Agents of SHIELD: Season 3: Episode 3: A Wanted (Inhu)man

With the ATCU closing in on him, Lincoln reaches out first to old friends and then to Daisy to try to escape. At base, Gemma struggles to adjust to life back in the real world and Fitz tries to help, while Hunter and May, in pursuit of Ward, meet an old contact of Hunter’s and get themselves an audition to try and work their way into Hydra which is more than either of them is prepared for.

No doubt about it – there are an awful lot of plotlines still going on in this week’s AoS – the problem is that the writers seem to fumble the ball at almost every turn in handling them.

Let’s start with Lincoln. As the episode opens, he’s on the run, pursued by a tactical team from ATCU. Cornered, he then does some of his… ill-defined electricky stuff which causes them to halt and then scarpers. For a government agency staffed by military hardnuts, they put on a fairly pathetic show.

Then ATCU decides that the best way to catch him is to go public with his name and picture. This of course limits his options, so he tracks down… John. We don’t really know who John is or what the relationship between them was (though John’s first question – ‘have you had a drink?’ hints at something) but don’t worry, it doesn’t remain important for very long. ATCU turn up (tipped off by John after seeing the news) and Lincoln, in desperation, calls Daisy for SHIELD’s help. Daisy and Mac go to bring him in, and then…. well then there’s a complication, which feels a lot less compelling than it might have when the full extent of events plays out.

Which brings us to Coulson, who at least looks more in charge this week than he did before. At least, if in charge means frowning at people, making speeches about how things are complicated and arranging meetings with the enemy to try to find common ground. Remember those meetings with Colonel Talbot in Season 2, all taut negotiations, fast quips and entertaining reveals and switch backs? Forget all that. Here Coulson simply turns up and has a fairly pedestrian conversation with Rosalind in which nothing much happens until he suddenly declares that he’s fed up waiting for her to play her ace, whereupon she shows him a picture of Daisy and they make a deal for her to leave Daisy alone as long as ATCU is allowed to take Lincoln into custody. Upon Lincoln’s unsurprising improbable escape, they decide to take Daisy instead, until Coulson makes another deal, off camera, which is later revealed to be ‘SHIELD will work with ATCU’ which is what he had originally offered and had rebuffed anyway – why this was suddenly enough is never really clear.

Elsewhere, Hunter and May meet up with Hunter’s old English buddy, which results in a ‘hilarious’ bit of subtitling as May struggles to understand their (perfectly clear) English banter as they get drunk together. They are told you don’t get vouched for into the organisation they seek (HYDRA) but that you must fight your way in. The fight starts with a semi-surprise and then gets fairly dull, if a little bloody. May, sidelined because, as Hunter puts it, word of an Asian chick beating up a room full of thugs is bound to flag their presence to Ward, then gets into a fight with three guys anyway in a separate room, ending with her saying she will ‘do them a favour and not tell anyone a little Asian girl beat the three of them up’. It’s nice to see May in action of course, but also oddly inconsistent to the mission and the earlier conversation between the characters. Consistency be damned though, because in fairness, if Ward hasn’t sussed them out yet, he probably never will until they appear in front of him. Hunter wins the fight fairly improbably, and they are then taken to the sinister large bald guy who we know is Ward’s second in command – so much for ‘working up from the bottom’.

Gemma and Fitz then offer the episode’s possible redemption. Gemma is struggling to adapt to life back in the world, her hearing and other senses apparently amplified and her disorientation still very real. I said previously that bringing her back early was a good move, because her adjustment and the interaction with Fitz would be more engaging than simply watching her wander the alien desert. I may have been wrong. She spends much of the screen time she gets just moping and jumping at people’s mobile phones vibrating, though why is never really clear.

Fitz, in an attempt to try to cheer her up (following a pep talk from Bobbi, because God knows the writers aren’t giving her anything else to do while Hunter isn’t there for her to nag) takes Gemma to dinner at the restaurant he has kept a table reserved at ever since they made their date back in Season 2. But she flips out as some wine gets poured and he just ends up hugging her for a bit instead.

The most interesting part occurs in the pre-end credits sting. Gemma, found in the lab by Bobbi examining the crumbled remains of the portal, is reassured by the latter that the portal cannot open any longer and she’s safe. Gemma then responds, with more life than we have seen in her the rest of the episode, that it has to, because she has to go back. Gripping stuff, tell me more. Oh. Roll credits. Oh well, maybe next time…

Verdict: When your sixty second tag scene is more interesting and intriguing than the forty-five minutes that have preceded it, you’re doing something wrong. The series needs to up its game and fast – it’s no good having a lot going on if it’s all dull to watch. 5/10

Greg D. Smith

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