Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Daisy Comes Into Her Own As The Leader Of "The Team!"

The Good: Powers Boothe and Chloe Bennet's performances, Special effects, Final ten minutes
The Bad: Poorly constructed, Plot conceits, Lack of genuine character development.
The Basics: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. introduces the Secret Warriors in "The Team" . . . with mediocre, plot-centered results.

Fans of Marvel Comics and the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe have been encouraged to broaden their reading base by Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Those brought into Marvel Comics through the success of Iron Man (reviewed here!) are now finding it necessary to get into more obscure titles, like The Inhumans and Secret Warriors due to the way Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is progressing. "The Team" is the proper introduction of the Secret Warriors to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and for those who might bank on the long-term viability of the superhero group to ever carry a film is likely to be disappointed.

"The Team" follows up on "Paradise Lost" (reviewed here!), which climaxed in a cliffhanger. It is impossible to discuss "The Team" without refrerencing where "Paradise Lost" ended. "Paradise Lost" saw Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. degenerating into the worst tropes of comic book stories. The heroes put all of their best people in one place where they were put at the mercy of their enemies and that set "The Team" up for Daisy to come to the rescue of everyone else. At this point, Daisy and Lincoln Campbell are the agents on the outside after Mr. Giyera used his powers to bring down the S.H.I.E.L.D. plane, leaving them entirely at the mercy of HYDRA and Hive.

Daisy recalls the Inhumans who have been peppered around the world as part of her Secret Warriors initiative within S.H.I.E.L.D. Her quinjet recovers Joey Gutierrez and Elena Rodriguez and they airdrop into the facility to rescue the rest of the core S.H.I.E.L.D. team. Campbell recovers Malick and Daisy manages to recover the S.H.I.E.L.D. leadership. Soon, they are back at S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters, where Coulson interrogates Malick. Malick implies that Hive has someone on the inside or that Hive can turn Inhumans by possessing them, which leads Coulson to lock down the S.H.I.E.L.D. base.

Daisy celebrates her first victory as the leader of her team of Inhumans. She confides in May that Coulson is having her lie to the other three Inhumans on her team. While Malick debates turning on Hive, Simmons performs an autopsy on Lucio, proving that his body is infected with the Hive parasite. When the infected individual kills Malick and makes their play, Coulson tries to contain the Inhumans. Daisy finds herself sealed in a room with the three Inhumans, trying to deduce which member of her team is under Hive's influence.

The first major problem with "The Team" is that the setting is instantly problematic. Giyera brought the Zephyr down, apparently, in HYDRA's headquarters - judging by the HYDRA iconography around and Malick and Ward's comfort within the facility. And yet, Coulson and his team manage to escape the Zephyr to get to the safe room in the building. Given how sketchy the intel has been on HYDRA, it seems entirely unrealistic that on the fly, Coulson and his team could figure out exactly where the panic room was. As well, Daisy evaluates the layout by sight (knowing the sublevels with a glance) in a way that implies it is S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. So, until the familiar brick building is returned to, the episode seems a bit off.

But beyond the setting seeming like it was written for two very different places at the same time, the fundamental problem with "The Team" is that the idiots of S.H.I.E.L.D. make the exact same mistake in this episode that they did in the prior one. Simmons quarantines the corpse of the Inhuman Lucio (the Inhuman who temporarily petrifies his victims) and notices it is still warm. How they do not figure out that his body has the Hive parasites in it is inconceivable. But any quarantine that has the infected body brought into a facility is a ridiculous quarantine. Just like Giyera being aboard the Zephyr, Lucio's body being within S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters is an obvious plant. Hive reanimates corpses, so a dead body would not kill the Hive parasites, so those parasites are now inside S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters and that seems like a vulnerability that is foreseeable.

Powers Boothe rules "The Team." From his first scene as Malick, Boothe makes Malick twitchy and unsettled, which is entirely realistic for a man who just lost his beloved daughter. Boothe has played Malick as smart and powerful, perpetually in control. In "The Team" Boothe's performance is very different.

"The Team," predictably, turns into a witchhunt as the Secret Warriors turn on one another in quarantine. While the episode could be a brilliant character study, "The Team" puts Daisy in a room with three entirely dispensable characters who have virtually no backstory to them. In other words, there is no emotional impact to the reveal of who is infected by Hive. Indeed, the paranoid bickering within the Inhuman room is only resolved by a revelation from the people outside the room.

Daisy is given a decent role in "The Team" as she becomes a leader of the Secret Warriors. Daisy is smart and rises to the occasion well; her scenes with Coulson featuring cerebral introspection are a pleasure for a character who, more often than not, has been monolithic. Chloe Bennet does a magnificent job of making Daisy into a leader in a way that fees entirely organic.

"The Team" pays lips service to the Fitz/Simmons relationship, but even the one scene is refreshing to see after so many years.

Ultimately, "The Team" moves Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. forward well, but the series is expanding in ways that feel somewhat inorganic. In forcing the Secret Warriors to the forefront, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is continuing its unfortunate trend of packing a show with an already bloated cast of characters with even more characters. The result is that none of the characters have a chance to truly grow and develop. The show is becoming increasingly plot-centered instead of character-focused. In other words, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is devolving into the worst elements of comic books; opting for a lack of complexity and depth in exchange for spectacle and plot twists.

"The Team" meanders Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. into another tangent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and hinges on the final act to try to uplift its bored audience. It barely succeeds at being watchable.

[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!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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