‘Agents of SHIELD’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 3, Episode 4: ‘Devils You Know’
Welcome back to another Agents of S.O.M.E.T.H.I.N.G., where we’ll take you through all the thing we loved and the things we didn’t about this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. This week, Hunter's terrible plan reaches its terrible conclusion, Coulson smirks a bunch, and Sonic the Hedgehuman returns to wreak more hedgehavoc. 'Devils You Know' was directed by Ron Underwood and written by Paul Zbyszewski
Ziah: First off, Chris, Lash still looks like garbage. I was watching this episode with my friend, and unprompted, knowing nothing about the show, he said, “Woah, is that Sonic the Hedgehog?” That is a problem for an ongoing villain in a show that is definitely more serious than comedic.
Commenters have brought up comparisons to Joss Whedon’s other show with substandard makeup, Buffy, but I think the main difference there is that the draw for that show always seemed to be the characters and dialogue. Lash is being presented as a threat, so for him to look as bad as he does is not good for the series going forward. What do you think Chris?
Chris: Well, I can certainly agree he looks like something from Buffy, but more so than the acting and dialogue, I think Buffy got away with low-budget monsters because that was the world the show established. Everything was low-budget, so creatures that were just people with some makeup and something glued to their heads didn’t stand out. Agents of SHIELD takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with “cinematic” being the key word. This is the Marvel Television Universe struggling under the weight of the spectacle of the movies. This is supposed to be happening in the same world as some of the biggest movies of all time, so when things look cheap on this show it sticks out like a sore thumb.
I know they’re doing their best to make him look like the comic, but most people don’t know well who Lash is well enough to care if he’s comic accurate, and if your only choice is for him to look this goofy, then maybe take a little creative license and have him look completely different.
You know, having said all of that, I looked up some of the recently released glamour shots of the actor in the Lash costume/makeup and he actually looks more impressive in those stills than he does on the show. It made me think that maybe the problem isn’t so much what he looks like, but how he’s being lit and filmed for the show. Or maybe he just looks like Sonic.
Ziah: Also, if you were waiting for Agents of SHIELD to drop some weirdly obscure and confusingly directed references to the Marvel universe, this was your episode. First off, we have Inhumans tracker Dwight Frye, which… is the name of a character that looks, acts, and basically is nothing like his TV counterpart, from Mark Gruenwald and Paul Ryan’s series, DP7.
Hunter also wears a tracksuit in this episode, which I choose to believe is him dressing like the Tracksuit Draculas, the villains of Matt Fraction/David Aja (and many many more)’s Hawkeye run. More likely it was coincidence, but these little coincidences are the things that get me through the day.
I think stuff like the Dwight Frye reference hurts the show, because it implies a level of connection between comics and movies/TV to the average viewer that just isn’t there, while anyone who can catch the minutiae will just be bothered by the differences.
Chris: What’s even more strange to me is the fact that “Dwight Frye” is the name of the actor that played Renfield in the Bela Lugosi “Dracula” from 1931. I’m trying to come up with any plausible reason that they would have named the original comic character after him.
Ziah: Oh. That makes way more sense to reference, since he’s totally a sniveling servant to a guy that goes around murdering people.
Chris: But yeah, I’m right there with you, if there’s no point, it’s just distracting. As soon as they displayed his name so prominently, I knew that must be a “comic name”, but why on earth would they pick that one? Is it just a name out of the hat thing? If they were going to be doing something more with him, I’d try to give them the benefit of the doubt, but then they just kill him. Spoilers. I assume you’ve already watched the episode if you’re reading this.
Ziah: We finally see Hunter’s plan to take out Ward, and it is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. Honestly. We asked last week if Ward had met him in prior seasons, and he clearly has. Hunter walks in to meet the boss (who, as a reminder, knows his face and wants to murder him), and his plan is to face away, reveal he’s an assassin, then run, grab a gun, and murder a whole warehouse full of trained secret agents? We also see Coulson twenty minutes away, but here’s the problem with that:
May surprises Hunter by showing up, implying that she’d been following him secretly the whole time. Why wasn’t Coulson already inbound as soon as they got to the warehouse? Why does Ward not at least see headshots of his new employees before meeting them in person? Why, in a world where there are immortal gods and robot men, was Hunter not even wearing a mustache and glasses to hide the fact that Ward knows and hates him?
In fact, this episode was full of plot holes, which is just really frustrating as a viewer. Yes, it’s superhero fiction and the bad guy needs to escape, but give us a reason why, rather than dumb luck. Ward using May's ex Andrew as collateral was A) predictable, and B) totally a bad backup plan for if SHIELD found him. Does he think threatening one agent’s ex-husband is really going to stop an entire airplane full of trained agents? These are our main villains going forward: a weirdly incompetent Ward after a few episodes of him being fun, and a giant hedgehog monster. This doesn’t bode well. What do you think?
Chris: I’ve gotta say, as awful as Hunter’s plan is I was pleasantly surprised to see that we’re four episodes in and the infiltration sub-plot is already over. Same way the “trying to get SImmons back from the alien planet” sub-plot was over after one episode. This show keeps surprising me by setting up story arcs I assume are going to be dragged out over the entire season (like some other shows are bad about doing) and then ending them almost immediately. That might seem like poor writing or poor planning on the surface, but it’s a welcome change of pace for me with a show like this.
