Marvel has now made its way to the small screen rather successfully, with Daredevil and Jessica Jones showing off Netflix’s clout and establishing a real different feel to the television part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but neither was the first foray of Marvel’s recent television exploration. That would instead be this week’s TV Roulette selection, ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This show served as the bridge between movies and television, and in its three seasons so far has led to some interesting interaction between the two mediums, in both positive and negative ways. After a rough first season, the show finally seemed to right itself in season two. Has that successful run continued this year? We’ll find out right after the rundown.
Spoilers Ahead for both Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole
TV Roulette Week 16
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; ‘Failed Experiments,’ Season 3, Episode 19
May 3rd 2016
Have I Seen This Show Before?
All of it since the beginning, which was questionable at times, but has been quite the ride.
I have discussed this in the past, especially in The Anticipated for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but this show is always going to be linked to that movie, because that movie had such a profound affect on the show’s first season, and demonstrated the strange friction that has always existed between the movie and television spheres of the television universe. Kevin Feige has never been the biggest fan of Marvel television. He never wanted it, but it was a big priority for Disney when the House of Mouse acquired Marvel in 2009, so the live-action television division was created. Unlike the Cinematic side of the Marvel Universe, where Feige has been able to create a meticulous master plan that extends into 2028, the television side is not under his control, so Feige has always been a bit dismissive of it. This is especially true because the television division has always been championed by Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, who has clashed with Feige about the best way to handle the MCU. This all changed last year, when Feige used the slight disappointment that Avengers: Age of Ultron turned out to be both critically and financially (it made a lot of money, but less than the first Avengers) to break free from Perlmutter and take up the mantle of unquestioned control of the MCU on the Marvel side of things. Still, this is a bit of a digression, as the important thing is that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and that’s the end of those periods and all caps for the rest of this) has always been stuck in a weird power struggle between the television and film divisions of Marvel.
Unlike DC, which has separate television and film universes (almost to its detriment, as most reactions to the television side are far more favorable than the film side of things), Marvel wanted to keep everything connected. This makes the power struggles between their film and television divisions more pronounced, because anything the television side does changes the world of the film universe and vice versa. The resulting power conflict between Feige and Jeph Loeb, Executive Vice President and Head of Television at Marvel has affected Agents of Shield in many profound ways. The film division was somewhat blindsided by the decision to make the show in the first place, and then things were made worse when the show actually brought Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) back to life, which is kind of a big deal considering it basically undid one of the only real moments of pathos in the Marvel films. Joss Whedon has certainly not been a fan of this*, and basically has just said that as far as the Avengers are concerned, Coulson is still dead. This started a weird kind of gamesmanship between the film and television side, where the film division retaliated by throwing Captain America: The Winter Soldier in front of the showrunners of Agents of Shield, and casually acknowledging that this might change the show up–quite the understatement, considering that that film ended S.H.I.E.L.D. This forced the first season of the show to operate at a glacial pace until it could finally reveal what the show would actually become once the events of Cap 2 came to pass.
Still, the show has been able to recover from this and prosper, at least creatively (the ratings have never really been that impressive, since the slow start to the show caused it to hemorrhage viewers), especially as the show began to push the idea of Inhumans, which is Marvel’s answer to the fact that Fox still owns all the rights to X-Men and mutantkind as a whole. This has created more tension, as Agents of Shield has been used to push the idea of Inhumans for the MCU and help set up the Inhumans movie that was slated to happened. Feige’s ascendance to power seems to have changed that, though, as from all accounts he has never been a huge fan of the Inhumans. Now the film no longer has a release date. This is sad, because the tensions between the film and television side had seemed to be thawing. Feige finally began to acknowledge the positive side of the television stuff in more than just backhanded compliments, and the television side was able to to tell darker and grittier stories, in the case of the Neflix shows, or help set up complicated backstories, like with the Inhumans. The renewal of tensions means that Agents of Shield‘s future is uncertain–what is it really setting up, and where is it really going?
Which is a shame, because the foundations of the Inhuman storyline have really been fleshed out in this season of Agents of Shield, especially as the show has been able to embrace the idea of including the Secret Warriors. There have been some growing pains, in terms of figuring out how to include powered individuals without overshadowing non-powered individuals, especially in the case of Mack (Henry Simmons), who at this point has been knocked unconscious in just about every episode this season, and has to be suffering from some serious brain damage by now. This has helped continue to bring Daisy (Chloe Bennet) more and more to the forefront of the show, where the show can properly tap into her off-screen charisma. This is especially true now that she has come under the sway of Hive (Brett Dalton), and has allowed her to take a ride on the dark side of the story. Starting, of course, with her awesome exit from the Shield base two weeks ago, in which she collapsed the hanger with her powers so no one could follow her. Daisy has constantly been keeping her powers under control, and now that she is linked to Hive, she has started to let loose, which has proven both exhilarating and terrifying.
