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Television

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3, Episode 17 - "The Team"

Daniel Rasmus

Some characters have taken radically different paths than their comic book counterparts -- at least in this reality.


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 17 - "The Team"
Network: ABC
Air date: 2016-04-19
Amazon

Two universes diverged in a wood, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), took the road less traveled. Sorry Robert Frost, but that’s an apt way of thinking about the differences between MCU and the history of characters and worlds that are known to comic book readers.

When dealing with minor characters, the differences between worlds doesn't mean much, but Hive (Brett Dalton), Lash (Blair Underwood), and Daisy "Quake" Johnson (Chloe Bennett) of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are all characters with very different pasts and presents than their reference characters from the comic books.

But, before we delve into the divergence of characters, it's important to understand the vehicle that permits for these alternative realities. As the Golden Age of comics was winding down, and the Silver Age had yet to emerge, physicist Erwin Schrödinger (of the dead-not-dead quantum uncertainty proving cat) delivered a lecture in Dublin in 1952, in which he observed his Nobel prize winning equations seemed to describe many different histories that were "not alternatives but all really happen[ing] simultaneously."

For comic book writers, the idea of the "multiverse" wasn't new. They introduced crossover characters in the early '40s, but it wasn't the same multiverse that Schrödinger imagined, where each moment in time, each decision perhaps, leads to an alternative history. Like the multiverse itself, several alternative versions of the multiverse theory exist simultaneously, and none of them can be proved. One can’t step out of his or her universe to observe another universe and thus prove that it exists. Cosmologist Paul Davies, writing an opinion piece in the New York Times entitled "A Brief History of the Multiverse", said "Extreme multiverse explanations are therefore reminiscent of theological discussions."

Comic books, in their classic form, always skirted the edges of real science. Like nuclear power and radiation, along with computing and artificial intelligence, even science that was only theory or emergent, was be picked up and employed, with writers choosing ideas that fit their narrative.

The multiverse was a perfect tool for everything from crossover characters to reboots. The mystical nature of the multiverse was ideal, because it allowed for magic as much as science to play a role. In Marvel comic books, for instance, Doctor Strange, whom the MCU has just met through the trailer to the 2016 Marvel summer release, is the defender of Earth against all magical and mystical threads (Avengers animated series watchers have already met him).

So when it comes to Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and any properties associated with it, many of the characters, perhaps most notably Daisy Johnson, exists in various Marvel universes, with her prime universe, that of Earth-616 as it's known, offer a very different origin story than the one with which viewers of the television show are familiar.

In the comics, Daisy's the daughter of Mr. Hyde and an Inhuman. So far, so good. This Daisy Johnson isn’t a pure Inhuman, with the mutant gene being triggered by Terrigenesis. No, this Daisy Johnson was powered by the combination of her father's formula and genetic manipulation, and his liaison with an Inhuman. The deep abiding love story and obsession with family weren't part of Dr. Calvin's comic book narrative.

Daisy was given up for adoption. Her powers were triggered, not by touching an artifact, but when she stole two CDs. The combination of the Hyde DNA and that of the Inhuman prostitute proved her source of power. Rather than having her father repaired, his memories erased, and him integrated back into the community, the more massive, hulk-like Mr. Hyde of the comic books was killed by Daisy after he was forced by S.H.I.E.L.D. to find a cure for a disease in which Daisy’s powers deteriorated, causing her bones to break (similar to the early issues she had after gaining power originally -- but this was late-onset, not early-onset).

Daisy has a lot of comic book backstory, much of which involves her direct relationship, not with Phil Coulson, but with Nick Fury. Daisy does found the Secret Warriors, which have a much better entrance and storyline than the abruptly aborted effort made in this episode. At times, Daisy even becomes The Director.

What never happens, at least so far, is Daisy's possession by Hive.

Hive, in Earth-616, isn't an ancient Inhuman, but a creation of Hydra. Rather than being the mystical alternative suggested by Whitehall (Reed Diamond) in flashback during the previous episode, Hive is mainstream Hydra engineering that bring a number of parasites together into a coordinated being. Like the religious version on the show, Hive was meant to reflect the Hydra ideal. Baron von Strucker even named Hive a Hydra figurehead. Hydra wasn’t designed to reanimate dead bodies, but appears to have learned how to do that. It can’t, it seems, take on the boyish good looks like Ward’s, but rather its head remains a mass of tentacles, much like the reveal in "Paradise Lost". Hive of the comic books can't speak a human language, but rather communicates in its own, one speculated to be designed with the creature, by Hydra, because some Hydra members can understand it.

Most importantly perhaps, Hive's a minor character in the books, and much about it, its integration with human hosts, and its current state (having been removed from Madame Hydra), is unknown. Originally, it led no army, took possession of no Inhumans.

So, like Lash -- born of Inhuman selection by Queen Medusa, and turned Inhuman zealot in the books, defender of the privilege of Terrigenesis -- Daisy and Hive vary widely from their print histories.

The MCU has a very simple goal. Mine the comic books for characters that can offer great visual stories. Think about the decades of characters and stories as Lego blocks that can be reassembled; a Lego model of a boat from the 1890s, perhaps, can be torn down and made into SpaceX rocket.

Thus we have Hive, living in the form of a primary Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. character, a Hydra mole that survives the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. to disrupt another day. Killed eventually, on a far away planet, then possessed and reanimated by a primal Inhuman in fulfillment of Hydra religious prophecy. The possessed former mole now has the power to create another, so he possesses Daisy, gives her life a meaning it hasn't had, and forces her to turn on her lover and on her friends.

Somewhere in the multiverse, other variations of Daisy and Fury, Coulson and Hill, Fitz and Simmons, Bobbi and Hunter, and other characters are mixing and matching in the minds of writers. If you want it to get a little weird, all of those shows have been made. All of those characters alternative futures have been written, printed, and aired by alternative versions of Joss Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Daniel J. Doyle. Alternative versions of you are ignoring or posting, trashing or praising, or maybe just playing tennis.

In some of those places, I'm writing a very different article, and in some I’m coding a website, and in others writing poetry, and perhaps in one, I'm actually an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. If a Noble prize winning physicist says it's possible, who am I to argue?

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