This week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was aptly called “Failed Experiments,” dealing with not one, not two, but three failed experiments, both in the present and in the past.
The first failed experiment was the one that created Hive, conducted thousands of years ago by the Kree. As Hive related the tale of his genesis to Daisy and a handful of no-name HYDRA higher-ups, we caught a glimpse of this backstory. Once a young, native hunter, the man who would soon become Hive was captured by two Kree reapers, who then used their own DNA and terrigenesis to transform him into one of the first Inhumans. He was one of several Inhumans initially created by the Kree in their experiments; the rest of them became the ancestors of the remaining Inhumans alive today. He was also, apparently, the only one deemed an outright failure by the Kree—ostensibly because his unforeseen ability to “connect” with (a.k.a., control) his fellow Inhumans was viewed as dangerous by the blue-skinned creators. The HYDRA higher-ups hear this backstory and are basically like “Cool story, bro, but why are we here?” Hive explains that they’re to be the first batch of test subjects in his re-creation of the Kree experiment to create new Inhumans. Oy.
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, Lincoln whines about being useful while May snaps at him about how he’s actually useless, griping about his decision to threaten Alicia to get information about Daisy’s whereabouts in the last episode. May gets in one amazing zinger, where she points out that Lincoln has known Daisy for all of half a minute, compared to the rest of them. Finally, someone mentions this. Lincoln is such an unengaging sad-sack that I’m beginning to actively hope that he’s the dead S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in the flash-forward. I mean, the writers must realize by now that he’s a total non-starter, right? Plus, he’s constantly begging to be heroically sacrificed for his great love or whatever.
Elsewhere, Fitz and Simmons continue to work on a cure for Hive’s mind control and bicker adorably about whether the cure, which could easily kill the subject rather than cure them, is viable, and how they’ll go about testing it. Cue Lincoln, who is all too eager too offer up his life blindly in order to help.
Meanwhile, Coulson monitors S.H.I.E.L.D.’s security footage from around the world until eventually Daisy’s face is picked up on a camera in South Wyoming. He consults with Mack, and they realize that Malick’s shell corporation, now controlled by Hive, has bought up the town. Mack is intent on rescuing Daisy, feeling responsible for her predicament since he didn’t recognize that she was infected. He believes that Daisy subconsciously allowed herself to be seen because she is fighting Hive’s control. Coulson, on the other hand, believes that she is luring them into a trap. He sends in a team anyway, but not with the objective to rescue Daisy—he wants them to target and kill Hive.
Back in South Wyoming, Hive tries to convince Daisy that S.H.I.E.L.D. sucks because they only exist to fight wars. Daisy proves Mack’s and Fitz’s point by resisting condemning all of S.H.I.E.L.D., insisting that her friends there wanted only to prevent wars. She’s not ready to turn against all of them; in her mind, she can support Hive’s objective and still maintain her friendships, which is adorably deluded on Daisy’s part. After their discussion, Daisy and Hive go to oversee Dr. Radcliffe’s experiments, which are a resounding failure—as Radcliffe simultaneously changes their DNA and terrigenesizes the subjects, they straight-up melt, àla Raiders of the Lost Ark, which is both horrifying and awesome (it’s one of the best effects I’ve seen on the show to date).
Hive, May, and two rando seeming redshirts (who miraculously manage to stay alive past the end of the episode) head off to South Wyoming to take out Hive. May continues to be an awesome truth-teller, smacking Mack down for making Daisy’s mind-control all about him, as Lincoln has. At the same time, Lincoln tries to convince Coulson to allow FitzSimmons to test the anti-toxin out on him. Simmons is firmly against it, while Fitz reluctantly goes against his new girlfriend and agrees with Lincoln, acknowledging that it is dangerous but could be the only way to save Daisy. Coulson sides with Simmons, instructing the scientists to start looking for other cure options.
Back in South Wyoming, Daisy, James, and two Alicias drink in a bar. For an abandoned town, that bar is pretty well stocked. Unless Hive had the bar filled and maintained when he took the town over—in which case, damn, this guy is good and thinks of everything. James and Daisy play pinball and drink, James obviously flirting with her and teasing her for being hung up on “stinkin’ Lincoln.” James and Daisy’s two-minute scene in this bar is about twelve times more engaging than the sum total of Daisy and Lincoln’s interactions thus far on the series. Speaking with James, Daisy realizes a way to save her friends—she can have Hive turn the group into Inhumans, once Radcliffe has the process running smoothly, connecting them all.
In Radcliffe’s lab, Hive threatens the scientist for his failure, as Radcliffe explains that the experiment was a bust due to the use of DNA taken from a dead-but-handsome host (Hive-as-Ward). He claims that he needs living Kree DNA. Wherever will they get that? Hmmm… Hive pulls out his One Mortal Weakness plot device (the Kree object James handed over), which is apparently about to get its moment to shine in this episode.
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, FitzSimmons clears the air about their earlier disagreement. It’s definitely a positive sign for the longevity of their relationship that Fitz isn’t willing to kowtow to Simmons in their work in order to “maintain the peace”—it’s also an indication that their relationship won’t change them fundamentally as people. They cutely bicker about Simmons’ terrible, brussel sprout-headed old boyfriend Milton and which of the two of them is smarter. Of course, their bantering is interrupted when they spot stinkin’ Lincoln injecting himself full of anti-toxin, going against Coulson’s orders. He immediately has a power surge seizure. What a dope.
