‘Agents Of SHIELD’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 3, Episode 14: ‘Watchdogs’
Welcome back to another Agents of S.O.M.E.T.H.I.N.G., where Comics Alliance’s Special Agents Chris Haley and Ziah Grace debrief you on 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 Mack has a brother and they simply cannot find the time for steaks, motorcycle repairs, or road trips. Also, a xenophobic hate group has suddenly been given weapons they shouldn’t have and information they shouldn’t know! “Watchdogs” was directed by Jesse Bochco and written by Drew Greenberg.
Chris: You know, Z, either I wasn’t paying attention as closely as I usually do or this was my favorite episode of this show yet. Was it just me? What did you think?
Ziah: This was really good! The opening scene with Mack getting character development and some of the smoothest writing yet felt like we were watching an entirely different show. Even the villains were thematically and socially relevant, working as metaphorical stand-ins for real world events. Chris… Chris, what’s happening? I’m scared.
Chris: This episode really seemed to do well for itself by staying better focused on a single plot and then just following that from point A to point B. There’s nothing wrong with telling a story simply as long as you tell it competently and make that story compelling to follow.
This week we start with Mack and his brother. Family stuff. Sow in a few seeds that are going to come into play later. Incident that establishes this week’s problem. Follow that to wherever it takes you. A few character interactions here and there to remind us where everyone is at currently in the overarching story, but not spending a bunch of time with bad guys/characters we don’t care about. Good guys encounter obstacles and have to find creative ways out of said problems. People get to prove their worth and show their skills. No one looked dumb or constantly outsmarted. Our heroes take some lumps, but come out on top. Making these shows watchable (and maybe even enjoyable!) doesn't have to be hard. Am I crazy?
Ziah: No, this was just a competently packaged piece of television and that’s really what I’m looking for. We’re watching these characters for an hour every week, we want to like these characters, so it’s nice to be given reasons to. Mack’s family issues and his issues with SHIELD in general were really good, and all the characters felt like they were written better to boot.
Chris: Absolutely. Just let us like these characters and we’ll care more about the story you’re trying to tell with them. I know some of the readers think we’re we’re too hard on some of these shows, but, I promise you, we don’t just like complaining. We are always ready to like things and would much prefer liking them!
Ziah: By the way, though, how completely messed up is it that Daisy’s chosen to go the borderline-fascist route considering her hacking past? For someone who was literally doing treason or treason-adjacent stuff, she’s sure bought into the “Rah rah, we’re the good guys” rhetoric.
Chris: Yeah, I feel like what the characters on this show will and will not stand for and what their ideologies are can really shift wildly from episode to episode depending on who they want to have say what for plot convenience or contrivance sake. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining too much, because I enjoyed this episode, but the fact that they can pull an episode like this off and make me enjoy it only makes me more frustrated about the episodes that are godawful.
Ziah: No, I agree 100%. This episode wasn’t perfect, but it was so much better than any other AoS episode we’ve watched that it’s ridiculous they can’t hit this target every week. This wasn’t even a transcendent piece of filmmaking, just a competent bit of genre television, so the bar is low enough.
Chris: Haha, I really don’t think we ask for much!
Ziah: On another note, did you get a really heavy You’re Next vibe from this episode? The animal masks of the Watchdogs, a character being more trained than anyone expects, a dark house where the hunters became the hunted… It really felt like a pretty direct homage.
Chris: Having not seen that movie, I couldn’t say, but you’re pretty astute, so if you think so, I’ll go along with it. Let us know in the comments if you agree that it was an intentional homage, or if you think Ziah has lost his mind! I definitely thought those masks were kind of unsettling, but in a way that I liked.
Getting back on the P.M.A. train, I really enjoyed just hanging out with Mack and his brother.
Ziah: Those scenes were great! Actual character development and interior lives! A person reacting to the events of the prior weeks like a person would! I’ll say that with Mack heavily wounded and Daisy nicknaming Ruben “Mini Mack”, they better not swap out Mack with his brother. I really detest when characters are replaced with similar characters with the same name (looking at you, Jimmy Olsen in Smallville).
Chris: Oh man, I would hate that. I also hated that on Smallville, and now I’m mad that you made me remember that that was a thing they did. I wouldn’t mind them bringing him in since he needs a job, and it’d be neat watching Mack navigate his brother through this weird new world, but at the same time, we’ve already had a couple “new people who have to take it all in and be amazed/scared of it all” this season, so I don’t know if there’s time for another one.
This doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, but I had an Agents of SHIELD moment out in real life, and I wanted to share it. Over the weekend, I went into one of those big-box book stores. I won’t name names, because they aren’t paying us for advertising in the best AoS review and analysis series on this (In)human Earth (huge bookstore chains, call us for advertising info!), but it’s the kind of place that has a lot of pop culture junk in addition to the printed material.
While I was in there perusing their many, many displays of Funko Pops for properties like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Captain America: Civil War, I came across the Agents of SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson Pop. I’m fairly certain it was the first time I’d seen it out in the wild, and I remembered when Funko and Marvel announced it back in 2014. I remembered that because at the time they announced it I was excited they were making one of ol’ Phil and considered it a “for sure” purchase.
Flash forward back to this weekend, when I saw it, and all it reminded me of was all the negative feelings I have associated with this show and how I couldn’t imagine buying it now since this show has ruined the character for me. I guess my point is that this show has really done that once likeable, even loveable, character a real disservice.
Anyway, speaking of Coulson, what’d you think of his field trip test of ol’ Lincoln? Maybe I’m just in some kind of residual great mood from the Supergirl/Flash crossover we did this week, but I think this episode was the least I’ve ever hated Lincoln! What is going on around here, man?
Ziah: Me too! Although he still is terrible, at least they addressed how murder-y he’s been lately. They did it in a really weird way though, by implying that he hasn’t actually tried to kill anyone this whole time? Whatever. Our twin arguments of Coulson being a jerk and Lincoln being insufferable got combined in a great way when Coulson was a jerk to Lincoln! Two negatives make a positive, eh?
Chris: If they can just keep the two of them together with Coulson constantly berating him and making him feel bad, then I could probably get back on the path of liking Phil, and it might finally make me have some sympathy for Lincoln, so, yeah, win-win!
Ziah: Anything else we should talk about? The return of Blake, which should be a big deal, but wasn’t really all that impressive for me. I know he’s a treat for longtime fans, but his speechifying and plans this episode were kind of boring.
Chris: Yeah, I only recognize that guy from some commercials, so even though they played it as a big deal, he didn’t seem all that impressive to me. There was also a little too much “I know about the thing you think I didn’t know about” and “but I secretly knew you know about the thing you didn’t think I know you knew that I knew you’d know about” both by and between Blake and Coulson that really just had me rolling my eyes. But you know, at least this week it didn’t take up the majority of the runtime. So, silver linings.
Ziah: Oh! We got some very dubious comic science with Fitz getting “bombed” until the nitrogen froze it off him. This was dumb, but they didn’t dwell on it, so that’s fine. What’d you think about it?
Chris: No more ridiculous than the nano-replicating robo-bees in this week’s Arrow.
Next week: The most astonishing episode of the season! (They say.)