The return of a classic villain! Hints of new threats! A major superhero is (sort of) introduced! There’s a lot to unpack in this week’s Agents of SHIELD!
This episode seemed a lot more fun and a heck-of-a-lot more fast-paced action than last episode, AND included a bunch of comic book references. Excellent.
What’s interesting, is that with the understanding ABC is planning a spin-off starring Bobbi and Hunter, each time they’re on screen viewers can be considering “will this lead to something important later?”
Anyway, on with the comic connections!
The Story Thus Far: Inhumans are everywhere and the world’s governments are trying to figure out what to do about it! Too bad Coulson is legally dead and SHIELD doesn’t technically exist. Good thing Brig. Gen. Glenn Talbot and the ATCU have agreed to be SHIELD’s surrogates in the world of international politics – right?
Comic Connections in “The Inside Man”
Picking up where last episode left off, Hive/Ward (again, Wive?) is physically in bad shape, but still somehow imposing. Malick is busy collecting Inhumans for Hive, though it’s unclear to what end beyond building an “army.” Already having done something to Giyera to make him a believer, Hive does something similar to “medusa eyes,” whom we learn is named Lucio. He also seems to be immune (or at least resistant) to Lucio’s crazy eyes. Interestingly, when talking about his admiration for the host body of Grant Ward – and Hive apparently has access to Ward’s memories – Hive alternates between singular and plural pronouns. Does “we” refer to Inhumans, to Ward and Hive as two symbiotic entities, or to himself in the “royal we” sense? Seems very reminiscent of the “we” speak that Venom used to do when the unstable Symbiote was bonded to the unstable Eddie Brock. Venom’s been doing much better since Flash Thompson has become the host.
After Malick leaves, Hive has Giyera and Lucio bring him five healthy humans to “eat” (because he can’t or won’t eat Inhumans). Whatever Hive did to Giyera and Lucio to make them loyal to him (Lucio wasn’t even Hydra before this), it isn’t complete mind control because both are disgusted by the fact Hive consumes innocent civilians (which is odd in itself, since both of these men have previously been cold-blooded killers). After the ritual is over, Hive’s Ward is strong and healthy.
Back in the main story, Coulson and Talbot meet with their relationship drastically different from last season. The president has ordered Talbot to follow Coulson’s directions, but that doesn’t sit well with either man. More troubling, however, is the fact that Talbot has recruited Carl “Crusher” Creel as his personal bodyguard. Creel, better known as the Absorbing Man, briefly threatened Talbot and his family last season until SHIELD took him down and he seemingly died. Here, no one bats an eye about his continued survival, and that’s a good thing. Absorbing Man is a classic villain guest star in the comics – a “jobber” in wrestling parlance – and in classic comic book tradition, villains seemingly die all the time only to return later hale and healthy. This bodes well for other season one and two villains, like Tobias Ford (who was basically Iron Man’s Ghost villain in all but name), Blackout, and Graviton.
Creel explains that he was an experiment of some sort, explaining his powers, but in the comics he (like a lot of Thor’s early villains) was empowered by Loki. Seems that hasn’t been incorporated into his origin here – or at least not yet.
Side note, when Lincoln fights (and almost kills) Creel, the Absorbing Man has the properties of galvanized rubber and is called “Michelin Man.” Obviously the puffy white Michelin is known for hawking tires, but some younger audience might not realize he’s made out of tires. White wall tires used to be a popular thing with white stripes along their sides, but when cars were first gaining popularity, it wasn’t uncommon for tires to be completely white. The more you know.
While none of the SHIELD crew trusts Creel, Hunter downright loathes him as Creel was responsible for the deaths of his friends Izzy and Idaho at the start of season two. Talbot believes Creel was brainwashed by Hydra (as they used the “Faustus Method” on several people last season), but that he’s reformed now. In the comics, Creel and his wife Titania have tried to reform several times, but as the characters go from one creative team to the next, with sometimes very odd results. Usually he’s considered too dumb to be truly evil.
Anywhozits, Talbot and Creel are brought into the Playground, SHIELD’s base so secret even the POTUS isn’t allowed to know where it is. When Hunter was first brought here, they kept the base’s location secret, so presumably similar measures were taken for these two. Coulson preps Talbot for the Symposium on the Alien Contagion, with various international delegates, including Haruto Yakimura of Japan, Anton Petrov of Russia, Xiao Chen of Taiwan (the event’s host), Ellen King of Australia, and Nathi Zuma of… Africa? It’s possible Zuma is the Wakandan representative, as the Black Panther movie is coming out soon and Wakanda was name-dropped in Age of Ultron, that’s certainly possible.
At the symposium in Taipei, Coulson (disguised as the glasses-wearing, and arm sling-using “Dr. Sean Lundwall,” CDC expert on alien biology) is on the looking for Malick’s mole (as there must be one), and Talbot, as the official representative of the US, is wearing a traditional men’s gown. Talbot’s comments suggest he’s going commando under the gown – try not to think about it. Talbolt also makes several racist comments off-hand, just to drive the point home that he isn’t made for this kind of work.
