“WE HAVE TO GO BACK, FITZ. WE HAVE TO GO BACK!”

Or so cast and crew had to have repeatedly cracked at one another in filming tonight’s closing stinger. On a slight tangent to kick off with, it’s worth acknowledging how well Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has come to illustrate its development over a few seasons, where once Fitz and Simmons were derided as a single entity, Iain de Caestecker got a meaty Season 2 arc with which to distinguish the character. Moreover, after an emotional outing like tonight’s “A Wanted (Inhu)man,” de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge have easily risen in ranks to the show’s MVPs as well.

It’s a point worth noting after this past weekend’s presentation at New York Comic-Con, where Season 1 in 2013 showed the rather ho-hum “Eye-Spy,” followed by last year’s crowd-pleasing, if less than substantive “Face My Enemy,” that Season 3 shows off such a substantially emotional hour as its prize piece. I spoke last week as to how the 23-episode model hasn’t always done Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. many favors, something I won’t bother re-hashing here, as tonight’ “A Wanted (Inhu)man” (boy, am I going to stop typing that) could definitely have used a jolt in certain spots.

Lincoln in particular hasn’t proven himself a particularly substantial character as of yet (as of the premiere, I have no recollection of the character ever being referenced as a doctor), and it’s always a tough spot to have your A-story more interesting in principle than the character it focuses on. I don’t necessarily know that we need his run from authorities, or Daisy’s subsequent pursuit framed in the context of a love story between the pair, but it’s at least interesting to see the S.H.I.E.L.D. vs A.T.C.U. very much embracing the X-Men narrative of Inhumans on the run, persecuted and feared at every turn.

What really has clicked so far in the early episodes is Agents’ exploration of the main conflict through a sort of warped family dynamic, Coulson the beleaguered father straining to keep his surrogate daughter out of harm’s way (or in this case, away from a boy), and you could certainly throw Constance Zimmer’s Rosalind in as a new stepmom, given the ferocious chemistry between she and Coulson. It seems contrite to tug at Coulson and Daisy’s relationship over Lincoln, considering the time spend building up their father-daughter bond last year, but in this case the familial dynamic adds some extra weight that a bland character like Lincoln otherwise wouldn’t.

 

There’s no way this phone call shouldn’t end with at least one “DAMMIT, CHLOE!”

 

The idea of Coulson sacrificing himself to work with Rosalind works out well too, invoking past struggles with Talbot and Director Gonzalez as a reason to take a different approach, working with the enemy rather than expend resources. It’s a smartly self-aware means with which to acknowledge Agents’ desire to avoid repeating itself from season to season, further evidence as to how well the series continues to evolve outside movies that won’t acknowledge it.

On the other side of tonight’s coin, I’m still not entirely sold on anything to do with pursuit of Ward’s new Hydra, as the idea of a Fight Club recruitment* seems more tailored to physical characters like Hunter and May, rather than any logical extension of the organization itself. Not to mention, how far could Hunter really get without someone simply showing Ward his photo, or learning of May’s proximity? Hunter and May itself has made for a strong pairing, but thus far tuned to working out some of their individual issues (Bobbi, Andrew), than any truly compelling story outright.

*Shame on all us press, for not making a bigger deal of Daniel Feuerriegel guest-starring this week. Agron lives!

 

“… Were you the one with the sword?”

 

And that’s it, really, given that Simmons’ return understandably slowed to feature the character re-acclimating to life on Earth, all the while Henstridge put in some remarkable work balancing the character’s PTSD with such sweet scenes like her long-awaited dinner with Fitz. It also made for the wise and practical inclusion of Bobbi as a voice of reason, though like the premiere’s initial closing stinger, Simmons’ apparent manic desire to return to her alien wasteland registers more as a general twist than anything we know what to make of just yet. For at least a week or so, LOST jokes will have to suffice.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • Like the Dutch angles last week, the subtitled British stammering between Hunter and Spud made for a delightfully unexpected, and admirably specific touch to the episode.
  • Of course, no LOST-style twist would be complete without the introduction, and near-immediate dispatch of poor Arzt.
  • Coulson and Rosalind banter for days, yo.
  • The May fight had something of an uncomfortable setup, even if it seemed inevitable to use Ming-Na’s stunt training in at least some capacity. Also, we really need to see a May / Black Widow fight someday.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return next week with Tuesday’s “Devils You Know.”

 

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