Sunday, April 24, 2016

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 3.14: "Watchdogs"

“What are you doing?”
“Shotgun axe.”
-Ruben and Mack

“Watchdogs,” in a move rather unusual for “S.H.I.E.L.D.” really focused on everyone’s favorite mechanic/badass S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Mack. We get to meet Mack’s brother in this episode and learn a bit about the Mackenzie family dynamic. I thought it was interesting that the creative team chose to focus on Mack so much in this episode, as he’s the last of the additional S.H.I.E.L.D. characters introduced in late season 1/early season 2 that is still around. It’s pretty much the original crew (minus Ward), Mack, and Lincoln these days. I guess the creative team is hoping we viewers will accept Mack as a long-term addition to the team, since he’s the last man standing and all. We learn in this episode that, like most S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Mack is finding it difficult to balance work and family life. He desperately wants to have a positive relationship with his brother, but since he can’t tell his brother what he does for a living, frustration ensues. All of this happens in front of the backdrop of a new, anti-Inhumans terrorist group called the Watchdogs.

The episode opens with Mack taking some family time back home in Illinois. He is working on bikes with his younger brother, Ruben, who has been given the family home by their parents. Ruben is played by the always fantastic Gaius Charles, aka Smash Williams from “Friday Night Lights.” It’s clear that frustration has been brewing between Mack and his brother over Mack’s work commitments. There are mentions of past trips that have been canceled and such. Mack promises his brother an afternoon of lunch, beers, and bikes, however, and all seems to be good for now. Mack expresses some frustration with work, such as management being out of control and two of his coworkers getting a permanent transfer, and we also learn that Ruben was recently laid off. Ruben’s just about to grill some nice steaks for lunch when there’s a major breaking news story on TV. A group called the Watchdogs has imploded an ATCU warehouse in South Bend, Indiana. Since Mack is the closest S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to the scene, Coulson orders him to head up to South Bend and investigate before the local police and FBI muck up the crime scene.

At S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, Coulson tells Daisy and Fitz to join Mack in Indiana. Lincoln also arrives back from his qualification exam, but Coulson doesn’t want him joining the mission. He has seen the report from Lincoln’s exam, and he’s a bit concerned. Daisy is understandably not thrilled by this situation. Out in Indiana, Mack meets up with Daisy and Fitz at what used to be a warehouse and is now just a big ball of building. Mack contemplates bringing the ball back to the lab, but Fitz reminds him how heavy it would be, considering it is a whole warehouse. The team discovers that a compound originally invented by Howard Stark was a key part of the implosion device, however it’s a more advanced form of that compound. Coulson knows of an ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was obsessed with the compound in question. His name is Felix Blake, he’s played by the always menacing Titus Welliver, and he does indeed seem to be leading the cell of the Watchdogs responsible for the attack.

Understandably, Daisy wants to take a very aggressive approach to investigating the Watchdogs and the warehouse implosion. She’s says she’s been following the Watchdogs online for quite some time, and the thinks she can find one of them that they can interrogate. Mack doesn’t like the idea of Inhumans using super powers to infringe on civil liberties, so he heads back to Illinois and wants nothing to do with the operation. Daisy and Fitz are left to intimidate an unsuspecting Watchdog while he sits in his car. When he arrives back at the family home, Mack gets in an argument with Ruben. Ruben can’t believe that Mack’s job was so important that it took him away from their day together. To be fair, Ruben’s under a lot of stress. We learn that the mortgage on the family home is under water, for instance. This stress has also made Ruben very anti-Inhuman, and he and Mack argue over that, too. It’s pretty clear that the creative team was inspired by the current political climate around Donald Trump in crafting this storyline. Ruben hits all the high points in blaming the Inhumans for his problems instead of putting the blame on himself (or on his fellow citizens who refuse to pay the level of taxes required to provide a true safety net) where it truly belongs.

