Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Season 3 Episode 16
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD explores Gideon Malick’s past and the effect it has on his present as Hive proves to be not what he hoped.
The theme of the past coming back to haunt is the theme that holds this episode together and it’s handled really well. We get insight into Gideon Malick’s past through flashbacks where we learn that Malick’s father cheated his way out of being chosen in the stone ceremony which proves that the man was a coward. The fear of being sent to Maveth turned out to be present in Malick who chose to do the same thing and offer his brother Nathaniel as a sacrifice instead.
His response to his cowardice was to bury the past as best he could and try to forget about it. It comes back when he realises that Hive has the memories of everyone he has consumed so will have Nathaniel’s too. Hive sees right through Malick’s question and knows exactly the reason he is asking. All of Malick’s scenes are powered by the guilt he has tried to bury and the fear that Hive will use that against him.
Malick is very concerned about his reputation and particularly worried about how his daughter will perceive him. Most of their scenes together show how much Stephanie loves and respects him which underpins how important it is for Malick to be seen that way. There’s a sense of dread to these scenes and the flashbacks compliment this nicely as they build up to the reveal for the audience as well as to Stephanie.
Another thing playing on Malick’s mind is the vision he had of the future which is revealed to be his death. It wasn’t difficult to figure out but the episode keeps teasing us with that moment as Malick is positive that it is about to happen. This pays off nicely when Hive shows how alien he is by casually killing Stephanie just to set an example. She means absolutely nothing to him and neither does he. The only reason he keeps Malick around is because he is needed. I fully expect the death shown in the vision to be the exact way it happens. Once he is no longer useful to Hive then he will be killed.
Hive’s ability to absorb the memories of those he consumes is used to great effect. Malick is confronted by the essence of his brother and is forced to answer to him for his betrayal. It’s a powerful moment that is well earned and is performed beautifully by Brett Dalton and Powers Boothe.
I like that Stephanie’s death came as a surprise as I expected her to be some kind of twisted relationship with Hive which wouldn’t make much sense so I’m glad that they didn’t go down that route. Having Stephanie exist as an example of how little Hive values his allies was the perfect use for her. I did half expect Hive to inhabit her but I’m attached to Brett Dalton’s portrayal of the character so I’m glad that this didn’t happen. Stephanie served her purpose and now Malick feels powerless when confronted with the fate he has already seen.
I liked the use of the book “Paradise Lost” as the thing that hid the shame of Malick and his father. It might be one of the most overused titles in fiction but it was used to great effect here as Malick is figuratively descending into hell and experiencing it for himself. The book is just a physical representation of that and as symbolism goes it’s pretty powerful.
The theme of the past haunting also extends to Coulson who is struggling to deal with the fact that Hive has inhabited Ward and serves as a constant reminder of the fact that Coulson murdered him in cold blood. He has killed before but May points out that this was the first one that he enjoyed which makes the whole thing very different. This is echoed in his conversation with Fitz who reminds him that the alternative was letting Ward win but Coulson sees crossing the line like that as being a sign that Ward did win and now they have to pick up the pieces. Hive being a literal manifestation of Coulson’s guilt and regret is a good move and I wonder if Hive will use Ward’s memories to torture Coulson at a later point. The potential is there and I hope that it is used.
Lincoln also finds his past come back to haunt him when the subject of his days as an alcoholic are brought up. He made a mistake and let his addiction endanger the lives of both him and his girlfriend. He was saved and given a second chance but still feels that sense of isolation and fears that it may consume him again. Lincoln is slowly but surely getting more personality and the character is moving in a positive direction. This particular revelation was somewhat unnecessary as it felt like a clumsy attempt to tie Lincoln into the theme so that he and Daisy weren’t simply wasting time by picking up some random Kree artifact.
The action highlight of the episode was May’s fight with Giyera which was brief but enjoyable. It really showcased the skills of these characters and it was refreshing to see Giyera not relying on his powers as he had previously. The whole setup of his capture was clearly to push the Secret Warriors story forward but I’m excited to see that play out so I’ll let it slide.
I mentioned the flashbacks being effectively used in this episode from the point of view of building up Malick’s history but it also does a good job of showing the history of H.Y.D.RA. as well. The reveal earlier in this season that the organisation was established to worship the exiled Inhuman but the appearance of Dr. Whitehall shows a different perspective on it. Whitehall mocks the beliefs of those that worship Hive as he realises what will happen if they ever manage to bring him to Earth. This makes me think that the Red Skull must have thought this way otherwise he would have been trying to use the Tesseract to open a portal to bring Hive to Earth. I like the idea of the conflicted purposes within H.Y.D.R.A. as it really emphasises the many heads themed motto they keep reminding us of. I can fully accept that someone like Malick being almost religiously devoted to Hive where people like the Red Skull or Dr. Whitehall are more concerned with gaining power for themselves. It fits with the Red Skull’s plan as he had the intention of becoming a God rather than answering to them. I’d like to see this developed further and it definitely provides a way for the organisation to move forward after Hive’s inevitable defeat.
A great episode with a strong theme connecting the various stories. Malick’s past coming back to haunt him both compliments and contrasts with Coulson’s but each of them work wonderfully in their own way. Hive is proving to be an excellent villain that really lives up to the term Inhuman as there is nothing human about him beyond the physical appearance.
- a strong theme carrying through the episode
- the exploration of Gideon Malick’s past
- effective use of flashbacks to build up to the reveal
- Coulson’s guilt being explored in powerful ways
- Lincoln’s internal conflict feeling tacked on