Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S03E17 “The Team” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: E4, Sundays, 9pm
Writer: DJ Doyle
Director: Elodie Keene
Essential Plot Points:
- Daisy’s Secret Warriors rescue their SHIELD teammates from Hydra.
- They grab Malick while they’re at it.
- Hive (we can finally call him that now – hurrah) isn’t too worried; during the attack he’s infected one of the Secret Warriors to do his bidding. But which one?
- Also during the attack, Joey makes his first kill – Lucio. He’s a bit shaken by it.
- Back at base, Coulson interrogates Malick who reveals that at least one of Secret Warriors is infected.
- Coulson locks down the base, but doesn’t tell the Inhumans who make up the Secret Warriors. Joey and Yo-Yo are not happy at not being allowed to leave.
- Fitz and Simmons perform an autopsy on Lucio, trying to discover a “cure” for Hive’s infection, without much success.
- Someone kills Malick.
- The Inhumans finally work out what’s going on and they’re not happy. Yo-Yo and Joey lose all faith in SHIELD.
- Suspicion falls on Lincoln. Coulson has him locked in a containment unit.
- But Daisy is the real Hive lackey. She returned to the base to collect the Inhuman device she and Lincoln discovered in the previous episode. She also killed Malick. Well, why not?
- She leaves the base, using her powers to wreck the place.
Anyone expecting this episode to be a big, extended rescue mission giving the Secret Warriors a chance to prove their mettle and cement their position as SHIELD’s superpowered crack team was in for a shock. The rescue itself is an astonishingly brief affair and by the end of the episode the whole Secret Warriors project is in tatters. However, what happens in-between is absolutely riveting. And totally unexpected.
Not that things start out promisingly. Okay, the episode was never going to be about the rescue, despite last week’s cliffhanger. Having said that, it remains a disappointingly perfunctory action sequence, a quick in-out grab with few moments of visual pizzazz. It’s fine. It’s functional. It’s not terrible (though Daisy swinging in on a chain is a bit cheesy). But it’s far from one of the show’s best set-pieces. So when it’s over you’re left wondering – was that it?
Except it finishes with a crucial line: Hive saying, “Now we have one on the inside.” Suddenly we have a whole different episode. A tense mystery as we – and Coulson – try to work out who Hive’s infected to do his bidding. And the episode keeps the guessing game fun right up until it reveals its final hand – and it’s a killer.
Turning your main hero into the traitor is a trusted TV trope. It’s nothing new. But what the episode cleverly does is not make Daisy’s betrayal the dramatically obvious one. It even second guesses us at various points by making Daisy the obvious choice, which in TV tropedom would usually signify that she can’t be. She’s the red herring who isn’t, amongst a bunch of other red herrings who are. In other words, there’s been so much smoke and mirrors going on that any of the four could have been revealed as the traitor and it would have made dramatic sense. Which might sound like the writers having their cake and eating it, but it definitely ramps up the paranoia and tension.
And besides, when Daisy is revealed as the culprit it turns a good episode into a great one. They did go there, and it feels like a punch to the gut.
It’s not all about the guessing game, though. There’s also a fatalistic, broken Malick nobly awaiting his death (which suddenly, horrifically, makes sense of his vision a couple of episodes back). His interrogation scenes with Coulson are magnificent with some wonderfully portentous dialogue (“It doesn’t sound like a god.” “Oh no, Mr Coulson. It is a god. It’s just not ours.”). There’s Fitzsimmons being effortlessly adorable (“Dead-ish. There’s some sort of metabolic activity. Fascinating.” “No. Not fascinating. Quarantine.”). There’s Mack, crushed by the fact that circumstances have driven a wedge between him and Yo-Yo. There’s Joey… um, being Joey and vanishing for half the episode without you realising he’s vanished for half the episode until somebody points it out.
There’s not a lot of plot; no major guest stars; and most of the action happens on standing sets. But out of these limitations, SHIELD has crafted another lean, mean and focussed episode.
- It’s really sweet the way Mack and Yo-Yo have been learning each other’s languages, especially the way Mack tries to claim it’s something SHIELD required him to do when later in the episode Daisy is still as monolingual as ever, so he’s clearly telling porkies.
- The way the episode genuinely keeps the tension and guessing going on until the shock revelation about Daisy is masterful.
- Daisy’s “Dark Phoenix” moment at the end gives you chills…
- …While her post-infection look of admiration for Ward – a man she loathed just seconds before – is downright creepy. Chloe Bennet is excellent as possessed Daisy.
- In what’s becoming a regular weekly feature Fitz & Simmons Make You Go, “Awwwww!” is an absolute peach this week. From, “One of these days, we’ll find something out in space that’s magnificent, right?” to “Who needs space? Because I’ve got something magnificent right here,” it’s a delightfully heartwarming scene, and impeccably acted. A special air punch too for Fitz’s, “What’s Hive? Couldn’t even get off a desert planet without us…” Oh, and let’s not forget…
- …Fitz’s MacGyver moment as well. Is it too much to hope that Fitz, Simmons and their relationship all survive this year’s season finale without some major trauma?
- Lucio’s autopsy was wonderfully icky.
- The early scenes of the Secret Warriors bonding are so much fun it’s a shame everything’s ripped apart by events.
- Did anyone else think that Powers Boothe was channelling Marlon Brando’s turn as Kurtz in Apocalypse Now (1979) at time? Even his line to Daisy, “So it’s you. I was curious who Hive would send,” echoes Kurtz’s, “I expected someone like you. What did you expect? Are you an assassin?” Whether this was deliberate or not, Boothe was great and his death was downright disturbing.
- The initial rescue mission is a bit quick, easy and blandly directed. Okay, it wasn’t the main gist of the episode but after last week’s build up it’s a little disappointing.
- Blimey, Coulson and May are slow to react when Daisy start quaking the base.
- So has Lincoln’s season-long, unconvincing reinvention as Mr Postal-Potential all been leading to this? A red herring in a whodunnit plot?
- The final stinger scene is a bit weak. All that talk of inheritance might have made an okayish mid-episode scene, but as a cliffhanger? It was about as exciting as the guff about taxes in the opening crawl for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
And The Random:
- Finally, they’ve named Not-Ward as Hive, so we can finally stop referring to him as Not-Ward. Hive first appeared in the comic Secret Warriors #2 (2009) who was created by Hydra in their laboratories.
- Okay, last week we missed the fact that Alveus is Latin for “hive” because we used the wrong online translator.
- Did you spot? Hive refers to Daisy as Skye. Nice little touch.
- Coulson says he’s met Gods and they bleed. As far as we can work out, he’s met Thor, Loki the Lady Sif and possibly Elliot Randolph (we’re not sure if simply being from Asgard makes you a God or if there’s another criteria – he was, after all, just a stone mason).
Review by Dave Golder