver some great character moments, particularly Fitz and Simmons agreeing to start over. Shippers rejoice they may finally be getting together! The production team also do a great job of presenting each power; Elena trying to break out of the containment pod whilst simultaneously staring down the SHIELD agents was particularly effective. This is a show that feels confident and assured of itself, especially having already received a season four order.
We also see Coulson put Warner Von Strucker into the memory machine from season one. Really I'd just like Coulson to put the Von Strucker's out of their misery. Coulson is back in charge and I just hope his relationship with Talbot in future episodes doesn't devolve into bickering, we can do without replaying season two.
Brett Dalton doesn't have much to do here but his character has gone through yet another seismic shift. He deals with it well and presents us with a haggard, creepy version of Ward/the alien. "They've advanced but they haven't changed," is delivered with such quiet menace. Though this story means Dalton's days on the show must be numbered it's so hard to remember that strong jawed boy scout of early season one.
It's a confident episode that sets out the stall for the second half of the season. Fun new powers, unexpected twists and a clear focus that the show can only benefit from.