Parting Shot – Bobbi and Hunter find themselves at the mercy of Russian Interpol after a surveillance mission on a Siberian facility turns into a much more politically charged and life-threatening affair with some very dark forces at work.
Well in the spirit of not delaying the inevitable, this episode sees S.H.I.E.L.D. get a looming change up out the way with. That is allowing Bobbi and Hunter to depart in preparation for their now confirmed spin-off series Marvel’s Most Wanted. In the same way a sports star will always choose to retire at the top of their game, this was the right call as rather than forcing an exit into the season’s concluding episodes, it can step back from the main story and make them of a centrepiece of this week. In many ways, it’s a testimonial episode to a pair of the show’s best characters and arguably its best double act (it’s a close call with Fitz & Simmons). Their defining characteristics take center stage in the interrogation scenes; Bobbi’s coolness and Hunter’s humour making great entertainment in their contrast. Hunter is especially brilliant in his determination to stick to his mushroom connoisseur cover story, which gets even better when it’s shown as partly true. There’s a good emphasis on their relationship as well when it’s exposed as their mutual weakness.
Then there is the exit strategy/back door pilot setup itself, which is of a surprisingly high quality in both the stakes it provides and the pair’s reasons for leaving. It completely plays with the episodes' events in that although we don’t want them to go, we understand why they must. Then of course, we have the goodbye itself, which may just be biggest the tearjerker S.H.I.E.L.D. has ever mustered when the team bestows, “A spy’s goodbye”. It’s simultaneously happy and sad like any worthwhile parting should be.
It must also be noted that underneath the Bobbi and Hunter eulogy, Parting Shot produces a high quality international spying espionage story as the team trace Mallick and the Russian symposium delegate back to the remote facility. If offers great scenes of infiltration and combat with both plausible real world tie-ins while still keeping Inhumans within the frame. It even crams in some good moral arguments about the nature of S.H.I.E.L.D. as an organisation and assassination like removals of Mallick are placed firmly in the bad ideas bin along with an agency speed dating night, and signing Jessica Jones up to alcoholics anonymous. The shadow boxing General figure makes a great formidable villain for the team that’s really helped by great visual effects and creative power usage such as blasting of the floor to throw Daisy into the ceiling. The non-linear narrative really plays well to the story as we cut back between past and present with the interrogation questions teasing the events of the compound but still managing to surprise with their execution. The is especially true over the implications of certain Russian political killings as Paul Zbyszewski’s script really makes us question whether or not Bobbi and Hunter were responsible or not.
The episode also teases a few macro Inhumans issues around the edges. Daisy’s “Inhuman and proud” arc is still simmering under the surface as she openly expresses her fears that any designated Inhuman safe zone will be more of a prison camp. Yet the best moment comes via a cold war special face to face when our recurring MCU President Ellis meets the Russian Prime Minister, “There’s a new arms race in our future, the race for powered individuals, you know this”. It was teased at in last week’s international gathering but now we really see a fundamental change in stance and approach towards Inhumans. That now the dust/Terragenesis fragments has settled on their arrival, people are transitioning from being afraid of what Inhumans can to do, to considering what Inhumans can do for them.
All things considered, Parting Shot is an excellent S.H.I.E.L.D. episode in the way it accomplishes all its objectives in front of and behind the camera without compromising on the entertainment. Bobbi and Hunter are a loss for the show but for some time now, the show has desperately needed to shorten its bloated character base, and this will help with that. It will allow other more recently sidelined characters (like Fitz & Simmons) to get more screen time. Not to mention that ever since last season’s A Fractured House, Bobbi and Hunter have deserved their own spotlight, and now we another great Marvel show to look forward to.