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The Agents of SHIELD Are Laying The Groundwork For Captain America's Next Movie

When Agents of SHIELD began, its first season revolved around building up towards the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Now there’s another Captain America movie coming out next spring, and we can already see how Agents of SHIELD is laying some track down for it. Spoilers ahead...

Last night’s season premiere of Agents of SHIELD, “Laws of Nature,” seemed to be mostly putting pieces in place for the show’s third season. But there were some hints as to how this new status quo is going to play out. In particular, the remnants of SHIELD are up against a brand new spy agency called the Advanced Threat Containment Unit (ATCU), which is filling more or less the role that SHIELD had back in season one: tracking and containing superpowered and alien-influenced people (frequently in an ugly fashion). And what’s left of SHIELD is now sort of doing what the Inhumans were doing last year: providing a welcome wagon and a safe place for newly emerged Inhumans, training them to use their powers safely and remain hidden. And meanwhile, one of the main people from that Inhuman welcome wagon, Lincoln, now just wants to stay in hiding.

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All of this points towards a world where people with powers are treated with more fear and suspicion than ever before, in the wake of the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. And it’s easy to see how this is leading towards the kind of situation we’re apparently going to see in Captain America: Civil War, in which Tony Stark apparently wants there to be some kind of “governing body” controlling the actions of the Avengers and other heroes. It’s even possible that this new agency we met last night, ATCU, is going to wind up being connected to whatever body Tony Stark supports having authority over supers. In any case, it seems pretty clear that Agents of SHIELD is continuing to put itself smack dab in the middle of these political questions within the Marvel movie/TV universe, and thus will wind up helping to set up some of the big developments in Civil War. And we saw the seeds of that being planted last night.

Here’s the first few minutes of the episode, which were posted as a promotional clip the other day:

So basically, at the end of season two, the Inhumans’ Terrigen crystals (which allows them to activate their mutant genetic powers) got into the ocean and wound up in a bunch of “Fish Oil” capsules. And now anyone with Inhuman DNA who eats one of those capsules gets activated and becomes superpowered. (They handwave away why the capsules don’t turn non-Inhuman people into brittle statues, like what happened to Tripp.)

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The guy in the clip above is Joey Gutierrez, and he’s gained the ability to melt certain metals at up to three feet. A lot of the episode revolves around rescuing him from the mysterious government agency known as ATCU, and giving him the infodump about the Inhumans—how their superpowered DNA was seeded in some humans by the Kree (who aren’t mentioned) and how they are being hunted.

They stash Joey in a fancy chamber where his powers can’t do any harm, but that doesn’t help keep him from freaking out.

Illustration for article titled The iAgents of SHIELD /iAre Laying The Groundwork For Captain Americas Next Movie

As you can glimpse in the above clip, SHIELD has gotten a lot of fancy new hardware, including a nice new plane that can stay in the air for days—handy, since new Inhumans are going to be popping up at an accelerated rate, according to the simulation that Coulson runs:

Illustration for article titled The iAgents of SHIELD /iAre Laying The Groundwork For Captain Americas Next Movie
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They’re going to be EVERYWHERE.

While Daisy (the Inhuman formerly known as Skye) and her “partner” Mack try to help Joey adjust to his situation—she’s the muscle, he’s the teddy bear—Coulson tries to track down info on the agency that’s hunting the Inhumans. Their leader is a woman who goes by Rosalind, who’s got a different identity at every U.S. government agency there is:

Illustration for article titled The iAgents of SHIELD /iAre Laying The Groundwork For Captain Americas Next Movie
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Coulson and Lance Hunter try to trap Rosalind on her Metro commute in DC, only to find themselves trapped instead. And she turns out to know a lot about Coulson, including the fact that he died and went to Tahiti.

Rosalind says that the laws of nature have changed, and until the laws of man change to reflect that, we must do what we feel is right. And she says that powerful people answer to her—which is underscored, when the President of the United States uses those exact same words in an address to the nation, about the creation of the ATCU. Also, more proof that the Marvel Universe is an alternate universe where Barack Obama didn’t manage to get elected:

Illustration for article titled The iAgents of SHIELD /iAre Laying The Groundwork For Captain Americas Next Movie
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So SHIELD is now once again on the outs, except that instead of going up against Glen Talbott, they’re up against a new legit government agency that’s tasked with cleaning up the alien threat by any means necessary. And the good news is that Rosalind seems serious about protecting innocent people, and seems somewhat appalled by the body count that someone is leaving around the place. The bad news is, she seems to have zero compunction about doing grisly experiments on the Inhumans she captures.

