‘Agents of SHIELD’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 3, Episode 7: ‘Chaos Theory’
Welcome back to another Agents of S.O.M.E.T.H.I.N.G., where we talk about all the things to like and complain about in this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. This week, a monstrous secret is revealed, tough decisions are made, and simply everyone is in complicated relationships! ‘Chaos Theory’ was directed by David Solomon and written by Lauren LeFranc.
Chris: Man, this episode really hit the ground running didn’t it? As much as we praised the focus of the Jemma-centric Blue is the Warmest Planet episode for not getting distracted by the huge cast of characters this show is trying to juggle, I think this week had the fastest pace and the most frenetic bouncing from plot to plot of any we’ve seen this season so far. And more importantly, I think it managed to pull it off! I was mostly impressed with this episode from top to bottom. I mean, don’t worry, dear readers, I still have questions and I’m sure I’ll still find things to moan about, but for the most part, this episode gets a solid thumbs up. What’d you think, Ziah?
Ziah: I was pleasantly surprised! I think I still preferred the last episode, for reasons that are outlined in last week’s review, but this one was pretty good. They finally found a way to make Lash semi-tolerable, Mac got some great lines, and Rosalind lays out a pretty good argument for why letting Inhumans run around willy-nilly is a terrible, terrible idea.
Speaking of, Chris, how did you feel about her argument? It’s a tough bit of writing, because she makes the argument for Inhuman powers being basically like gun control, where enough dangerous people get a hold of them that it’s not worth extending special privileges to those who aren’t. This is good reasoning, but only in the real world. In the show, the audience wants to see superpowers, so she’s automatically positioned to be wrong, despite her being fairly logical. Daisy’s the best Inhuman we’ve seen, and even she’s made dumb mistakes and gotten people killed with her good intentions. Andrew and Joey are middle-ground Inhumans, and Andrew sucks (so bad, you guys), while Joey caused city-wide chaos in 10 uncontrollable minutes. If I were in the AoS universe, I would absolutely want these people regulated, with a surefire cure for any Lashes out there.
Unfortunately, since this is a Marvel tie-in property, the end goal is a world of superheroes, which means that Rosalind can’t actually be right. Rosalind’s very, very logical argument is completely undercut by her connection to HYDRA (again, a group that was too Nazi for the Nazis), which means that she’s metaphorically trying to take guns superpowers away from safe practitioners to make it easier for a fascist government group to take power. I am… pretty uncomfortable with that subtext. Chris, how’d you feel about this revelation?
Chris: Yeah, the show is definitely in an uncomfortable situation of trying to make a real world point in a fake world. I’m sure it’s easy to just watch and think, “Okay, she’s not the good guys, so whatever she wants to do is bad”, but her logic also seems sound that some of these new Inhumans are being done a great service by hitting pause on them… so what do we, as viewers, do? Well, if you saw the preview for next week’s episode, I guess we won’t have to wrestle with these difficult moral quandaries for long.
Speaking of complicated situations, we finally get a lot more insight into May and Andrew’s relationship and what happened to it, as well as a full explanation of how Andrew went from a therapist to an Inhuman-hunting murder monster. Some of those scenes were surprisingly intense in a way I don’t think this show usually is, even if I can’t quite put my finger on why they felt that way. Maybe it was just the talents at play in the acting prowess of Blair Underwood and Ming-Na Wen. I think Blair Underwood had to shoulder the majority of the heavy lifting in the acting department and he was the episode’s MVP in my book.
Ziah: He was really good! He got across the regret and burgeoning egotism that the Lash personality was manifesting really well. I didn’t really feel the same way about Wen, though. It felt like she really shines at being stoic and mad, but I didn’t quite buy her romantic connections. And as to why their romance felt so intense, I would bet that it was the color used in their flashbacks; it was actually there! The show has such a boring visual style it’s so shocking to see color in any part of the show, and it’s always welcome.
Chris: I definitely remember thinking about how nice Hawaii seems, though I’m sure they probably shot that in San Diego or something.
Ziah: On another note, I’m also confused about the cocoons bit. Andrew mentions that Daisy’s mom put the dust in there to kill anyone who wouldn’t turn into an Inhuman, but… Is that what the outbreak is doing? Because that should be a way bigger deal then. Coulson mentioned that they couldn’t contain the fish-supplement contamination, so is it killing a ton of people every day? Commenters, chime in.
And speaking of killing tons of people, I’m very, very relieved that they didn’t just kill off Joey (the only canonically gay marvel character in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe), but when the fakeout happened, I definitely fell for it. He needs a personality and a place on the cast, or I’m just gonna keep waiting for a plot anvil to fall on him.
