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Television

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3, Episode 19 - "Failed Experiments"

Daniel Rasmus

The latest episode lives up to its title, as Inhumans, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Kree all try, and fail, to change much.


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Airtime: Tuesdays, 8pm
Cast: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Henry Simmons, Luke Mitchell
Subtitle: Season 3, Episode 19 - "Failed Experiments"
Network: ABC
Air date: 2016-05-03
Amazon

Time's a funny thing on television. As I suspected, the secret city purchased with Malick's money was located pretty quickly, as Daisy’s (Chloe Bennett) face is picked up by the same facial recognition software she’d programmed. It isn't clear how much time has elapsed, but it has been long enough that Radcliffe (John Hannah) is all set-up with equipment and serum and an over-willingness to experiment on humans.

And so goes one of the failed experiments. Transformations come up short; so too do the cures.

The big bet cure is to take down Hive (Brett Dalton). That experiment doesn't go well either, as brash Agent Piper (Briana Venskus) unloads a shoulder launched missile that plows in and through Hive's shoulder, reinforcing an old sci-fi axiom that it's harder to kill anything, or anyone, a second time. Masses of parasites quickly fill the gap as May (Ming-Na Wen) sounds the retreat. It is nice to see, by the way, some fresh new agent faces. Never sure how big Coulson's (Clark Gregg) posse is these day; it's good to know he's got people.

Daisy, however, remains Hive's core experiment. She's clearly struggling between past associations with S.H.E.I.L.D. agents, and her new-found evangelical fervor for Hive's vision for Earth, one that basically calls for turning most humans into Inhumans. Stay tuned for Lash (Blair Underwood) to show up brandishing his own religious fervor to defend Inhuman kind from the travesty of inclusiveness.

Meanwhile, it proves necessary to use pure Kree blood to transform humans. The first experiment, using Hive-derived blood product, reduced its subjects into another religious experience: that of Nazis starring into the Ark of the Covenant, albeit a bit more oozy.

How does one get blue Kree blood? Deploy the only thing that can terminate Hive, Hellfire’s (Axle Whitehead) hidden device.

That device ends up being a transmitter that invokes the recall of a couple of Kree from somewhere in near-Earth orbit. They were placed there in stasis should the Kree's genetic experiments go awry, which clearly they think has happened. How they so quickly picked up on vernacular, such as, "Inhuman scum", however, belies their ancient origins (come on Mr. Fletcher [episode writer]).

It turns out, though, that the experimenters become the experimented, as both (yes, only two) die, one at the hands of Daisy, the other via desiccation by Hive -- but not before he fulfills his promise to rip out a Kree heart.

Dalton does a good job playing cult leader. His calm, but judgmental, demeanor starkly contrasts with the lost boy double-agent he played as a human. He won't get an Emmy nomination (because no one in genre does -- and when they do, they end up losing to mainstream actors; Dalton and Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany can discuss this over drinks at the Golden Globes), but he deserves a nod for a well-sustained transformation.

Hive expresses dismay and disappointment when Daisy fails to kill former partner Mack (Henry Simmons) after Mack destroys the Kree body, a typical passive-aggressive cult-leader-y thing to do. This doubles Daisy's resolve to execute on what's right for the many, from Hive’s perspective, which is make everybody’s life better by making them Inhuman. The real answer, it turns out, for how to create the transformation serum may well be Daisy, though, who is also filled with Kree blood (due to being saved by Coulson early in the show’s run). The episode ends with her ordering Radcliffe and Hive to "drain me".

The set-up going forward is clearly a clash of world -- or universe -- views. Hive sees his vision for transforming humanity and creating a collective bound to him as the answer to human suffering. It isn't clear if this is a new revelation, or a variation based on whatever he tried to do on Maveth. Then there's S.H.I.E.L.D., defender of right against wrong, with a bias toward freedom and human self-determination. As Coulson might quip, "that's going to get messy".

As I said at the start of the review, time’s an interesting concept, both on television and in movies. I waited to write this until after seeing Captain America: Civil War. Outside of a passing comment about human conflict by Hive that alludes to Iron Man and Captain America, there’s not yet a connection between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the film's plot. Although we know they share the universe, it isn't clear how they align in time. It'll be interesting to see if anything about the "Sokovia Accords" appears, forcing Coulson to march his remaining band of Inhumans in for registration; we don’t know where Coulson would line up, but interestingly, as director, Coulson has always wanted to register Inhumans to "keep them safe", and train the good ones to become agents.

When the Kree first appeared, their victims had no advocates. The beginning of the episode illustrated the original Hive as a pure human hunter gatherer from a few thousand years ago, being hunted and gathered by the Kree. He then finds his genes resequenced, and his newly integrated blood subjected to Terrigenesis. For the Kree, however, he was a failed experiment.

There’s potentially much more to learn about the Kree backstory now that we've seen a willingness to film it. Hive's vision is not that of the Kree. He has diverged, and those left in orbit were ill-prepared for his return. We know his experiment is likely to fail, but we don't know how spectacularly, of if it'll happen this season or next.

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