SPOILER WARNING FOR THE FOLLOWING REVIEW:This review will contain spoilers for the episode discussed, please make sure to watch the episode and then check out this recap, unless spoilers are your thing.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Watchdogs” Season 3, Episode 14
Watchdogs was filled with great character development all around for the cast as Daisy gets a little tempted by the dark side, Jemma deals with her guilt and May gives her new direction to put it towards, Coulson administers an up close and personal vetting of Lincoln, and Mack gets some family time with his little bro Reuben. And oh yeah, Fitz almost dies!
Mack is still obviously shaken up from Bobbi and Hunter’s exit from S.H.I.E.L.D. last week and decides that nothing is better for a troubled mind than a trip back home, and a little lunch, beers, and bike maintenance with his younger brother Reuben. I always love when they introduce family members of our agents, and it was a real treat seeing big Mack at home, paling around with his brother. Reuben was a great character (someone I would love to see return in the future in some or any capacity) but he like Mack has been having a rough time recently. Laid off from his job, health benefits running out, and a mortgage that keeps piling up on their childhood home, Reuben needs some good brotherly chill time. But a small militia of angry dudes who don’t like the government and their secrets involving powered people who call themselves the Watchdogs, rudely interrupt these plans. In classic evil organization fashion, they record their attack on a secret ATCU building as they call out all government agencies that hide and protect powered people like the Avengers. They are packing some intense firepower as the ATCU building gets gobbled up in similar fashion to another particular Roxxon building in the 1940’s. I believe Peggy Carter was involved somehow…
Back at base Daisy and Fitz gear up to rendezvous with big Mack at the site of the ATCU attack. Lincoln makes his return from the Cocoon after his Secret Warriors evaluation and Daisy gets excited about bringing along her new boyfriend (?) for the mission, but Coulson has other plans. Taking some steam out of Lincoln’s engine, Coulson informs him he ain’t ready to join Daisy on her mission, which could only mean his evaluation results came back maybe looking like Hill’s assessment of Ward did in the pilot episode (an angry porcupine, or as some would say, a piece of poop with knives sticking out of it).
Can we take a moment to appreciate how awesome Jemma looks in the shooting range? Working out some pent up frustrations of guilt and helplessness, Jemma gets in touch with her inner badass as May finds her, which sets off May’s spidey sense as Jemma is usually seen handling beakers and test tubes, not firearms. After sharing some shooting advice, May probes into what is up with Jemma. I liked seeing this side of Jemma, the girl who threw herself out of a moving plane to save her comrades, the girl who survived on an alien planet for months with little resources (she did have a little man power, or Will power, if you know what I mean), and the girl who feels overwhelming guilt over letting Andrew/Lash escape to save herself. It is great to see her character work through these feelings by training herself to be better capable in a dangerous situation than just resorting to self loathing. May knows all too well of letting negative emotions take the steering wheel, and she has an idea of how a new direction for Jemma may help them both out.
I’m always down for more connectivity in the Marvel sphere so I really dug that the weapons the Watchdogs used were nitramine based, a substance we were first introduced to in Agent Carter. A Howard Stark invention, it may sound new to Daisy but Coulson has definitely heard of it before, and knows of a guy who had a thing for it. Agent Felix Blake was last seen getting blown up by Deathlok in season, but before that he was an advocate for nitramine and it’s uses for weapons and technologies at S.H.I.E.L.D. After the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson looked for Blake to no avail, but the search is called back on as Black becomes suspect number one in radicalizing the Watchdogs and Coulson decides to look into some old safe houses he is aware of that Blake utilizes, and he wants Lincoln to take point on this one with him.
The dynamics the show creates by pairing up different characters is one of the most fun elements of this show, and the pairing between Daisy and Mack struck character gold. They have both offered perfect balances and complement each other in the best ways throughout the third season and I enjoyed the character struggle going on between the two as they decide the best plan of action to deal with the Watchdogs. Daisy immediately wants to resort to Gestapo like practices, which could be understandable coming from someone this group labels a “freak” and would like to “round up and take care of”. But Mack knows that would be fighting a losing battle, the good guys are defined by doing the right thing all the time, especially when it is the most challenging thing to do. It doesn’t matter what the Watchdogs do, Mack tells Daisy, the only thing that matter is how S.H.I.E.L.D. reacts. But Daisy, still too angered by the hate rhetoric towards Inhumans, decides to let the hate flow through her and taking a begrudging Fitz, finds a Watchdog to intimidate and get information of a location out of.
