Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The Inside Man Review
The Inside Man diverges from its predecessor, Bouncing Back, by reorienting the focus back towards Hydra. Given that the Hydra story has largely been unfocused throughout the season so far, one could be excused for fearing that the narrative quality may abruptly stall out. Fortunately, through careful but effective use of Glenn Talbot’s character and some undercover antics, the episode proves to be quite fun, and successfully maintains a level of quality that is comparable to its predecessor. Even with the Inhuman members of the team sidelined due to the parameters of the mission, Agents proves that it can still provide some enjoyable action. Its biggest setback might actually be the fact that it compressed such an intriguing premise into a single episode, when it could have probably been implemented better as two episodes.
Talbot has been a bit of a question mark for much of his time on the show. Adrian Pasdar has largely portrayed him as a forceful and authoritative individual, in much the same way that he portrayed Nathan Petrelli in Heroes. However, this stands in contrast to how the show actually presents him, as he is depicted as having little actual power, and his animosity towards Coulson often comes off as little more than belligerent and childish frustration. By and large, the show has succeeded in walking the tightrope of having him be humorous enough to serve as comedic relief, but also command enough of a presence so as to not come off as completely inept. That being said, during his last few appearances I felt that he was becoming a bit too much of a buffoon to actually work in the context of the show. Therefore, when it was revealed at the end of the previous episode that he would be taking the reins of the ATCU, I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. Fortunately, The Inside Man proved to be a strong episode for him, as it used his comical nature effectively, while, at the same time, reaffirming him as a character who is capable in his own right. It was nice to see Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dial his stooge-like behavior back a bit, and, as an added bonus, he doesn’t try to pull of the faces of any female subordinates this time.
The plot of the episode focuses on an international summit that is being held to discuss the Inhumans and how best to deal with the issue. Talbot is to attend as the representative of the U.S. with Coulson going in undercover as a scientific advisor. Because of concern over possible genetic screenings, Daisy and Lincoln are sidelined, while Bobbi, May, and Hunter are tasked with determining which of the representatives might be working for Gideon Malick. Furthermore, Talbot is insisting on taking along his new bodyguard, Crusher Creel the Absorbing Man. As a premise for an episode, this is a great idea. It starts out with a Clue or Werewolf-style mystery where we are given a number of characters that could potentially be spies, and we and our protagonists are tasked with figuring out which of them actually are. The biggest problem is that the episode never really takes advantage of that particular element. This is somewhat understandable since The Inside Man is a bit cluttered to begin with, and later reveals add even more chaos to the mix. Still, had this been structured as a two-parter, it might have been able to capitalize further on the strengths of its narrative. As it is, the story is pretty good, but nothing spectacular.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- I am curious as to how the show plans on using Creel. Hunter is correct in pointing out that his prior murdering of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents makes his reformation difficult to accept, but Talbot seems to genuinely trust him. Even though I doubt the show is actually going to go this route, my mind keeps bouncing back to the Thunderbolts. For those who are unaware, the Thunderbolts are basically Marvel’s equivalent to DC’s Suicide Squad.
- While I’m avoiding direct spoilers in this review, I will acknowledge that the reveal in the second half of the episode legitimately caught me off guard.
- The Ward-Inhuman thing (I was going to break down and use the actual name of the character since I was sick of calling it things like “the Ward-Inhuman thing,” but then I realized that I had actually forgotten what the name of that character is. So I guess I’ll just hold off and wait till either the show reveals it or I happen to remember.) appears to be planning some things behind Gideon’s back. He has his followers gather 5 humans so that he can restore his body, seemingly by assimilating their flesh. I’m suspecting that he has no real interest in Malick as a follower since he is a normal human.
The Inside Man has some very intriguing parts that unfortunately never had enough space to breathe or reach their full potential. Still, the episode proves to be a strong one, and, for the first time in a little while, the cast get to partake in some more traditional espionage based antics. It’s not exceptional, but it is enjoyable.