Team. Team. Team. Team. Team. Team. I even love saying the word "team". You probably think that's a picture of my family? Uh uh. It's the A-Team”. Denholm Reynholm isn’t the only team enthusiast out there. Any comic fans watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season have done so with a particular team firmly on their minds: The Secret Warriors. It’s an ensemble that the show has been teasing ever since last year’s finale when Coulson handed Daisy/Skye (I can’t remember her preference back then) a folder baring that very name. We’ve watched them go through psyche evaluations, assessments and the odd tease of team up action while the members trickle in but this week, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally goes all out and gives the team the spotlight. This week, it’s Secret Warriors assemble!
The Team – With Shield’s key personal facing capture by Hydra, Daisy calls in Joey and Elena to join her and Lincoln on the inaugural Secret Warriors mission to rescue their friends. Yet getting them out becomes the least of their worries once they learn of Hive’s ability to control Inhumans.
Now first off, it has to be said that this episode does disappoint on its premise by being over before you can blink. The existing team members are assembled for a combined mission, which lasts barely a few minutes. The action and power usage we get is good, particularly from the first time combination of melty men Joey and “Slingshot” Elena. The trouble is it all feels like just another tease rather than the rewarding payoff of seeing a Secret Warriors unite in all their glory. However, once the dust has settled and we’ve accepted The Team for the episode, it is not the episode we were expecting; it actually has quite a lot of offer as it builds on the events of recent weeks in logical steps to establish a plausible witch-hunt style story. As the team learns more about Hive/not Grant Ward from newly-presented sources, they reach the audience state of awareness overly Hive’s ability to infect and control Inhumans like we’ve seen with Giyera and Lucio. Having unknowingly placed all of their Inhuman assets in the same location as Hive, the fear induced question suddenly becomes whether any (or all) of the team members could now infected and fear becomes the key word. There are some great scenes as the worst sides of Shield’s human team members start coming to the surface out of uncertainty based animosity, being unable to even test for the infection, let alone understand it. In a snap, all the Secret Warriors team members become viewed as little more than walking weapons with the safety off. Yet the real strength here is how well the episode holds its mystery. An early tease from Hive as the rescue mission evacs confirms that someone is a double agent, “Now we have a man on the inside”. Yet DJ Doyle’s script successfully places each team member under equal grounds for suspicion and sustains this for almost the entire episode as suspicions even turn inwards within the team. There are the odd moments where conclusions feel leaped to left alone jumped, but overall, the episode builds a solid web of distrust that’s fascinating to watch unfold. Then most importantly, of all the finale reveal of the insider, identity is a worthwhile payoff with major consequences that make this a game-changing episode for the season. The reveal also feels reminiscent of The Facilty as the infected talks about feeling free from worries and fear by being part of the collective.
Despite the Inhuman focus, many regular faces have a great episode. Mack gets some enjoyable scenes with Elena as her point of trust within Shield. There’s a great joke about Mack’s comic “Yo-Yo” nickname labeling now sticking, and that she’s determined to get him back. Could Mack be heading towards a comic persona of his own? Although Alfonso McKenzie does originate from a 1998 Nick Fury story, Henry Simmons on-screen version has little resemblance (and his younger brother even jokes in Watchdogs that he was the original “Mack”) so a Skye/Daisy style identity change could work for him. Fitz and Simmons also make great contributions to the episode doing exactly what they do best: make the science understandable while being frequently hilarious and adorable as a pairing. Fitz almost steals the entire episode when the autopsy takes him way out of his comfort zone, “seen any good movies lately?”. We get a sense of the events drawing them closure together as more than just friends, which is much better than the normal approach of making their relationship status its own entity in the episode. Then finally, Phil Coulson gets some terrific exchanges while being filled in about Hive including a very sneaking little MCU Easter Egg concerning his Asgardian encounters, “I’ve met Gods.... Gods bleed”.
So despite not being the grand new Secret Warriors beginning, we wanted, the Team recovers itself well into a very engaging episode revolving around a genuinely great mystery. It does give make the season feel like it’s shifting up a gear (5 episodes remaining, like last year the final pair will be a two hour double feature), which any show should be striving for at this stage. This is a good team to be part of.