Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recently returned from its midseason break with a new status-quo and new threats to face, as the season heads toward a big finish and a possible crossover with Captain America: Civil War. But prior to that, there’s still the matters of growing backlash against The Inhumans to tend to, the Secret Warriors to build, and The Hive to defeat — along with whatever new obstacles get thrown up in their path.
Now, a new clip from the next episode, ‘The Inside Man,’ offers a sneak peek at the return of a fan-favorite nemesis Carl “Crusher” Creel, a.k.a. The Absorbing Man.
In the clip, Creel (who hasn’t been seen since the beginning of season 2) shows up to menace Coulson in an underground parking garage, only to be opposed by Secret Warriors recruit Lincoln and his formidable lightning-throwing powers. The scene highlights the creative use of Creel’s abilities, such as transforming his skin into rubber in order to electricity-proof himself and Agent May turning him into vulnerable steel with a well-timed swipe with a metal rod. As the scene concludes, it appears that Lincoln needs to be restrained from killing the super villain — a marked change of heart for the previously non-committal Inhuman doctor.
It’s unclear what the context of the unfolding battle is, but the stakes are already high for Coulson and his Agents. For one thing The Hive, an ancient Inhuman exiled to a distant planet and worshiped by the upper-echelons of HYDRA as a god has returned to Earth in the body of onetime S.H.I.E.L.D. turncoat Grant Ward and is set to marshal HYDRA’s army of evil Inhuman conscripts to nefarious ends. Meanwhile, Coulson has learned that while the government will sanction S.H.I.E.L.D’s activities, they will still officially be said not to exist (a possible inside-joke referencing the disconnect between Marvel’s film and network TV offerings) will have to answer to Adrian Pasdar’s Glenn Talbot — long an antagonist of powered-individuals in the Marvel Comics Universe.
Talbot’s reappearance could point toward the expected (but officially still only hinted at) crossover between the season and Civil War. In traditional Marvel continuity, Talbot is depicted as a close ally of William Hurt’s returning Incredible Hulk nemesis General “Thunderbolt” Ross; the military official spearheading the drive to register and regulate superheroes and enhanced individuals in the upcoming Captain America sequel. On Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Talbot’s “public face” of Inhuman management, The ATCU, had been working to reassure the public and curb the presence of the enhanced worldwide. The focus on Talbot makes it feel likely that the official embrace of registration in Civil War (particularly if Team Iron Man wins) would reverberate into the events of the series’ remaining episodes.
The series has already been renewed for a season 4, though what shape the team (or the franchise) will be in by the end of season 3 remains in question, especially after the midseason premiere opened with an ominous flash-forward depicting a S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform, a crucifix, and human blood in the cockpit of an unidentified vehicle floating in outer space around Earth’s orbit.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues next Tuesday with ‘The Inside Man’ at 9pm on ABC.