Chris: I definitely fell for it too! In my notes I wrote, “Metal Melter is back! Oh… nevermind.”
Ziah: Maybe now that he can shape metal too, they can just call him Magneato.
Chris: It cracked me up that this episode appeared to spend a lot of money on making the CGI for the various flying SHIELD vehicles and the Lash transformations look good, but then seemed to completely run out of special effects money like that Key & Peele sketch at the end of the episode when it was time for Lincoln and Daisy to wiggle their fingers to use their powers.
Ziah: I remember wondering when that plane docked with another plane how much that special effect cost in proportion to how much other stuff they could do with it, and getting sad. I’m not asking Avengers level special effects, just do something cool.
Subtle stuff is totally fine! Longshot’s powers would be dynamite on this show. Or with Lincoln, do stuff like zapping specific body parts to show surgical precision or something, I don’t care. I just want the fight scenes to make me believe that things are happening instead of that the special effects people are making their money. Or that the solution to a problem is either a plan or a use of powers that is slightly more specific than activating them. Flash does a really good job with not letting special effects or superpowers be a shortcut to interesting fight scenes, for example. What do you think, Chris? Am I asking too much?
Chris: Every time Lincoln uses his powers all I can think of is the awful, live-action Dragon Ball movie from a few years back. Specifically how Lincoln’s “powers” make the special effects on that movie look both exciting and nuanced in comparison.
That is not a thing anything should ever make me think.
Speaking of Lincoln, I hate him. He wouldn’t listen to anyone, he nearly got most of our regulars hurt, and he refuses to shave that scraggly “beard” or find a shirt without such an embarrassingly deep V-neck.
Ziah: Lincoln is the W.O.R.S.T.. He’s in the same episode as a literal serial killing monster, a literal Nazi war criminal, and Ward, and he is still the worst person on the screen. I hate him. I hate him so much that my brain forgot who he was for the first few minutes he was on screen. I thought it was Ward, because he’s the only non-SHIELD guy that I could remember that Mack would be wary of being seen with. I literally forgot that Lincoln escaped custody because I care so little. I forgot details about a show I’m literally paid to watch and take notes on because Lincoln is just that bad.
Chris: Did you know some of the commenters don’t like Hunter? Dear, sweet, delightful, entertaining Hunter? So, perhaps some viewers really like Lincoln. My point is there’s no accounting for taste… or everyone is stupid but us. One of the two.
Ziah: You mean unhelpful, jerk-spy Hunter? How? And it’s definitely the latter. Chris, who’s better at watching TV than we are?
Chris: Outside of the main plot with Lash, the thing that seemed to thematically tie all our various characters together was that everyone’s relationships were complicated. Hunter and Bobbi, Andrew and May, Fitz and Simmons, Coulson and Rosalind, Daisy and Lincoln, even Ward and Powers Boothe! Did I forget any? Developments in all the various couples’ stories, some bigger than others, what’d you think?
Ziah: I still think it’s strange that literally nearly every SHIELD person has a romantic partner except Mac, and it’s really apparent this episode. There’s just no need for this much romance (or attempts at romance). Although, the Fitz and Simmons scene watching the sunrise was really sweet and quiet, and I appreciated that the show didn’t try to force anything there and just let the moment breathe.
Chris: I don’t know, everyone on this show is pretty attractive and if TV and movies have taught me anything, it’s that attractive people are constantly pairing up with other attractive people.
I completely agree on that Fitz and Simmons sunrise scene though. I think Fitz did a great job this episode as well showing the kind of emotional turmoil this bizarre world they inhabit has put him in. You take away all the space portals and killer planets, and his internal conflict and heartache is very relatable and honest. So, yeah, letting Fitz and Simmons have that moment to just be in this awkward situation and not worry about how it was going to advance was letting it breathe in just the right way.
Ziah: Speaking of breathing, the show’s really improved overall with letting some scenes play out and (more importantly) letting us hear the dialogue. The last few episodes, I’ve had almost no trouble understanding the actors, so let’s put that in the win column. On the downside, while the show’s undoubtedly improved since the pilot, it’s only made the flaws more apparent. This is a visually boring show with consistently boring fight scenes and use of powers. If we’re two steps forward, one step back, that’s the stuff that I’d like addressed next.
Chris: I certainly wouldn’t mind if they just kept fixing things we complain about until the show is some kind of pinnacle of the medium.
Join us again next week as everything flies apart and lots of things happen!