[This is a review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
For the first three episodes of season 3, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has answered certain questions leftover from season 2 -- such as how the widespread release of Terrigen crystals has affected the world and what happened to Simmons when she was enveloped by the monolith. Additionally, this season has established the ATCU, headed by Rosalind Price, introduced the thread of a Secret Warriors team led by Daisy in Director Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D., and shown Hunter's quest for vengeance on Ward by infiltrating Hydra.
This week's episode, 'Devils You Know,' managed to intertwine many of these threads in a manner that felt authentic for the first time this season. In an effort to track Lash (Matthew Willig), Coulson and Rosalind unite their organizations, sharing intel and going into the field together. However, when Hunter gets in over his head with Hydra and Ward, May turns to Coulson for help. Meanwhile, Bobbi struggles with being kept in the dark on Hunter's mission and Fitz attempts to find out what Simmons is hiding from him -- and everyone else -- about her time through the portal.
One of the ongoing threads of the third season -- and perhaps the most emotionally poignant as well -- is the search and rescue of Simmons from the mysterious planet to which she disappeared through the monolith. After an entire episode was dedicated to Fitz figuring out how to open the portal with the monolith and bring Simmons home, further development of this story thread has largely focused on the emotional and physical consequences of her return. While 'Devils You Know' again takes more of a slower path at revealing anything in regard to Simmons' time on the mystery planet, Fitz discovers that she is attempting to understand the portal. As a result, she promises to tell him everything about her time there.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has played the location to which the portal in the monolith leads close to the vest so far in season 3, not providing much insight into the planet aside from a few brief glimpses of its terrain and its view of another moon and planet. However, although the mystery of the planet is proving to be compelling, Henstridge's performance of a smart, capable agent attempting to readjust to S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to ground this storyline. Still, with so many teases as to what happened to Simmons on the other world, the show is going to need to reveal some of their cards (which it seems poised to do soon enough) in order to help to move this thread along.
Hunter Takes on Ward
The most removed from the central storyline of season 3 has been Hunter's mission to infiltrate Hydra -- with only May (Ming-Na Wen) as backup -- in an attempt to seek revenge on Ward for harming Bobbi last season. Though Hunter's successful infiltration in the last episode was both entertaining to watch and a little too easy, Hunter's devolution due to his proximity to achieving his vengeance was worth the weaknesses of last week's storyline.
In 'Devils You Know', Hunter goes on a job for Hydra without any intelligence, despite May's warnings that if he gets too close to Ward his cover will be blown. As she suspected, Hunter is taken to the new Hydra base where he finds himself face to face with Ward. Although May is able to back Hunter up, Ward threatens to kill May's ex-husband Andrew Gardner (Blair Underwood) if they don't back off. However, Hunter is too blinded by his need for revenge, getting Gardner killed as a result.
Hunter's recklessness has been building as season 3 has progressed, so the logical consequence of it getting someone else hurt was bound to happen, despite warnings from May about him or Bobbi getting caught in the crosshairs. It's likely Gardner's death will have wider-reaching consequences for Hunter, but this also served to finally bring his mission back into the S.H.I.E.L.D. fold under Coulson, hopefully setting it up to be more integrated going forward.
A Means to an End
The 'Devils You Know' for which the episode is named, this is the first time we see S.H.I.E.L.D. and the ATCU working together, though it's not necessarily a smooth partnership, as both parties are still keeping secrets. This episode sees the two agencies teaming up to track down Lash (more on him later), an Inhuman who is killing others of his kind. They figure out how he's finding his victims, through a virus attached to an email sent to known Inhumans, and track it back to Dwight Frye (Chad Lindberg) whose Terrigen-granted powers allow him to feel the presence of other Inhumans.
Both the ambiguous motives of the ATCU, and Rosalind's willingness to work with Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D., help to differentiate the organization from those that have appeared on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the past. However, it's the individual characters that sell this spy versus spy storyline, with Daisy and Bobbi questioning not only the ATCU, but Coulson's interest and trust of Rosalind. Still, with the main antagonist of this season yet to be revealed, the show is capitalizing on the ambiguity and effectively playing it up for mystery, though it remains to be seen whether it'll pay off.
Not Merciful, Necessary
So far as the episode is concerned, Lash is the main villain of 'Devils You Know,' with both the ATCU and S.H.I.E.L.D. working to find out what he is, who he is, and what his motives are for killing other Inhumans. Though Mack has a theory that Lash is like a great white shark -- or, a mindless killing machine -- Daisy’s encounter with the Inhuman leads her to believe he’s something more. She witnesses the distinctly recognizable Lash transform into an average-shaped human, prompting her to think he could be anyone. Additionally, Frye offers insight that he may be a man who's just trying to do the right thing, who's on a mission that even he doesn't like, painting a picture of a more complex villain.
We've speculated before that Lash's storyline on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could draw from the character's Marvel Comics roots, and what we learned in 'Devils You Know' seems to further indicate Lash is on some kind of quest to purge the world of Inhumans. Where that quest comes from, whether it is self-imposed, derived from his beliefs, or handed down from another power, though, still remains to be seen. For now, the mystery of Lash's human identity will likely prove to be another challenge for S.H.I.E.L.D., and hopefully will be as compelling as the tenuous relationship between the organization and the ATCU.
A few other observations and notes:
- Ward is building Hydra in the image of S.H.I.E.L.D., forcing the members to refer to him as Director, and referencing "Level 7" (which is also a nod to the series premiere when Ward was bumped up to Level 7 and informed of Coulson's resurrection)
- Bobbi is slowly, but steadily, getting closer to returning to the field, but it's unclear when we'll see Mockingbird back in action
- Coulson may or may not have a laser finger in his prosthetic hand
Share your thoughts on the episode and theories about Lash's identity in the comments below!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues next Tuesday with ‘4,722 Hours’ at 9pm on ABC. Check out a preview below: