‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: ‘Devils You Know’ Results In Tragic Life-or-Death Choice
Recap and review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 3 Episode 4 – Devils You Know:
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t often kill people off, so it carries a certain weight whenever it happens, even if the characters being killed are ancillary, at best. “Devils You Know” is one of the more exciting episodes of the season so far, due in large part to the life-or-death choice in its climax, and another big reveal about the villain haunting our heroes this season.
But as for that death, it appears to be the end for Dr. Andrew Garner (Blair Underwood), and through no fault of his own. Granted, it was hard to imagine he’d live for that much longer when, midway through the episode, he promises to tell May (Ming-Na Wen) the real reason he left her over dinner — an offer which May soundly rejects. It’s a plot point that seems built into the narrative solely for May to regret later on, since now she’ll never know the truth about where her relationship with Andrew went wrong. And, more tellingly, she’ll never know what bigger reason there was for him to “drop off the face of the Earth” as he did. The implication was that it really wasn’t May that caused him to leave, but something far bigger than their relationship. However, if Andrew truly is dead, we’re unlikely to find out any time soon. Of course, I say “if” Andrew is dead because we never really see his full body. We see the bottom half of his torso beside a pool of blood, with the implication being that Werner Von Strucker and his goons have murdered him on the orders of Ward (Brett Dalton). But, for all we know, that might be the body of one of the goons, since May DID call Coulson (Clark Gregg) to send help to Andrew’s location moments before he was supposedly killed.
But why was Andrew in danger in the first place?
Well, Hunter (Nick Blood) finally got his face-to-face with Ward, and it resulted in a blaze of gunfire, to the surprise of absolutely no one. Luckily for Hunter, May was on hand to save his ass and take down five of the eleven Hydra agents in the secret base. It’s a hell of a setpiece, less for the by-the-numbers shootout, and more for the dilemma at its center. Ward teases that he has a group of men surrounding Andrew, and that if May doesn’t stand down in 30 seconds, he won’t call them off. May is clearly torn between hoping Ward is bluffing, and knowing he’s telling the truth. It’s a wonderful performance from Ming-Na Wen, who really allows the dilemma to play in her facial expressions. For once, May is in a genuine state of panic, and it’s unsettling to watch someone so cool and collected suddenly face the fear of powerless. To that extent, I was kind of disappointed that Hunter ultimately ended up making the choice for her, since it robbed May of a vital character choice. Hunter’s hatred for Ward, and his desire for revenge in Bobbi’s name, is so great that he decides to pursue Ward anyway, apologizing to May for what he has to do. And even though Hunter is able to shoot Ward in the shoulder while the Hydra director escapes, the damage is already done…
Yes, Werner and his men have apparently killed Andrew, and burned down the convenience store he was in (although, tellingly, of all the goons with him at the time, Werner is the only one who comes running out of the building, adding further question as to whether or not Andrew was the one — or even just the only one — who was killed in there). May is absolutely furious, to say the least, and I felt the same way, albeit for different reasons. By robbing May of the power to choose, she’ll be able to blame Andrew’s death on someone else. And while that could make for an interesting conflict between team members, I think it would have made for a richer story for May to make a decision, and have to live with the consequences of her choice, whether it’s to save Andrew or choose to believe Ward is bluffing. Then again, May is already an introspective character without needing to add even more self-flagellating guilt to her character traits. Still, I think there could have been more story potential in having May come to grips with her choices than there is in her learning to forgive Hunter for making that choice for her.
But then, this isn’t a big enough gripe to ruin the episode for me or anything, especially since I don’t know how they’re going to handle Hunter’s decision and its repercussions just yet. And even if I did, it doesn’t change how well-paced the rest of the episode around it ended up being. For one, Lash is easily the most intimidating villain this show has ever had. This is because he’s smartly been confined to the shadows and limited to occasional appearances. He’s not front-and-center in the way other villains have been, and he communicates menace less through his speeches and plotting than through his raw physicality. Case in point, we see him kill several Inhumans tonight, some who were changed before the terragen outbreak, and one Social Security Administration employee who was changed afterwards. This latter victim, Dwight Frye, tells S.H.I.E.L.D. and the ATCU that what Lash is doing is merciful. Sure, he’s killing his own kind, but only because he’s putting them out of their misery while also keeping the overall number of them down. Dwight sees Lash as a savior, which is why it’s all the more horrifying when Lash busts Dwight out of the ATCU transport and murders him, but not before declaring, “I’m not merciful. I’m necessary.” To say it was one of the more chilling scenes in recent S.H.I.E.L.D. history would be an understatement, especially since it’s punctuated with an equally creepy closing moment ripped straight out of a Universal monster movie, as Daisy (Chloe Bennet) sees Lash’s shadow against the wall as he transforms back into a human. In short, Lash isn’t just an Inhuman monster, he’s one who’s capable of changing back into a human again, a la The Hulk. This means he could basically be anybody. As if he wasn’t unstoppable enough in his Inhuman form, Lash is even more formidable as an agent of mystery that S.H.I.E.L.D. and the ATCU, even through their combined efforts, can’t solve. And how do you beat someone you know nothing about? Basically, Lash is the villain this show deserves, and I’m really hoping he’s the top of the food chain and not just a goon for some higher authority, because I love the idea of a thinking man’s monster.
Of course, we also have ground to cover in the secrets department, as both Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) find themselves left out. For Bobbi, it’s when she discovers that Coulson is leaving on a mission without her. While she understands that she hasn’t been cleared to return to active field duty just yet, Bobbi is eager to get back out there already, since so much of her identity and self-worth is tied into what she’s capable of doing out there on the field. Bobbi IS her career, and right now, she’s struggling as Fitz’s assistant (hilariously getting FitzSimmons’ bagging system wrong). Honestly, I think Bobbi wouldn’t have taken all this so badly had Coulson been more direct with her, although, as director of S.H.I.E.L.D., he doesn’t really have to tell her anything. His authority is absolute, and if he says she can’t go, she can’t go. Yet I do understand Bobbi’s plight, and how being confined to a lab while her fellow agents are out in the field can do a number on her sense of identity. By the same token, Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) finds it difficult to get back into the swing of things around the base, since she’s still singularly focused on getting back to the alien world. She even flips out on Fitz when he finds her notes about the world, and how to build a transporter to get back. Fitz feels locked out of Simmons’ life, and it isn’t until the end of the episode that he really gets any sort of answers from her — and only then because she needs him. For science. No, seriously, she explains that she needs Fitz to help her go back to the alien world. This, despite admitting that something awful happened to her there. Next week’s episode will show us just how Simmons managed to survive as long as she did in that world, and I’m really excited to see how the show tackles it, since this is perhaps the most radical change of scenery this show has ever offered, and it’s wrapped in the context of an engaging mystery. I can’t wait.
“Devils You Know” is compelling from front to back, as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to keep its narrative momentum in its third season. Here’s hoping next week’s episode, which is primarily a long flashback, manages to move the story forward even while looking back.
But what did you think of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Devils You Know”? Sound off in the comments!
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