In South Wyoming, Mack, May, and the redshirts stake out the bar. May spots James and comes up with a pretty ingenious plan—to use James’ blowhard personality against him. She poses as a Hydra agent and flirts some intel out of James: he explains that Hive is transforming humans into Inhumans. It’s overly convenient and illogical that James would so easily accept May as a Hydra agent and give away Hive’s big plan so easily, but there you have it. Once May gets what she wants out of James, she knocks him out and leaves to rejoin Mack and the others, who are en route to Hive.
Hive meets with Daisy and tries to gauge whether she’ll be able to take out S.H.I.E.L.D., who made her, drawing the parallel to Hive’s ability to take out the Kree, who made him. Daisy tells Hive her idea, her desire to transform her S.H.I.E.L.D. pals into Inhumans. Hive agrees to this but wants to know what she’ll do if that plan fails. Daisy claims that she’ll rip their hearts out, with no hesitation. Hive is happy to hear that and informs Daisy she’ll have the chance to put this into action: plans have changed and he’s summoned his own creators, the Kree, to collect their blood. Simultaneously, Mack and the redshirts find the One Mortal Weakness plot device in action, summoning the Kree, and see two of the blue-skinned aliens land on earth.
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., FitzSimmons are palpably annoyed at Lincoln’s meddling. When Simmons coldly explains that she needs to extract tissue directly from Lincoln’s brain to test the cure, Lincoln visibly blanches and has a perfect “Uh, I guess I didn’t think this all the way through…” face.
In Wyoming, Hive instructs Daisy to capture one of the living Kree reapers that have crash-landed. Daisy is freaked out and hesitant about this, knowing they’re uber-powerful, but agrees. Two Alicias, meanwhile, head off to fight a Kree reaper. Both apparently die, with little fanfare. So… so long, Alicia(s)? That same Kree reaper then heads into Radcliffe’s lab to finish him off and put an end to the new Inhuman experiments. Daisy takes him out surprisingly easily, using her powers to disable him and instructing Radcliffe to drain the unconscious Kree’s spine. It’s a slightly absurd example of the Villain Forgot to Level Grind trope.
May and the redshirts hang back in an abandoned church and watch the remaining Kree reaper fight Hive, further proving that May is the smartest S.H.I.E.LD. agent by a landslide—she’s perfectly content to wait it out in the hopes that the reaper will take care of their Hive problem for them. At the same time, Mack approaches Daisy in Radcliffe’s lab, as Radcliffe works on extracting the Kree’s blood in the background.
Daisy tries desperately to convince Mack that S.H.I.E.L.D. took advantage of them both, molding them into the soldiers that they needed. She echoes the same sentiment she told Fitz earlier in the season, claiming that she no longer needs S.H.I.E.L.D. to rescue her. She explains her plan to turn Mack and the rest of the team into Inhumans, to save them in light of Hive’s takeover. Mack is 100% not down with that plan and insists that part of Daisy wants to escape—after all, she allowed herself to be spotted on camera. Daisy disagrees, insisting it was only a slip-up she made because she’s no longer thinking like a S.H.I.E.LD. agent. Mm-hmm, right, Daisy. In light of Mack’s refusal to become an Inhuman, she doles out a series of low-blows, mentioning Bobbi and Hunter’s abandonment of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and by extension, Mack) as well as Mack’s troubled relationship with his brother Ruben. Mack counters by destroying the Kree being drained, putting an end to Radcliffe’s experiment (the second failed experiment of the episode) and enraging Daisy.
While Hive fights his Kree, Daisy demolishes Mack, who refuses to fight back. It’s a nice parallel to Hive’s earlier notion of the two fighting against their creators, with Hive’s Kree emblematic of the Kree who created him and with Mack emblematic of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a whole. The difference, here, is that Daisy is unable to finish Mack off. Hive defeats the Kree he’s fighting against and survives each of the shots that May and her team take at him. Daisy, meanwhile, beats Mack entirely into submission but before she can take the kill shot, May and the redshirts shoot Daisy non-fatally, medically evacuating Mack.
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, the team debriefs while standing over Mack in his hospital bed. Mack admits that Coulson was right about Daisy and the team ruminates about Hive’s plan and his apparent indestructibility. Simmons visits Lincoln and tells him what went down, allowing for Lincoln’s apparent 100th temper tantrum of the episode. Simmons also breaks the news that the anti-toxin didn’t work—Lincoln risked his life for nothing (the third and final failed experiment), and they still haven’t found a cure.
Radcliffe patches Daisy up, while Hive berates Daisy for allowing her ties to S.H.I.E.L.D. to distract her, making her unable to rip out the agents’ hearts as Hive ripped out the heart of his own Kree creator. He’s also pissed that Daisy allowed Mack to destroy the living Kree subject, making Radcliffe’s experiment apparently unviable. Desperate to make amends to Hive, Daisy offers herself up for the Kree experiment—since Coulson used Kree blood to resurrect her after she’d been shot by Ian Quinn back in the first season, draining her will provide Radcliffe with the Kree blood he needs to create more Inhumans. Theoretically, anyway.
The use of the word ‘drain,’ here, makes me wonder whether Daisy is offering herself up to die, as a sacrifice. Is she willing to perish for this cause? If so, the stakes just got way higher and way more personal for Team S.H.I.E.L.D. Also, you may have caught any one of the 300 references to Captain America: Civil War in this episode. Friendly reminder: that movie is coming out this Friday, hence the show repping it so hard. We’ll see how the events of the film affect the Marvel television universe in next week’s episode.