Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Four Plotlines, Little Real Growth, "A Wanted In(Human)" Is Average Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

The Good: Decent plot, performances, character moments
The Bad: Plot-heavy, so actors are not given anything extraordinary to do and none of the characters progress in an incredible fashion.
The Basics: The Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "A Wanted In(Human)" continues to spread a wide focus over so many plots and characters that none truly shine.

As the third episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.D., "A Wanted In(Human)," began, it came it a unique burden in science fiction television. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has Joss Whedon as an executive producer and as "A Wanted In(Human)" begins the writers bear the burden of potentially treading where Whedon went sufficiently before. The third season of the Joss Whedon show Angel (reviewed here!) featured a character who was just rescued from an alien dimension. Fred's original characterization was brilliant and frazzled, writing on walls and the like. The instant anxiety fans of Whedon's works have to feel at the outset of "A Wanted In(Human)" is that Simmons will simply be recharacterized as a different version of Fred.

Picking up right after "Purpose In The Machine" (reviewed here!), "A Wanted In(Human)" continues the storyline begun in the season premiere with Inhuman Lincoln Campbell being pursued by the new Anti-Inhuman task force, the ATCU. It also marks the return of Simmons, who was rescued from a different dimension in the final moments of the prior episode. While Simmons reports being pursued by something in the alien dimension and she goes into isolation right away, "A Wanted In(Human)" focuses more on the Lincoln plot than the Simmons character arc.

Opening with Lincoln Campbell being chased by U.S. government forces, he only escapes by exercising his powers. With Simmons going into isolation, Daisy and Mack talk to Coulson about Lincoln being pursued. At the same time, May (who is still freelance) and Hunter try to get Hunter into HYDRA. Simmons remains unsettled by the change of gravity and lighting on Earth. Using Spud, a contact Hunter had from the underworld, May and Hunter try hard to move up the HYDRA ladder to get in proximity to Ward in an attempt to kill him. Lincoln turns to an old friend, John Donnelly, to evade the ATCU and while Coulson arranges a meeting with Price, Price uses her lieutenants to betray their peace.

When Donnelly sees a broadcast on Lincoln that the ATCU leaked to the press, he confronts Lincoln. Lincoln accidentally kills him, which leads the Inhuman to contact Daisy for help. While the ATCU moves in on Lincoln, Hunter gets into a brutal fight with Spud to try to get into HYDRA's good graces. But Coulson realizes soon that Price has pressure on her and an image that proves Daisy is working for him and he is forced to make a decision that might force him to sacrifice one for the other.

"A Wanted In(Human)" continues and expands the mundane romantic subplot between Daisy and Lincoln . . . for no particular reason. While the second season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. had the two interacting, the season focused much more on Skye's relationship with her parents, with only a few furtive glances between her and Campbell. "A Wanted In(Human)" pushes for that to be more and it does so with the appearance of adding to each character, when it only works in defiance of character. Daisy is a woman who is sworn to a cause, Lincoln is a loner and they are basically the only two known heterosexual Inhumans currently left standing. Their relationship "reads" like two black characters hooking up because they are the only two black characters on a television show - there's no real basis for the relationship, save the most superficial concept of who they are.

Director Garry A. Brown does a decent job of using lighting and sound to indicate well how Simmons is shaken by her experience in the alternate dimension. Actress Elizabeth Henstridge does a decent job of making Simmons twitchy without going over the top. Instead of mimicking Amy Acker's initial performances in Angel, Henstridge simply moves slower and takes steps back as she scans rooms. Henstridge makes Simmons work effectively as someone who is both in shock and still able to be metaconscious.

"A Wanted In(Human)" marks the return of Constance Zimmer as Rosalind Price, director of the ATCU. Zimmer remains a good screen counterpart for Clark Gregg as Price. Neither she, nor Gregg, are given anything to do in "A Wanted In(Human)" that is outside their well-established range. Their characters have been established as foils of one another - in "A Wanted In(Human)" that is extended to Price having a similar car to Coulson - and Zimmer and Gregg continue to play their key scenes with one another as cool, with underlying gravitas. Coulson and Price are leaders of their respective agencies and both play like actual active, responsible leaders with their own agendas.

Much of the episode, as the title suggests, focuses on Lincoln Campbell. Campbell's potential capture leads to a stand-off and a series of choices for both Coulson and Daisy. Campbell's powers continue to expand and he becomes, by this point, a good-looking version of the Marvel villain Electro. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a chance to really delve into the character of the Inhuman fugitive, but in "A Wanted In(Human)" he is more a conduit for his powers and a chess piece in the plot than an interesting character of his own.

Arguably, the best scene of the episode involves Fitz and Simmons going to dinner. It is followed by Coulson and Skye once again changing the direction of the show and the potential for the season continues to expand. "A Wanted In(Human)" feels like what is is; a chase story that continues to move several plot/character threads forward. The advantage might be that this can help make the season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. work well as one long story; the disadvantage is that, as a component part, "A Wanted In(Human)" is a pretty mediocre hour of television on its own.

For other works with Daniel Roebuck, please visit my reviews of:
Weeds - Season 8
Flash Of Genius
"Unification, Part II" - Star Trek: The Next Generation
"Unification, Part I" - Star Trek: The Next Generation

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the third season here!


For other Marvel movie, television season and episode reviews, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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