‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Season 3 Episode 16 Review: Compelling ‘Paradise Lost’ Centers on Hive
Recap and review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 3 Episode 16 – Paradise Lost:
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t always been great about giving its villains depth of characterization in recent episodes, but we get a more incisive episode with “Paradise Lost”, as Hive (Brett Dalton) and Malick (Powers Boothe) become the focus. It works remarkably well, resulting in an episode that’s pretty damn compelling. It offers a window not only into Malick, but into Hive as well, showing that while they may have similar goals, they’re not exactly on the same page.
Case in point, Hive kills Malick’s daughter, Stephanie (Bethany Joy Lenz), right in front of the poor guy. This is after an episode-long arc where Hive torments Malick by assuming the form of his late brother, revealing his horrific, Hydra head-like true form in front of the organization, and generally just being his creepy, threatening self. I love this characterization, since it allows Dalton to provide a different kind of performance than the one he’s been giving for two and a half seasons now, showing his full range as a villain. It speaks volumes of his effectiveness when it actually makes sense that someone like Malick, who’s made a livelihood out of being in total control, is intimidated by Hive. Granted, I’m kind of disappointed that we’re already dropping Stephanie from the narrative, since I liked seeing how Malick’s influence has shaped her into being someone who is similar to her father, in terms of following the Hydra message, but also different in how her commitment exceeds anything her father could have envisioned. In a way, it made Malick more sympathetic. In the flashbacks, we see how Malick viewed his father as a coward for taking measures to ensure he’d never have to go to the alien planet, only to later realize he’s a coward himself for having the same fears as his father. It’s an interesting approach to take, since Malick isn’t someone we’re naturally inclined towards sympathizing with. But there’s something about his story this week, between losing his daughter, recalling the failings of his father, and stressing over the inevitability of his own death, which he saw in a flashforward vision last week, that makes Malick the most compelling character in the episode. And that’s a pretty big accomplishment in a story that has Hive in it. That said, there are other elements that made this episode worthwhile.
For instance, the big cliffhanger, as the S.H.I.E.L.D. team is captured after Giyera escapes captivity, commandeers the plane, and flies them right into Hydra territory. It seems like a prime setup for Daisy (Chloe Bennet) and her Secret Warriors to come to the rescue, which is a trigger I’ve been waiting for the show to pull for a while now. The show is frequently at its best when indulging in awesome action setpieces, and I think this rescue mission could provide some really cool moments. Hell, tonight, we got some awesome action with May (Ming-Na Wen) and Coulson (Clark Gregg) taking the fight right to Hydra, in one of those fight scenes I wish had lasted longer. The Coulson/May side of things also leads to the most poignant scene in the episode, as Coulson struggles with his culpability in Hive’s rise to power. It’s typical for us to expect our heroes to regret killing, even when it’s warranted as part of the job, but it’s not always an emotion we see expressed in Coulson. Here, Coulson expresses regret, but not for the reasons we might think. He essentially feels that he allowed Ward to win by killing him, and that he created the means by which Hive was allowed to come back to this planet to wreak havoc. It’s a tremendous source of guilt for Coulson, even if it was a factor he couldn’t have prepared for ahead of time (seriously, how could he have known Ward would come back as an undead killing machine?). Coulson is a guy who hasn’t gotten nearly as much characterization since killing Ward, as he’s mostly been playing the de facto leadership role and not much else. Perhaps this storyline, which should bring him face-to-face with Ward one last time, will bring his story full-circle, at least with regards to this Ward feud (and all the guilt that entails).
If nothing else, the business with Coulson is more interesting than the dark past with Lincoln (Luke Mitchell), whom I generally enjoy as a character, but whose journey I’m not really invested in just yet. While he and Daisy hunt Kree artifacts, we end up learning that Lincoln nearly killed his ex-girlfriend after getting into a drunken car crash. On the one hand, it’s kind of intriguing for how it depicts Lincoln’s flaws, and illustrates how he ended up in Jiaying’s Inhuman sanctuary. On the other hand, it feels like little more than an excuse to tease out relationship drama with Daisy. That said, it thankfully doesn’t last too long, as Daisy is quick to forgive by revealing a secret of her own, telling him that her future vision from last week showed her that one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team members is going to die. It’s a strong hook for the final episodes of the season, even though we haven’t gotten much in the way of clues as to the identity of the person who’s doomed to die on that spaceship. Then again, you could make the argument that this really isn’t intended to be some sort of mystery to be deduced. Rather, it’s just a plot hook to drive our viewership as the season nears its end. I guess we won’t know how good or how bad of an approach this will end up being until Season 3 is in the books. And, given how solid this season has been overall, I’ll be kind of sad when this show goes on its summer break.
“Paradise Lost” is an episode that illustrates the immense danger of Hive, while also giving us some reason to care about a potential redemption for Gideon Malick, assuming he can pry himself away from his blind loyalty to Hydra. It’s an engaging story, and it’s got a companion in the tale of Coulson, who struggles to come to grips with his failings as a leader. That sort of parallel structure is useful on a show that has an amount of plot that makes it difficult to focus on characterization every week. All in all, I enjoyed this week’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I’m looking forward to seeing how this season comes to a close.
But what did you think of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 Episode 16, “Paradise Lost”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., read our review of last week’s awesomely trippy “Spacetime”!