After a solid start to the second half of its third season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., keeps the momentum going with this week's episode, "The Inside Man.” So far this season, the writers have found a nice rhythm of churning out enjoyable weekly stories, while still keeping an eye on their larger, season-long arcs, a balance they've struggled to achieve at times. The show still leaves a bit to be desired in the character development department, but the core cast continues to be enjoyable, and the potential for future intersecting arcs is there. Although, given the show's history with developing new characters, I'm not expecting a transcendent Mac storyline anytime soon.
We get two big reappearances this week in General Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) and Carl “Crusher” Creel (Brian Patrick Wade). General Talbot was introduced way back in the last third of season one as a minor antagonist. Since then, he's softened his stance on S.H.I.E.L.D. to the point of becoming a begrudging ally midway through season two, his most recent appearance in the show. This week, Talbot, as the new head of the ATCU, forms an uneasy alliance with Phil Coulson, and it's clear from the get go that there are still some mixed feelings between the two. This odd couple does a great job of driving the narrative for the episode, and manages to deliver some strong moments of comedic relief along the way.
Carl Creel was last seen in a short two episode arc back in the beginning of season two, and is a character I’m glad the show is revisiting. Creel, otherwise known as the Absorbing Man, plays a much larger role in Marvel’s comic universe, and is actually considered a fairly major villain, having famously gone toe to toe with both Thor and the Hulk. In the realm of television; however, Creel is given a much narrower scope, playing nothing more than the role of hired muscle. Luckily, hired muscle tend to get some of the best action sequences, and Creel's visually interesting absorbing power is well displayed throughout this episode. Ultimately, Creel's impact on the show might be more far reaching than his limited role would suggest. Fitzsimmons discovers that Creel's blood actually stops and reverses the active process of terragenesis, theoretically allowing it to act as a vaccine, a concept that you can bet your Quinjet will play a big role in the future.
Lincoln gets a bit of the spotlight this week, and I’m interested to see if he develops into something more than just a cool set of powers and great hair. Lincoln's unique in that he's the show's veteran Inhuman, who also maintains a strong human connection to the world, through his experience as a doctor. As the newest member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, the writers have a chance to reinvent members of the old cast through their interactions with Lincoln, and I would love it if this jump-started some strong, character-driven storylines among the more veteran characters, like May or Simmons. Specifically, I enjoyed his fieldwork scene with May, and the coaching she had to give him. It reminded me of the earlier episodes of AoS when Skye was first getting her bearings. I hope the show explores this dynamic further because it’s a nice change of pace, and makes the narrative feel a bit smaller and more relatable.
Unfortunately, it seems like this potential character development will be railroaded for the foreseeable future by Lincoln's relationship with Daisy. If you've read any of my previous reviews, you know I have a hard time wrapping my head around a poorly developed romance arc. It's not that I hate love, I love love! But in the context of a network drama, it can be hard to pull off in a genuine way. Plus, every "do me eyes" scene between Daisy and Lincoln only takes away from the potential screen time that the two could be sharing with other characters.
Luckily, this episode introduces an interesting wrinkle to Shake and Bake. When the two learn that Creel's blood can possibly serve as an Inhuman vaccine, they are split on the merits of the idea, with Daisy believing Inhumans have no need for "a cure," while Lincoln argues that giving people a choice could be beneficial to the greater good. For those circa 2006 X-Men film fans, this dilemma will seem very familiar because it's the same one presented in X-Men: The Last Stand. Only time will tell if this difference in opinion turns into something more, lest we forget that Daisy started out as a Rising Tide conspiracy theorist. So, it wouldn't be too big of a stretch for this headstrong character, founded on standing up for what she believes in, to carry those beliefs to an extreme level.
Finally, this episode continues to tease us with snippets of the new Grant Ward, aka Hive. Interestingly enough, it's revealed that Hive has access to Ward's memories, leading some fans to speculate that a total Ward resurrection might be in the cards, an idea that makes my eyes roll into the very rear-most point of my head. We also get to explore Hive's powers a bit more, although we still don't get a definitive demonstration. There's been a lot of build up to this villain, and I'm curious to see if the writers will be able to deliver a satisfying payoff. Recently, AoS has struggled to give us consistently compelling villains, favoring style over substance when it came to the super-powered bad guys of season two (Jiaying and Gordon) versus the more nuanced, non-powered foes of season one (Ward and John Garrett). So far, it seems like there's a lot of sizzle to Hive, but whether or not he has the steak to go with it is something we'll have to wait and see.
Written by A Play On Nerds Contributor, Garrett Yoshitomi. You can find his tweets @garrettweets