Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns from its too-long hiatus with a resounding ‘meh.’
“Bouncing Back” grants us a few intriguing moments, but overall feels like a routine episode. It’s doesn’t hold up well against December’s midseason closer, and it definitely pales in comparison to both the midseason finale and premiere of season two. Hopefully, the seeds they’ve planted here blossom into something decently cool for the second half of this season.
The episode opens with a brief flash-forward (a particularly pervasive trope on TV this season in particular): A spaceship in massive disarray, with particles of blood and a cross free-floating within it, explodes—apparently taking with it one unidentified figure wearing a S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform. Hmmm….
After the ship explodes, we jump back to present day Bogotá, Colombia. The Policía arrive at the site of a burning truck and are disarmed in due course by some unseen force that then makes off with all of their big guns. Said unseen force is a young woman, Elena Rodriguez (lifted directly from the comics), and hey, check it out: our three-months-hence spaceship cross is around her neck!
Coulson, shadowed by May, arranges to meet with the President of the United States at Rosalind’s house, which is still sporting that huge blood stain on the carpet from when Rosalind bled to death in front of him because, y’know, Coulson’s a giant masochist. Seriously, ATCU couldn’t spring for a professional cleaning team or a new carpet? Weak.
The President (the very same president from Iron Man 3) seems like a cool enough dude but is almost entirely ineffective (so, realistic). He can’t (won’t) officially reauthorize S.H.I.E.L.D. because movie reasons, or assist Coulson in tacking down Gideon Malick because of Malick’s worldwide economic influence (though he doesn’t seem even remotely surprised or disbelieving when Coulson claims Malick is HYDRA). What he does do is give Coulson the ol’ wink-wink nudge-nudge to go ahead and do what needs to be done about Malick, and flat out tells him that S.HI.E.L.D. should continue to operate on the down low, with a soon-to-be-named ATCU replacement for Rosalind reporting directly to Coulson. Because that always goes real well for Coulson & Crew in S.H.I.E.L.D.-verse.
But seriously, this President is probably one of the least annoying fictional presidents this side of Frank Underwood, so kudos, Marvel.
Back in Bogotá, Joey shows off his Spanish language skills and waxes nostalgic to Daisy about his mom’s home-cooked food, which he’s missed out on recently because Daisy is a total hardass about this Secret Warriors thing. The two liaise with HBIC Colonel Ramon and Daisy promises the unnerved dude that their team will help him in recovering the stolen weapons from the Inhuman.
Bobbie, Mack, and Hunter scope out the scene of the Inhuman gun-thieving incident. Hunter annoyingly complains about how easily an Inhuman could pull off something like this, thanks to their powers, and then switches gears moments later to complain about not having any powers himself, even though he pounded fish oil. OK, confession: Hunter never really grew on me. I’m an Original Team S.H.I.E.L.D. devotee, personally, but I can appreciate the well-drawn newer characters. Hunter is not one of those.
Back at headquarters, things are notably tense between FitzSimmons. Jemma asks Fitz’s help in analyzing a transmission sent over by Mack from Bogota, which comes up inconclusive, but what she’s clearly after is a little bit of acknowledgment from her almost-maybe-wannabe-boo. She doesn’t get that. These two make my heart hurt.
In Bogotá, Mack gets Mack-napped by our Elena. For a TV-sized effects budget, the show does a pretty great job of visually representing Elena’s yo-yo style speed powers.
Daisy, Bobbi, and Hunter immediately realize that Mack is gone and, watching surveillance footage, figure out that their Mack-napper Inhuman du jour is a speedster, sorta (#sorrynotsorry about mixing my comics universe nomenclature). They phone back to the mothership where Jemma and Lincoln do some research while Fitz ignores them. Lincoln drops this knowledge bomb on Jemma: Inhuman powers are, apparently, not randomly distributed as everyone assumed. They go towards filling an “evolutionary need” for some kind of equilibrium within the Inhuman species. This idea of “intelligent design,” as Jemma puts it, is actually pretty interesting and hopefully they explore it later on in the season because right now I’m drawing a blank on what the evolutionary need would’ve been for Spiky Face Raina.
Coulson shows up at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ and recruits Fitz to set up that old memory machine so that he can wrangle some info out of the one person who might have intel on Malick—comatose von Strucker the younger. Fitz also confides in Coulson his guilt over what “he’d done” to Will, which is a little bit silly because we all know that wasn’t Will back on Maveth, as Coulson reminds Fitz. This reasoning for keeping Fitz and Jemma apart feels like a bit of a rehash, a contrivance to keep FitzSimmons apart for the time being.
Back in Bogotá, Mack escapes from his toilet shackles and confronts his captor. He and Elena face-off until she fells him, but not before he figures out that her powers have her acting like a lightning-speed yoyo—she snaps back to her initial spot every time.
