Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lash Drops Into An Already Crowded Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.: "Devils You Know"

The Good: Moments where character is actually explored, Some wonderful performance moments
The Bad: None of the plots sufficiently develop
The Basics: "Devils You Know" moves around the increasingly large cast of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., though none of them get particularly far.

As a fan, generally, of the works of Joss Whedon, watching the development of Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has become somewhat agonizing. Fortunately, every once in a while the show manages to surprise its viewers - especially the Whedon loyalists - and despite the general banality of the episode "A Wanted Inhu(Man)" (reviewed here!), the episode ended with a bang that reminded viewers just why they fell in love with most of Joss Whedon's works. Because of that, it is pretty much impossible to discuss "Devils You Know" without discussing the climax of the prior episode.

"A Wanted Inhu(Man)" ended with a focus on Simmons, who was recently rescued from an alien dimension. Fans of Whedon's works might have feared that Simmons would just take the same initial arc as Fred on Angel, but the last moment with Simmons ended with a revelation . . . that Simmons wanted to get back to the alien dimension. That type of reversal has been in short supply on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. but it was enough to do something for "Devils You Know" that few Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes have done for me: I anticipated the episode. For the first time in a long time, I was excited about what might come next on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D..

After a week of waiting to see what would follow Simmons's big revelation and the promos that teased the Inhuman Lash returning in a big way, "Devils You Know" doesn't disappoint, but it's a pretty huge tease for the next episode, more than being an impressive episode in its own right.

The episode opens with a pair of Inhumans cooking dinner when Alisha arrives to let them know that the Terrigen crystals have been unleashed. Lash appears in the apartment to kill the Inhumans, killing one of Alisha's duplicates in the process. Daisy and Mack go after Lash while the rest of the team cleans up the crime scene. Fitz and Morse continue to find it difficult to work with one another, but Mack and Daisy track Lash until they run into the ATCU team. Rosalind Price goads Coulson, though it seems this is the first time she has encountered Inhumans who have been living among mundanes who were Inhuman before the Terrigen mist was released.

At HYDRA's headquarters, Ward and Kebo prepare for their next big mission. Hunter prepares to accompany Kebo on the mission and he plans to kill Ward, though May objects to how he is pursuing the leads to get him closer to Ward. Daisy discovers that the dead Inhumans had a computer virus that allowed Lash to track them and Coulson orders her to share the information with the ATCU. Dr. Garner counsels Simmons, who is struggling to re-integrate at the base, but she is reticent to discussing her feelings. Coulson confers with May, who tells him Hunter's plan. After conferring with the ATCU, Coulson and Price create a joint mission, which puts Daisy in danger from an Inhuman who has the power to recognize other Inhumans. As Daisy and Mack encounter Lash, Hunter gives Coulson a clue as to Ward's whereabouts and S.H.I.E.L.D. mobilizes to take him out.

By this point, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is packed with so many characters that the strategy for the third season seems to be to create ensemble episodes for every episode. In other words, it does not appear that there will be a "Coulson episode" one week and a "Daisy episode" the next. Instead, it seems like every character is being given about two minutes before the focus shifts to another member of the ensemble. This is unfortunate in "Devils You Know" because in order to accommodate the increasingly uninteresting Ward plotline, the character of Dr. Andrew Garner is getting under-used.

"Devils You Know" might have the longest continuous scenes with Garner as he observes Alisha and counsels Simmons . . . and then interacts with May. Garner could easily carry an episode and actor Blair Underwood certainly has the talent to rock an hour and have a solid storyline of his own, but he's being peppered into the season. Unfortunately, the "next big surprise" is hardly that; in the prior episode, Ward seeded the son of one of the high-ranking HYDRA operatives into Garner's class, so it seems like the thread is going to have Garner being used as a way for Ward to get to May. The character and the actor deserve more than just being an accessory or tool in one of Ward's machinations. At least the producers do not drag that out excessively.

"Devils You Know" marks the return of the Inhuman Alisha, who was introduced in last season's episode "Scars" (reviewed here!) and given that The Flash and the X-Men films had a character with the same essential ability, it's not like most fans were dying to see her again. Alisha has the ability to multiply herself and that ability is used in an engaging way at the episode's outset. But, like the other characters, Alisha is soon put on the back burner, which makes her feel like more of a plot device than the episode fitting into a larger character arc.

Much of the conflict in "Devils You Know" comes from Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D. team interacting with Rosalind's ATCU team. Price's people do not trust Daisy and this episode does one thing remarkably well. In providing Dwight Frye, the Inhuman "divining rod," with dialogue, the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is getting pretty packed. Within the episode, there are four organizations - S.H.I.E.L.D., the ATCU, HYDRA, and Lash's loose conglomeration (we have no reason to believe that Dwight is the only person working for Lash). While in the larger context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is hardly a big deal, it's a lot to get squeezed into a forty-three minute episode.

Arguably, one of the best scenes in "Devils You Know" is a simple one between Bobbi Morse and Simmons. But the moment gets lost when Morse once again defines herself by her relationship with Hunter.

The episode's climax is a good one - though the conceit of the mercenary who barely ever hits his mark is a pretty tired one. While the hope viewers might have had at the end of the prior episode might have been to truly delve into Simmons, "Devils You Know" seems to act as a bridge between Simmons's revelation and her explanation. The episode packs a lot of plot into it, but with so many plotlines, none are serviced as well as they could be.

"Devils You Know" does not disappoint, but it could have been fleshed out into a single double-long episode and made viewers care even more about each of the elements in it.

For other works with Constance Zimmer, please visit my reviews of:
House Of Cards - Season 2
The Newsroom - Season 2
House Of Cards - Season 1
Boston Legal - Season 3

[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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