Last week’s episode had Daisy promise Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) that she would kill the team if they kept trying to stop Hive and fix her. The look of anguish on her face as she pleaded with Fitz to be left alone while still using her powers to choke him near to death was brilliant, and Bennet sold the hell out of it. This week, the ante is upped, as Daisy is forced to confront Mack while her former partner tries to talk reason into her. This scene does a good job of conveying where Daisy’s head’s at. She desperately wants to protect her friends at Shield, but only if they are willing to become Inhumans like her. Her connection to Hive has made her happy, because she feels like she truly belongs somewhere (plus, you know the whole massive dose of endorphins the Hive parasite continually unleashes). It has also allowed her to give into the doubts she has always had about how much Shield has really been looking out for her. Daisy is now firmly convinced that she will make the world a better place with Hive, and that has made both her and Hive great villains, because you can actually see their side of things.
Mack still tries to convince Daisy that she is not as on board with all this as she thinks, since she allowed herself to be found by Shield, and while it may not look that way, this episode actually does a lot to suggest he is correct. Daisy really wants to believe she is all in with Hive, but her brutal desire to prove this no matter the cost appears to be her overcompensating for her doubts. She almost kills Mack, even though it clearly pains her to do so, and then is willing to let Hive use her blood to perform his experiments. Sure, there are going to be some consequences to May (Ming-Na Wen) shooting Daisy in order to save Mack, but it really still feels like there is a good chance that Daisy may still break free of Hive’s control all on her own. The only question at this point is whether she will do so before she does something she will regret for the rest of her life, like actually kill someone close to her.
The other big part of the episode is that it is the last one before the release of Captain America: Civil War. Just like the last time this happened, the next episode will directly address the events of the movie, and it will be interesting to see how much the film affects the show this time. This episode does a really good job of setting up the final few episodes of this season, and allows for whatever the fallout of Captain America: Civil War is to affect the show organically, especially since a lot of this season has been dealing with the very conflict at the center of Civil War in terms of the best way to use and control super heroes. This allowed it to be quite a good episode that will hopefully send this strong season to an even stronger end.
Notes and Observations
- Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) took the Hive immunity shot, despite being told not to. Lincoln really hasn’t worked as a character this season, but it better not be true that this shot had no effect. It really needs to be able to do something, or else much of his storyline in this episode really doesn’t work. Maybe the shot won’t make him immune, but instead will poison the connection between Hive and his followers? That could have some really fascinating affects.
- It really feels like the show is sitting on a Lash (Matthew Willig/ Blair Underwood) gun that is waiting to go off. He wasn’t in this episode, but I think he is going to play a big part in the finale for this season, especially in stopping Hive. Hopefully he appears in the last couple of episodes.
- Fitz and Simmons’ (Elizabeth Henstridge) new romantic relationship continues to work, and it was greatly appreciated that the show didn’t use them having a disagreement in the lab as an excuse for relationship drama.
- May is awesome in this episode as the one person who appears to understand the threat that Daisy now poses to Shield. May’s face after having to shoot Daisy is a perfect blend of understanding that it had to be done and profound grief.
- The Kree were kind of pointless in this episode, and I am not a fan of the fact that the show killed off Alisha (Alicia Vela-Bailey). It felt like such a waste.
- This has nothing to do with this episode, but it should be noted that Marvel’s Most Wanted may no longer be the lock to be picked up that it was once thought to be, which is pretty frustrating, because if Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Hunter (Nick Blood) were removed from this show for a failed pilot, that will make an already questionable decision even worse.
- Since we are heading towards the finish line of Fallen Agent Saga, let’s look at the odds of everyone on the show being the fallen agent:
- Daisy: This would be beyond lunacy, but there is a fair bit of logic. Daisy thought she saw the death of someone else already in ‘Spacetime,’ but actually saw someone preventing her own death, so maybe this happens again. Plus, with her having joined team Hive, maybe she will sacrifice herself out of regret, but man, this would be a truly terrible decision that could only be slightly justified if Chloe Bennet wanted to leave the show (and even then, that is suspect). Add in that this would remove one of the only two Asian actresses having major roles in the Marvel universe (Iron Fist will change this slightly, but that is not until next year), and a lead at that, and this would just be a misguided decision on all fronts. Like, a people will stop watching the show kind of a decision.