Maybe I’m giving them too much credit, but I’m starting to feel like the people in charge of this show have an actual plan for what they’re trying to do this season. I have a hard time saying this show is objectively “good”, but I’m finding myself enjoying it a little more with each episode.
I’ll also happily give this show credit for surprising me by killing Andrew. I assumed they’d be using him somehow after Baron Strucker Jr. signed up for his class, but I really did not see them killing him (and in such an unsettling way) coming.
Ziah: I guess they have been ending subplots early, but I’m not quite on board with you that it’s a good thing. And more than that, it really is the smaller plotting that bothers me the most. The show consistently chooses the most boring, well-trod routes to get from Point A to Point B, and even after four episodes, it’s starting to wear on me. Ward threatening Andrew, and Hunter sacrificing him to get a shot at Ward (and missing!) was obvious the minute Andrew offered to reconcile with May over dinner later. It’s literally an “I was getting married tomorrow,” but without any sort of commentary or response to it. Fitz finding Simmons’ crazy alien notebook, conveniently placed in the lab where Fitz spends all of his time, is just there because the plot demands it.
Chris: Haha, yeah, I can’t really argue with any of that, and maybe it’s the sleep-deprivation experiment I’ve decided to subject myself to taking, but while some of these points are obviously leading from A to B, I feel like they could have some odd plans for how to get there. I may be giving them way too much credit.
Ziah: Oh, they’re definitely moving the plot from Point A to Point B, but if there’s no actual reason established within the world, it reminds the viewer that we’re watching a silly made-up TV show full of actors waving their arms at a guy in bad makeup. We might be comic fans, and our suspension of disbelief might be pretty high, but still. This is almost lazy.
Here’s some constructive criticism though: I’ve noticed the show has very few establishing shots, and that would go a long way towards making the world feel lived in, and the characters feel as spread out as they’re explicitly said to be. Having reminders that Hunter and May are off gallivanting somewhere real might actually help make Coulson showing up twenty minutes late make sense.
Chris: Yeah, rarely knowing where people are in relation to each other on a show that spends a lot of time supposedly traversing the globe makes a scene like that, which should feel tense, just fall a little flat.
In retrospect, that scene actually felt like they just couldn’t get everyone to set on the same day, so they had to come up with a reason it would take Coulson so long to get there. Now that you’ve got me thinking about it, that whole scene and its setup make so little sense. I’m trying to piece together how it could have played out the way it did and having very little luck. Well, great now I’m frustrated.
Ziah: Yeah, when May shows up at the SHIELD base, I feel like it was meant to be surprising that she’s there, but beyond being told that she’s on a secret mission, we’re not actually shown where she is. She and Hunter could straight up be down the block in an apartment for all we know, and that really hurts a show that has this many disparate plot threads.
Chris: Jumping back to the beginning of the episode, were the Inhumans that Lash killed people we should be familiar with from last season? Let us know in the comments, readers!
Ziah: I would guess based on context that they were some of the Inhumans from the secret Inhumans compound that was around last season, but I definitely didn’t recognize them from the comics.
Chris: I know you’re a little more familiar with Lash from his comic appearances, but is this idea that he may be able to transform from the comics? Will answering this question be a huge spoiler to me? Do you think he’ll be someone we have met before?
Ziah: I don’t know, probably? He hasn’t transformed in any of the comics I’ve read with him, but he’s easily the most boring villain in the Inhumans series, so maybe I just spaced out.
If he is someone we’ve met before, I have a guess: Kyle MacLachlan AKA Mr. Hyde. I don’t know what happened to him last season, but he’s the only character that would actually actively avoid killing Daisy when he had the chance in the truck. At least, I’m hoping that Lash not killing Daisy in the truck was character-driven instead of just required by the plot yet again. Readers, what do you think?
Chris: I’d like to wrap things up with some positives:
- No Lincoln.
- That look on Ward’s face when he realizes May has just shown up and he’s in trouble.
- Coulson choking Dwight with his robo-hand.
Once again, even with all the things that bothered me in this episode (like almost every single one-on-one character interaction scene), and all the things we didn’t really get around to talking about (Simmons’ secrets, Bobbi’s rehab, Coulson’s lack of tie) I still enjoyed it and am curious to see what’s going to happen next week. I think this is how they get you. Any final thoughts?
Ziah: We’ve been watching this show for four episodes so far, and he was the focal character of the last episode, and I still stared at you writing “No Lincoln” for a minute trying to remember who he was. That dude has such negative charisma that I forget he’s on screen while he’s on screen. As to your other points, May showing up was killer, but man, I’ve noticed Coulson has a tiny smirk in almost every scene, and now I can’t unsee it.
I don’t know, Chris. This was the roughest episode to get through for me. Characters made completely nonsensical choices, my favorite subplot (Hunter and May undercover) ended with a whimper, and even wonderful, evil Ward was at his worst. I’m in it to watch the show because that’s what we signed up for, but this was definitely a low point for me. Oh well. Next week is Cast Away but with Simmons, and that could be fun!