This review contains spoilers
3.19 Failed Experiments
When a TV show is intercutting between a thrilling fight scene and a contemplative conversation between characters, and it’s the talking that grabs your attention the most, the show-runners must be doing something right. Such was the case in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Failed Experiments, with Hive sharing blows with a Kree reaper while Mack shared some words with Daisy.
This was, for my money, one of the best sequences that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has ever produced. The combat was pleasantly brutal (it was very nice to have some actual Kree around to provide a physical challenge, even though one got his spine shattered and the other his face melted… yikes, this show is getting a lot more grown-up and graphic, isn’t it?), but the dialogue between the self-blaming Mack and the Hive-infested Daisy was the real sight to behold here.
It was great to see Mack pushed to such an emotional place (the big brother jibe must’ve hit him hard), and utterly entrancing to see what Hive’s influence has done to Daisy’s psyche. Chloe Bennet does the creepy ‘I’ve been brainwashed!’ smile better than anyone, but the true intrigue comes from her shifted sense of perspective.
When you think about it, she has a point about S.H.I.E.L.D. taking relatively normal folk (mechanics, hackers) and turning them into soldiers. And she has a point in saying that everyone tries to save her all the time, despite the fact she’s more than capable of handling herself. Turning the entire planet into Inhumans (like a scaled-up version of X-Men’s plot) isn’t really a direct answer to Daisy’s issues, but these are interesting topics to raise nonetheless.
After all, villains are often more interesting when they have a somewhat valid argument rather than the usual outright-evil world-domination motivations. And you’ve got to praise Bennet for pulling off this breakneck-pace transition with such seeming ease. Evil Daisy is hugely engaging to watch, and makes the whole Hive strand significantly more effective as a result.
Elsewhere in the episode, there was loads more to enjoy. Lincoln risking everything to find a way to help Daisy was probably his strongest character moment to date (although, with all this foreshadowing, he must be a red-herring in the ‘who’s going to die’ race, right?), May blagging her way through a conversation with Hellfire over pool and beer was a welcome break from her usual behaviour, and seeing Hive’s substitutes bench of Inhumans hanging out was just a lot of fun (am I the only one who thought of HISHE’s Villain Pub during that pinball scene?).
Overall, then, this felt like a very confident episode and possibly one of the best yet from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
At this stage of the season, not many TV shows would throw in two super-strong aliens in the first five minutes of an episode just to kill them later, or stage a massive rescue mission/death squad plotline just to see it fail spectacularly. Failed Experiments was all about making Hive, Daisy, the Inhumans and their still-very-welcome chum John Hannah feel like a huge obstacle for the S.H.I.E.L.D. gang in anticipation of the upcoming finale, and it definitely succeeded.
Also: special praise to Briana Venskus, who made her debut here as Agent Piper. She’s jumped ships from CBS’ Supergirl and made an immediate impression as the only S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent who’s still surprised by aliens (whilst dressed like she was from Aliens, funnily enough). Also, she got to fire a giant bazooka at this year’s big bad. With a big laugh and a huge action moment in her first episode, I’m verily looking forward to seeing what Piper does next…