Hey! Turns out this was Episode 50! For those of you playing at home, that means AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D now has approximately 30-50 more episodes to go before it hits “syndication ready” numbers and Disney/Marvel even considers taking it off the schedule – ratings or no ratings.
Also: Called it.
So! Andrew Gardner – Agent May’s ex-husband, top S.H.I.E.L.D advisor and counselor of newly-turned Inhumans – is also Lash, the musclebound monster whose been hunting and killing Inhumans since the start of the season. That’s a good, well-managed “gotcha” on the series’ part. Yeah, I figured it out, but the way it makes perfect sense in the context of what we already knew (on a series that too often executes surprises in the form of: “Surprise! And now here’s some stuff from the comics and movies to make it look like this actually makes sense!”)
But it’s also fun because of the downright devious wrench it throws into the good-team/bad-team dynamic regarding the Inhumans situation: So far, the tension in S.H.I.E.L.D’s uneasy alliance with the ATCU has been (in most of the Agents and especially Daisy’s view) that S.H.I.E.L.D is looking to counsel, aid and show new purpose (via Coulson’s “Secret Warriors” project) to newly-turned Inhumans while the ATCU seems to regard them as a threat and has been spiriting those they find off to… somewhere. This is classical X-Men stuff (which is the point – The Inhumans are filling in for Mutants until Marvel can wrestle the rights back from Fox) and it was really easy to but into it as the “obvious” pattern for the show…
…but now it turns out to be a lot more complicated: While May was busy learning that her ex is basically an alien-werewolf; Daisy, Mack and a temporarily-grounded Hunter wound up surreptitiously spying on Coulson finally getting his tour of ATCU’s holding-facility – where it turns out they haven’t been hurting Inhumans, but they have been putting (supposedly) dangerous to self/others examples into a version of cryo-freeze while they work on a “cure” for Terrigenesis. Now, that’s bad… but it’s more misguided than “evil” and Rosalind (Price, ATCU’s head) at least seems to have her heart sort-of close to the right place i.e. wanting to help people she sees as afflicted. Meanwhile, S.H.I.E.L.D – whose first instinct will likely be to get self-righteous about this – are the ones with a murderous Inhuman-hating monster on their payroll. Awkward.
Otherwise (read: before all those final-act twists) the episode was largely concerned with May and Bobbi tracking down Werner Von Strucker – the old-HYDRA heir who went AWOL after failing to kill Andrew because… well, Lash. Some of this is classic AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D misdirection (Werner is the one who reveals Andrew’s nature to May), but it also serves to intro a new heavy to the proceedings: Powers Boothe, stepping out from the shadows as one of the nameless Security Council members from THE AVENGERS to reveal himself as… somebody bad. It’s not exactly clear yet, though his dialogue with Ward is meant to suggest he’s either HYDRA or HYDRA-affiliated. They don’t even say his name (it’s Gideon Malick) yet.
Almost as surprising as the Big Reveal, though, it’s how much the “boss-to-boss-crush” dynamic with Coulson and Price actually works once it gets room to breathe. The “aww, Coulson is human after all” stuff has really only ever worked in small drops seeping through the slick-operator routine in the past, but the gag is endearing (they’re both working a middle-aged middle-manager version of 007-style seducing-for-intel, but also both kind of “into” it for real) and you could feel the writers having a good time with the kind of low-key stuff that you’d use to lull Coulson into a false sense of security (take-out burgers and a vintage autographed baseball bat as opposed to champagne and lingerie.) I’m not really on the “Mr. & Mrs. S.H.I.E.L.D” bandwagon yet by any means, but it was fun for an episode.
- Well, that takes care of the “what” and the “who” for Andrew/Lash. Presumably next up will be the “how,” “when” and “why.” Has he been Inhuman this entire time or did he go through Terrigenesis recently? Does he want to kill other Inhumans because he doesn’t find those unwittingly-changed “worthy” like in the comics, or is it something else? Since I’m pretty sure AGENTS is not going to get to set the “rules” for the broader INHUMANS franchise this far ahead of the movies, I’m guessing “something else.”
- Who is Gideon Malick? So far, I’m hoping the clue is in the name: In the Comics Universe, Albert Malik was the name of the second man to call himself The Red Skull.
- Regarding said Red Skull, keep in mind: The Marvel movie AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D will eventually be intersecting with this season is CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Part of the fallout from the comics’ version of that story (over in the Cap books) was that a high-placed official turned out to be “possessed” (long story) by The Red Skull.
Andrew has some explaining to do in “Chaos Theory.” Won’t be surprised if they have May try to get it out of him first in lieu of letting the whole team in on the secret in order to keep the tension up.