Agents of SHIELD 3.12 Review: “The Inside Man”

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Agents of SHIELD

For most of its running time, “The Inside Man” is a pretty predictable episode of Agents of SHIELD. As soon as Talbot starts labeling everyone at the symposium a traitor, it’s clear that he’s the titular inside man that’s working for Malick, and it’s also not a shocker when we discover that he’s only working for him because the Hydra leader has captured his son (Talbot’s too fun of a character for SHIELD to turn totally evil).

However, while a good portion of the hour plays out exactly how viewers would expect it to, there are a few bright spots that prevent “The Inside Man” from being a letdown. Coulson and Talbot’s banter has never been more entertaining, and the conflict between Daisy and Lincoln feels real and palpable. Not to mention, tonight’s Agents of SHIELD also featured a few surprises in its closing moments that should lead to a more exciting episode next week.

But I’m not here to talk about next week’s episode. So let’s get into what worked and didn’t work in “The Inside Man.”

As I mentioned above, this isn’t a bad episode of Agents of SHIELD so much as it is a predictable one. We’ve seen this type of episode from SHIELD before, with a supposed ally betraying a member of the team and then capturing him or her, but just because it isn’t new doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. Thankfully, the back-and-forth between Coulson and Talbot is an absolute blast; Coulson is always at his best when he gets to trade barbs with another character, and Clark Gregg nails every exchange he has with Adrian Pasdar.

However, while Coulson gets his time to shine, other characters’ storylines suffer from a lack of screentime. For example, it’s hard to feel much of Hunter’s pain when Creel returns, not just because we haven’t seen him since the second episode of Season 2, but also because we barely spend any time with Hunter in “The Inside Man.” There’s one or two quick mentions of Izzy and his other friends that were killed by Creel, but Agents of SHIELD doesn’t allow Hunter (or us) to reflect on how difficult those losses were for him. What could have been a really compelling story for Hunter’s character feels wasted because the SHIELD team needs to stage yet another rescue mission. Here’s hoping that Creel comes back again during Season 3 so that we can explore more of Hunter’s conflicted feelings about working alongside of him.

But although the SHIELD writers may have missed an opportunity to explore Hunter’s complex emotional state, they make up for it with Lincoln and Daisy, giving the new couple their first truly interesting conflict. And why is this conflict so much more compelling than what we’re used to seeing from Daisy and Lincoln? Because unlike fights between the two of them that have occurred in the past, this problem is character-driven; the issues between them here aren’t dictated by the plot but by Lincoln’s honest emotions and the different way that he looks at his powers.

As Lincoln admits to Daisy, he’s jealous of how she’s able to treat her abilities like a gift, as something that completes her. With everything he’s seen and been through, especially with Lash this season, it makes complete sense that he and Daisy would have differing views of their own powers and that he would be hesitant about all Inhumans activating theirs. Their reconciliation is a sweet scene, one that is totally earned, but I also hope it’s not the end of this vaccine issue, because it’s not only an incredibly interesting storytelling avenue but also a great way to explore how and why Daisy and Lincoln work together a couple.

And then, of course, there’s Hive/Ward, which is what I’m calling the alien that has taken over Ward’s body. He’s not featured too prominently throughout “The Inside Man,” but when he’s onscreen, his presence is most certainly felt, never more so than in that haunting, almost disturbing final scene, where he’s “reborn” in the blood of his five innocent victims. What will Hive/Ward do next? I have no idea, but with Hunter and Bobbi secretly aboard Malick’s plane, I hope they come face-to-face with this new villain sooner rather than later. A battle against him in next week’s Agents of SHIELD is just the type of unexpected moment that this series could really use right now.

Other thoughts:

  • Hunter called Daisy and Lincoln “Shake and Bake,” and now that’s how I want everyone to refer to them for the rest of the season.
  • Speaking of Daisy and Lincoln, they actually felt like a real couple for the first time ever in this episode. Please keep that up, Agents of SHIELD writers.
  • The lack of Fitz and Simmons in this episode, not to mention the total absence of Mack, was a bummer for me. They’re three of my favorite characters on the show, and I really wish SHIELD could give them some better material.
  • Man, was that final image of Hive/Ward super unsettling or what? I wasn’t a huge fan of bringing Ward back in any capacity after Coulson killed him in the winter finale, but if SHIELD can continue to deliver moments like that, perhaps he’ll be a better villain than I thought.

Episode Rating: 7/10

Agents of SHIELD airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC. Let us know in the comments below what you thought about “The Inside Man.”

[Photo credit: Nicole Wilder/ABC]

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