Apparently, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. listens to me — it just takes awhile. But I’ve been saying that I’ve personally wanted to see more of Mack ever since he joined the show and also ever since he became a prominent player in the first half of the season, during Coulson’s interplanetary absence. Tonight, that wish was finally granted.
I first thought the show was giving us a flashback where we saw what Mack was doing before Coulson recruited him. But nope — Mack’s just on a well-deserved break at his childhood home in Naperville, helping his little brother, Ruben (Gaius Charles), fix up a motorcycle. To Ruben, Mack’s life is pretty dull: He’s an insurance drone, complaining about management that’s out of control, new people coming in with no experience, and the fact he’s lost two friends. (One of these things is not true! Ruben’s not doing so well either, though. He’s been laid off, and he’s taking care of the house because Mack isn’t really around. But it’s nice to see this exchange of brotherly love because these are the quiet, character-building stories we often don’t get to see in the show — and maybe that’s why we love a relationship like Fitz and Simmons so much. While Mack and Ruben are getting lunch together, Mack sees a report on television about a government facility being attacked by an anti-Inhuman group that we learn is called the “Watchdogs.”
Coulson calls Mack, alerting him to the fact that the attack was actually an ATCU building, which means it’s serious…and that Mack’s vacation has to be cut short. (What were Bobbi and Hunter saying about vacation last week?) Ruben is disappointed to hear that his brother has to take off because, “This is simple: lunch, beers, bike.” If only life were that simple. Coulson sends Daisy off to meet up with Mack, and Daisy drops that she’s been watching the Watchdogs for awhile (news to us, too) — apparently they had a menacing presence after New York that got worse after Sokovia, but obviously, something happened to bring them to the surface so prominently. She runs into Lincoln, who has returned from his assessment, eager to know if her new crush is going to join the team. He’s gotta theoretically wait for the results to come back, but Coulson’s already on it — and he wants Lincoln to sit this one out.
Mack meets up with Daisy and Fitz at the ATCU site (“You really are on vacation,” Daisy teases when she sees his bike). There they find out it was a storage facility. Fitz determines that the residue from the bomb that went off has nitroamine in it (as developed by Howard Stark, of course). I kind of love Fitz and Mack being science bros… Can that be a new thing, please? Coulson realizes that with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s history and the fact that this is Stark Tech, there’s only one person he knows who’s fixated on trying to improve this particular explosive so it could be used in the organization. Who is that? None other than former S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Felix Blake (Titus Welliver) who, like the Man In Black, never dies. Or apparently hasn’t died since Deathlok broke his spine back in season 1. (Thanks for that refresher, show!)
NEXT: Agents of sisterly bonding
Turns out, the Watchdogs aren’t as anonymous as they think they are because hacker Daisy’s been tracking them. She wants to casually pick one up and try to use him to get information, but Mack’s hesitant for her to respond with her powers. Daisy is rightfully thrown because Mack has always been nothing but supportive, but Mack is suddenly wary about everyone’s powers and the danger of this whole thing. He’s going home. (Which means Daisy gets to bring Fitz on this little journey, hooray! More field time for Fitz!) Mack returns home to find his brother upset and drunk, and finds out the real reason Ruben isn’t happy: He’s stressed about his job, the mortgage isn’t in great shape, he’s in trouble. And he’s doing everything on his own, trying to keep everything afloat, because Mack’s running off with his “insurance” job. He’s so resentful and angry at his brother that he’s starting to believe the Watchdogs, even though Mack warns him to stay away from the group. Meanwhile, Daisy does her stakeout duty, finding one of the guys and interrogating him. Dallas Wyatt (Trenton Rostedt) doesn’t particularly want to talk, but once Daisy freaks him out enough with her powers and he realizes she’s one of the “freaks,” he relents. Daisy manages to find out the Watchdogs’ home base and calls Mack to let him know. Mack ultimately decides to leave again with no warning, which upsets Ruben even more.