Meanwhile, Simmons and May have an enlightening conversation at the shooting range. Simmons is feeling a lot of guilt for needing to be saved by Fitz repeatedly and for letting Andrew out to save herself. Since, as she puts it, she’s the only woman on the team who can’t kill someone with her bare hands, she has decided to improve her shooting skills. May sees a similarly tortured soul in Simmons, and she shares a secret with her. She’s commandeered a S.H.I.E.L.D. server to search for Andrew, and she wants Simmons’ help to find him. Later in the episode, Simmons tells May that she thinks the vaccine they’re working on from Creel’s blood could work on Andrew since he hasn’t finished his transformation yet. May doesn’t want to hear anything about this, because she doesn’t want to indulge in false hope. Similarly, Coulson has a job for Lincoln to do. Coulson knows where Felix Brown has his safehouses, and he and Lincoln are going to search them. On the way, they have a bit of an argument about why Lincoln didn’t receive good scores on his recent exam. Coulson says that if Lincoln does well and follows orders, Coulson will consider accepting him as part of the team.

After her time questioning the hostage, Daisy calls Mack and lets him know that she has learned where the Watchdogs are. It’s not super far from the Mackenzie house, so he is going to meet her and Fitz there. Ruben hears the end of the phone conversation, and he’s not thrilled that Mack is leaving yet again. Nevertheless, Mack says he needs to go. Meanwhile, Coulson and Lincoln go into the basement of one of Blake’s safehouses, where they apparently encounter none other than Blake himself. In the Midwest, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team is just supposed to observe the Watchdog gathering. Ruben, who followed Mack, ruins it all, though, by rolling up on his motorcycle. Some Watchdogs come outside to investigate. Mack shoots at them, and Daisy quakes, but the Watchdogs only see Mack. So they think he’s Inhuman. Ruben drives off, and Mack follows him, leaving Daisy and Fitz to deal with the Watchdogs. One of their implosion devices attaches itself to Fitz’s neck. Daisy injects Fitz with a compound that is supposed to counteract it, but all it does is slow it down.

At the safehouse, Coulson and Lincoln have a long discussion with Blake, which mostly involves Blake saying hateful things about Inhumans and trying to get in Coulson and Lincoln’s heads. Lincoln is tempted to attack Blake, but he holds off until Coulson tells him to kill Blake. Killing wasn’t actually what Lincoln has in mind, so he briefly objects before doing what Coulson asks. After all that, it turns out that they were speaking with a hologram, and Coulson knew it. Coulson feels that Lincoln handled the situation perfectly. He registered his dissenting opinion, then did what he was told. The two go through the records in the safehouse, and they realize that Blake wants his goons to capture an Inhuman. They have made that really easy by essentially delivering Daisy to the Watchdogs. Speaking of, the Watchdog hostage says something that makes Fitz realize the bomb on his neck can be disabled by freezing it, so Daisy gets some liquid nitrogen and gets to work. After Fitz is saved, the hostage registers his realization that Daisy is Inhuman, and he says the Watchdogs should have gone after her “instead.”

Mack arrives back at the family home in Illinois, and he finds a very angry Ruben sitting on the steps. They’re arguing over Mack’s participation with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the value of Inhumans when some motorcycles approach. It’s the Watchdogs, and they think Mack is an Inhuman. Ruben and Mack have to fight their way out of the house. Mack has shotgun loaded with bird shot, and he takes a semi off of a defeated Watchdog for Ruben. The brothers try to make it to back door so they can escape into woods. By the time they get there, though, there are two Watchdogs waiting outside. A shootout ensues, during which Mack makes a rather awesome “shotgun axe.” Mack gets shot (not very seriously), but the brothers ultimately prevail. As Mack is taken away in an ambulance, Ruben and Daisy have a good conversation about S.H.I.E.L.D. and Mack’s role in it. Ruben now seems proud of his brother. The team then realizes that Gideon is the one who has been feeding intel to the Watchdogs. We learn in the episode’s tag that he is giving Blake super-heavy weaponry (a missile of some sort) in exchange for his help.

No comments:

Post a Comment