‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Season 3 Episode 13 Review: ‘Parting Shot’ Changes the Game
Recap and review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 3 Episode 13 – Parting Shot:
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is in that unique position where it’s a TV series that seems to solely set up other forms of media, whether it’s a Marvel movie or an upcoming spin-off like Marvel’s Most Wanted. And yet, the show is still immensely compelling in isolation, telling the story of a team in constant turmoil, figuring out how to balance fighting injustice and keeping the world from open war. “Parting Shot” is exactly the kind of all-out, blockbuster episode Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does so well, as this felt like a Marvel mini-movie.
The story flashes back and forth between past and present, showing Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Hunter (Nick Blood) being interrogated by Russian officials at an Interpol Black Site, and flashing back to show us how they ended up in this situation. As a result, the story ends up inherently focusing on how the S.H.I.E.L.D. team operates, particularly when it comes to how far they’re willing to go to protect each other. Midway through the episode, Hunter apologizes to May (Ming-Na Wen) for his actions earlier in the season, admitting that he would take a bullet for any one of the team members, even while May insists that they need to resist those sorts of personal attachments in the face of the greater good. Interestingly, however, the conflict centers less on this personal story than its international implications. While invading Russia, the team is roped into a plot to assassinate the Russian Prime Minister. In essence, the team has to prevent the assassination, track down Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe), and keep the Russians from linking the activities of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the U.S. government, lest there be a full-on international incident. To make matters worse, they have to deal with an Inhuman who can manifest as dark energy. It’s an episode of considerable weight, as Bobbi and Hunter face the end of their careers after getting captured, as they insist that Coulson (Clark Gregg) disavow them in order to keep S.H.I.E.L.D’s presence from being compromised. It’s a heartbreaking moment, but one that’s necessary, in a way. I mean, if we’re going to set up Marvel’s Most Wanted, this seems like the best way to do it, presenting a scenario that precludes either Bobbi or Hunter from returning to the team. And yet, I can’t help but feel sad to see them go.
Of course, this is all part of the larger narrative facing Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season, as we see the bureaucracy of superhero organizations at work. I mean, it’s easy enough for The Avengers to do whatever it is they need to do to protect the Earth, crossing borders and planetary boundaries, but it’s a whole other story when S.H.I.E.L.D. has to operate within the bounds of the U.S. government, and its inherent restrictions. I think that’s what ultimately makes this story between Bobbi and Hunter so affecting. They decide to take a bullet for the team, because that’s the very nature of what they do. That’s the job. And so I found myself getting genuinely choked up when Bobbi and Hunter go to the bar and receive a “Spy’s Goodbye” from the rest of the team, as they order shots and drink to their former teammates’ honor. Sure, Bobbi and Hunter get to live, but the team is irrevocably changed by what happened here. If anything, I think the S.H.I.E.L.D. team is weaker for losing them, not just within the confines of the show’s story, but in the broader sense of the show’s ensemble. Palicki and Hunter were among the highlights of this group, so to lose them at the ostensible halfway point of the season leaves a pretty big hole to fill. Granted, they could come back at some point, but I don’t really see how. It would essentially undo the tense negotiations between President Ellis and the Russian Prime Minister, since acknowledging Bobbi and Hunter as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents would reveal that the U.S. had an unauthorized presence in Russia, which would spark an international incident, if not outright war. Honestly, it doesn’t matter in this context whether or not Bobbi and Hunter helped save the Prime Minister. At the end of the day, S.H.I.E.L.D. is still viewed as a terrorist organization. So it makes sense why this ended up being goodbye for Bobbi and Hunter — it was their chance to show what the team truly meant to them, that they privileged the team over their own pride and well-being. I found it to be a beautiful ending for those two characters on this show.
Naturally, there were other compelling elements to this episode. I thought the effects on the shadowy Inhuman were terrific, and it led to some great action with Daisy (Chloe Bennet) using her powers to try and stop the threat alongside Bobbi. It creates a ticking time bomb dynamic, as the group struggles to be extracted before it’s too late. Sadly, they fail, but the fight sequences are pretty great all-around, as they often tend to be on this show. In addition, I couldn’t help but grin like a moron at the post-credits scene, as Gideon meets with his daughter (Bethany Joy Lenz) to brag about how S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t realize that Ward is back as Hive. It’s one of those scintillatingly hammy comic book moments that I love, as the villains indulge in their privileged position over the heroes. I don’t necessarily expect this is going to last for terribly long before the S.H.I.E.L.D. team manages to get the drop on the father-daughter duo, but I’m actually looking forward to seeing how this all plays out. I know the notion of Hydra as the overarching villains of the series is probably getting old, but the nature of the Hydra threat continually changes from one season to the next, from the initial infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Season 1, to the rebirth of the organization in Season 2, to Ward leading as a zombie god in Season 3. It’s compelling in a way that few overarching threats on a genre series ever manage to be. “Parting Shot” is an emotional episode that changes the game of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but that dramatic weight is what makes this episode as successful as it ends up being.
But what did you think of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 Episode 13, “Parting Shot”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., read our recap and review of last week’s terrifically twisty “The Inside Man”!