Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Season 3 Episode 12
“The Inside Man”
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD explores the new dynamic between Coulson and Talbot as Hive continues to grow more powerful.
The focus of this episode was Coulson and Talbot attending a multinational summit to discuss the appearance of the Inhumans and what that means for the future of the human race. It has been pretty clear since their introduction that Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. are using Inhumans as the Mutant surrogate. I’m completely fine with that since they are similar enough ideas that the same territory can be explored and it’s the best idea they’ve got in the absence of being able to legally add Mutants to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Using Inhumans also provides another advantage. It comes with a built in explanation of why they haven’t really been heard of before. In Marvel Comics lore Mutants have been around for thousands of years in one form or another so casually dropping that in and expecting us to believe that they have somehow remained hidden all this time is a big ask.
The summit brings up many of the ideas commonly explored in various iterations of X-Men. There is discussion of how dangerous they are with unpredictable abilities that can be used to do pretty much anything along with reminders that Inhumans are fundamentally normal people who are granted these abilities through a genetic quirk. As Bobbi says, there is as much potential for good and bad Inhumans as there is for regular humans. The main issue is that people don’t understand them and it’s human nature to fear what isn’t understood.
It all sounds pretty standard fare so far but it’s handled well. The reason these conflicts come up time and time again is that they resonate. X-Men comics have been handling these issues since their first publication in 1963 and the issues are still relatable to a modern audience because we do live in a world of fear and prejudice. Things may be a lot better than they were in 1963 but the human race has a long way to go before it can be considered enlightened.
This episode finally finds something to latch onto with the Daisy and Lincoln relationship. They are on opposite sides of a debate over whether a vaccine for Terrigenesis should be developed and the beauty of it is that both sides have a point. Daisy thinks that it’s wrong to cure something that she doesn’t consider an illness. She makes reference to her Terrigenesis being an “awakening” and talks about it being her “birthright”. These are all very strong words but it highlights just how strongly she feels. Her point of view can’t be disagreed with either as the idea of preventing someone from being what they really are seems like a violation in many ways. If you apply this logic to someone being gay or transgender then it suddenly becomes an issue that is easy to relate to. If there was a way to prevent someone from developing an attraction to the same sex or wanting to change their gender then that would be a violation of their very identity. The same applies to Terrigenesis; it’s not a question of choice, it’s a question of identity.
Lincoln’s stance is that people should have the right to choose if they transform or not. He backs up his argument by using Lash as an example. Andrew would have probably chosen not to change if he knew what that change would bring for him. Some people are just too dangerous to have powers as far as Lincoln is concerned and his experience of the process when he lived in Afterlife gives him an insight into that as he is used to an environment where the change was only allowed to happen to those who had been prepared for it. It’s a very different situation to the one on Afterlife but his argument has merit. The major issue with that is that Terrigenesis is a random process so nobody really knows what they will get out of it. Daisy and Lincoln got off relatively easy with Terrigenesis in terms of acceptance from others as their appearance didn’t change but Raina’s change was massive on a physical level so she would face persecution if she tried to live among humans. In many ways having all of the Inhumans on the show be young attractive people is doing the idea a disservice as having someone who went through a physical transformation as well as developing powers would allow the writers to explore how people react to someone who looks vastly different. Maybe that will come in time but for now the argument isn’t as strong as it could be.
The conflict between Skye and Lincoln isn’t resolved in this episode which is good as it will allow it to carry into future stories with input from the other characters. Using a vaccine against Terrigenesis will be something everyone will have an opinion on so I’m interested to see what Coulson and the other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents will think of it as well as Joey and Elena. It’s an argument that could definitely divide the group in many ways and that is something I would like to see.
I’m still not buying the relationship between Lincoln and Daisy though there was a spark –no pun intended- of chemistry between them when they were sparring. Having them be attracted to each other is slightly believable but whenever they interact as a couple something just doesn’t click as well as the writers need it to.
