The bad news: Marvel still doesn’t have the rights to use its X-Men characters in cinema and television. The good news: they’re essentially creating the same storyline on Agents of SHIELD with the Inhumans. The core issues of this episode, “A Wanted (Inhu)man,” are the Inhumans’ struggles to find a place and identity in a world that fears them, and the humans’ struggles to work for the greater good. It’s a testament to good storytelling that both sides have valid points.
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Finding Those Legal Loopholes
After a confrontation with a new Inhuman ruined his life in the previous episode, Lincoln is now on the run. The ATCU isn’t making it easy for him; they’ve put his picture on every channel in the country, telling the public that he’s a murderous alien terrorist. So, yeah, his medical career is pretty much over.
Since he’s one of the main reasons Daisy didn’t have a complete nervous breakdown last season, she’s very dedicated to helping him. But it’s clear early on that her team isn’t as trusting of Lincoln as she is. Coulson had Mack implant a tracker into Lincoln’s arm, and Mack still talks about any Inhuman other than Daisy as if they’re bombs waiting to go off rather than people. To be fair to Mack, he’s not wrong. It’s the classic X-Men dilemma: we sympathize with them as people, which they are, but we also have to acknowledge that they are extremely dangerous and largely unable to control their powers.
Since Lincoln still doesn’t trust SHIELD (for valid reasons), he refuses to accept help from Daisy and spends half the episode electrocuting things near people in order to escape. He finally calls a man named John, who is hinted at being an alcoholism sponsor. John is initially the greatest friend of all time. He assures Lincoln that he’s a good person, gives him a place to stay and happily sells his beloved car to him. But the second he finds out that Lincoln is an alien, his attitude changes completely. He calls the ATCU and even threatens Lincoln with a bat. “You said you knew what kind of man I am,” Lincoln pleads. “I don’t even know what you are,” John responds. It’s almost as if it’s a metaphor for xenophobia!
John’s symbolic racism doesn’t go well for him; Lincoln accidentally causes him to have a fatal heart attack while trying to get away. This doesn’t help with Lincoln’s self-esteem or the campaign against him, but it does finally get him to call Daisy for help.
While Daisy and Mack rush to collect Lincoln, Coulson meets with Rosalind. She doesn’t seem to have any malicious feelings towards the Inhumans. To her, they’re business transactions, not to be treated cruelly but in need of being collected for her professional advancement. Really, that’s almost worse than hating them. She refuses to let Coulson handle the increasing Inhuman problem because the pressure is already on her to bring them in through her organization. Coulson isn’t thrilled with this, but there’s a bigger problem: she has a picture of Daisy and is willing to use it the same way she used Lincoln’s.
Coulson is more sympathetic towards Inhumans than most, but at the end of the day, he cares about his people more than anything. His priority is to keep Daisy safe, and if that means handing over Lincoln, so be it. Daisy isn’t aware of this, though, and meets with Lincoln. It’s a role reversal of where they were last season; Lincoln is questioning whether or not he’s a monster, and Daisy is assuring him that his powers are a means to do good in the world. Also, she makes out with him. Which is fair. We see what he looks like shirtless in this episode, so good on you, girl.
Mack interrupts this act of diplomacy by bringing in the ATCU team on Coulson’s orders. Daisy is naturally horrified, and Lincoln naturally panics and escapes. Since the team needs to bring in an Inhuman to save face, they turn to Daisy. Mack, to his credit, immediately pulls a gun on them. He may be distrusting of all things alien, but he’s also loyal. Rosalind tells Coulson what they’re planning on doing, so he makes a bargain: SHIELD will work with the ATCU in finding the Inhumans if they’ll let Daisy go. Rosalind agrees.
Daisy is way less angry about the whole betrayal than I thought she would be. She’s very emotional when it comes to Inhumans, but she’s also beginning to see the bigger picture and the difficulties they’re facing. Coulson assures her that he doesn’t trust Rosalind or the ATCU, but he’s tired of working against people. He never expected those Terrigen vitamins to work so fast and is really overwhelmed. She also forgives Mack easily. Their friendship has been one of the high points of the season thus far.
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May Kicks Butt While Wearing a Blondie Shirt. She is Perfect.
Meanwhile, on the “I Want to be Melinda May” show, May and Hunter meet up with Hunter’s old acquaintance, Spud. I say “acquaintance” and not “friend” because I like to think that Hunter wouldn’t truly be friends with someone named Spud. Spud is able to get Hunter into a fight club that acts as a test for prospective Hydra agents; if you win a fight, you move on to the next phase of Hydra initiation.
Naturally, May is dying to kick everyone’s ass, but if a tiny Asian woman started destroying 300-pound men, Ward would probably figure out that it was her. So, vastly inferior fighter Hunter is up. May shows him her brass knuckles collection while admitting that she wasn’t the one who left Garner, which is about as warm and fuzzy as she gets.
Hunter is nearly killed in the fight until he breaks out May’s brass knuckles. At the same time, May is cornered by three very rapey men and debilitates them within seconds. It’s probably more painful for her to watch Hunter not land a decent high kick than it is to see him covered in blood. Pathetic martial arts performance or not, Hunter still gets through to the next Hydra level.
“Your Self-Diagnosing is a Sign You’re on the Mend”
In other fantastic female character news, Simmons is back! And so, so messed up. Fitz explains that virtually every system in Simmons’ body is out of whack from living on an alien world for months. The real issue, though, is her obvious PTSD. She can’t handle bright lights, is frightened by any sudden noises and can’t even be in her own lab for more than a few minutes. Fitz is concerned, but still incredibly sweet and supportive. Bobbi points out that the situation is similar to what he went through last year. It may be necessary for Simmons to find a new normal rather than going back to what she was.
For her part, Simmons seems to be attempting to articulate something throughout the episode but is too overwhelmed to do so. She nearly does when she gets a visit from Daisy, but her friend is called away before anything can be said. Later, Fitz takes her to dinner, and it’s revealed that he’s kept the reservation for their date for all these months. While I’m picking myself up from the puddle that fact turned me into, Simmons loses her ability to keep a brave face and bursts into tears. Fitz isn’t frustrated or disappointed at all; he simply holds her while she cries.
The portrayal of Simmons’ return is beautifully done in this episode. Everyone’s interactions with her are tender, Fitz gets a gold star at both friendship and life, and Elizabeth Henstridge does some wonderful acting. Even without a twist, it would have been a satisfying storyline. But they give us one at the end anyway. Late at night, Bobbi finds Simmons examining the Monolith fragments in the lab. She tries to assure Simmons that the portal is gone, but this is not what Simmons wants to hear. “I have to go back,” she declares, and the episode ends on the question of why.
Agents of SHIELD airs Tuesdays at 9pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)