Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S03E19 “Failed Experiments” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on E4, Sundays, 9pm
Writer: Brett Fletcher
Director: Wendy Stanzler
Essential Plot Points:
- A tribesman is hunting. He brings down a boar and is disturbed by something. He flees in terror but is brought down by two… Kree! We listen as Hive narrates his surgical mutilation at the hands of the Kree.
- We see him in the present day with the three last surviving heads of Hydra. He tells them their reward for loyalty: becoming the first subjects of the new experiment.
- At SHIELD, during the increasingly traditional walk and talk (or in May’s case stalk and glower), she shoots down Lincoln for wanting to help. The last time he helped, he tortured someone. That’s not something the Cavalry forgets in a hurry.
- Fitz and Simmons are working on an antitoxin, one with massive side effects. They bicker, adorably, about who had the worst time last episode and, of course, Simmons wins. Lincoln volunteers to be a test subject for the antitoxin despite the massive damage it could do and they turn him down.
- In a really nicely done time lapse, Phil obsessively watches the feeds from the image recognition satellites they have looking for Daisy. They find her, in an abandoned mining town. Mack is convinced she wants them to save her and revealed her whereabouts on purpose. Phil shoots him down, hard but not unkindly. He tells Mack they’re going in not to rescue Daisy but to kill Hive.
- In Hiveville, USA Daisy and Hive are talking. Hive is contemptuous of SHIELD, decrying them as nothing but soldiers, no better than the Kree Reapers that maimed him. Daisy, again, pushes back a little.
- They check in with Radcliffe who has worked out how to industrialise and speed up the process. Hive, intriguingly, makes it clear that he’s actually (kind of) a socialist. Where only billionaires can build armoured suits, anyone could be an Inhuman.
- His point is ever-so-slightly diminished when the Hydra test subjects melt.
- Mack and May brief and equip their strike team. Mack is convinced Daisy’s fall is his fault, and May, who really is everyone’s grumpy asskicking mama bear this episode, sets him straight.
- In the lab, Fitz and Simmons have called on dad, or in this case director, to help make the call about Lincoln and the antitoxin. Linc is adamant it won’t be that bad. Simmons is adamant he’s being a lovesick fool. Fitz agrees with both of them. Phil makes the call; it’s a no.
- Back in Hiveville, the Inhumans are hanging out. Which means Elisha is serving beer to… herself, while Daisy and James bond. Kind of. When James flirts with Daisy, she shoots him down and again she pushes back a little. He calls her on being overly fond of Lincoln and points out that there’s no way SHIELD can be reasoned with. She gets an idea…
- Radcliffe and Hive discuss the dead test subjects. This discussion mostly involves Radcliffe persuading Hive not to kill him. It turns out he needs blood from a live Kree subject, not a dead, if handsome, one.
- Back on the Z1 a quite remarkably well-dressed analyst briefs the team. Phil makes the call: get in, kill Hive, leave.
- Fitz and Simmons discuss the fact they disagreed. This mostly involves Fitz asking if they’re good and Simmons owning him in a wide variety of charming ways. As they head back to the lab, they see Linc inject the antitoxin. His powers flare massively and he collapses, refusing a counter injection.
- At Hiveville, the Strike Team arrives and May, because she’s amazing, talks intel out of James effortlessly by pretending to be Hydra. James shows off, May “apologises” and basically listens as James’ inadvertently monologues like asupervillain. He tells her where Hive is, at the old mine at the edge of town and Mack and the Strike Team roll in.
- Elsewhere Hive calls Daisy on her need to “save” SHIELD. He talks her into agreeing to kill them if Radcliffe’s process can’t be used on them and seems more than a little pleased.
- Back at HQ, its Fitz and Simmons’s turn on Kick Lincoln’ Ass Day. This involves complaining that he fried their servers and taking a cell sample. From his brain.
Using a drill.
- The Strike Team hits the mine and discovers a Kree artefact triggered in the middle of the room. The Z1 detects an incoming projectile and Mack and the team flee.
- Just in time for two Kree to deploy into the town, invited by Hive.
- Hive explains to Daisy that the artefacts were a doomsday signal meant to be triggered if the experiment to create Inhumans ever went wild. The Kree Hive signalled are Reapers designed only to hunt, who were being held in stasis in the solar system. When Daisy asks why he sent for them he reveals that it’s because they need blood from a living Kree, and to prove her loyalty, Daisy must get it.
- In town, the Reapers and Hive’s Inhumans go to war. Elisha takes one on and is brutally taken down. Nearby, SHIELD watches the other Kree make its way in and are ordered to watch but not engage. When a tremor runs through the town Mack realises Daisy’s engaged them and he goes off-mission to save her.
- Not that it’s needed. At Radcliffe’s lab Daisy goes toe-to-toe with a Reaper. At first she’s in serious trouble. Then, in the nastiest use of seismic powers EVER, she shatters its limbs one by one and orders Radcliffe to drain its spine.
- At the church nearby, the other Reaper faces off with Hive as SHIELD observes. Hive tries to reason with it but it attacks him.
