Agents of SHIELD recap: ‘Maveth’

9 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recap: ‘Maveth’.

At the beginning of the season, we learned that “Maveth” is the Hebrew word for “death.” It’s a word we would hear over and over, mostly in relation to the monolith. Getting people to understand esoteric comic book stuff like Inhumans (humans with latent alien DNA that, when exposed to a material called Terrigen, grants them superpowers), a giant alien stone nugget called the Monolith that zaps people to other planets, or the bureaucracy of a shady government agency called the Advanced Threat Containment Unit is no easy task.

After the Hydra henchman murdered Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer) in last week’s episode of , he spurred a grief-stricken Coulson (Clark Gregg) into revenge-mode, setting the two on a path towards one another that’s due for a collision on Hydra’s mysterious alien planet in tonight’s midseason finale.Last week’s “Agents of SHIELD” left three of our main characters trapped on a hellish planet with only one method of escape and an Inhuman monster lurking somewhere close by, and in Tuesday’s midseason finale, titled “Maveth,” things are going to get messy.

Look, TV is, and always has been a numbers game (particularly for broadcast), and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t exactly climbing enough in the ratings to earn free reign creatively, but it’s always disappointing to see that brand of mathematical decision-making onscreen. But “death” has also been seen throughout the season in other ways: through losing those we love fatally (Rosalind), through losing those we love non-fatally (Garner), and through losing our sense of self (Simmons). Brett Dalton is great, a draw for fans, and obviously no one’s in a rush to put their longtime friend out of a job (if the contract even allows it), but to kill off Ward, and immediately resurrect him as a new big bad smacks of laziness. And while he doesn’t see a chance for any redemption in the traditional sense, Dalton says he doesn’t view Ward as a complete lost cause. “I think what makes that character so interesting in the first place is that the writers have done a really good job of giving enough moments of humanity that you see this guy is very much human, who doesn’t suffer from a lack of feeling, but too much feeling, who actually does have…empathy,” he says. “There’s a lost kid in there looking for a greater sense of longing and purpose, and we see all that stuff in a quote-unquote villain, and so I think there has to be that in there.

Dalton hints that “something big and life-changing” happens on the other side of the portal in the winter finale, which may explain why Ward seems to have fully embraced his evil organization’s motto in the episode’s preview trailer: “In the preview, he says ‘hail Hydra,’ and I don’t think he’s ever said that, even jokingly, in the whole show up until that point,” he notes. Last week, we left off with Fitz, Ward, and some other Hydra guys having gone through the portal, along with Coulson, who had made the jump without anyone knowing.

Lincoln’s speech on the eve of the castle invasion emphasizes (however glumly) that the strength of the “Power Rangers” lies in their choice to act, not the fear they feel. It’s the same kind of logic that another Whedon production made use of for Amy Acker, though at least in that case the transition came at the cost of the series’ most devastating scene, and would likely have provided fodder for years to come. When Ward tries to threaten him with the fact Simmons will be killed if he doesn’t make it back, Fitz doesn’t back down: He just reminds Ward he’s expendable. Lurking deeper was sociopolitical commentary on how we treat people we fear — something that resonates with and reflects the xenophobia and Islamophobia that are now so prevalent in America. I would like to say there’s always a chance at redemption, but it probably will not be the kind of redemption where, you know, he joins the team, everything is zipped up nice and tight and he’s indespensible now and has proven himself and everybody sits down with milk and cookies.

Later, Joey’s actions save Daisy’s life (and give us our cutest Joey moment yet.) But in “Maveth,” good intentions and necessary decisions can also lead the way to Hell. (Literally.) Simmons understandably chooses self-preservative over Hydra’s bullets and frees Andrew, but her choice begins a deadly unraveling of events. Probably not, no.” That lost kid looking for purpose may have finally found some (however misguided it may be) thanks to Hydra leader Gideon Malick () and his quest to bring the original Inhuman back to Earth from the alien planet. I think it’s really cool to see Coulson throw sand in my eyes too, with what he does by going off-book and getting my younger brother and doing all of that stuff [last week], so it is really exciting to see somebody so buttoned-up get so riled up. Keeping the character around with a pretense that Dalton’s body represents a different entity altogether isn’t exactly going to help matters, especially when its inhabitance of Will* proved that the figure maintains the memories of its host.

Not to mention, will Coulson, Skye, Fitz, Hunter, Bobbi or May even keep any sense of closure attained by Ward’s “death,” if the same face is still walking around, tormenting them? *It also doesn’t help that “Maveth” challenged any physical definition of the creature established in “4,722 Hours,” previously a shape-shifting “Death” entity capable of hunting anyone on the surface, and now some kind of ooze bound by the frailty of its physical host. Mack and Daisy risk their lives to remain with the portal, and their success feels like a major victory – proof that loyalty and friendship can defeat the chaotic brutality of a world turned inside out. Mack (Henry Simmons) is calling the shots, Daisy (Chloe Bennet) finally has a team of Inhumans at her disposal, and May (Ming-Na Wen), Hunter (Nick Blood), and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) provide the muscle. There’s a million different things and there’s a larger picture out there,” Dalton adds. “He sees himself, I think, as the hero of his own story, and we saw glimpses, in [last week’s episode,] when Coulson was interrogating his former band mates, they were telling about how he sees himself as this protector. The choices made on Maveth stand out even more starkly than those made on Earth – livid against the landscape, and explosive in their potential. (That’s a nice way of saying that this shit is super crazy.) Fitz, for example, finds his truckload of good intentions turned to dust when Will Daniels is revealed to be The Creature Hydra seeks.

