‘Agents of SHIELD’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 3, Episode 10: ‘Maveth’
Welcome back to another Agents of S.O.M.E.T.H.I.N.G., where Chris Haley and Ziah Grace talk about all the things to like and complain about in this week’s episode of Disney’s ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
This week: The winter finale! A bunch of people have gone to an alien moon, and some of them won't make it home again. ‘Maveth’ was written by Jeffrey Bell and directed by Vincent Misiano.
Ziah: Some strong words were said in last week’s recap regarding the show’s overall quality and need to exist, and I think there’s a point worth clarifying before we get into the episode proper. As much as some commenters might think that we’re all culture snobs who refuse to like anything that doesn’t directly appeal to our personal aesthetics, this is still a time commitment. I don’t want the show to be terrible, because it’s an hour out of my life every Tuesday, plus however long the recaps take to write. Trust us, whatever brief joy I get out of snarking about a new episode, it is not equivalent to the joy I get writing about something I genuinely like.
Now on to the episode. Chris, what did you think of the mid-season finale? Again, the conclusion of ten hours of our life watching the adventures of these characters, watching them grow and evolve, not only as fictional constructs, but as people?
Chris: Haha, well when you put it like that...
Talking about something not being good is cathartic, but it’s exhausting. I think it’s also worth noting that I’d like nothing more than to say nice things about this show, but this show has to give me material to work with to enjoy and be excited about. I could be wrong, but I think you feel the same way, right?
Ziah: Yeah, dude! I love talking about things I like with people. It is an enjoyable activity, unlike watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Chris: As to the episode itself, I did not care for this episode. And now when I think about it in the context of the entirety of time spent with the show and it’s characters, I think I like it even less. I’m not really sour on the show as a whole (or not yet at least), but this episode was disappointing, but more than that, just a bummer. And not because of what happened in the show itself exactly, but we can get into the specifics as we go.
Ziah: I’s been a week of CA writers. You and Dylan predicted the reveal over in Supergirl this week, and on our side of the giant mansion we all live in, we predicted that Ward was going to be possessed by the alien-evil (that is definitely not Ego, guys, give it up).
What neither of us predicted was that Ward was going to get his chest cavity caved in by Inspecter Gadget… err, Agent Coulson’s go-go robo-hand. That was weird for a number of reasons. A) It’s a weirdly violent murder in a show that’s been pretty bloodless, and, B) I honestly didn’t understand it until my friend reminded me that Coulson had robot hand strength, so he probably used that.
Chris: Yeah, the whole time they were fighting, and really ever since the introduction of Coulson’s robo-hand I find myself shouting at the screen for him to use it more in these fights. I don’t know about you, but if I had a robo-hand I would never stop using it. I’d be breaking things and crushing stuff constantly just because I could, so I’m always mad when Coulson is in a fist fight and he’s hitting people with his non-robo-hand.
As to how Coulson used it, I had no idea what he was doing and thought maybe he was using it as a defibrillator to save Ward... until Ward’s chest caved in, and then I was like:
So yeah, it was an odd choice for all the ways he could have killed him, but I guess revenge and being on a major Disney-owned network in prime-time makes you do weird things.
Ziah: Yeah, I mean, Chris, Constance Zimmer was telling him that his friends still need him so he can’t retire and go to not-heaven yet, so he didn’t have a whole lot of cliches to pick from, I guess.
Chris: My biggest question was, why did he take his hand off after he did it? Any ideas?
Ziah: I read it as his wanting to just be done with all the super-science bullhockey, and considering Ward’s murder his retirement bonus. I’m pretty sure he’ll be a consultant, if he’s on the show much at all when it returns, but definitely won’t be the director again.
Chris: Unless you’ve got some inside info I haven’t heard, I don’t think there’s any way he doesn’t stay the star of the show. They even made a point of having him say that Mac was only in charge until the end of that “off the books” mission he was on. I could be wrong, but that’s my prediction. I’m into predictions this week.
Ziah: Nah, I mean, you’re probably right. I’m thinking this because it makes narrative sense for the guy who just had his girlfriend murdered, and had to kill an ex-agent of SHIELD that served directly under him, to want some distance. Plus, it would give Mac something to do that could lead to some interesting story arcs somewhere, maybe?
Chris: Well there’s your problem. Don’t try to think about things making sense.
Ziah: Right. Well, since I started us on such a sour note, let’s get to some positives. I have two: Melter-guy using his melting powers to block bullets was pretty cool, and the reveal that “Will’s” leg was rotted open to the bone because the body was already dead was actually pretty cool. Negatives… Negatives, I have so many. Chris, what did you like about this episode?
Chris: I know I’m normally the silver lining guy around here, but I honestly cannot think of anything I liked in this episode. Oh, wait! I liked that part when Bobbi went off and had a fight scene, but they didn’t bother filming it. That made me laugh, but not for any positive reasons.
Ziah: Excellent point. Straight up, for a mid-season finale involving a literal invasion against a heavily fortified HYDRA-controlled castle and a literal strike force landing on an alien planet, this was a shockingly boring episode.
