Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Watchdogs Review

What happens when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. incorporates a tried and true concept from the comics? You get a very satisfying episode.

This Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. review contains spoilers.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3, Episode 14

Last week, I took Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to task for featuring generic threats week after week. Lately, the series seems to have forgotten that it IS a comic book derived show and while it is fine to keep the spotlight firmly on the main players, most of who were created especially for TV, it’s best to keep a big fat toe firmly entrenched in the Marvel Universe.

This week’s installment proves that formula to be true as the Watchdogs are introduced as a very cut-from-the-headlines new menace for Phil Coulson and his agents. The Watchdogs (don’t worry, I’ll lay out the history of the Watchdogs in the usual place) is a militant hate group that is targeting Inhumans. The episode kicks off with the Watchdogs, bad ass masks and all, using some old school Stark tech to implode a building. This calls the agents into action and we are off in one of the more fun Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. adventures of the season.

The episode made a big deal in revealing that the leader of the Watchdogs was none other than Felix Blake! Yeah, don’t worry, I had to google him too. Remember Blake, he used to be Coulson’s partner? Worked for Victoria Hand? Was crippled by Deathlok? Yeah, if he didn’t pop up again this week, I wouldn’t have remembered him either. But that doesn’t mean Blake isn’t effective as this Inhuman hating zealot. Blake sort of takes the William Stryker role as the head of the Watchdogs, a man that will do anything to combat the metahuman menace.

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The episode draws some sledgehammer obvious parallels to ISIS and other modern day hate and terrorist groups as Daisy Johnson swears to go to any length, including torture, to take down the hateful menace. Johnson indeed uses her powers as a fear tactic to get some prospective Watchdogs talking. If Daisy becomes a monster to take out the Watchdogs, are the Watchdogs right about her? It all sounds preachy and obvious I know, but the episode balances the soap boxing with some great character work.

Most of that work centers on the almost criminally unexplored Agent Mack. Most of the time, Mack is just along for the ride as hunky support, but this week, we get to delve a bit into Mack’s non-S.H.I.E.L.D. life. We also get to see the toll Mack’s job takes on said private life. This week, Mack’s little brother is introduced and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that they’re relationship is strained. The younger Mackenzie believes that his brother works for an insurance company and can’t understand why big brother isn’t present in the life of the Mackenzie family. Little Mack is struggling to make ends meet and like many disconsolate individuals struggling to survive, little Mack blames the government making him a perfect candidate for groups like the Watchdogs. Once again, the ISIS schtick is obvious but by episode’s end, we certainly know more about Mack than ever before.

But listen, the episode isn’t just a meditation on socioeconomic issues or on Mack — there is plenty of action to go around. There is Daisy and Fitz trying to find and take down the Watchdogs. There is Coulson and Lincoln trying to find Blake, and there is May and Simmons trying to find a way to help May’s missing ex-husband, the Inhuman known as Lash. A lot of plot juggling but unlike last week, nothing is muddled or rushed as every story arc gets its moment to shine.

And one of those moments takes place when Fitz gets splatted by the Watchdog’s signature weapon, a blob of goo that causes any target to implode. Poor Fitz is endangered of going pop and it is so cool that his own genius and calm nature helped him out of this very sticky situation. While all this is going on, the Agents are racing around trying to figure out exactly what the Watchdog’s real target is. After Coulson gives Lincoln the Inhuman’s final S.H.I.E.L.D. exam (it involved an order to kill Blake, who is secretly a hologram, which Coulson knew — trust me, it was cool), it is revealed that it is Mack’s little brother that is the target. Now, Mack and his sibling must take down a Watchdog unit in order to survive and Mack takes a few bullets for his little bro, proving that even though he is absent most of the time, to Mack, family comes first. By the by, little Mack doesn’t think big Mack is in insurance anymore.

Marvel Moments

The Watchdogs were introduced in Captain America #335 (Nov 1987) and were created by Mark Gruenwald and Tom Morgan. Originally, the Watchdogs were violently opposed to homosexuality, the teaching of evolution in schools, pornography, and abortion (I won’t make a Tea Party joke, I won’t make a Tea Party joke). When they found a target, the Watchdogs would kidnap the “sinner” and force them to wear dog collars that would administer electro shocks if the prisoners exhibited any deviant behavior. The Watchdogs were defeated by the right wing hero John Walker who, at the time, wore the mantle of Captain America. TV’s Watchdogs are cut from the same cloth but went after Inhumans.

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I love the Damage Control namedrop this week. For those not in the know, Damage Control is a private company that cleans up after super hero battles. They were created by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie and starred in a few hilarious comic miniseries. A Damage Control TV series recently went into development at Marvel and I hope the little mention this week bodes well for the future of that perspective show. 

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3.5 out of 5