Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Failed Experiments”

The wheels on the show spin round & round, round & round, round & round.

Let’s start with a quick recap, shall we?

We get a flashback to how Hive was first captured and turned Inhuman by the Kree. In the present, he wants to make all humans Inhuman. His blood fails to make the experiments work so he activates a beacon to summon two Kree for their blood. Meanwhile, FitzSimmons and Lincoln search for a cure for Hive’s infection. Daisy incapacitates one of the Kree but S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrate the town and Mack, trying to save Daisy, destroys the body. So it’s Plan C for Hive and company.

After last week’s episode spent its runtime laying groundwork I was hoping “Failed Experiments” would leap forward towards the finale, blasting towards that foreshadowed explosive moment in space. I was hoping they would be knocking through plot to make the last four episodes fast-paced and exciting instead of drawing out points like Daisy’s infection and Hive’s master plan.

No such luck.

Now, that’s not to say it’s a terrible episode. It’s not great; certainly a step down from the past few which have been season highs, but it’s not abysmal. It’s mostly just spinning its wheels, which seems to be the show’s Achilles’ heel.

We do get a couple instances of forward motion. For example, we learn more about Hive’s master plan. He wants to turn everyone into Inhumans! But the initial test on the three last surviving Hydra leaders (serious question: how many last leaders of Hydra are we going to get?!) goes seriously, face-meltingly awry because Hive’s blood is not Kree enough. So then we find out what the artifact buried under James’ trailer is—a beacon to summon the Kree if their experiment fails.

But that’s all we get. Everything else is fairly stagnant.

I was genuinely excited when the Kree arrived (even if their appearance truly makes obvious the differences in budget between the television side of the MCU and the film side) because it brought higher-level stakes for season’s end. A fast switch from Hive as the main problem to the Kree trying to kill all Inhumans? That would have been cool and unexpected. The show, through Hive, massively builds up the Kree, not only with last episode’s declaration that the beacon is the only thing that can kill him, but also with his melodramatic speech to Daisy before their arrival.  They are set up to be game changing. And then they fall so fast it’s almost humorous and, lo and behold, there was a convenient solution right there all along: the Kree blood flowing in Daisy’s veins (hello season one callback)!

Notice how we’re kind of right back where we started with Team Hive at the start of the episode?

Yeah.

Despite everything, from the Dr. Radcliffe’s expertise, to the summoning of the Kree, a solution to Hive’s problem is only found in the episode’s very last moments, leaving that plotline’s advancement entirely for the next episode. You could remove the Kree being summoned entirely and the episode still works. Unless a Kree warship arrives in response to the beacon in the next episode (in which case I shall shut my mouth) it was a pointless exercise in handing viewers filler disguised as an exciting new development. The Kree were not there to shake things up for the finale. Their only purpose was to buy time so Hive’s turning people Inhuman plan could fit over the necessary number of episodes.

And perhaps it’s because so little is being stretched to fit over the last five episodes that Daisy still being under Hive’s influence is starting to grate. I talked last week about science fiction shows having the advantage of using their regular actors as heroes and villains. S.H.I.E.L.D. has already gotten mileage out of that idea with Brett Dalton twice now (as Grant Ward and as Hive) and while I initially liked the idea of Chloe Bennett stretching her villain muscles the novelty has quickly soured as, like everything else, the show decides to take a languorous approach instead of a bold one.

I’m assuming Hive’s plan to make everyone Inhuman will be the finale’s driving force. It’s not an uninteresting concept but it’s being delivered in such small increments it has yet to pick up any momentum. The idea of the Kree eliminating Hive or forcing him into working with S.H.I.E.L.D. against them to combat the threat to Inhumans is far more interesting to my mind.

Hopefully the next three episodes prove me wrong!

Other stuff I didn’t like:

Is that it for Alisha? Her power set is really cool and if that’s her permanently gone then what a waste.

This week in Lincoln is the worst: he goes against direct orders, injects himself with an experimental toxin designed by Simmons to destroy Hive’s control over Inhumans, shorts out half the lab’s computers and then is surprised when it doesn’t work and there are consequences. It’s character consistent: he’s been established has having a short temper and acting without thinking but DAMN it does not make him compelling.

James. I continue to find him utterly obnoxious. I get that’s the point, but it’s not even interesting to watch. As in, when he showed up on screen, I was quite tempted to go to the bathroom and leave the episode running.

Other stuff I liked:

May knocking James unconscious with a pool cue.

Further to the above, the May side of that whole scene. It’s always fun when May gets to put on the acting side of her spy skillset. She kicks physical ass so consistently it’s entertaining to see her take a different approach.

May’s material, like the last episode, is better than what she’s had all season. They’ve dropped the Lash plotline fairly hard, but if that means better material for Ming-Na Wen I’m totally okay with that (though her “If I need a gun, I’ll take one” callback was really damn stupid).

Fitz and Simmons disagree over whether or not to use Lincoln as a test subject. Afterwards, they have a mature, adult conversation about how they will sometimes disagree professionally but they should not let it affect their personal relationship. It made me happy to see some of these characters communicating in an emotionally healthy manner! Hopefully, the show does not fall into the trope trap of happy couples not lasting.

References to the larger MCU! Hive mentions Iron Man and Captain America (though not by name). It’s always nice when the show remembers the universe it’s a part of. The television and film sides of the cinematic universe are kept largely separate so even these small lines are welcome reminders they’re operating in the same space.

While the Kree in this episode are a massive fluffy duvet of filler the fight between Daisy and one of the Kree Reapers is pretty cool. We get to see Daisy use her powers, combined with her combat skills, with ruthless efficiency (even if the Kree going down so fast is kind of a let down compared to the massive deal Hive made about them before they arrived—can you tell I’m annoyed about that one?)

Mack and Daisy’s confrontation. While Mack going off book was frustrating, the scene played out nicely. Mack really tries and he gets pummeled as a result. It’s the one moment in the episode where Daisy is interesting as a villain (the Kree fight would have been interesting with or without Hive’s control) and seeing May shoot her in the arm without hesitation to save Mack was a nice moment.

 

I’ll be back next week with episode 20, “Emancipation”, whose title has me hoping Daisy gets free of Hive’s control.