Chris: The whole episode it was like things were “happening”, but nothing was really happening.
Ziah: I honestly can’t believe that there was such a non-focus on the action in the episode, to the point where there’s literally a two-second scene of a HYDRA goon just landing in front of the camera, presumably after getting punched, and there’s no one there! It’s just assumed that we’ll understand that action happened!
Why? Chris, why? This isn’t a comedy. This isn’t a show that relies on the behind-the-scenes relationships of a spy organization! This is a show about a globe-trotting spy organization. If they don’t have the budget for action scenes, why are there multiple scenes of CGI planes docking into one another every episode? We don’t need that, you guys! I’ve been complaining about the lack of establishing shots from day one, but trust me if you just use stock footage of a plane, I don’t care, so long as that money goes somewhere!
It’s not going towards the writing, they don’t have any movie-actors showing up in cameos, and we know it’s not going towards the special effects, so where’s the money going, Chris? I feel like I’m in a noir every week, trying to track the money trail in this show.
Chris: I think this episode was the worst example yet of this show having too many characters and moving pieces and trying to give them all something to do. But it’s all so rushed that nothing anyone does feels like it’s of any real consequence or has the time to have any emotional or story weight.
Ziah: It just really doesn’t feel like the writers care, and I find myself caring less and less.
Chris: I’m in no place to argue on their behalf. What else didn’t you like about this episode?
Ziah: Lincoln. Chris. Lincoln. Lincoln is the worst. I will never stop hating Lincoln. I will die and go to my eternal reward, which will be a world without Lincoln. The only thing he does this episode is off-camera! He takes out the lights and tries to kill Mag-Not-O. (Also, how completely bullhockey is it that they say his powers are telekinetic instead of magnetic? Guys, just own it.)
Chris: I honestly don’t know how I could hate Lincoln more. His attitude, the things he says, his face. I hate him so much, I actually wrote it down twice in my notes.
Ziah: Haha, same. At least that’s the one thing that will always unite us. Lincoln is garbage, but no one really comes off that good this week. Simmons frees Andrew/Lash after escaping from her bounds using a… sharp stick that she… just had, I guess? And Andrew/Lash does what he usually does, which is kill Inhumans off-screen so we don’t actually have to have superpowers in our show about the Marvel Universe.
Chris: Haha, I loved that they clearly only had Blair Underwood for an afternoon, because he has that quick scene with Jemma and then “disappears.”
Ziah: Man, it feels like they only had the writers for one afternoon too.
Ziah: So, let’s talk about the cliffhanger. Will was killed by the evil entity and it possessed the now-dead Ward. (Which, man, that sure is convenient for Fitz and Simmons, huh? No need to actually engage in emotional complexity, or a love triangle between two actually good guys, glad we missed that.)
Chris: Yeah, that was such a cop-out. I mean, I wasn’t a fan of that subplot to begin with, because it seemed like a pointless way for them to keep Fitz and Simmons apart even after they’d been reunited. But then to just kill him off, off-screen no less, makes it obvious that it was just a pointless way to keep Fitz and Simmons apart.
Also, why in the world would this ancient, supposedly all-powerful creature bother to hide/pretend to be Will? I get that Fitz wouldn’t have helped if he’d known, but “IT” was already in Will down in the bunker before Fitz and Ward got there. This is one of those things that makes it feel like the writers only had time for a first draft and they weren’t allowed to change anything once they’d written it down.
Ziah: I guess, if you were feeling overly generous, you could say that it was hoping that Simmons would come back for it, but that is a narrative jump that really isn’t backed up in the script. The creature doesn’t really seem all that effective at getting Simmons and Will for six months, until it can when the plot demands it.
Ziah: So, Ward’s now possessed by a being of unclear-power in the hands of HYDRA, who really don’t seem all that threatening, since they’ve got the previously-demonstrated secret weapons of an old guy who used to have political clout, and some nameless grunts with guns.
Chris, I can’t think of a better example of AoS’ priorities than when a giant HYDRA sculpture appears in the desert, and Fitz doesn’t even say the full catch-phrase of the organization before ending with “blah, blah, blah”. That’s exactly the problem with HYDRA. We’re told they have tools to break down reinforced doors (What tools? How were the doors reinforced by Melter? Who cares! The show doesn’t!), but we’re not shown anyone in HYDRA that’s actually competent and threatening except for Ward, who loses his competency as soon as SHIELD shows up.
Now that he’s got a Yeerk in his head (who remembers the 90s?), I don’t really see that changing, and I’m tired of being hopeful.
Chris: I don’t feel there’s any reason to tell you to have hope that things will change. I mean, I’m not where you’re at, but I also don’t feel the need to tell you to hold out for better days.
Ziah: Since it’s the mid-season finale, let’s do a power ranking of the cast regarding how much we like them, and how good they are:
Mac --- Now director of SHIELD? I don’t really see them taking it away from him, even with Coulson alive, but I don’t really think it makes his character any better. I much prefer the Mac that’s just annoyed at superpowered jerks and just trying to make his way through the day than the trying-to-be-authoritative-Mac we got this episode.
