Man’s in­hu­man­ity to In­hu­man­ity

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Viewscreen -

UK Broad­cast E4, Sun­days

US Broad­cast ABC, mid­sea­son break

Episodes Re­viewed 3.01- 3.10

The In­hu­mans are here and Agents Of SHIELD is feel­ing the ben­e­fits. The con­stant com­plaint dur­ing the early days of the show was how un-“su­per” it felt. Now Coul­son and co can’t move for peo­ple with pow­ers. Even Coul­son is a kinda cy­borg now; well, he has a pros­thetic hand that – in Whe­don ver­nac­u­lar – “does stuff ”. Hell, he un­der­goes a mu­ta­tion in episode nine which gives his face the abil­ity to show a third ex­pres­sion ( over and above “mild con­cern” and “smug”).

This ac­tion- packed half sea­son cracks through a num­ber of par­al­lel, in­ter­weav­ing plot lines with a re­fresh­ingly en­er­getic verve. Even when it slows the pace for an ex­tra­or­di­nary for­mat-break­ing episode five – fea­tur­ing just one char­ac­ter for much of the run­ning time – the re­sult is as­sured and grip­ping.

The main strands are: Daisy form­ing the Se­cret War­riors, her own sub­sec­tion of SHIELD com­pris­ing new In­hu­man re­cruits; Coul­son dis­cov­er­ing the US gov­ern­ment has a new In­hu­man-hunt­ing divi­sion with dif­fer­ing meth­ods to SHIELD’s and a boss he fan­cies al­most as much as he mis­trusts; a new über- In­hu­man called Lash who’s killing other In­hu­mans; May and Andrew hav­ing mar­i­tal prob­lems; Fitz try­ing to dis­cover where Sim­mons van­ished to; Hunter on a re­venge mis­sion against Ward; and Ward dis­cov­er­ing that Hy­dra has in­deed grown a new Head. As the sea­son goes on, they all dove­tail in of­ten sur­pris­ing ways.

Fitz wins “char­ac­ter of the half sea­son”, nar­rowly edg­ing out his old part­ner, Sim­mons; they both have some meaty plots to chew on. The writ­ers have also worked out what to do with Mack; he’s ba­si­cally Coul­son’s num­ber two by episode nine and, amaz­ingly for a char­ac­ter who was so for­get­table for much of sea­son two, you feel he thor­oughly de­serves it.

The show still suf­fers from drab pro­duc­tion de­sign, info dump speed bumps and un­am­bi­tious fight scenes. But at least it now feels like a small- screen ver­sion of the big­ger Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse, even if Cap­tain Amer­ica never pops round, never calls, never leaves a text… Dave Golder

The colour­ful span­dex is in the post.

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