Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Season 3 Episode 19
Coulson tries to take the fight to Hive in order to end that threat once and for all as Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD begins the home stretch towards the final episode of the season.
I get the feeling that the writers realised with this episode that there are only a handful left before the season ends and things need to be wrapped up in some fashion. We get less of the slow burn that has characterised the more recent outings as it is replaced by attempting to cram in more story threads and revelations to make sure that everything is covered.
Personally I was really enjoying the slow burn because it allowed Hive to develop organically as a villain, his cause to be fleshed out and make sense in context of the narrative and really showed how desperate a situation it was for Coulson and his team.
Not that speeding up is necessarily a bad thing. I do think this episode juggles things pretty well but the major issue is that there is no time to really focus on something before cutting to what is happening elsewhere. As such some of the impact is lost.
The first half of the episode is a good example of that. There are two narratives running side by side and both are set in different lab environments. On one side we have Dr. Radcliffe attempting to recreate the initial Kree experiments so that he can turn normal humans into Inhumans and on the other side we have Fitz and Simmons trying to figure out a way to counter Hive’s effect on the Inhumans.
Dr. Radcliffe’s experiments were the most interesting of these as it’s difficult for an attempt to fundamentally change what it means to be human to come across as dull. There’s a lot of pseudo science thrown in to make it sound as if he knows what he’s talking about but the takeaway is that he thinks he can do it but needs willing participants to experiment on.
Luckily Hive is able to supply these in the form of the former heads of H.Y.D.R.A. who remain loyal to him after Malick’s death. As you might expect the first attempt completely fails which angers Hive considerably. His reaction is a very violent one down to threatening to kill Radcliffe so that his memories, experience and knowledge will become part of him. Basically he challenged Radcliffe to justify his continued existence to him.
What Hive fails to understand is the concept of an experiment. Something is an experiment because it isn’t guaranteed to work and it is through trial and error that success is eventually achieved. “Failed Experiments” is a good title as the theme of failure carries through this episode and informs the narrative in different ways. In this case, failure isn’t an option for Hive because he wants to carry out his plan as quickly as possible. It’s ironic that not recognising failure as being part of any process is Hive’s biggest failing. It is a vulnerability that can likely be exploited in some way later on as there will clearly be something he hasn’t thought of.
His relationship with the Inhumans is one that exists without failure as well. They exist in a state of perpetual bliss because they consider themselves to be part of one organism but nothing about the relationship has been earned. It was forced upon them and nothing needed to be done to get it to that point. As such the connection does seem fairly superficial despite the fact that they act like their normal selves around one another. Daisy and James would likely never get along in that way if it weren’t for Hive’s influence but the relationship they could form through confrontation over their values and outlook on the world could create something much richer and far more real than what they have now. It’s the mistakes, misunderstandings and conflict that makes something like that unique whereas what Hive creates is more artificial by comparison.
I hope the show explores Hive’s lack of a concept of failure and makes that part of his eventual undoing. Maybe Daisy could be snapped out of his control because she comes around to the idea that none of it is real. It doesn’t look like it’ll happen anytime soon but it feels like the next logical course of action.
Daisy’s conversation with Mack touches on the idea of human connection being imperfect and therefore unique. Mack tries to bring her back by reminding her how close they were and how their partnership is something that he misses but Daisy hits back with cutting remarks about failing to be a good brother for his own let alone a surrogate relationship like he had with Daisy. She admits that he was almost a big brother to her but never quite got there. The reason for that isn’t an inability for them to be that close to one another, it’s more to do with the fact that they are different people who have different priorities and their relationship develops organically whenever it can. Hive creates the opposite effect with an inorganic relationship that skips to the end without any of the effort and hardship it takes to get there. Most of this was in the subtext which is great as subtext when handled like this works really well.
Coming back from that significant digression we have the other lab story where Fitz and Simmons are working to find a way to free the Inhumans from Hive’s effect on them. This is far less interesting as the objective is so simple that there’s not a lot of scope for exploration where fundamentally altering the genetic make-up of humans has plenty.
This part of the episode also suffers as it relies on being able to invest in Lincoln who still has a long way to go before becoming anything resembling a compelling character. He has gotten better of late but is still largely defined by the fact that he is/was in a relationship with Daisy and wants to rescue her. I’ve had issues with how well underdeveloped this has been so I find it almost impossible to invest in his desire to reunite with her at any cost. The story follows predictable beats involving a dangerous potential cure and a reluctance on Coulson’s part in potentially sacrificing him to test it.
