Saturday, March 26, 2016

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 13: Parting Shot

This week on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. we take a break from all the various storylines we've been following, so the show can set up a new spinoff series. Yep, this week's episode is a goddamned backdoor pilot. Just like The Kelly Kids on The Brady Bunch, or Assignment: Earth on the original Star Trek.

The Flash pulled this crap for most of the first half of its second season, as it pretty much became The Legends Of Tomorrow Prequel Show. I doubt that'll happen here, as this seems to be a one-and-done setup, but it's still annoying.

So now we know how Mockingbird and Hunter are going to ride off into the sunset and into the pilot for their own series. I'm skeptical about the whole thing. Removing these two characters from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a terrible, terrible idea. Mockingbird and Hunter were part of the reason the series turned around and became watchable in its second season. Mockingbird's one of the few characters on the show who has an actual personality, and Hunter's the source of any and all humor. Getting rid of them is going to leave a huge hole in the series, one I'm worried can't be filled.

Plus a series about two non-superpowered ex-secret agents on the run sounds dull as hell to me. That's what made the first season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. such a snooze fest. It didn't start to pick up until Marvel realized people wanted to see actual superheroes in their superhero show. 

But I was dubious about Agent Carter when I first heard about it though, and it turned out pretty good, so who knows? Maybe The Mockingbird And Hunter Show or whatever it's called will be worth a look after all.

Maybe if we're lucky their pilot won't get picked up, or if it does it'll be cancelled after a few episodes and the two characters will come back home where they belong.

As for this episode, it wasn't much of a setup. It was slow, needlessly complicated and boy was it talky. Honestly I didn't understand a lot of it, at least on a first viewing. Plus I don't get why Mockingbird and Hunter's actions are suddenly such a big deal, and absolutely must be punished. Nothing they did in this episode is any different from anything EVERY character on the show has done many, many times before. There were no repercussions then, so why now? Other than so they could get disavowed and skip over to their own show, that is?

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
The episode opens with Mockingbird in custody in Moscow, accused of killing three Russian government agents. Her interrogator asks her what she and Hunter were doing in Moscow in the first place. 

We then get the dreaded  "34 Hours Ago" flashback, to shortly after last week's episode, in which Mockingbird and Hunter were stowing away on Malick's plane, headed for a meeting in Russia. Malick's plane lands and they follow him to a decommissioned power plant in Siberia. 

They contact Coulson on Zephyr One. He suspects Malick is building an Inhuman army in the plant, and says to find out for sure what he's doing, but not to kill him, as that'll cause an international incident.

Mockingbird and Hunter observe the plant. Hunter says this is the first time they've spent along together in years. They see Malick's men moving an Inhuman into the plant. They're about to go investigate when they're surrounded by Malick's guards. They pretend they're lost, and were simply hunting for mushrooms (in the middle of the night?). Quite rightly, the guards don't buy their story, so the agents knock them out. Mockingbird hears radio chatter that the Russian Cabinet Ministers are arriving.

Mack, May and Daisy land in a Quinjet, and Mockingbird and Hunter board and fill them in. Mockingbird's the only one fluent in Russian, so she gets to infiltrate the plant. May takes Hunter with her.

Mockingbird sneaks into the plant, knocks out a guard and dons his uniform. Mack and Daisy enter a security room and monitor the situation. May and Hunter find the body of the Russian Prime Minister's personal attache. 

Meanwhile, Petrov tells Malick he still wants to create a reservation for Inhumans, and the Prime Minister's against it. He says General Androvich, the Minister of Defense who's secretly and Inhuman, killed the Prime Minister's attache. Petrov wants Malick to smooth things over with the Prime Minister. Malick says he can't get involved, because the matter's now bigger than any one nation. He suggests letting Androvich "take care" of the Prime Minister. The whole thing's very complicated, so don't worry about trying to understand it, or we'll be here all day.

Coulson realizes Malick is staging a coup. Mack sees Androvich on a security camera, and notices something odd about his shadow. Coulson detects the Russian Prime Minister's plane heading for the plant. He suspects Malick is setting up the Prime Minister to be killed, and tells the Team to protect him at all costs.