- Coulson: This honestly makes the most sense. As important as Coulson and Clark Gregg as an actor were in setting up this series and giving it a bit of credibility, it feels in a lot of ways that his purpose has passed. Daisy has constantly been held back a bit by Coulson being around, and his death would allow her to really step up in a leadership role. Mack would also benefit, because he would presumably step in as Director of Shield, like he did in ‘Maveth.’ May would have a whole new avenue of stories open, and in general everyone in the cast would be given a lot more story room once the narrative suck that is Coulson wasn’t there. Plus, this would really work as a way to bring Coulson full circle, as he could sacrifice himself to stop Hive after his actions led to Hive getting out in the first place. Still, I doubt the show will think it can live without Coulson so this probably isn’t happening.
- Fitz: This would be quite the rage inducing decision, and would feel very much like Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen taking one of the worst pages out of Jed’s brother Joss’s playbook by killing off a character right after he or she finally achieves romantic happiness. Still, between Fitz and Simmons, Fitz would make the most sense, because he would sacrifice himself for Simmons without a second thought. Still, another bad choice.
- Simmons: Pretty much all my Fitz arguments apply to Simmons, but she seems even more safe, just because she seems to work much better as a character on her own than Fitz does. But if the show wanted to reverse things and have Simmons sacrifice herself for Fitz, that could happen, but it would just reinforce Fitz’s view that they are cursed, and create a narrative black hole that Fitz probably wouldn’t recover from.
- May: This one might make sense for similar reasons to Coulson. Removing her presence would open a leadership void others would have to fill, but not nearly as effectively, and it would really mess with the team dynamic, especially with Bobbi no longer being around to be the best non-powered fighter on the team in her absence. There is really no reason it should be May, and removing her would have many of the same troubling racial implications that removing Daisy would, so the only reason I would see them doing this is if they wanted to get rid of Coulson but couldn’t go through with it, so instead they decide to kill May because her death would have a similar emotional resonance. That reasoning is, of course, terrible, but let’s just say the last couple of weeks have taught me that I can no longer trust networks and creators not to kill off or get rid of female characters in order to protect male ones.
- Mack: Mack makes a lot of sense from certain character perspectives. His desire to save Daisy could get the best of him. One of the clues is Yo-Yo’s cross, which she could have given to Mack as a sign of affection, and his character has often been misused by the show, but man, this would look so bad. This show already made the mistake of falling into the trope of killing off one black male character soon after introducing a new one when they brought in Mack and killed off Trip (B.J. Britt), so killing off the only black lead in the show, especially now that Andrew has fully become Lash, would be an awful decision, and bring about some pretty bad press for a show that has done mostly a good job of being diverse in its casting. One could argue that these optics arguments shouldn’t matter if the story supports a decision, but as we continue to progress into the 21st century, this argument is becoming more and more problematic.
- Lincoln: The clubhouse leader, and really probably the best choice if the show refuses to kill Coulson. Fans have long had issues with the character, and the show has struggled to give him a personality that works. This season he at least has become more of a character, but he has still come off as way more abusive and controlling than the show probably intended him to be. He constantly seems too selfish, and his relationship with Daisy has never really worked, or looked anything close to being a stable relationship. Killing him off at this point might be all the show can do to turn his character around a bit before it is too late, but that just feels way too obvious at this point, and I am not really sure the show actually believes it has a Lincoln problem. So I am not exactly oozing with confidence about this being the character that will die.
- Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley): This would be really pointless, and feel like a cheat, because Yo-Yo hasn’t been around long enough to make a real impact with her death. Plus with her cross being in the vision, she feels way too obvious as a first choice, so it is almost certainly not her.
- Joey (Juan Pablo Raba): Similar to Yo-Yo, Joey hasn’t been around long enough for this to really work, or to feel like creating this entire mini-event for the close of the season was worth it. Plus, seriously, Agents of Shield, don’t kill off your one gay character. Just don’t.
- Best Guess Right Now: Lincoln
- Other Likely Candidates (from most to least likely): Coulson, Fitz, Mac, Daisy
- Best Choice: Coulson
- Worst Choice: Daisy
Episode Grade: B+
Will I watch more?
I mean, I am pretty pot committed to this show at this point. Although the show will never be quite the appointment television it was meant to be, it is still quite good, and as long as it continues to be good, I will keep watching.
That’s it for this week’s TV Roulette. Tune in next time for more roulette stylings. Until then, remember, even if you have Gambit-like powers, don’t mess with May.
*Though this has always been weird, considering Joss Whedon is an executive producer of this show, and, you know, was the director of the first two Avengers films, so he was a key part in the decision making of both–but Whedon was not always positive that he would do the second Avengers film, and he is not the main creative voice of Agents of Shield, which instead is his brother Jed and Maurissa Tancharoen, so this can be somewhat excused, I guess.