Fortunately, these are all 2016’s problems to address, though it still strikes at least odd that “Maveth” managed to stifle one of Season 3’s other major conflicts in the process, disposing of the love triangle set in place by Will. With all this going on — along with the previous episode’s cliffhanger of having Coulson briefly knocked unconscious — it should have been an exciting 40 minutes of Marvel television.

Tragically, this represents another selfless decision that nearly precipitates disaster. (As most of Fitz and Simmons’ choices have done this season, actually.) Fitz is ultimately able to destroy Will’s reanimated and horrifically stubborn corpse, but back on Earth, Simmons is clearly devastated at Will’s loss. If not Ward, it seemed at least plausible/likely a few weeks ago that the creature could have taken over Will, but “Maveth” weirdly skipped over that tragedy in service of half-hearted reveal late in the hour, and not even to the character destined to be most devastated by it.

And that limits what kind of powers we see; it’s the reason a lot of superheroes have super strength, like in Jessica Jones, or are martial arts experts, like in Arrow or Daredevil. The character has always been an avatar of the power of choice as he proceeded down the bloody path of vengeance, and now, Ward finds himself making one last, inevitable decision. Oh, and Daisy’s noticed that they’re bringing in Inhumans from the ATCU (for that whole army-building thing Malick’s into), including Garner, so they’re pretty much doubly screwed.

Super Awesome Leader Mack figures out that the only way to do this is through infiltration — no tactical support — and Daisy finds that they can get into the castle via the aqueducts in the portal chamber. Finding the skull-like symbol on Maveth closes the circle of Ward’s doubts and desires, leaving behind a man soothed with the certainty of a zealot. The group ships out on Mack’s orders, and I’m left wondering if it’s wrong that Mack has won me over as a leader in one episode more than Coulson has in more than 50.

What ended up a bit of a letdown however, was the inclusion of Andrew/Lash and other sealed Inhumans to act as “gifts” to the entity upon returning to our world. Budget notwithstanding, why even position them as part of the midseason finale conflict, if they were just body parts to give May regrets about Andrew later?

We’re taking three months off for Agent Carter after tonight, potentially longer, and it’s at least worth re-stressing how well Season 3 has established itself up to this point. It may be Ward who begins their final fight, but it’s Coulson who ends it, in one of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s most potent and complicated developments. Still, positioning Ward as an avatar for the true big bad is a tremendous miscalculation of our investment in the character, one that leaves “Maveth” going surprisingly easy on the core cast as well. It’s not that Ward might not deserve to die; that depends on who you ask, though objectively Coulson isn’t wrong when he remembers Ward’s many victims.

Since the start of season three, we’ve only seen two people added to Daisy’s Inhuman team and only one other main Inhuman character, the supervillain Lash. The possibility of more Inhumans is always hinted at, but we rarely if ever see them onscreen because they’re only discussed in theory or they’re killed before they’re shown. Granted, he doesn’t know who Will is, or that Fitz knows him, but I figure he’d be at least a little curious about who Fitz is getting so chummy with. The verdict? “There’s a lot more blood, and I never considered the smell,” he jokes. (This is important when you think about later revelations.) “I can see why Jemma loves you,” Will shoots back.

May’s ex-husband is now an Inhuman named Lash, but he’s still alive, and there is a looming feeling that there will be a Jekyll-Hyde storyline in the future. May takes out a bunch of Hydra people, as you do, but Simmons doesn’t need much saving. (YOU GO GIRL.) She steals a knife and gets out of her bonds, escaping into the compound, eventually coming across the stash of Inhumans. After Simmons gives him the cliff notes version of the past few episodes (no one knew the ATCU was working for Hydra, yadda yadda yadda), a distressed Garner asks her to get him out,and promises not to hurt her. He sweetens the deal by telling her he’s the only one who can protect her, and given the fact that Simmons is kind of out of options and does trust Garner a little bit, she’s convinced to open the module.

It never felt like we had the time to get to know her character, or at least to know her in a way that warrants the show’s love-of-a-lifetime-speaking-from-beyond-the-grave treatment. But she’s saved by May, as the team continues to infiltrate. (Daisy announces her arrival with quake powers and gets shot at, but Bulletproof Joey saves her). After being separated, Ward’s group attempts to wait out the storm… that is until he finds himself on the receiving end of an attack, too — but not from Fitz or Will, who have taken off. I’m beginning to think this place is like the world of Xena: Warrior Princess, where you can just kind of wander around and eventually you’ll run into each other. As the group tries to figure out how far back this whole alien thing goes and how many people were probably trying to cover this up through the years (hint: a lot), they butt heads about the best course of action concerning the portal’s opening — especially after Simmons tells them she’s pretty sure it’s responsible for the planet’s desolation.

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