[UPDATE: A number of people in comments point out that these people appear to have been killed by Lash, and Rosalind is apparently just doing autopsies on them. But she does clearly imply earlier in the episode that she’s been able to capture a number of the Inhumans alive, or at least that most of them have not gotten away from her.]

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Illustration for article titled The iAgents of SHIELD /iAre Laying The Groundwork For Captain Americas Next Movie

Daisy decides to try and enlist the aid of Lincoln, her former buddy from the Inhuman Day Spa, in helping Joey and others adjust to their reality. But just as Mack no longer seems quite so suspicious of alien-influenced people, Lincoln has also done a 180: he thinks the Inhuman thing is a curse, and he just wants a normal life working at a hospital as a doctor.

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Too bad they get attacked by a third party that’s also looking for Inhumans: a creature known as Lash that can make holes in walls and nearly ploughs through Mack:

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The other threat out there, of course, is Grant Ward’s new version of Hydra. But there’s been no peep out of them for months, and Hydra’s financial assets haven’t even been touched. Still, Lance tells Bobbi that he wants to hunt Grant Ward down and make him pay for shooting Bobbi—and he can’t wait for Bobbi’s injury to be fully healed, so she could join him.

Lance and Bobbi, incidentally, get another one of the episode’s subplots, in which Lance is not speaking to Bobbi. At first it seems like he’s mad at her yet again, but instead it turns out he wants to marry her. With the same ring she threw back at him before, after they were married the first time. And she seems to be seriously considering saying yes:

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The team is missing two other members, of course. Melinda May, who felt betrayed by Coulson’s secrecy, has taken off on vacation and just never came back, leaving Coulson without his right hand in addition to having a crappy cyborg left hand.

And Jemma Simmons vanished into a Kree monolith, and is presumed dead by everybody except for Fitz. He spends the whole episode searching for answers as to what happened to her.

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Fitz goes to Morocco, where he nearly gets killed by some nasty pieces of work whose friends looted an Iraqi museum, just so he can get his hands on an ancient scroll that may or may not have the answers to the exact nature of the monolith. In the gif above, he’s just told them to go ahead and kill him, because then they’ll never get the lovely disintegration bombs that are inside his secure briefcase. (The bombs then disintegrate his main captor, letting him escape with the scroll.)

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But the scroll turns out to contain just the Hebrew word for “Death.” And Fitz seems finally to accept Coulson’s entreaties that he say goodbye to Simmons and let go of her, so he can rejoin the team.

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But as soon as Coulson leaves Fitz to finish accepting the reality of Simmons’ probable death, he goes to the monolith and starts banging on it, demanding answers.

Fitz doesn’t get any answers, but we do—Simmons is on another planet somewhere. She’s being hunted by a creature that can apparently smell blood, because she goes to a lot of trouble to cover up a wound on her face with mud. And she seems pretty scared of whatever is chasing her.

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Agents of SHIELD has almost always been a show about debating the proper response to superpowers and alien threats—Hydra wanted to use them for evil ends, while Edward James Olmos’ splinter group wanted to neutralize them with extreme, massive prejudice. So now we’re being set up for another debate over the correct response to enhanced individuals, except that this time SHIELD’s main opposition is very public and sanctioned by the POTUS himself. And also, the “Fish Oil” shenanigans mean that there are going to be many, many more superhumans coming out of the woodwork. (It’s almost as if a large minority of the population are mutating, into humans with some kind of added “X” factor—or “X” men and women, if you will.) So based on this episode, we’re being set up for another variation on that debate, only with higher stakes and way more publicity.

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This could be interesting.


Contact the author at charliejane@io9.com and follow her on Twitter @Charliejane

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DISCUSSION

Cool_Breeze
Cool_Breeze

What.

Welcome back kids! I hope you had a great summer. How was camp? Did you get your braces off? Did you do the required pre-reading? No, well it’s time to do the reading. Alright, let’s get back into the swing of things.

Because Marvel sure did. One of my favorite things about the MCU is that Marvel doesn’t hide the ball. People don’t keep secrets for the sake of a plot; conflicts don’t drag for too long (I’m looking at you first half of Season One…) and most importantly, we get answers. WHO COULD BE HYDRA? (Answer: Ward, literally that episode.) How many Koenig’s ARE there?? (Answer: at leastthree.) Theta Protocol? (Answer: a freaking HELICARRIER.) The list goes on.

Another thing Marvel excels at is connecting its properties. Some argue that the connections are heavily focused on the TV show, with the movies mostly ignoring them. However, what OTHER possible explanations could explain Fury’s surprise Helicarrier or Hill’s sources about Loki’s staff in Age of Ultron? That’s one big ass Helicarrier sized plot hole. Granted, many more of the references are on the TV side, but if you’re a fan of both the movies and shows, this is a grand time to be alive. At this point, DC isn’t even TRYING at the same scope as Marvel (unless they are playing the long ball and Justice League 3 in 2021 is actually Crisis On Infinite Earths and if that’s the case then HNNGGG...