Malick and his smartly-dressed Inhuman bro go to see Not-Ward, who has apparently been silent since his return from Maveth. Dapper Inhuman doesn’t believe that Not-Ward is the Great and Powerful It that it claims to be. Malick claims to be appropriately wary of Not-Ward but gets a little skip in his step when he finds out the creature finally spoke. Not-Ward, in spectacularly horrifying gaunt zombie-ish makeup, tells Malick that he’s hungry (for braaaaains… okay, not brains). He chows down on “raw meat” (aka, a chicken drumstick wrapped in slices of prosciutto), criticizes humanity as he watches TV, and creeps out Dapper Inhuman.
Brett Dalton is so, so good at playing this new character (Hive, adapted from the comics, but in-universe hasn’t yet called him that, so I’m sticking with Not-Ward) with no traces of Ward.
Maybe the best scene of the episode is Mack’s half-English half-Spanish conversation (“whoosh whoosh”) with Elena, where he explains terrigenesis to her and we figure out she’s probs not the villain of the week. As Mack’s attempting to explain that her powers are fish-born and not God-given, Daisy and co. bust in and save him. The team is getting pretty swift with these rescue missions. Lord knows they’ve had enough practice, like a well-oiled machine.
Coulson, FitzSimmons, and Lincoln stick von Strucker (try saying that ten times fast) in the machine but he doesn’t do too well in it, stuck in a traumatic memory. Coulson tells Lincoln to zap the kid out of it which his electro-hands, which Lincoln does, reluctantly. Von Strucker gives up some valuable Malick information.
With a pissed off Elena safely in Inhuman-proof lock-up, Bobbi and Hunter go off to track the stolen weapons, which they find being thrown into the river by Elena’s accomplice/cousin. Joey, Mack, and Daisy soon enough realize that Elena is not so bad after all—she reveals that she and her cousin stole weapons to keep them away from corrupt Colombian law enforcement. Meanwhile, Elena’s cousin is shot and killed, and Hunter and Bobbi are Hunter-and-Bobbi-napped, by the corrupt Colonel Ramon with an assist from an Inhuman fellow officer with Petrificus Totalus eyeballs (“Medusa Eyes,” Bobbi calls him).
Mack bonds with Elena over their apparently shared religiosity, and her dead cousin’s corpse (as you do). She agrees to work with the team to take down Ramon and explains that the total distance she can zip is however far she can make it in the space of one heartbeat. Team Secret Warriors get a really cool sequence where they tag-team rescuing Bobbi and Hunter. Elena’s cheerful smugness in showing off her powers is maybe the very best thing about this episode, next to Dalton’s zombie-like Not-Ward.
Using the von Strucker intel, Coulson calls Malick using von Strucker’s private line and has May trace the call. Malick taunts Coulson about Rosalind and Coulson taunts Malick right back about all those dead Inhumans and his busted Maveth portal. Unfortunately for Coulson, Malick is entirely nonplussed in finding out he’s being traced—he’ll only have to close up a few of his offices to prevent Coulson & Crew from finding him.
As Team S.H.I.E.L.D. is carting off Medusa Eyes a HYDRA helicopter snatches him up like he’s a toy in a crane machine. Womp womp.
Daisy has a change of heart about keeping her Inhuman task force close by. She releases Elena and Joey back into the wild. Before she goes, Elena and Mack share an adorkable goodbye where he nicknames her Yoyo and gifts her with a high-tech fancy-schmancy S.H.I.E.L.D. bracelet that’ll keep the channels of communication open both ways. I’m sure we’ll see both Joey and Yoyo/Elena again at some point, but I’m disappointed that we only got half an episode of #TeamSecretWarrior before the band split up. Just when they were hitting a stride (ish).
Jemma is a rockstar, as per usual, and calls Fitz out on his ridiculous guilt. She tells him exactly what she wants and pulls no punches: She wants to start all over, from the beginning. They reintroduce themselves to one another and fistbump, which isn’t exactly a follow-up to their epic kiss earlier in the season, but hey, I can be patient in the name of true love. (Ha, just kidding, no I can’t—MORE FITZSIMMONS NOW, PLEASE, THANK YOU.)
Daisy offers Lincoln the choice to return to his old life but Lincoln decides to stay behind at S.H.I.E.L.D. and they kiss. It’s nice enough, but Lincoln’s going to need to do something real extreme before I stop finding him so deeply boring.
May and Coulson share a drink and she drops some May-style wisdom on him: In killing Ward on Maveth, a move that fundamentally changed him, Coulson joined the cavalry. May is great, but she felt like a complete afterthought in this episode. She is basically just Coulson’s shadow.
Meanwhile, Not-Ward and his icky effed up rib cage demonstrate his powers on Dapper Inhuman to prove himself to a skeptical Malick. And Coulson’s in for an unpleasant shock when the President announces Coulson’s pseudo-nemesis General Talbot as the new head of the ATCU. This’ll be good.