A seemingly run of the mill villain of the week story shows surprising depth in the the latest episode of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.
It’s time to meet those right wing militant vigilantes Daisy crow-barred an expositional reference to a couple of episodes back. The Watchdogs, led by agent Felix Blake, are spreading hate and fear in response to the enhanced and alien “threat”. It’s great to see the show tackling prejudices and reflecting the current mood of right-wing America. Sure lines like “first it was the illegal aliens, now it’s actual aliens putting our country at risk,” are a little on the nose, but sometimes you got to spell it out to people. The Watchdogs want controls put on powered people. They want to know who they are; demanding registration. It’s nice to see the tensions play out that are so often just talked about.
Everything felt connected as we had references across the MCU including the Avengers movies, Agent Carter and Howard Stark. Luckily these references felt natural and story driven. It was a real treat for the fans and well handled by the writing staff. We even got a reference to Damage Control, the first in the MCU as far as I am aware. A Damage Control pilot is currently in development and would be the MCU’s first foray into straight out comedy.
We are only a couple of weeks from Civil War now (and a couple of weeks behind US airdates) and the conflicts between our heroes, their enemies and even their internal conflicts are heating up. Their methods, use of powers, right and wrong. It’s emotionally charged stuff and the writing team are doing a good job of balancing the viewpoints and letting everyone have a clear intellectual and emotional argument.
Whilst the episode might feel like a sidestep for the series arc, it’s an important one, something that will add flavour and feeling not just to this series but the forthcoming Marvel films. For some Civil War is about government oversight and a breach of civil liberties, for some it is a gun control analogy. However you read the conflict you will find something different and this episode adds more complexity to those arguments and ideas. Weighty stuff for a seemingly run of the mill villain of the week episode.
It was a shame then to see the Watchdogs are being manipulated by Hydra, as it seemed like there was plenty of potential here without having to tie it into the main arc. It was a slightly undercooked reveal that the Watchdogs were connected to Malick and that they had stolen what looks like a Nuke (from that facility?) What exactly is Malick’s plan now? It seems odd that he would want anything to do with Blake and his militia or that Blake would so easily be manipulated in a post Winter Soldier world.
There was also some impressive effects work on display, especially at the top of the episode with the imploding facility.
But what of the character drama? We see Mack with his brother, as he takes some time out to deal with Hunter and Morse’s leaving. Mack’s brother came across as something of an idiot but certainly took to using guns easily. America. That’s said, Mack’s shotgun axe was very cool. Simmons is racked with guilt, no longer wanting to fulfill the damsel role. May might not be in the field so much but she and Simmons are hunting Lash. Simmons is developing a cure from Creel’s blood and May’s “don’t give me hope speech” was a nice, understated moment. Lincoln and Coulson in the field was a good pairing. Lincoln has been somewhat underused but it was good to see him out in the field, being tested by Coulson. Not every beat hit though, I never really felt like Fitz was in any real danger nor was it a surprise that Blake was a hologram.
Over all it was a fun episode, well written, with a sense of real connection and importance to the wider MCU. Not a stand out by any means, but plenty to enjoy and consider.
Guessed the spoiler? Are modern audiences too savvy for TV show twists?
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