Agents of SHIELD: 314 “Watchdogs” Review
Reviewed by Ollie Gregory.
After the departure of both Bobbi and Hunter last week, many viewers expected the show to have a larger focus on some of the characters who haven’t received as much time in the spotlight. Watchdogs does exactly that, focusing on arguably the most under-utilised member of the S.H.I.E.L.D squad, Mack.
This week, S.H.I.E.L.D are up against an anti-inhuman terrorist organisation who call themselves the Watchdogs. Consisting of mercenaries wearing stupid dog masks which are clearly too big for their faces, the Watchdogs are on a crusade to get rid of the aliens which they regard as a threat to the rest of humanity. Using a chemical known as Nitramene (Nice throwback to Agent Carter guys) which has the ability to make objects implode on themselves, the only people with the know-how on defeating these guys are our favourite super spies.
It has taken us far longer than it should have done to get there, but we finally got some proper Mack action. I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed Henry Simmons’ character Mack, yet felt he was the only character who never seemed to get any proper character development. He’s certainly had some cool moments here and there, but he’s often overshadowed but the likes of Daisy and Fitzsimmons.
Well, this episode that wasn’t the case. We got a little bit of insight into Mack’s family life, specifically his relationship with his brother Ruben Mackenzie, played by Gaius Charles. Little things like learning about Mack’s parents and the fact him and his brother share a nickname are what will turn Mack from a cool character to a character we properly care about, which is effectively what this episode does.
Both Simmons and Charles do a good job this episode, with the bulk of the emotional scenes being given to them. You genuinely get the feeling that Mack really wants to be there for his brother but knows that sometimes he has to put his brother aside for the greater good. Admittedly, Ruben’s drastic changes in attitude from “I love my brother – lets eat steak” to “I hate my brother – lets join a radical anti-inhuman group” feel largely unjustified. There’s nothing wrong with adding tension to the brotherly dynamic, but you can’t help but feel like this scenes were randomly thrown in to add some sort of emotional core to the episode. Credit where credit is due, the scenes are acted well, but they don’t carry the weight they should since they don’t feel organic.
Mack and his brother aren’t the only thing going on this episode however, as we also have a number of other new pairings of characters.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the pairing of Coulson and Lincoln, as often pairing a fan favourite character with a hated character is a sure way to make both characters worse. I liked the way Coulson was completely right all the time, as it made him feel like a legitimate boss (That phrase sounds mega stupid I know) rather than just some goomba in a suit. I like the fact Coulson teaching Lincoln how to be a good S.H.I.E.L.D agent acts as a metaphor for the real life situation which seems to be Clark Gregg teaching Luke Mitchell how to play a character that people actually like. They work satisfyingly well with one another, and I hope the show keeps the characters together (especially if that means keeping Lincoln away from Daisy).
I also really enjoyed the pairing of Simmons and May. While so far season 3 has been pretty great, I have been slightly disappointed by Ming-Na Wen. Pairing her with the at-one-time-hidden gem Elizabeth Henstridge was a smart move however, giving her a bubbly personality to work alongside without giving her some obnoxious tool to scowl at all episode. While they don’t really do an awful lot together, there’s implications that this is going to last some time, as Simmons helps May to track down and murder Lash. While such scenes as May telling Simmons to exhale as she fires a bullet (Is there any other advice people give regarding firearms?) felt a little cliche, giving the ladies a chance to share their emotional ordeals with one another will help the characters stay relevant and interesting.
While disappointingly, neither HYDRA nor Hive make an appearance this episode, the Watchdogs were pretty fun villains for the team to go up against. Despite the Watchdogs seemingly coming out of nowhere, the idea of a group of hate-mongers on the internet spreading disdain about a group of “different” people who they believe are ruining the lives of the “normal” was an interesting, and remarkably relevant one. I didn’t mind the return of Felix Blake (He was in the first Marvel One-Shot I ever watched – what fantastic trivia) and enjoyed him going head to head with Coulson in that basement. As a whole, however, while the idea was good, the actual execution of the group was a little disappointing. This perfectly mimics the fact that the idea of a special chemical that makes objects implode is cool, but the special effects unfortunately weren’t really up for the test.
The highlight of this episode was definitely the action. I thoroughly enjoyed Daisy’s little vigilante escapade with Fitz, and while there was never really any tension when Fitz got Nitramene on his neck, since we all knew he was going to be fine, as a whole Daisy was fun this episode (#KeepLincolnAwayFromDaisy). I also really enjoyed the clash of ideologies within the group, seemingly linked to the upcoming movie you might have heard of, Captain America: Civil War, with Mack and Daisy disagreeing over the approach to stopping the Watchdogs. Speaking of Mack, his action scene at the end of this episode was absolutely terrific, and he even made the shotgun axe. He did it fellas! He did it!
As a whole, this episode was enjoyable, but I couldn’t help but feel like it could have benefited from being split into two halves. It’s not often I say that regarding TV shows like this, but there was so many fantastic ideas that just weren’t explored as much as they could have been. Split the episode in two, have the Watchdogs grow throughout the first one, and then Ruben join as a cliffhanger at the end. That way we’d have enough to time to do all the ideas justice. Then again, this was still a solid episode, and maybe splitting it into two would have annoyed people. At the end of the day, what do I know?