Coulson and Talbot attending the summit allows them to be involved in a discussion that touches on many of the same issues and talks about establishing a “sanctuary space” where Inhumans can live unburdened by the prejudices that they will face. To my mind this is a terrible idea as it creates a nation of only Inhumans that can only worsen the problem of intolerance as people won’t have to deal with them in their daily lives. It also confines the Inhumans in one place so that H.Y.D.R.A. can easily get to them. I wonder if this will be the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Genosha when it comes to pass.
Having Malick show up during the meeting to throw all the suspicion in Coulson’s direction is a clever move on his part as he uses his considerable influence to convince everyone that Coulson is the director of H.Y.D.R.A. which discredits him to legitimate organisations meaning that his connection to the ATC –and to a lesser extent S.H.I.E.L.D.- has to remain hidden. It doesn’t detract from the plan an awful lot but it makes Coulson a risky guy to have around because people will be wary of them. Powers Boothe is excellent in that scene coming across as a reasonable man able to manipulate the situation to his own ends. It’s believable that he could command that respect from people. I also like that Coulson gets the feeling that Malick is answering to someone else.
I always enjoy seeing Coulson and Talbot playing off each other as there’s always this unconcealed contempt from Talbot which has been intensified by the fact that he now answers to Coulson. He doesn’t accept being the subordinate by he does respect Coulson in some ways. Talbot appearing to be the “Inside Man” as referenced by the title was a nice touch as he was only stringing Malick along to get more information about the whereabouts of his son. He’s willing to betray Coulson to get that information but isn’t stupid enough to think that H.Y.D.R.A. will be genuine in their promise to release his son when he does what he says. The development of this plot was a bit rushed and a little too reminiscent of the Deathlok plot from season 1 but it does get the point across fairly well.
Adrian Pasdar being a more regular addition to the cast can only be a good thing as I really like the character of Talbot. The way he is casually offensive to the foreign delegates without even realising it is really amusing to see. Talbot is intelligent yet ignorant and I wouldn’t have him any other way.
The return of the Absorbing Man was welcomed as he was used really well in his last appearance so having him back is a good thing. It looks like he might become a more significant part of the group as time goes on which will cause problems for Hunter who hates him for killing his friends. Hunter makes frequent reference to that and refuses to trust him despite Talbot’s claims that all of the programming done by H.Y.D.R.A. has been removed and his earlier crimes can be attributed to his upbringing. Talbot seems a little too quick to trust him but since we never saw Creel’s rehabilitation it’s unknown what happened to get Talbot to that level of trust. If it has the Absorbing Man as a significant part of the show then I’m happy to go with it.
Hunter was on top form generally in this episode. He realised early on that the team was being set up and chooses to ignore the no weapons policy on the mission. He is consistently the guy who prepares for the worst and does whatever it takes to accomplish the mission so it’s always great to see what backup plan he has.
Hive is proving to be an interesting villain so far but I’m not sure what he did to the two Inhumans as they don’t seem to be brainwashed in any way and still seem distressed when they hear the screams of the humans he feeds on. It looks like Hive is up to full strength after feeding on the humans as his decaying corpse of a host body now looks much more alive. It could be that he is ready to start carrying out his plan whatever that may be. Brett Dalton is doing a great job as Hive with his performance bearing no resemblance to Ward at all. His quiet line delivery in a tone that never wavers is really eerie.
A solid episode that tackles the appearance of the Inhumans in really interesting ways. Having Daisy and Lincoln conflict over the issue while each raising valid points brings a level of sophistication to the issue that actually gives Lincoln a proper use in the show. Their relationship isn’t all that believable but having them opposed on the same issue is working well. Bringing Talbot more into the fold is a good move as his interactions with Coulson are really fun to watch. While this is going on Malick and Hive are both proving to be engaging villains.
- the sophisticated exploration of the issue of the Inhumans
- Talbot and Coulson’s interactions
- Hunter’s contribution to the mission
- the romantic subplot between Daisy and Lincoln
- Talbot’s arc moving a little quickly and being recycled from Deathlok’s story