‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: ‘A Wanted (Inhu)man’ Interestingly Explores Morality
Recap and review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 3 Episode 3 – A Wanted (Inhu)man:
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been building a complicated narrative centered on the advent of alien forces here on Earth — primarily, the outbreak of alien DNA spreading into the general populace. Turning its overarching narrative into a far-reaching disaster story is a unique approach, but what works about “A Wanted (Inhu)man” is its focus on a more direct goal: a manhunt.
The hunt for Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) provides the episode with an anchor around which to pivot the broader concepts the series wants to explore this season. Basically, Daisy (Chloe Bennet) wants to find Lincoln in order to protect him from the ACTU and its director, Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer). However, Lincoln would rather go solo, resenting how Daisy and S.H.I.E.L.D. has blown up his opportunity at a normal life. It’s a bit of a shortsighted assumption, since Lincoln’s life was inevitably going to change regardless, what with the founding of the ACTU and the government’s hunt for Inhumans. But there’s a raw-nerve desperation to Lincoln’s motivations. Paranoia is setting in throughout the country, and Inhumans are not only being hunted, they’re being feared by the public at large, despite many of the afflicted having been regular humans just weeks earlier. The ingestion of the terragen has changed people, and with those changes comes a vicious media cycle that seeks to demonize Inhumans who are just as scared as the people who fear them. For Lincoln, this is about finding freedom, finding peace, and being able to move on as a normal person. Of course, this ignores that Lincoln is about the furthest thing from a normal person, despite being an ostensibly good man himself.
And yet, what adds narrative depth to the hunt for Lincoln is in how it splits the team. Daisy and Mack (Henry Simmons) both want to bring Lincoln in, but they differ on their methods, with Daisy wanting to appeal to Lincoln’s humanity and Mack wanting to simply bring him in by force. In attempting to find a safe middle ground, Coulson (Clark Gregg) agrees to a meeting with Price in order to curb the threat the ATCU represents. It’s an interesting confrontation, since Price actually does make several salient points: the ATCU only exists because S.H.I.E.L.D. imploded. And, whether Coulson wants to admit it or not, people are scared, and they need to feel safe. In short, the government has no confidence in S.H.I.E.L.D’s ability to keep them safe, since they’ve spent the better part of two seasons either being infiltrated by Hydra or going to war with factions within their own organization. Granted, Coulson is quick to point out another, concealed motivation, which is that Price is feeling pressure from the president to produce results. But Price sticks to her guns when saying that the ATCU isn’t Hydra, and that they aren’t exactly going to harvest Lincoln for parts. Sure, Coulson doesn’t entirely buy it, but this is an interesting clash because it represents two conflicting, but equally rational, points of view about the Inhumans.
The story, however, takes an intriguing turn when Coulson learns that Price knows about Daisy. Although Price is presumably doing all this in the best interest of her country, as well as attempting to serve her own interest of showing results to the president, her tactics amount to little more than blackmail. In short, she orders Coulson to bring Lincoln to her in exchange for keeping Daisy’s existence quiet. But things quickly go south when Lincoln escapes just as Mack and the rest of the ATCU is about to bring him in. Things are further complicated by the romantic entanglement that’s developing between Daisy and Lincoln, who share their first kiss just before Mack comes bursting in. With Lincoln having escaped, Coulson has to make another deal with Price in order to stop the ATCU from bringing in Daisy in Lincoln’s place. That deal? A partnership with the ATCU. Naturally, this creates a brand new division within S.H.I.E.L.D.: Daisy doesn’t trust the ATCU, but Coulson is simply tired of fighting other agencies. He’s tired of all the in-fighting, with Gonzales, even with Price. His idea is that by working with the ATCU, they can teach the agency how to do this job humanely. It’s a tactic that makes all the sense in the world, even if Daisy’s concerns are valid. Again, the show is taking an approach that twists morality a bit, since we still can’t be entirely sure who’s the bad guy here. For instance, the ATCU has questionable methods, but the goal is still to neutralize these alien threats, since it’s hard to know what their intentions are. By that same token, Lincoln is a good man who’s largely misunderstood. When he gets picked up by his AA sponsor, John, Lincoln feels he’s made contact with his only true friend in the world. However, when John sees Lincoln’s face plastered all over TV as an “alien terrorist,” John is quick to turn on his old friend. In attempting to escape John’s house before the ATCU comes, Lincoln accidentally kills his friend, prompting a self-loathing tirade in which Lincoln tells Daisy he’s exactly as bad as the media has made him out to be. Ultimately, what’s most interesting about all this is that the episode illustrates how there are heroes and questionable figures on both sides of this battle. There are good Inhumans and bad ones, just as there are good government agents and those of dubious morality. It’s a great story for the show to explore.
Less successful are the subplots, although those seem in place largely to set up what’s coming. In a lot of ways, this was a table-setting episode for May (Ming-Na Wen) and Hunter (Nick Blood), albeit with some really cool moments. As part of his attempt to infiltrate Hydra, Hunter has to survive an underground fight club, leading to a raw, surprisingly blood-soaked fight scene that is paralleled with the similarly awesome takedown of the club bouncers by May. In particular, her vow that she won’t tell the other men that “a little Asian woman kicked your ass” was one of the best May moments in some time, illustrating just how valuable she is as the show’s resident badass. That said, we still get some character development, as we learn that it was Andrew who left May, and not the other way around. It’s something that seems to weigh heavily on May, and I hope the show explores that further on down the line. As for now, the Hydra storyline feels like a placeholder until November sweeps, where this story can finally start being paid off. By the same token, I feel Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) are in a holding pattern until the show can begin unraveling the mystery of the alien place Simmons was sent. Basically, there’s too much going on in the story to properly address the mystery beyond just exploring how traumatized Simmons is. To the show’s credit, this mostly works, with Daisy reestablishing her bond with Simmons, and Fitz being her rock throughout her recovery. It’s Fitz’s support, and a late night discussion with Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki), that ultimately brings Simmons to a major realization: she has to go back. It’s the only way to get any answers about this shady place. The LOST-like declaration ends the episode as a major cliffhanger, and I think that was a smart hook for next week, because I have a feeling that, even without the solution being readily apparent, the mystery itself will factor into the coming episodes in a big way.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. served up a strong episode by exploring the morality of its characters, which made for some interesting “shades of grey” storytelling. “A Wanted (Inhu)man” isn’t the best episode of the season so far, but it’s continuing the upward trend of the overarching narrative, showing that there’s something far larger at work here than simply another tale of persecuted, misunderstood misfits with superpowers. This is a conflict that could span worlds, and that’s exciting, in my opinion.
But what did you think of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “A Wanted (Inhu)man”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., check out our review of last week’s solid episode, “Purpose In the Machine”!