Monday, April 4, 2016

Mavel's Agents Of Shield Season 3, Episode 14: Watchdogs

After almost two seasons on the show, Mack finally gets some long overdue and much-needed back story. I'm assuming the writers did this in an attempt to fill in the void left by Mockingbird and Hunter. Unfortunately his personal details weren't all that interesting.

We also meet Mack's younger brother Rueben, and it's heavily implied he may be joining the team. And unfortunately once again, he doesn't seem all that interesting. His bland personality is certainly no replacement for Hunter's cocky charm!

We also get the return of Felix Blake, whoever the hell that is. I honestly thought they were trying to pull a retcon on us here, as I had absolutely no memory of him.

Turns out he really has been on the show before. He was in the Marvel one-shot Item 47, as well as the Season 1 episode FZZT. Honestly it's been so long since he he last appeared I completely forgot about him until now. 


The Plot:
Mack, who's apparently on vacation, visits his little brother Rueben in Naperville, Illinois. The two fiddle around repairing and rebuilding their motorcycles. Rueben has no idea Mack is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and believes he works for an insurance company. Because of course all insurance agents are 6' 5" and are built like The Rock.

Rueben lives in his parents' house, who left it to him when they retired and moved away. Mack & Rueben are cooking steaks when they see a news report on a terrorist group called the Watchdogs. The leader rants about superpowered aliens in our midst, and uses some sort of high tech weaponry to implode an ATCU building. 

Coulson calls Mack and cancels his leave, telling him to investigate the scene of the attack. Mack makes an excuse to Reuben, who tells him he spends too much time at work.

Mack meets with Daisy and Fitz, and they investigate what little remains of the ATCU building. Daisy says the Watchdogs have been active since the Battle Of New York, but up until now they were all talk. Fitz finds traces of Nitromene, a substance that should be familiar to fans of Agent Carter. It was developed by Howard Stark and causes things to implode. Mack and Fitz discuss the properties of the highly unstable Nitramene, and determine that the Watchdogs must have found a way to improve it.

Daisy reports to Coulson, who says he knows someone who was working on enhancing Nitromene— Felix Blake, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Coulson takes Lincoln with him to search Blake's various safe houses for clues. Along the way, Coulson discusses Lincoln's job performance with him. So I guess S.H.I.E.L.D. has annual performance evaluations, just like my company does. Gosh, I hope Lincoln gets his annual 3% pay raise! Coulson says he thinks the only reason Lincoln is still on the team is because of Daisy, and if he really wants to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, he needs to prove himself. 

Meanwhile, Daisy wants to abduct a Watchdog and interrogate him. Mack worries that would violate the Watchdog's civil liberties. Personally I think once you blow up a building to make a statement, you forfeit such protections, but what do I know? Mack refuses to go along with Daisy's plan and leaves to go cook steaks with his brother. Um... is that really allowed? Can he just bugger off in the middle of a mission to resume his guy's night out?

Mack returns to Rueben, who's been drinking, and admits he's having money troubles and may lose the house. Rueben says the system is rigged, and to absolutely no one's surprise, says the Watchdogs have the right idea. Mack tells him to stay away from the terrorist group.

Daisy tracks down a Watchdog named Dallas, and uses her quake powers to intimidate him. He cracks and spills the location of their next meeting. She calls Mack, who agrees to meet her at the location. 

Coulson and Lincoln enter one of Blake's safe houses. Amazingly Blake appears in the first place Coulson looked. He's surprised to see that Blake is up and walking, as he was seemingly paralyzed after an encounter with Deathlok. Blake says he signed on with S.H.I.E.L.D. to protect the world from "freaks," but now they're using them as agents. Coulson points out that Lincoln is one of the "freaks" that Blake fears so much. He orders Lincoln to kill Blake. Lincoln obeys, blasting him with electricity. Blake disappears, revealing he was only a hologram.

Daisy, Mack and Fitz move in on the Watchdog meeting. Right on cue, Rueben shows up, hoping to join the Watchdogs, but sees his brother attacking them. Mack sees Rueben and chases after him. Daisy goes inside the Watchdog compound looking for Blake. 

