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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3, Episode 3 - "A Wanted (Inhu)man"

Daniel Rasmus

Messy lives, bad decisions, and poor outcomes plague nearly everybody in this week’s episode.

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

Airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm
Cast: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Nick Blood, Adrianne Palicki, Henry Simmons, Luke Mitchell
Subtitle: Season 3, Episode 3 - "A Wanted (Inhu)man"
Network: ABC
Air date: 2015-10-13

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s third episode of the season aired just as the first Democratic debate was starting on CNN. While the content of the debate focused on inequality, civil rights, and foreign insurgencies, the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were dealing with interagency protocols, disenfranchised Inhumans, and love. The details may have been different but both the universes share one fact: the world is a mess. As Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) tells ATCU Director Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer), he lost a hand because "things got messy".

Messy leads to poor decisions and often, poor outcomes. This episode was all about the bad decisions we make in a messy world.

Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) are reunited in place if not in spirit. Fitz can’t do anything right. Even holding the reservation for their date set at the end of season 2 for months can’t bring Fitz to the same wavelength as an out-of-synch Simmons. Fitz has built this date in his mind for months, and it degenerates into Simmons crying and resting her head on his shoulder, and not much else. This was Fitz's last best hope to re-engage with Simmons, after using his arsenal of rapid re-acclimation tools, like getting her back into her beloved lab (and taking her on that long-anticipated date). It was successful in one respect; by the end of the episode, Simmons is back into the lab. The surprise is, she’s not there to confirm that the remnants of the Kree monolith stone are inert, but to try and figure out how to fix it, leading to the blockbuster pronouncement at the end of the episode that Simmons needs to return to the planet from which she’d just been rescued. Talk about a bad decision.

(Speaking of bad decisions, the writers still haven’t produce any backstory about Simmons and the planet that would explain how she survived for months on a planet with multitudes of unfriendly human elements, like different gravity, the wrong light wavelengths coming from its sun causing severe vitamin D deficiency, and some pretty bad lung congestion from all the dust in the air. Simmons is trapped on a foreign planet for months and she inexplicably didn’t need quarantine? Really? [It appears, at least, that much of this will be answered in the October 27th episode "4,722 Hours."]).

But I digress. This episode also confirms that young love is often plagued by bad decisions. Inhumans Daisy (Chloe Bennet) and Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) fall in love, but not before Lincoln makes the bad choice of defending himself against his frightened AA sponsor by zapping the bat his sponsor is holding, leading to cardiac arrest, from which the sponsor doesn’t recover. Lincoln’s bad-boy-sinking-into-bad-guy self-image is reinforced in the worst possible way: he accidentally takes a life. Lincoln quickly spirals into self-doubt and self-hatred, telling Daisy: "If everything crumbles around you then you are the cause."

But as Daisy well knows, becoming an Inhuman is an act of biology over which the subject has no control. Lincoln gives her multiple versions of the old “You don’t understand me, baby. I’m just not good for you” speech, but she doesn’t listen. Eventually they embrace and kiss, and LIncoln agrees to work with Daisy, if not with S.H.I.E.L.D. -- just as the next bad decision manifests itself: Mack (Henry Simmons) walks into the room with ATCU agents in tow on Coulson's orders; a forced poor decision Coulson had to make to (unbeknowest to her) save Daisy.

Lincoln, however, in full self-preservation mode, literally bolts, leaving Daisy with the ATCU team, which decides that a bird in the hand will do; she’s only saved from being either captured or killed by Coulson agreeing to swap his alien knowledge for Daisy’s freedom. While Rosalind Price, who is herself doubting her decision to take the job, isn’t really convinced of Coulson’s knowledge or loyalty, but with the White House pressuring her for results, she makes a deal. The messiness of the world had discredited S.H.I.E.L.D. and made operations much more difficult for the remaining team. Perhaps the only way to be effective is to team up with the current agency charged with protecting the planet Earth from alien threats. Perhaps. But it will likely be a messy partnership.

Finally, we have Hydra. In his continuing quest, Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) finds his chum, Spud (Daniel Feuerriegel) in hopes Spud can offer a connection to Hydra for off-loading some weapons; this is part of Hunter’s ruse to infiltrate Hydra and get close enough to Ward (Brett Dalton) to put him down. The entry to the Hydra meeting is a last-man-standing fight, where we find out Spud isn’t so chummy after all. Hunter allows himself to take a severe beating, only employing the brass knuckles in his pocket near the end, sending Spud to the afterlife. Taking brass knuckles into the fight may have been the one good choice made during this episode. While this is going on, Agent May (Ming-Na Wen), having been brought back into the fold by Hunter, and playing his "business associate" is invited into a back room where three men make the bad decision to try and take advantage of her; this ends with all three as unconscious piles of flesh and bone laying about the room.

"A Wanted (Inhu)Man lines up about as many bad choices as the S.H.I.E.L.D. team can muster, some of them personal, some of them business -- and some still awaiting a proper motivation. And while this is going on, Bernie Sanders is affirming to the world that, "The American people are sick of hearing about your damn emails!" Sanders made a choice of where to come down on a lightning rod issue that will either transform him into the too-easy benevolent diplomat of the field, or will haunt him as the sound bite from hell into the primaries. As I tell my clients when I help them develop business strategy: the world is messy and sometimes there are no good choices. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. offers a weekly reminder that no real-life human threat is as terrifying as the ones posed by what we don’t understand. That said, the messiness of the universe asserted itself as NASA started discussing the weirdness of KIC 8462852, a star exhibiting a very odd, unnatural dimming of its light. We’ll have to wait further analysis to see if our real-world existential threats and messy lives remain solely human.


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