Synopsis of 3×01: When a new inhuman is discovered, Coulson and the team have an encounter with another organization seeking powered people; Fitz goes to extreme measures to determine how to get Simmons back.
I’ll be honest in saying that I wasn’t excited for the season premiere of season three of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. After the announcement at San Diego Comic Con this July that Skye would permanently be renamed Daisy Johnson, the SHIELD press machine has bombarding Daisy Johnson by any means necessary. From actress Chloe Bennet’s haircut (to emulate comic book Daisy’s pixie cut) to promotional photos with Quake’s new costume to not-so-subtle hints through social media, they’ve done everything to remind people that Skye is essentially dead.
Admittedly, I’m old-fashioned. I think someone should be able to watch a show casually without policing social media blasts and news alerts to understand vital bits of character development like changing a character’s name completely. The season two finale ended with Skye referring to herself as Daisy to a newly brainwashed/TAHITI’d Cal is all the explanation casual viewers get about the transformation.
Oh, and of course, Coulson getting it confused for a second only to be shot down by Hunter and Mack.
But unfortunately the complete erasure of a beloved character to create a completely new one without much canon development isn’t the only problem I had with this premiere. The third season of SHIELD took a sharp turn off of where we’ve seen the story develop in the last two seasons. In fact, if you’ve never seen this show before, go ahead and take this as a new pilot.
This isn’t just a story about average people being heroes anymore (this was the season one slogan after all “not all heroes are super”), because within the first ten minutes of the episode we have explosions and gunfire and Quake! Skye-Now-Daisy, comes bursting in with her powers, blasting away mysterious men in tactical gear chasing a newly transformed Inhuman named Joey Gutierrez, played by Juan Pablo Raba.
Running from the men chasing him, he’s cornered by SHIELD, who blast away the men and throw him in a box that essentially sends him shooting into the air and into Coulson’s new plane, Zephyr One, essentially the new stand in for the Bus that was destroyed in season two. It’s revealed that although Inhumans have been cropping up left and right, Joey is the first one they’ve managed to get a hold of.
Unfortunately for Joey, his life is basically over. Being kept in one of those boxes, his powers have been contained, and he is told by Daisy* and Mack that Joey must stay at SHIELD until they can figure out what to do with him. As excited as I am to have a gay Latino Inhuman like Joey on this show, it’s problematic to me that, when Joey says that he’s kept a secret before and it ate him up – referring to his sexual orientation – Daisy’s response is that there are some secrets the world isn’t ready to hear.
I find this problematic because the comparison of hiding your sexual orientation to an Inhuman transformation is a perfect comparison. It’s not a matter of if the secret of Inhumans will be revealed but a matter of when. The world will never be ready to hear something like this, this is one of those situations where it’s better just to rip the band-aid off quickly. Hiding and covering it up will inevitably end in disaster. It’s not as if the world isn’t prepared for something like this to happen, as if a city wasn’t dropped from the sky by the Avengers or aliens didn’t come pouring out of a wormhole in New York.
We’ll see where this goes in the following episodes, but for now it seems pretty obvious that the public is pulling the story together on their own and in some cases honesty might not be the most comfortable choice but it could be the right one.
After being unable to calm Joey, her conversation with him escalating to arguments and ending only when Daisy fires off “warning shots” with her powers at him, Daisy asks Coulson to go recruit Lincoln. After the events of season two, it seems Lincoln has left the world of espionage and crazy and decided to continue his medical degree and become a doctor. He must have been really close to finishing his degree, because how anyone goes from drop out to working in a hospital within six months should be a little baffling for anyone who is familiar with the American medical school process, but I digress.
Arriving to try and bring Lincoln back in, he instantly rebuffs Daisy and Mack. Unwilling to work with SHIELD, he tells them to leave, having found some stability in his new life. Unfortunately it literally ends in ruins when a new Inhuman attacks the hospital where Lincoln works. Say hello to Lash! For now, we know very little about Lash, other than the fact that he can shoot energy beams out of his hands and basically leaves cannon holes in people’s chests, and he can also break through walls? The specifics of his power escape me, but he’s also gone through a very physical transformation, appearing as a towering figure with Kree blue skin and thick tendrils on his head that look more like dreadlocks.
Lash attacks the hospital in search of Inhumans and attacks Daisy, Mack, and Lincoln. They manage to fight him off but instead of leaving with them, Lincoln reiterates his disinterest and runs away, separating from Daisy and Mack who also have to escape before the new mysterious men in tactical gear come and take them away.
And who are these new people? It’s the ATCU aka the Advanced Threat Containment Unit. Lead by the mysterious Rosalind Price, played by Constance Zimmer, the ATCU is a government sanctioned group that essentially is brought in to do what SHIELD did, but likely with less espionage freedom. Coulson manages to track Rosalind down in her nightly subway ride and the two have snarky conversation exchanging quips back and forth.
Although Coulson’s done his homework on her, Rosalind seems to know a lot more than Coulson expects. She reveals knowledge of him being brought back to life and of TAHITI, and seems unthreatened by Coulson’s ambush. What the two take away is the fact that both the ATCU and SHIELD are one step behind Lash, who has been killing the new Inhumans after Rosalind finds a hole in their chest. I’m excited to meet Rosalind. Anyone who cuts SHIELD down to size and compares them to the KGB is someone I can admire for seeing beyond the rosy hues of SHIELD’s welcome wagon.
After being tortured by Ward, Bobbi is still on the mend and forced to work in the lab as a second option. If you’re wondering where that biology degree came from, then so am I. As a person who only casually enjoys Marvel comics, Bobbi working in the lab is a surprise, though she seems completely unenthused by the idea. She tells Hunter that she’s been pushing herself to get back in the field, and both seem eager to search out vengeance on Ward.
And of course we can’t forget Fitz. He was one of the shining beacons of an episode that continued to grate on me as I watched it. While it feels like a completely new show with completely new characters, Fitz has remained the same. It’s only been six months, but it seems that everyone has essentially moved on from Simmons and accepted that she’s dead.
Fitz seems unwilling to accept this – and rightly so given that there is no scientific evidence to prove that she’s dead – and spends his days tracking down whatever lead he can. We find him him in Morocco facing off against bad guys armed with nothing but a diversion technique in order to get a clue that he believes will lead him closer to finding Simmons. After barely making it back to SHIELD, he finds that his clue only points a finger towards a single word: death.
Breaking down in frustration, he charges down to where the monolith has been locked away by Mack and opens the case. The stone remains solid as he yells furiously into it. It’s a painful and moving moment done well by Iain de Caestecker. Although he’s unable to bring forth any reaction from the monolith, his digging is on the right track. He postulates that the monolith is some kind of blackhole that transported Simmons across spacetime.
And he’s right. Simmons is still alive. She’s on an alien world and has been there for at least six months. She’s been surviving and hiding from something, but it doesn’t seem like she’s been having an easy go of it.
And that’s where the episode ends. I’ll admit that I was much more critical and fastidious of this episode than I am of others. I nit-picked details that could be glossed over. But this show isn’t the same show that I fell in love with and it’s frustrating to be thrown for such a loop. Between the vast changes and Coulson repeatedly comparing the loss of his hand to other people’s traumas (I’m reminded of Jiaying and Gonzalez and her telling him not to compare scars), this episode was a very rough transition back to Agents of SHIELD.
But, it’s merely the first episode. I’ll give them some time to get into the swing of things.
* Bear with me while I get used to calling her Daisy, honestly it’ll take me more than six months to forget one of my favorite characters.