Suddenly Fitz is hit in the neck by a Nitromene paintball. Daisy tries to neutralize it, but it doesn't work. Daisy tosses a Watchdog and Fitz into a Wonkavator. She threatens the Watchdog to get him to tell her how to neutralize the Nitramene, but he honestly doesn't know. Fitz thinks it might be possible to freeze it off. She grabs some liquid nitrogen from a compartment in the Wonkavator and uses it on the Nitramene while somehow avoiding freezing Fitz's head solid. Whew!

Mack follows Rueben home. He's angry with Mack for lying to him about his profession and the Inhumans and just everything. Just then a squad of Watchdogs, who for some reason think Mack is an Inhuman, show up at the house. Mack is completely weaponless, which seems unbelievable, and is forced to arm himself with his father's old bird shot filled shotgun. He and Rueben use their knowledge of the house and its hiding places to take out most of the Watchdogs. Unfortunately one of them shoots Mack. He then tapes a meat cleaver to the end of the shotgun, creating his long-coveted "shotgun axe." He manages to take out the rest of the group before passing out.

Later Mack is taken to the hospital. Daisy tells Rueben that he'll be fine, and says S.H.I.E.L.D. may give him a call, which seems unlikely. Daisy tells Coulson that they found evidence that Malick stole something from the ATCU facility before imploding it, which means HYDRA is now funding the Watchdogs. 

In the tag scene, we see Felix Blake really is in a wheelchair. He meets with Mr. Giyera, asking for the weapons he was promised to help "hunt down the freaks." Giyera opens a van containing what appears to be a nuclear missile.

• I don't have a lot to say about this relatively meh episode, so this'll be short. 

 I'm assuming the Watchdogs storyline, as well as Daisy violating civil liberties just to get info are both Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s attempt at doing their own Captain America: Civil War-lite tie in.

• Coulson tells Mack he needs him to cancel his vacation and come in because he's a little low on agents right now. Two things— wouldn't this be an excellent time to call in Yo-yo and Joey, the two "reserve" Secret Avengers who are supposedly available at a moment's notice? 

Secondly, who are all those anonymous people we see in the background each week at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters? Are they not agents? If not, who and what are they?

• The Watchdogs use Nitramene to implode a building. If that name sounds familiar, it's because it was first introduced in Agent Carter, in the Season 1 episode This Is Not The End.

• Funny how when the Watchdogs shot the Nitramene at the ATCU building, it imploded less than thirty seconds later. However when Fitz is hit in the neck with Nitramene, it courteously delays imploding for ten or fifteen minutes, long enough for Daisy to neutralize it with liquid nitrogen. How sporting of it!

• When Fitz gets shot in the neck with the Nitramene paintball, it makes a distinctive looking splat.

Every time I saw the splat, I couldn't help but think of those 1970s flower design elements from The Dating Game!

• The Watchdogs all wear stylized masks to hide their identity. Personally I think the masks look more like cats or lions than they do dogs, but that's just me. 

• Mack tells Reuben "I'm a mechanic. I hate this (spy) stuff." If he hates it so much, why does he keep doing it? What's he getting out of it?

• Mack and Rueben are trapped in their house, surrounded by Watchdogs. For some insane reason, Mack, who's a goddamned secret agent, doesn't have any weapons on him. The only thing he can find in the house is his dad's old shotgun, and the only ammo they have is bird shot.

Mack shoots several of the Watchdogs with the bird shot, and it somehow manages to blow them off their feet and send them flying through the air. I am by no means an expert on firearms and ammunition, but from what I understand, bird shot is a shell consisting of small particles that spread out when fired. It's used a lot as non-lethal home defense. It would definitely sting if you were shot with it, but it most likely would not kill you. And I'm pretty darned sure it couldn't blow a person across the room as it does here.

• At long last, Mack finally gets his shotgun axe that he's been yearning for since the Season 2 finale!

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