NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” are present in this review
With President Ellis appointing Coulson’s old nemesis, Colonel Talbot to be the new head of the ATCU, you can imagine that things were plenty tense on this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “The Inside Man” had Coulson and Talbot teaming up with a shaky, thrilling dynamic, in an effort to expose a HYDRA insider that’s sitting in on an international symposium on the Inhuman epidemic, which Coulson’s outfit can hopefully trace back to Malick.
This storyline was wonderfully executed, and made for a very tight, exciting episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and one that deftly made up for the good, though not awesome midseason premiere last week. Seeing Coulson and Talbot struggle with trusting each other, and working with each other for their own individual gain, was incredibly compelling, and that’s before Talbot hires Carl Creel, the Absorbing Man, as his new bodyguard!
The addition of Creel as a wild card was a great way to elicit debate and uncertainty with not just Coulson, but the entire team. Given that Coulson’s crew has already had a pretty nasty run-in with Creel last season, and Marvel fans would obviously know him as a fairly dangerous super-villain, it was easy to distrust him, and assume the worst. This helped keep the tension of the episode very high, especially when Creel inevitably leaves his post, and appears to be in the process of betraying his team while Coulson and Talbot are sitting in on the symposium.
That’s why it was all the more awesome to have Creel actually end up being on the level, and actually saving the day in the end! Considering that Creel was already a violent criminal even before he got his powers, which he claims were from an, “Experiment” (this seems to confirm that he has no connection to Loki or the Asgardians in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, unlike Marvel Comics canon), everyone had every reason to distrust him, but seeing Coulson’s faith rewarded in the end was incredibly satisfying. It was all the more satisfying when Creel served as Talbot’s ace in the hole, eventually justifying Talbot saying that he trusts Creel with his life, and that his former actions were the result of HYDRA conditioning. Given how much HYDRA conditioning broke Agent 33 last season, I suppose that’s frighteningly believable, even if Creel’s shady behaviour felt like a stretch, especially when he had to knock out Hunter at one point. Couldn’t he just covertly tell Hunter that he had a plan? Why act so shady for literally no reason, other than just to make yourself look deliberately untrustworthy?
Despite viewers no doubt suspecting Creel in Coulson’s and Talbot’s hunt for an inside man at the symposium, it was even more rewarding to have Talbot turn out to be the inside man, and ultimately betraying Coulson to Malick, by passing him off as the leader of HYDRA to the world leaders in attendance. This was a great twist, especially when Coulson and Talbot actually proved to be fun and humourous foils to one another while trying to blend in to the symposium party, and laid the groundwork for an inspired next step for Malick’s plans; Motivating the world leaders to enact a, “Sanctuary State” to collect all of the known Inhumans in one place. As Coulson’s team puts it, it’s a one-stop shop for Malick’s evil plans, and the way that he ended up pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes was pretty cool and unexpected. Fortunately, the episode also avoided completely damning Talbot as well, since his actions are the result of Malick kidnapping and threatening his son. That’s better than simply making Talbot a bad guy, since he’s a dick, but he’s not evil.
The rest of the characters also had their own share of great moments this week, whether it was May, Bobbi and Hunter kicking ass after Coulson’s operation goes belly up, or Daisy and Lincoln having some sexually tense sparring, before getting into an argument over the possible need to provide an Inhuman vaccine, after Simmons appears to discover the recipe for one from Creel’s blood. It feels a bit early to already be talking about a vaccine for Inhumans (even if it can’t cure Inhumans that are already activated), but the debate between Daisy and Lincoln was still a great one, as Daisy is against vaccinating Inhumans, while Lincoln thinks that it’s not a bad idea. Neither of them was necessarily right or wrong, and that’s why the debate really worked, especially when elements like Afterlife and Lash were smartly brought into the argument, even if Daisy and Lincoln nonetheless made up and had some sexy time by the end of the episode, which was well-earned.
Another character that really made a superb impression this week was Hive, who is continuing to simply chill out in Ward’s body back in Malick’s lair, though at least he actually did something this week. After seemingly taking control of the other Inhumans that are now on HYDRA’s payroll, or at least getting the ability to easily persuade them, including the petrifying cop from the midseason premiere (who is HYDRA’s newest enforcer, go figure), Hive assembles five healthy young people in the HYDRA ranks, and then the scene cuts away as all you hear from the outside of the room are screams of horror and suffering.
Once the camera returns inside, the resulting scene was truly one of the most horrifying in the history of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and could be a contender for one of the most horrifying scenes in the entire history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even including the sequences of the more adult-oriented Daredevil and Jessica Jones on Netflix! On the bright side, Ward’s body is fully healed by the, “Sacrifice.” On the other hand though, Hive left a pretty disgusting mess, leaving charred, bloody skeletons surrounding him as he emerges, renewed. Ick. Well, that should sell you on just how dangerous Hive is for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the human populace!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really knocked it out of the park this week, and it finally feels like it’s back to its best self after a couple of small stumbles. The symposium operation placed a great emphasis on espionage, and it was made all the better by the uneasy alliance between Coulson and Talbot. Hive’s first proper demonstration of his abilities also made a pretty grisly and memorable impression to boot. As dangerous as Malick is, even he feels like small potatoes compared to the Inhuman menace that HYDRA will no doubt quickly lose control over before long, and no less than all of humanity could end up paying the price!
- Coulson and Talbot's shaky team-up dynamic
- Creel saving the day
- Hive's gory new upgrade
- Creel being needlessly shady