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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3, Episode 6 - "Among Us Hide"

Daniel Rasmus

The episode's uneasy alliances and heartbreaking twists highlight the similarities and differences between organizations, individuals, and even mediums.


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 6 - "Among Us Hide"
Network: ABC
Air date: 2015-11-03
Amazon

Divergences occur between the world that is Marvel on television and that that is Marvel in comic books. Of course, over the years, comic book readers have already come to know the shifts, backtracks, surprises, and reboots that take place on their pages. Marvel now maintains two official universes: the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the hodgepodge that exists in the books, many of which, as hinted above, consist of alternative or parallel universes.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. exists firmly within the MCU. New York has been attacked by aliens, Tony Stark’s building is now the Avenger headquarters, the Hulk is in hiding and Thor has returned to Asgard. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor is still a man, played by Chris Hemsworth, while in the comic books, Thor is a woman, formerly Thor’s crush and colleague, Jane Foster, who can now wield the hammer, Mjolnir.

That information is necessary because what happened in “Among Us Hide”, which combines the comic book character Lash with some new twists offered up by the MCU.

First, the similarities. Lash (Matt Willig) pretty much looks like his comic-book counterpart, although perhaps even more menacing and nightmare-inspiring as a three-dimensional character than even his worst sketched incarnation. Lash can both channel and transform energy. While he has focused energy to punch holes through both people and walls, the more subtle aspects of this energy manipulation has yet to be explored, although I’m sure Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) will be intrigued by the possibilities once they get over what happened on Planet X and start acting like S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists again.

Now, the differences. In the comic books, Lash was exposed to Terrigen as part of a ritual of selective transformation within the Inhuman cult in the hidden city of Orollan, Greenland. In the books, when Black Bolt unleashes Terrigen gas above New York, Lash, who’s already transformed, aggressively defends the privilege of Inhumaness. On television, it appears that Lash is the result of the Terrigen Mist that infiltrated the global food chain through seafood and seawater.

However, in both the books and the series, Lash is still an inhuman purist, believing that not all of those transformed by Terrigen Mist deserve the powers with which they have been invested. He acts as the archangel of the Inhuman, using his power like the biblical Michael and Gabriel do to deliver God’s (so to speak) wrath on Earth. The question is why? The lack of ritual associated with the television version of Lash makes it harder to understand the emergent ideology, because it has no associated cult ritual of selection and exclusivity to back it up. Perhaps we’ll learn that Lash is older than we think.

The biggest difference between the comic books and the MCU is that this Lash can transform back into human; in this case, the form of Dr. Andrew Garner (Blair Underwood). I reread and searched and I could find no reference to Lash in human form in the books once he undergoes Terrigenesis. Television can’t accommodate all of the characters that can and have appeared in the comic book universe, so my guess is that given the lack of a deep Inhuman origin story, complete with royalty, the writers decided they needed an emotional hook to help people care about Lash and his Inhuman purity campaign. Without this hook, viewers might well be ambivalent toward the character. We already know some Inhumans have evil tendencies, so their elimination isn’t mourned -- and in the role of judge, he isn’t all that different that what we’ve seen of the seemingly now less evil ATCU, although the ACTU apparently opts for hibernation over annihilation.

The Andrew Garner reveal, especially the way it came to May (Ming-Na Wen) via the dying Werner Von Strucker (Spencer Treat Clark), was emotionally wrenching. Regardless of viewer’s feelings about Lash, they now have feelings about Lash.

For the series as a whole, the motivation behind Lash creates a fourth moral vector, one with ideological, near-religious overtones to contrast the political and military POVs of the ATCU and S.H.I.E.L.D. -- and of course the anti-everything-but-us remnants of Hydra run by Ward (Brett Dalton).

In the books, Lash creates an assembly of like-minded Inhumans called the Tribe, which work with Lash to ensure the worthiness of those transformed by Terrigenesis. There are subtle hints of the desire for team building in the show. Perhaps this fifth organization will appear. We’re also seeing the beginnings of what might become the Secret Warriors, a Nick Fury-lead group of agents with superpowers initiated as Team White lead by one Daisy Johnson. Agency number six? If you are getting confused, welcome to the universe that is superhero comic books.

It may also be interesting for television viewers to know that there is much more to the Inhuman universe than has been suggested so far. For most of their comic book histories, the Inhumans were limited to only a couple of narratives: coup d'état or discovery. The Inhumans, led by Medusa and Black Bolt, fended off a coup from Black Bolt’s crazy brother Maximus, otherwise busying themselves with keeping Inhumans away from the detection of normal humans (although governments know about them). In the last 15 years, the Inhuman storyline has greatly expanded, so it isn’t clear which Inhuman events will most inspire the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. writers, or how much they will simply borrow and reinvent.

Regardless of literary connection or new invention, it is clear Inhumans are now the core Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. arc, and that we’ll see them manifest in many ways. It isn’t so clear how other elements of the fictional mythology will appear in the future. The complications and resolutions going forward will likely come from the intersections between the Inhumans, ATCU, Hydra, and Planet X. We’ve already seen S.H.I.E.L.D. and the ATCU form an uneasy alliance based on some common goals (and the S.H.I.E.L.D. superhuman league of the Avengers is a known quantity). It’s likely that how these groups come together and fight whomever ends up being more evil at the moment based on the current perception of evil among the loose alliances being formed is the engine that will drive the show forward.

As I tell my strategy clients, assumptions blind them to other possibilities. As soon as Daisy (Chloe Bennett) makes the assumption that Banks (Andrew Howard) is Lash, she stops looking elsewhere, until her assumption is proven wrong. That assumption causes her to go back to “square one” in terms of her search. There are a lot of assumptions being made in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. about Inhumans, the ATCU, Hydra, and S.H.I.E.L.D., both by and amongst the various players. Even Ward has his assumptions challenged by the introduction of apparent Hydra operative Gideon Malick (Powers Booth). The one thing I know (and hopefully Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. knows too) is that stripping away oru assumptions can lead to transformations of organizations and individuals almost as dramatic as exposure to Terrigen gas.

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