And ANOTHER thing I love about the MCU: It’s a blast. Sure, the DCTVU (DCCU Jr.? DCTV?) is goofy and campy and embraces the fun and Barry looks like he legitimately loves having powers, but the MCU is something else. It’s action packed. It’s got a fast pace. I wonder where Simmons is? HERE’S YOUR ANSWER SEE YA NEXT WEEK. Hot damn.

But I digress: this was an amazing episode, directed by the same person that did F.Z.Z.T. and Turn, Turn, Turn, so you just know it was destined to be a fun ride.

1. What agency do you think that is? Could it be SWORD? I don’t think so. SWORD was a branch of SHIELD (or born from it), so would the US Government really trust it after The Winter Soldier and Ultron and Ant-Man?

SWORD is focused on alien threats, though. The bald goon at the beginning said he “had the alien threat surrounded,” which makes sense given Vision and Thor and the Chituari. Who knows what an alien looks like? They could be everywhere!

Also, given that unless stated otherwise, everything in the MCU happens in chronological order (example: Ant-Man was released in July; this takes place two and a half months later at the end of September), there can be a SWORD without a huge space station. The Chituari invaded in 2012; three years ago. They might have plans for one, but it isn’t close to being built. Also, wouldn’t Stark know about it?

There is also another tricky issue: Rights. Doesn’t SWORD interact mostly with X-related characters? It IS an offshoot of SHIELD (so they could go the Twins route) and not reference any X-Men connections, but is it worth it? Also, wouldn’t they relegate something like SWORD to the movies, so Captain Marvel can interact with it, or the Guardians?

Space exploration and the defense department, though. That kinda has to be something along the lines of SWORD. Right? And that TAHITI rip. How else would she know about that without having some connection to SHIELD. Hell, most of SHIELD didn’t even know about TAHITI.

Another possibility is HAMMER. We already got a glimpse of HAMMER in season one when the gang went to the Hub (the sign on the door, maybe it was a NEW division?) Also, HAMMER was really a US military endeavor, in RESPONSE to SHIELD. Maybe here, the government picked up the scraps afterThe Winter Soldier and ran with it? Being government/military, that means there is a probably military brass at or near the top. Who do we know? Talbot and the recently reintroduced Ross. HOT DAMN.

I don’t think Talbot is involved - he’s too much of a boy scout. Hell, if they made business suits in Air Force Digicam, he’d wear it. WITH THAT ‘STACH. Ross has to be involved. We know he’s going to be in Civil War (he did a voiceover for the trailer), Civil War deals with government oversight of the Avengers and after this show, people with powers, and from what we saw inHulk, he loooves the clandestine. This unit hunting Joey is not your average military unit. It’s special. If anything, Ross might be involved and I love it so.

Also, Ross would be a cool Hill-esque cameo for Agents of SHIELD without breaking the bank, and he could drop the show a line in Civil War. Like I said. HNNGGG...

The ACTU, huh? We shall see.

2. Last thing about HAMMER: The rights aren’t so tricky. So, Osbourne was in charge? Guess what two studios have a pretty sweet deal? That’s right, Marvel and Sony. We get Spider-Man (WITH A DASH) in Civil War, why not a Spidey-centric agency, too? We can let Sony borrow Iron Man for a few scenes. That’s a fair trade.

3. Daisy’s intro. Dude. DUUUDE. Before, I said I would call her Skye until she chose to be called something else. A classic “Cassius Clay” situation. I like how Daisy has progressed. Between seasons one and two, she went from a great hacker to a competent agent, thanks to a good teacher (May) and some motivation (God dammed WARD). Then, by the end of season two, Daisy went from a competent agent to a kick ass agent (SWEET MOSES THAT SCENE) for the same reasons (May as a teacher; her dad as motivation). It looks like she did it again: From season two to three, she went from a kick ass agent to a competent superhero (Lincoln as her teacher; finding and helping her kind as motivation). By the end of the season, she’ll be ready to take over SHIELD.

4. The elevator is a mix of Banner’s cabin and Willy Wonka’s favorite mode of transportation. Whoever designed that (Fitz) deserves a gold star. I wonder if it only does up/down, or if it can track a target for drop and go’s. It’s the reverse of the Hulk container from The Avengers.

5. NEW BUS!!! AHHH I CAN’T EVEN!!!! Zephyr One, huh. Looks like a mix between old bus and Stark’s personal jet from Iron Man 1. Also note: the vertical thrust is blade based, like the Helicarrier and most Quinjets, but the thrust (blue out the back) is more in line with the Stark Tech used in Operation Insight. SHIELD 2.0 found more than just an old Helicarrier…

May is going to love driving the new bus.