This inevitably leads to Lincoln testing out on himself and the results are a lot less predictable. In short it doesn’t work and Lincoln now has no immune system so is even more useless than he was before. This ties into the theme of failure as their attempt to counter Hive’s effects was a dead end but now that they know that focus can be shifted to something else that might work. People learn from failure and that’s how progress happens.
Parts of these scenes are salvaged by Fitz and Simmons getting used to their new relationship status. They bicker a lot throughout the episode and this would lead to some kind of bust up in a lesser show but they agree to be adult about it and not let any disagreements in their professional life affect their personal life. It’s a really mature stance to take and I hope it continues to work like this. The fact that they bicker and disagree makes sense since they are both scientists and their interactions have moved so far beyond the childish banter that defined their relationship in the first season. I know I keep saying it but the work that has been done on both of these characters is astounding. I never thought I’d go from really disliking them to thinking they are one of the strongest parts on the show but here we are.
The assault on Hive’s town fills up a large chunk of the episode and it is really well done for the most part. There’s a good mix of action and spy elements. May trying to get information from James who is all too happy to reel off all of Hive’s secret plans is incredibly entertaining. James really is a liability to the cause and makes for a welcome presence on the show.
I found myself a little confused by the assortment of different speaking parts for the random agents involved with the mission. We see a lot of non speaking extras filling up the background but it’s rare for them to be given any sort of personality. I was positive that they were being introduced just to be killed and have their death mean something but redshirt status eluded them. It was a nice surprise and made S.H.I.E.L.D. feel like a real organisation rather than simply consisting of only the core characters that we see.
In terms of action there is lots to recommend once the Kree Reapers arrive in response to the signal sent by Hive to prove his worth against the one thing that he is afraid of. The Kree are lumbering brutes with no personality but they do come across as a really formidable threat as they casually wander around killing everyone they come into contact with in order to clean up the mistake that the Inhumans represent for them. There’s that failure theme again!
They are quickly established as a strong threat so that makes it all the more impactful when Daisy completely lets loose against one and shows what she is capable of. She quickly subdues her opponent and breaks his spine so that his blood can be drained for the next round of experiments. It’s a really impressive action sequence that shows how dangerous Daisy can be if she doesn’t hold back.
Showing how formidable the Kree are also makes it clear how dangerous a combatant Hive can be. Parallels to The Matrix can be clearly seen in his easy dodging of the Kree’s powerful blows and there’s even a bit of Raiders of the Lost Ark thrown in there when he melts the face of his opponent in a fairly gory yet awesome effect.
This episode shows the origin of Hive when the Kree first created Inhumans thousands of years ago. We see the experiments that were done on him and get some idea how brutal an ordeal it was for him. His narration clues us in on what happened next with emphasis on the Kree underestimating him and the connection he had to other Inhumans which ultimately led to their downfall. The Kree learned from this failure and abandoned the project as not being viable for their needs.
The town is fairly convenient as far as locations go as it allows these events to happen in isolation while being presumably hidden from the rest of the world. Assuming the loud and violent Kree landing went undetected then there’s no reason that this should affect the events of Captain America: Civil War which comes out this week in the United States. If it was happening in a traditionally populated area then I would be wondering why this didn’t appear on the news during the events of that film but so far it makes sense.
I assume there will be some form of tie in episode but my guess is that it’ll come next week once the film has been out in the U.S. One thing I can’t guess is what that tie in will be as there’s nothing here that appears to tie into what goes on in the film so hopefully it won’t feel like a complete departure from the story that is rapidly picking up pace here.
This episode did have a tie in of sorts by falling on old habits by name-dropping big style. Hive uses words to the effect of only billionaires are able to create iron suits and only the military can create supersoldiers and these things creating more war. If there was ever a more obvious plea to buy tickets then I’d like to see it!
Digging into the Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD archives does benefit this episode in one way though. Reminding viewers that Daisy was injected with Kree blood when she was mortally wounded back in season 1 was a really nice touch and allows the story to move on while drawing on past events. Daisy’s willingness to be fully drained for the cause further shows how strong Hive’s effect is but I’m guessing he will stop short of killing her.
A great episode that comes across as a little rushed in places. Hive’s plan to create his own Inhumans is really compelling as is the exploration of how artificial his effect is but having to invest in Lincoln to make the other Lab story interesting really doesn’t work. The assault on Hive’s town with the addition of the Kree is a great combination of action and spy elements with some excellent action sequences really showing how powerful the characters are becoming. As I said, this episode is a little too busy and I hope that the Captain America: Civil War tie in doesn’t pull the narrative away from what is being set up before the finale.
- an effective use of subtext to develop some complex ideas
- excellent action sequences
- a seamless blend of action and spy elements
- an overall rushed feeling to the storytelling
- a subplot that hinges on investing in Lincoln