Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Watchdogs”:

You know, they say if you stare at the news long enough it starts to mirror fiction, and boy if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t terrifyingly benefit from that tonight. Obviously, there’s some parallel thinking at Marvel to set up a world distrustful of superpowers in time for Civil War, as well that Season 3 has been having that particular debate all season, but the introduction of Marvel’s “Watchdogs” brings some downright eerie parallel to current events. Sometimes, anyone in need of someone to blame for their troubles can fall in with radicals.

The Watchdogs at least have their own comic history of hatred, and it was smart to bring back Titus Welliver’s Blake as a central proponent of that, considering we lost track of the character in Season 1 after Deathlok shattered his spine, and The Winter Soldier pulled focus. Better yet though, the loss of Hunter and Bobbi last week necessitated a strong showing for S.H.I.E.L.D.’s support characters, and a Mack-centric hour was exceptionally overdue.

On that end, the introduction of Mack’s brother will probably pay better dividend later, the execution here tonight coming up a bit whiny,  and awkward enough that the character literally rolls into one scene from out of frame, giving away Daisy and the team’s position outside the Watchdogs’ barn. If nothing else, it made sense that someone closer to the core team would sympathize with the Watchdogs, in order to explore the genesis of that misguided anger. Mack too gets to see both sides, as Daisy clearly started overstepping a few bounds with her powers, terrifying one informant enough that even Fitz seemed disgusted with his involvement.

Not to mention missing out on Jemma Simmons, Warrior Queen.

You can argue for and against nuance in comic book properties all you want, but it bears repeating that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continually does excellent work to balance its differing viewpoints, even occasionally packaging their climax with a fantastically tense and Skyfall-esque showdown in Mack’s family home, with a shotgun-axe to boot.

Mack has expressed plenty of reservation with Coulson’s politics as well, and I don’t know that Agents has ever had as much to say where his clandestine practices ultimately fall, but it helped that “Watchdogs” painted him more in a gruff mentor light to Lincoln. Imagine that, giving Lincoln more to do tonight than a sleep-inducing romance with Daisy, even slipping in the clever final revelation that Coulson knew his trainee would follow orders to fire at Blake, without realizing it was a hologram. Lincoln’s evaluation even acknowledges his tenuous link to the team outside of Daisy, and tonight might have been the first instance of an actual character beat to play with.

Some really great stuff tonight all around, including callbacks and setups that never felt particularly labored, but rather lived-in with a world that stretches back to Agent Carter-era Stark tech, drops the odd Daredevil easter Egg, and helps contextualize a world where heroes create country-dropping robots. I wouldn’t expect any direct ties to Civil War his season – perhaps for the best – so a topical bent like tonight’s “Watchdogs” made for a great angle to build up that world mentality without feeling particularly subservient to the movies.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • It got better, but my first notes for Lincoln’s appearance read “DON’T CARE, DON’T CARE, DON’T CARE.”
  • Didn’t get a chance to go into it, but always nice to see a member of the team like Simmons looking to up their skills in the field. It also made sense that she’d aid in tracking down Andrew, and justifying the vaccine’s potential use later, but they’d still need to keep Andrew locked up for Season 4, I imagine.
  • Well, that’s more shade than I ever expected Marvel to throw at Geico. Then again, they are farmers.
  • So, I imagine we’re coming back to Daisy going all Batman on perps?
  • Fitz’s head almost blew up from a thing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • So the real Blake is paralyzed, and any standing appearance was a projection, including the barn?
  • Nice little detail that for all his proficiency, Mack still hates having to resort to violence.
  • Hi there, Damage Control setup.
  • I’ll presume the nuke factors into that trip to outer space in flash forward?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return on April 5 with “Spacetime,” airing at 9:00 P.M. on ABC.

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