- Mack arrives at the garage and tries to reason with Daisy. She pushes back, emphasising that she’s tired of being “saved”. She points out that they used to be a mechanic and a hacker and now they’re soldiers, misfit toys of Director Coulson.
- Daisy tries to scare him off but he just refuses to leave. He points out the image they saw and how he feels that wasn’t an accident. Daisy claims that she slipped up because she isn’t thinking like a spy anymore.
- They reach an impasse. Mack makes his peace with not being able to save her and destroys the Kree body. Daisy beats the hell out of him as, in the Church, Hive confronts his fears. Largely by melting its face off. SHIELD is ordered to engage.
- Have a guess how well that goes.
- In the street, Daisy is still in the process of beating Mack to death. He pleads with her to listen, she starts shattering every bone in his body and May shoots her. SHIELD evacuates as Hive cradles a badly injured Daisy.
- Back at HQ, a severely messed-up Mack is being treated as the truth sinks in; Hive is nearly invincible and there is nothing they have that can stop it.
- In the isolation ward, Simmons visits a clearly ill Lincoln. She briefs him, he cooks off and Simmons yells at him, pointing out his immune system is completely shut down and until (or it’s implied if) he recovers, he’s effectively her prisoner. To make matters even worse, the antitoxin didn’t work.
- Back at Hiveville, Hive is extremely unhappy. He accuses Daisy of having ties that are stronger to SHIELD than she wants to admit. Daisy points out that she has pure Kree blood after Coulson gave her a transfusion. She volunteers to be drained
We’re officially on the home strait now and this episode, yet again, shows just how confident this show is these days. In the space of one episode we get a nice meta nod to Daisy’s retooling as a character, Mack and Lincoln both doing something very stupid and paying the price for it and Hive being terrifying.
Also, Kree! And adorable redshirt agents!
Seriously I hope the redshirts show up again as they were charming. Plus Mack obviously needs some new people to play with. Bless him, the big fella seems lonely.
And with good reason given just how far gone Daisy is. This episode managed to do the near impossible and continue the idea that she’s fighting the influence of Hive, not give us an answer either way and still be really very good. The final confrontation with Mack is electric and Chloe Bennet, again, throws just enough doubt in there to make us wonder. Hive too, given the end of the episode.
Everyone’s favourite immortal balloon animal has a good week too. The discussion of SHIELD as little better than the Kree Reapers who changed him is brilliant and speaks, indirectly, to the unending narrative of superhero comics. There’s always a new battle, always new soldiers needed and the idea that Hive wants that to stop is fascinating. In his mind(s) he’s a hero. He has a point. It’s just he gets to that point by destroying the free will of everyone around him, the exact thing he berates the Reapers for.
He also gets a majorly gutsy play this week, summoning the Kree Reapers he fears the most to get their blood for the experiments. This does three very smart things all at once: takes the MacGuffin hidden under James’ old “house” off the table; gives Hive weaknesses; and then eradicates them. It’s a good week to be a terrifying bad guy, that’s for sure.
And a bad week to be a SHIELD agent. Not only does Mack get beaten half to death but Lincoln’s understandable, if very stupid, decision causes him serious, possibly permanent harm. Lincoln is starting to look like a fifth wheel and I can’t help but wonder if he’s the much touted death that’s coming. He’s certainly being set up as hitting his lowest ebb and nothing, short of Phil dying, would mess Daisy up more.
We’ve got three episodes to go and this show is on a roll. So much so that next week’s Civil War tie-in is looking less like a necessity and more like an obstacle. Here’s hoping that isn’t the case and the show keeps this momentum all the way to the end of the season, and one agent’s life…
- May’s rep as the Cavalry still being in place is a nice touch. As is the evolution on her, “If I need a gun I’ll take one” line.
- “Why is everyone making this about themselves?” May as heartily-pissed-off-not-even-remotely-interested agony aunt to the team is our new favourite thing.
- “And worst case scenario? If Hive can’t be killed.”
“I suggest running. Very fast. Away.” It’s always nice when Phil Coulson, relentless pragmatist, comes out to play.
- “Safeties off.”
“They were never on, sir.” Good job, Piper
- “Bobbi was your partner once. How’d that work out for you?” TOO SOON.
- Piper, O’Brien and Anderson are big fun. I hope we see more of them.
- Excellent fight choreography in multiple spots this episode. The Reapers fighting like angry tanks; Hive using avoidance as much as strikes; and Daisy’s horrifically nasty takedown of the Reaper and Mack both are really smart ways to use action to express character.
- Some lovely call backs to early continuity here. Especially Daisy clearly carrying some guilt, and irritation, at her old status as victim/prize of the week.
- Honestly? Nothing. You could be churlish and say the Kree looked a tad cheap I suppose but they didn’t look awful. And any perceived fault in their costuming was balanced by the real threat they presented.
- Lincoln. He means well, bless him.
And The Random:
- SHIELD really do have the best-dressed analysts in the world.
- Shot of the week is this. The depth-of-field and the intent and drama in how the characters are positioned is great. Wendy Stanzler’s got a great directorial eye. More from her please.
Review by Alasdair Stuart