Chris: I thought the longer they had him in charge and the more they asked him to talk, the more his weaknesses as an actor started to show through. I never thought that kind of thing before they started asking him to try to give pep rally speeches to the team, but once he did… yeesh. I’d like him to go back to being the character I enjoyed, and I don’t think that’s likely if they keep him as the director.
Ziah: Yeah, I definitely agree about the actor’s weakness in those scenes, but to be fair, I don’t know if anyone could’ve saved those speeches. Hopefully they stick with what worked for him, since he’s normally a bright spot for me on this show.
Hunter and Bobbi --- Still weirdly charming! But magnetic batons are still such a weird special move for Bobbi in a show where characters regularly use guns. You know a good way to knock out a guy across the room without losing your weapon? A knock-out gun that’s standard issue in SHIELD.
Chris: Yeah, I like the two of them together, but I feel like their charm is dependent solely on Hunter. I don’t dislike Bobbi or the actress playing her, but she feels a little dimension-less in the episodes I’ve seen beyond being nervous about getting back in the field until she got back in the field.
Ziah: A character in Agents of SHIELD lacking in multi-dimensional character? Chris, don’t be silly. But seriously, the bits of her character that I’ve seen have made me enjoy her more than most of the other characters, so she gets a bump.
Ward --- Loses points for going from petulant but charming jerk to religious fanatic to container for an ancient evil all in one episode.
Chris: I was really puzzled by Ward’s sudden “I have seen the light” conversion. Am I seriously to believe that just seeing that big dilapidated HYDRA logo in the sand was enough to give him this inner peace? And if so, why did he wait for it to manifest until Coulson showed up and captured him? I felt like I’d missed a scene or something.
Ziah: May --- Strong return this week by just throwing a knife into a HYDRA guy’s back to save Simmons.
Chris: May’s a complete flatline for me at this point. Maybe it’s intentional because of what happened with Andrew, but she has seemed like she was just sleepwalking through the last several episodes.
Ziah: Sleepwalking? Or… sleepfighting?
Chris: She’s going to turn out to actually be Sleepwalker.
Ziah: Joey/Melter --- Decent showing from the new kid as he actually demonstrates a skillset, and has a personality, even if that personality is just “nervous”. It’d be nice if they actually had a romance for him, or even had him engage with the cast, since he’s still the first canonically gay character in the MCU, but his being above-average beats most of the cast!
Chris: Yeah, him being really nervous was something I liked, because it highlights how ludicrous it is that they were taking him out in the field already. His response to melting the bullets was also pretty fun. Thumbs up for The Melterer.
Ziah: Fitz --- Has a fist fight and shoots a guy from 30-feet away, despite being a scientist. It’s fine. This is fine. Whatever.
Chris: How sorry is your all-powerful evil if Fitz can beat him up? Can you imagine how disappointing that must have been for Ward?
Ziah: Looks like Ward will be having… Fitz. Wait, no, hold on, that’s a fanfic.
Simmons --- I really just don’t care about Fitz and Simmons' relationship. I’m sorry commenters, I know, I hate romance, okay?
Chris: Killing Will off proved to me that they’re just jerking us around with this, so I no longer have any investment in their relationship. Jemma at least did some semi-interesting stuff this episode.
Ziah: Coulson --- Had a sort-of character arc these past ten episodes, but loses points because he holds his gun really weirdly this episode, and his arc relies entirely on cliches.
Chris: Yeah, I think where they go with him from here will really determine how I feel about him. At this point, I kinda miss the guy from the movies though.
Ziah: Yeah, it’s crazy how much those performances were cute and fun when they were in the context of well-written, well-acted pieces of entertainment.
Daisy --- Does very, very little in this episode, and is romancing the worst character on this show.
Chris: I felt myself sour on her hardcore every time she and Lincoln tried to trade “meaningful” looks.
Ziah: Every single person killed in this episode, off-screen or on-screen, plus every single character that’s ever shown up on the show --- Only in the rankings to emphasize who’s next.
Chris: Oh yeah, I love “Every single person killed in this episode, off-screen or on-screen, plus every single character that’s ever shown up on the show”. A real highlight of the show!
Ziah: Lincoln --- Being Lincoln.
Chris: I think that pretty much sums it up.
Any hopes for the show when it returns on March 6th?
Ziah: Hope? The only Hope in this universe is owned by Fox and has the last name of Summers, boom, X-Men joke (come back next year, and it’ll be an Inhumans joke). No, no hope. If anything, I have only the pride that we’re almost halfway through the season and that our burden can one day be lifted. How about you, Chris? Any words of encouragement from CA’s resident enthusiast?
Chris: Disney’s Marvel’s Agent Carter Season 2 starts on January 19th with a two-hour season premiere special!
Ziah: Oh! That’s exciting!
Chris: Maybe they’ll let us watch that as a reward!
Ziah: Well, it couldn’t be a punishment, considering what we just did for 10 weeks.
And on that note, tell us what you thought of the episode in the comments! And leave your own power rankings there too. Should Fitz be ranked higher? Can Lincoln somehow be placed lower? It’s all up to you!