Using the fancy new artificial hand Fitz created, Coulson copies each of the delegates’ handprints so another Fitz-created device that creates artificial skin “gloves” to fool scanners. For the sake of convenience, the scanners require the left hand, the same as Coulson’s artificial hand. With the new prints, May’s team infiltrates the delegate’s rooms. The key suspect is King, who sends an encrypted message to her SHIELD-esque team the Australian Threat Unit, instructing them to move their captive Subject SW4-7-2009, the Inhuman Eden Fesi. By the episode’s end, Coulson has agents Down Under free Eden and begin his recuperation. THIS GUY IS A BIG DEAL! Aside from being a member of Daisy’s Secret Warriors, Eden, as Manifold goes on to become a key member of the Avengers, vital in their recent war against Thanos and the struggle to save all reality! He has the impressive ability to teleport himself and others anywhere in the universe (much like New Mutant friend Lila Cheney). Man, would he be cool to have in the show. Interestingly, he’s not explicitly described as an Inhuman in the comics, but rather as student of Gateway, the Aboriginal portal-creator who aided the X-Men for many years. To be fair, the lines between mutant and not-mutant have been very blurry lately, and Gateway has always been very mysterious anyway. Kinda’ fun how his ATU identification number is his first appearance: Secret Warriors #4, July 2009.
While all this is happening, Hunter leaves his post to go after Creel (this guy is not the most reliable secret agent), and unintentionally discovers Talbot’s son George, held captive by Malick in one of the ATCU’s gel matrix tanks (normally used to house unconscious Inhumans). It seems Malick has been blackmailing Talbot, who is the real mole in the symposium; this also explains the frustration of Carla, Talbot’s wife, earlier in the episode.
To fulfill his end of the deal and save his family, Talbot unmasks Coulson before the delegates (in a very Clark-Kent-was-Superman kind of moment) and has him publically shamed and captured. Malick makes an appearance personally to swoop in and woo the Delegates while destroying credibility. He does so rather viscerally with images of dead Inhumans – presumably victims of Dr. Garner/Lash – including one man that looks an awful lot like Eden’s teacher Gateway. Dang, that makes me sad for some reason.
This begins a two-pronged rescue effort, SHIELD’s team goes after Talbot’s son, while Creel rescues Coulson and Talbot (who is taken prisoner as well, despite his deal). Their efforts successful (even if Malick is long gone by the time they’re done), Coulson and Talbot bury the hatchet somewhat, and agree to work as partners. Hunter also seems more permissive of Creel, once the Absorbing Man saves him from Hydra goons. Coulson is troubled though, as Malick, the supposed “last head of Hydra” seems to be following someone (or something) else’s orders. In the comics (and the films) Hydra famously declare “if you cut off one head, two more will take its place!” This often seems true.
Malick leaves with Petrov, who seemed to get approval from the symposium to begin a “sanctuary state” for Inhumans in Russia – collecting a lot of superpowers in one place, under Russian protection. There is definitely something going on with Petrov, as he recognizes Talbot instantly, is unknown to Malick, and so eager to create a home for hundreds of Inhumans. In the comics Russia has long had facilities for housing, detaining, and sometimes training superpowered individuals (usually mutants, but tomayto tomahto). Due to the oppressive government (remember, due to the sliding timescale of Marvel, stories involving the Soviet Union happened only a few years ago), this never ends well for the powered individuals.
Underneath the plane, Hunter and Bobbi have stowed away, so we’ll likely catch up with their story in Russia.
Before we move on, there’s the B-story (or is it C-story behind Hunter’s issues?). Daisy and Lincoln are shown as a hot-and-heavy pair while training (referred to as “shake ‘n’ bake” by Hunter, which is amazingly accurate), they fight over, of all things, Inhuman rights. Lincoln, who was raised his whole life with Inhuman ideals (but has trouble controlling his powers), doesn’t feel the Terrigenesis process should be made available to just anyone, and Daisy, who only discovered her heritage months ago (and has perfect control of her powers), has become a die-hard supporter of the change. The issue is exacerbated as Daisy points out a new hate group called the Watchdogs has cropped up on the internet, and (more significantly) Simmons discovered Creel’s blood can seemingly inoculate people against Terrigen, thereby preventing them from becoming Inhumans!
In the comics, the Watchdogs were a militant hate-group that troubled Captain America more than once, so presumably they will be a thorn in SHIELD’s collective side soon – maybe they’ll bring the misguided Super-Patriot along with them?
And the idea of a miracle vaccination to prevent Terrigenesis seems like an odd inclusion so early in the Inhumans’ appearances, but such a thing has long been sought after for mutants in the comics. More recently, the child prodigy Moon Girl has realized her DNA may have Inhuman potential, and is desperately seeking for a way to prevent becoming an Inhuman. Maybe she just needs to find Absorbing Man?