Eventually they figure out that Androvich can project a sentient "shadow" of himself. The Prime Minister arrives and argues with Petrove. Hunter takes him away, while Daisy, Mockingbird and Mack battle Androvich. His shadow form attacks Mack and knocks him out. Mockingbird and Daisy try to fight it, but their weapons go right through it, as it can alter its density at will.

Hunter rushes the Prime Minister out of the plant, killing Petrov along the way. The shadow appears in front of them. Mockingbird tracks down Androvich and kills him, which causes the shadow to dissipate. Hunter and Mockingbird are taken into custody.

President Ellis discusses the two with the Russian Prime Minister. Ellis says the PM should be happy his life was saved, but he says now he has to explain why three members of his cabinet are dead (two of which were trying to kill him). The PM says someone's got to pay and it won't be him. Despite the fact that this sort of thing has happened pretty much every week on the series since it started, this time it's suddenly a big deal, and Mockingbird and Hunter are facing execution.

Coulson meets with Mockingbird and Hunter and says he's arranged an escape route for them. They refuse, saying they're prepared to sacrifice themselves to protect S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson realizes he can't talk them out of it. Coulson and Ellis tell the interrogator that Mockingbird and Hunter don't work for S.H.I.E.L.D. and are simply what they say they are-- a pair of lost and confused tourists.

Back on the Zephyr One, Coulson explains to the rest of the team that Mockingbird and Hunter are now free, but they've been disavowed, and can never speak with the rest of the cast or be agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. again (uh-huh). 

Mockingbird and Hunter sit in a bar somewhere and plan their first ever vacation. A waitress brings them a shot from an "admirer." They look around and spot Simmons. Soon they receive several more drinks, and spot Fitz, Mack, May and Coulson. Mockingbird tells Hunter that this is the "Spy's Goodbye." The gang all raise their glasses and toast them, despite the fact that they're not supposed to acknowledge them in any way ever again, and file out.

Malick is shooting skeet at his palatial mansion (I guess). His daughter, who we've never seen or even heard of before, appears and asks how things went in Russia. She asks when she's finally going to get to meet Hive Ward.

Thoughts:
 Not a lot of thoughts about this episode, so this'll be quick.

 Oh good, it's another "34 Hours Earlier" episode. I hate, hate, HATE these. It was an interesting storytelling technique the first thousand times I saw it on TV and in movies, but it's starting to wear a bit thin.

 When he's being interrogated, Hunter says his full name is Amadeus Ravenclaw Hunter. It's really Lance, but no one ever calls him that, and I like this fake name much better.

 Simmons tells Daisy and Mockingbird that Androvich's shadow creature is made of sentient dark matter. Two things here. First, that's obviously a tie-in to the dark matter that was a big plot point on Season 2 of Agent Carter. And it's supposedly a big deal in Marvel's upcoming Doctor Strange movie. Secondly, that's real good science there, Gemma! She makes this incredibly intuitive leap and posits this theory after observing the creature for all of five seconds.

• For all his immense size, Mack is one of the most useless fighters ever. He gets knocked out AGAIN this week. He needs to start training with Agent May, STAT!

 Oh, I get it! The title refers to the "Spies Goodbye" that everyone gives to Mockingbird and Hunter. Groan.

 The teary "Spy's Goodbye" the cast gave to Mockingbird and Hunter felt a bit hollow to me, and didn't seem like it'd been earned. Do the various agents really care all that much for these two? If so, they've never really shown it before. Last week Daisy and Mockingbird got into a heated discussion over Inhuman rights, and May flat out told Hunter that the two of them were definitely not friends.

Then suddenly in this episode Daisy and May can barely hold back the tears as they put on brave faces for their banished comrades. Talk about retcons!

• So who's Malick's daughter? She seems to know pretty much everything he does, so he obviously keeps her in the loop. And she's anxious to meet Hive Ward. I have no idea where they're going with her, but obviously her sudden addition is going to have something to do with him.

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