With a location in place Mack, Daisy, and Fitz do a little recon at the Watchdogs’ base. They get an unexpected guest in the form of Reuben showing up. Reuben, really crushed by the burdens and unfairness in today’s society has begun to relate to the Watchdogs message. Mack tries to get his little brother out of there as quickly as possible, but their presence on site is made and Daisy in using her powers to ward of the assailants from the shadows creates the misunderstanding that Mack is the powered person, and setting a new target on himself and his Reuben, who speeds off and away from danger. As Mack sets off to put on a lid on the situation with his brother, Fitz gets blasted with a nitramine weapon. The glowing orange material is setting into his neck and time is of the essence to stop it before it implodes the first half of FitzSimmons.
And speaking of, Simmons is brought in on a little side project May is working on. May has been compiling and working on locating Andrew and wants Jemma to lend her skills to helping her find her ex husband. Jemma probes May into what the plan is once they find him, and May informs her she is going go straight for the kill shot. But Jemma and Fitz having been making all kinds of breaks through with the terragen vaccine they have been working on from Creel’s blood, and Jemma offering this solution to May brought about to me the most heartbreaking part of the episode. May rejects the possibility of a vaccine because as she tells Jemma, don’t give her hope. The last thing May wants is to be given a shred of hope that she can find happiness with Andrew again, choosing instead to resolve to a kill shot when they finally find him, because that is better than offering her the chance to have Andrew return to her, only to have it ripped away. Cue all the feels.
So Fitz is about to die. Just kidding, acting unnatural cool and calm under pressure, Fitz instructs Daisy how to destabilize the nitramine bomb by freezing it. This little piece of life saving information comes from a captured Watchdog, who later tells Daisy and Fitz how he can’t believe him and his other little hate groupers could have missed that the powered individual was actually this tiny little girl, and not the big Mack they so wrongly assumed was the powered Inhuman. Realizing this mix-up is going to end deadly for Mack, Daisy frantically tries to warn him back at his brother’s house. But I think the flaming piles that were once Reuben and Mack’s sick bikes got the message across.
I have to say that the lack of blood in the following fight sequences between Reuben and Mack vs the Watchdogs felt a bit unsettling for a scene involving so much violence. I mean, Mack shotguns his way through the house, gets a hold of a cleaver knife in the kitchen, proceeds to hack a dude up, and then straps the cleaver to the end of his shotgun (Shotgun Axe!!) but the cleaver is shiny clean. I understand this is network television, but we have seen more bloody scenes on this show before, and the following raid on the house on Mackenzie Street to me seemed it should be a little bloodier. But the moral of the story is, Mack and Reuben totally lay waste to the hate groupers in the end and all’s right with the world.
Maybe not that fast. Coulson and Lincoln locate Blake, who is looking and standing pretty good for a guy who suffered a serious spine injury just a year or so ago. Blake has a chip on his shoulder and he is not going to be lying down and taking it. Blake swore an oath to defend the world from danger, and freaks like Lincoln (hell even Coulson gets roped into this one) are on the chopping block. Coulson orders Lincoln to kill Blake, but Lincoln still confused if this is a test or a real order, decides to go for a wound shot of electricity instead and revealing this Blake to be a hologram. If Coulson was testing Lincoln I think he may have passed, S.H.I.E.L.D. is in the business of protecting the innocent, but as Coulson said sometimes doing a wrong thing for the right reason is the only call. But this thinking I’m going to assume is going to come back and bite Coulson in the ass any week now.
Our closer scene shows us the real Blake, confined to a wheelchair, but still possessing that spirit of killing all things I don’t understand. Giyera arrives in a van to drop off a little present for Blake, and that present happens to be just a freaking warhead. Blake seems to want it to put an end to the Inhuman freaks, but Giyera and his boss Malick must certainly have ulterior plans for it.
Photo credited to: ABCTV/SHIELD