Friday, 18 March 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 'Inside Man' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.

'Inside Man' feels a bit like a filler episode, not much actually happens to move the plot forward (bar an end credits scene that actually does do something) but that doesn't mean that it isn't an entertaining filler episode.

Adrian Pasdar returns as General Talbot, this time assigned to be head of the ATCU by the President, and will be working for/with Coulson, depending on which of the two men you ask.  The episode sees Coulson and Talbot teaming up to attend an international conference discussing Inhumans, and attempting to discover the inside man planted by Hydra.

The two of them work brilliantly together, with their brief but confrontational past playing out like a classic buddy comedy as Talbot steamrolls his way round the conference, being loud and slightly rude, highlighting everyone as a potential Hydra agent as Coulson tries to spy his way through the mission.

The back and forth between the two of them is great, with some subtle comedy moments that actually helps to flesh out the two characters and their relationship together, especially with Talbot refusing to describe their working relationship as Coulson being his boss, despite that being how the President described it to Coulson the week before.

The revelation that Talbot is the Hydra informant is definitely a surprising turn, as it feels completely against everything we'd seen and learnt about the character over the last two seasons.  It's only at the revelation that Malick had kidnapped his son in order to get him to cooperate that it begins to make a little sense.

Sadly the whole situation is introduced and resolved in the very same episode.  Where this could have been a story line to play out over a number of episodes, and could have been a great way of putting Talbot in an interesting situation it's all resolved within 45 minutes.  We could have had multiple episodes of watching Talbot having to work for the enemy organisation he hates in order to keep his son alive, of watching him fighting with his ethics and morals and getting to explore his character, but now he's back to being the grumpy general who sometimes teams up with Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D..  It feels like a misuse of a potentially interesting story.

Some of the best stuff in the episode is the reintroduction of Carl 'The Crusher Creel, AKA The Absorbing Man.  A one off villain from the start of season two, it was great to see him back, this time working with Talbot as his personal bodyguard.  His power set is a great one, and gives the writers and effects team a lot of creativity to produce some awesome looking versions of the character.  One of my favourite ones is still the rocky concrete version in season two.

Having another super powered being that S.H.I.E.L.D. can potentially call on is good, especially as he's not just an Inhuman.  It's unknown how much more we'll see of the character over the rest of the season, but as Talbot says he doesn't go anywhere without him, hopefully he'll appear a few more times and won't just be sidelined like Deathlok.  (Seriously, the team should have Deathlok helping them out way more than he does.)

The best use of Creel in this episode wasn't in his powers though, but the effect that his reappearance had on the team, especially on Hunter, whose friends were killed by him in season two.  Hunter not trusting Creel and wanting to kill him at points felt perfectly in character for him, and was the perfect response for him to have, and the resulting barbed dialogue between him and May because of this was a high point.  It helped to point out that despite being a main part of the team now Hunter still has incredibly selfish motivations for staying around, and isn't always fighting for the same ends.  It's an aspect of the character that the show doesn't always have time to explore as much as they could, so it's inclusion here is good, and fits well.

The reintroduction of Creel also brought in a potentially very interesting storyline as the team discover that his blood might hold a vaccine to Terrigenesis.  Whilst his blood can't cure anyone who has been through the process and unlocked their Inhuman powers it will stop potential Inhumans from going through the process.  Very obviously taken from the mutant cure plots used in most of the X-Men media, it's more than likely going to come into play at some point again in the future, and could even act as a division amongst the team.  Hopefully it will be done a lot better than the plot for X-Men: Last Stand.

Elsewhere we also get to see more of Hive, the Inhuman entity possessing Ward's body.  Lucio, the Inhuman with the power to paralyse people that was introduced last week, is brought before Hive, where we discover that his powers don't affect him at all.  Hive performs the same strange smokey thing he did to Giyera in the previous episode.  It's still not clear what it's doing to the Inhumans, it's definitely getting them to follow Hive's orders, though it doesn't appear to be mind control.  My money's on that he's beefing up their powers in some way, but we'll have to wait to see.

Hive gets Giyera and Lucio to gather him a group of humans, he then uses them to rejuvenate his decaying body.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe tends to stay away from the openly gory or bloody parts of their universe, so the bloody skeletal remains of Hive's rejuvenation process is a moment that packs some serious shock value, especially when we realise that Hive is back in peak physical fitness.

'Inside Man' might not be the best episode of the show, and it doesn't move the plot forward greatly, but it packs enough fun character moments (especially between Coulson and Talbot) and interesting plot ideas to stay relatively entertaining throughout.


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