6. JOEY IS NOT A FREAKING TED TALK. Man, this was a long summer. I missed this show’s humor. From Hunter’s “It’s not like this day can get any crazier” to “I wouldn’t want to do anything to make you feel uncomfortable” (HOLY SHIT INSPECTOR COULSON) to “I very much love my new toy” to the “cagey banter,” I was just rolling. Coulson is a SECRET AGENT MAN. Pop that colla’.

Hunter has trouble counting without his fingers? He is the best.

8. Speaking of Coulson and Daisy, they have the same type of relationship now as May and Coulson in the first season. First name basis. Like I mentioned above, Daisy is changing each season, and we’re just lucky to be along for the ride.

9. Was that Creel on the slab in the hospital with the hole in his chest?

10. Dr. Mockingbird? I THINK SO. I noticed the limp, nice touch of detail there following her experience with Ward.

11. Joey is LGBT. Notice how no one on the show made a deal about it? Because it’s not a deal. It’s normal. I love how they just include it. Finally. Also, his reaction to Daisy’s explanation was completely justified. I would laugh my ass off, too.

12. Cool little nugget: Last season, Mack cut off Coulson’s hand with a big red axe. Now the same axe is hanging in Coulson’s office. That’s a reminder to the team to do what needs to be done, and a reminder to him that he is not infallible. Unflappable? YES. Infallible? Not so much.

13. I approve of Daisy’s new uniform.

14. This episode was full of references to the greater MCU. Daisy told Joey that the world has been “twitchy since Sokovia fell out of the sky.” Coulson’s Pym reference. PRESIDENT ELLIS referencing Avengers, Dark World, Winter Soldier, and Ultron. Keep it up, hunting for these Easter eggs are fun.

15. Interesting explanation from Dr. Mock there about the Terrigen chemicals. The lethal stuff (the part of the Obelisks) sank to the sea floor, but the mist part was absorbed into the sea life. It won’t kill anyone, but it’ll ruin some people’s sense of normalcy. What happens when some oil rig drills and refines it, and some poor sap inhales some tainted car exhaust with some Obelisk particles? I wonder if they’ll show that? They also pulled most of the Fish Oil off the shelves, so they don’t have too many people running around melting shit. Good call.

I also like how they decided to tape the Monolith container shut. Nice touch.

16. SECRET AAAAAGENT FITZ! I’m sad that Simmons is missing, but I like this new direction they’re taking him. He’s done taking shit. He’s about to dish it. God damn his speech about the parchment to Youssif was brilliant. His fake out with the splinter bombs? FUCKING YES.

17. LASH!!!! Lash is from Orollan, an Inhuman tribe in Greenland that was hidden away for millennia. Like Afterlife, only a select few were chosen to be exposed to Terrigen Mist; one of which was Lash. In the comics, Black Bolt detonated a Terrigen Bomb, revealing Inhumans all over the world. Lash took it upon himself to hunt down the new Inhumans and judge for himself whether they are worthy for their new powers or not. In the MCU, Black Bolt didn’t release any bomb, but Terrigen Mist infused with fish oil UNDA DA SEEE, creating many new Inhumans. Lash could feel the same way and be hunting these new Inhumans for the same reason, without reference to the Royal Family. That preserves the Royal Family for the MCU in 2019. I can’t wait.

Also, Lash has energy based/manipulation powers, so any interaction with Lincoln could be problematic (see: Magneto and people with metal in their bodies).

18. WILLY WANKA TO THE RESCUEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

19. Come back May, we miss you :( Coulson lost his right hand, too. Right in the feels.

20. WHERE. THE. FUCK. IS. SIMMONS? Fitz is on it: The Monolith warps space time. I thought it might be Eldrac, an Inhuman. Maybe it still is. So she got sent off-planet. I don’t think it’s the Kree homeworld (that bigass planet in the back could be, though); but instead someplace they process Inhumans. Maybe one faction of Inhumans (from Orollan, perhaps?) used it to exile rogue Inhumans, explaining Afterlife’s fear of it. Maybe the Kree used Eldrac to transport Inhumans to and from Earth? Maybe Simmons needed to go wherever she is. Notice: It didn’t take Fitz.

So who are the Secret Avengers? Lincoln will come around (he kinda has to now that he’s outed). Mack will want to help to keep them in check. Hunter likes a good time. Deathlok will be back soon, I’m sure. Maybe they’ll get an Asgardian? This season is going to be glorious.

They should do a Marvel One Shot about the insurance companies dealing with people turning Inhuman in their apartments.

What a time to be alive.