[This is a review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3, episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
In the first two seasons of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the series established Phil Coulson's (Clark Gregg) team of agents, dealt with Hydra's infiltration of the organization, and introduced the mythology of the Inhumans. The season 2 finale set up multiple storylines for season 3, including the Terrigenesis of many Inhumans around the world due to widespread Terrigen crystal fragments, as well as the Secret Warriors from Marvel Comics. With the rise of Inhumans, Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D. team, led by Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet), will be facing off with a new government agency called the ATCU as well as dealing with tension between team members.
The season 3 premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., 'Laws of Nature,' picks up a few months after the events of the previous season finale, with the opening scene focusing on newly transformed Inhuman, Joey (Juan Pablo Raba). Attempting to bring him in brings S.H.I.E.L.D. face to face with the ATCU, a fellow organization that is also rounding up Inhumans, and is led by Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer). While Mack (Henry Simmons) and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) investigate a new energy technology, Coulson and Hunter (Nick Blood) track down the ATCU leader. Meanwhile, Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) continues searching for Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) after she was swallowed by the Kree monolith despite the belief of his team members that he needs to move on.
New Inhuman Intake
Much of the beginning of 'Laws of Nature' is used to bring viewers up to speed on the world-building Inhuman mythology established last season, thinly veiled in the introduction of Joey, who is new to his alien genealogy. However, Joey proves to be a compelling and enjoyable character, so all the new information thrown at him (and the viewer) is more easily digestible: Inhumans have an alien (Kree) gene that is activated when exposed to a chemical compound (Terrigen crystals), which is harmless to humans.
Daisy has stepped up in the absence of May (Ming-Na Wen), who took a vacation last season and never returned, and now takes the lead on introducing newly-transformed Inhumans to their new lives. However, after failing to help Joey acclimate to the idea of controlling his new power and never going back to his old life, she and Mack go to Lincoln for help. Despite Lincoln having helped S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of season 2, he has lost faith in the Inhuman culture and refuses to aid in the transition of those taken in by S.H.I.E.L.D. Though the widespread distribution of Terrigen crystals is a physical consequence of season 2, it seems Lincoln's rift with his heritage is an emotional consequence that will likely be further developed in season 3 -- hopefully with more time than the few brief scenes it’s given in the premiere.
ATCU vs S.H.I.E.L.D.
'Laws of Nature' established in the opening minutes that the Advanced Threat Containment Unit, or ATCU, will be a rival organization to Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D. in season 3. Though Rosalind and her right hand man, Banks (Andrew Howard) are still largely a mystery, the premiere revealed that they are apprehending Inhumans faster than S.H.I.E.L.D., they seem to be conducting experiments on those they bring in and they have the President of the United States on their side. Both Rosalind and the President explain the organization by saying, "the laws of nature have changed, and until the laws of man catch up, we can only do what we think is right."
The ATCU and Rosalind seem to be a worthy opponent of S.H.I.E.L.D., since they were able to set a trap for Coulson and Hunter, though the heroes were able to escape, of course. Still, the rival-like chemistry between Coulson and Rosalind helped to bring their scenes to life and could easily provide more entertaining interactions throughout the season. That being said, it's still unclear if the ATCU will turn out to be a true villain on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as Hydra was, or simply a different organization on the same side, like the other S.H.I.E.L.D. in season 2. Since the series has dealt with these two types of organizations, hopefully the ATCU will take a different path between good and evil, or it may feel too reminiscent of storylines already explored.
The Inhuman Lash
Though both the ATCU and S.H.I.E.L.D. are rounding up Inhumans, when Rosalind and Coulson meet they discover that there's another player on the board that is killing Inhumans with energy blasts. It's quickly revealed that this third player is the incredibly powerful Inhuman Lash (Matthew Willig). To prove his strength, when faced with Lincoln's electromagnetic manipulation and Daisy's seismic power -- as well as Mack's gun -- Lash is only briefly slowed down.
Though Lash didn't appear much in 'Laws of Nature', his powers and motives were the weakest aspect of the episode if only because they simply existed to facilitate an action sequence showing off Lincoln and Daisy's powers. Additionally, with both Lincoln and Daisy demonstrating powers on much larger scales -- remember, Daisy moved a mountain last season -- it's difficult to believe Lash could be stronger than their powers combined, especially when he was introduced mere minutes earlier. Perhaps Lash could prove to be a terrifying villain on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but the series will need to work harder to establish his capabilities and their extent.
The Fate of Fitzsimmons
With May on a permanent vacation, Lincoln avoiding his heritage as an Inhuman, and Simmons gone, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team is a bit fractured and having trouble adapting to their new normal. Coulson, for his part, still has trouble calling Daisy by her name rather than Skye -- an equally nice character moment and note to viewers -- but Fitz hasn't accepted that Simmons' absence means she's dead and has been searching for answers. His search leads him to Morocco where he conducts a business deal with a shady group and acquires a scroll said to describe the monolith.
However, when the scroll proves to be another dead end and Coulson forces Fitz to accept the truth that Simmons is gone, Fitz has an emotional breakdown. Like many of the other relationships on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (such as the on-again, off-again, now-on-again Bobbi and Hunter, who shared a brief, but sweet moment in 'Laws of Nature') Fitz and Simmons provide character drama to ground the more fantastic elements of the series. In fact, Fitz's moment of dealing with his grief over Simmons is a highlight of the episode since it feels grounded, real, and earned because of their established history.
Of course, as many fans likely guessed, Simmons isn't dead, she has merely been transported to somewhere else in the universe. At the end of 'Laws of Nature' Simmons is shown hurt and running on a desert-like planet within an unrecognizable solar system. Since she was swallowed by a Kree artifact it's possible she has been transported to their galaxy, but more information about her whereabouts will likely come as the season progresses.
A few Marvel Cinematic Universe and comic book connections:
- Bobbi referenced the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron: "The world's been a little twitchy since Sokovia fell out of the sky."
- Bobbi puts her PhD in biology to good use in this episode, an aspect of the character established in the comics.
- President Matthew Ellis (William Sadler), who first appeared in Iron Man 3, announces the creation of the ATCU to the public in a press conference.
- When detailing the theories Fitz explored to explain Simmons’ disappearance into the monolith, Coulson mentions Pym Technologies from Ant-Man.
Share your thoughts on the season 3 premiere and theories as to Simmons' whereabouts in the comments below!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next Tuesday with 'Purpose in the Machine' at 9pm on ABC.