TV Recap: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ‘Watchdogs’

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‘WATCHDOGS’ PLOT SUMMARY:

S.H.I.E.L.D.’s investigation of a radical group called the Watchdogs interferes with Mack’s (Henry Simmons) vacation. Meanwhile, Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and May (Ming-Na Wen) argue over the Inhuman “cure.”

I’m going to take a slightly different approach to discussing this week’s episode. I’ll still touch on the important points, but I’m going to present them in another perspective.

Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal
Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal

This episode comes at an interesting time. Not only are we gearing up for Captain America: Civil War, we’re still processing a similar film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which opened worldwide last Friday. Now, we usually don’t mix DC and Marvel properties; they’re like oil and water. But the themes of this show and these two movies make the prospect too tantalizing to pass up. Superhero-related entertainment falls into two categories: that which speaks about social issues and that which doesn’t. These three fall into the former category.

Something that Batman v Superman and Civil War both address is the unchecked power of superheroes. Remember, since The Avengers, there have been catastrophic events in New York, London, Washington, Johannesburg, Seoul, and Sokovia (I might have forgotten a few). As stated in the second Civil War trailer, “People are afraid.” That’s a declaration that rings true not just in these fictional worlds, but also in the real world. Distrust of the government feels like it’s at an all-time high.

While Americans in our world project most of this frustration onto Congress and the White House, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they point their fingers at groups like S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans. As stated during a radio broadcast, first it was illegal aliens and now it’s actual aliens (which is fitting, given the debate in our country right now). The rise of the Inhumans and HYDRA’s resurgence led to creation of the Watchdogs, whose members ironically don helmets that look like loans from the Predator. It’s hard to say what’s the value of the dilemmas of power in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Civil War, other than reminding us of real life problems. The Inhumans storyline at least serves as an effective allegory for outcasts and as a call for tolerance.

Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal
Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal

To the credit of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., these and other problems work well as Ruben’s (Gaius Charles) motivations to support the Watchdogs. That being said, it’s funny how Mack just initially shrugs off his brother’s comments about a terrorist organization. Still, their relationship is mostly believable and it’s nice to see Mack finally get more attention. I often forget that he’s more of a mechanic than a field agent, even though he’s proven himself capable in combat, including this week.

Speaking of forgetting, I won’t lie that I don’t really remember who Felix Blake (Titus Welliver) is. Either way, it’s a little hard to believe that a former agent would be behind a group like the Watchdogs. It feels out of character, though it is understandable that he would become disillusioned after finding out that HYDRA was running S.H.I.E.L.D. At least he’s not as disillusioned as May is. It’s mildly heartbreaking that’s she’s given up on her ex-husband and doesn’t want a false sense of hope (i.e. the cure) to blind her from the truth.

This is a heavy episode. Between May vowing to kill the former love of her life and discussions about government problems, you have to dig deeper for something to enjoy (like Mack’s other nickname being Alfie). I’d say it’s worth it though just to get a Mack-centric episode. Still, I’m hoping for something more next week.

RATING: 6.5 OUT OF 10 (AVERAGE)

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Aaron Sarnecky is Pop-Break’s television editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, among other things. He is a graduate of Rowan University with a degree in television and film. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed. Follow him on Twitter: @AaronSarnecky