May finds Simmons at the range, where she tries to gently give her pointers on her shooting. She knows what she’s doing — blaming herself and trying to hide her feelings — but Simmons doesn’t want to hear any of May’s advice. There are too many people that died saving her, or died trying, and when she unleashed Garner, all of those Inhumans were killed because she gave up their lives for her own. Because, as Simmons explains, she’s the only one who can’t kill with her bare hands. And despite the fact that May says none of it is her fault, it’s not helping her mindset. So May takes matters into her own hands and shows Simmons her private project: she’s pursing Garner because he’s dangerous, which only makes Simmons feel more guilty. When she asks her friend how she makes it stop, May’s answer is simple. “You use it, channel it.”
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That’s what May’s project is. And she’s smart enough to know Simmons can help, which she does by pointing out that they can find him by looking at what he’s being driven by: his Inhuman thirst. There are no words to express how much I adore this scene between Elizabeth Henstridge and Ming-Na Wen. Like Mack, a May and Simmons scene is something I’ve been clamoring for since Simmons came back from the other planet, and I loved this moment that clearly showed how far their relationship has come since the first season. May admits she’s going to kill him when she finds him because she sees no choice, which leads Simmons to inform her about the potential vaccine they found in Creel’s blood last week. And because Garner hasn’t finished his transition yet, it would work on him. But May doesn’t want hope — lucky for her, Simmons is someone who has a lot of it, so I think the two are going to work well together. And personally, I can’t wait to see more of this partnership.
As for Lincoln? Coulson’s taken him along on the mission to find Blake and wants him to come to one of the safehouses he knows he has in Atlanta. He won’t tell Lincoln about the results of his evaluation, just that he’s not happy with what he saw — but he wants to see it for himself. Essentially, he questions Lincoln’s commitment because he knows he’s here for Daisy rather than the cause. He’s angry, and he still has impulses, and maybe he can be helpful — but that’s up to him. Coulson’s vetted every agent that’s walked through his doors and it probably doesn’t help that Lincoln has to follow in the footsteps of Bobbi and Hunter, who have left a significant imprint on what it means to be an agent. When they get to the house, they find Blake in the basement…because no one really dies, right?
NEXT: Leo Fitz, human bomb
Coulson and Blake have a standoff and discussion in Blake’s basement because, well, Blake is just trying to make the world a safer place! Coulson realizes he’s stalling for some reason and wants to know where he got the ATCU target. Their discussion turns into a ethical debate about what’s right and wrong when it comes to bettering society, and when Blake asks, “You’ve never just killed someone because you hate them, Phil?” you can almost see the answer that Coulson wants to give. Coulson orders Lincoln to take Blake out — as in, use his powers and kill him — and Lincoln is hesitant to do something so rash, but he obeys. And we find out that Blake was just a hologram (a cool hologram, though), which, it turns out, Coulson knew about the whole time. But this was part of Lincoln’s test, and he made the right call.
Daisy stakes out the Watchdog headquarters and sends in a drone so they can get a better look. Coulson urges her to “observe, don’t attack” when she updates him, but that goes out the window when Mack’s brother shows up, attempting to join the Watchdogs brigade. Mack can’t help himself from trying to protect his brother, which blows their cover, and Mack’s cover, specifically. As his brother runs away, Mack follows, and things go from bad to worse as Fitz gets shot with the nitroamine bomb. Daisy manages to give him a shot of sodium hydrogen per Fitz’s orders, but it doesn’t help, and Fitz realizes Blake must have modified it to slow it down. And if they can’t get it off, the bomb will eventually go off and Fitz will be an imploded person. Daisy gets Fitz in the containment unit and forces Dallas to tell them what they put in the bomb because Fitz doesn’t want Simmons to know what happened. And Fitz sciences the hell out of his own situation, realizing he needs liquid nitrogen to freeze the substance. The solution works, and Dallas is turned over to the ATCU.
Mack comes home to find his brother pissed at him for “helping those freaks.” He was going to apologize, but now that he knows Mack’s been lying to him, he’s just pissed. Mack tries to tell him he joined S.H.I.E.L.D. to protect people, but there’s no time for explanations or being upset, though — turns out Mack is the one who was targeted all along. The Watchdogs come and raid the house, torching their bikes so they can’t get away, and Ruben and Mack are forced to take action. Ruben is scared, but isn’t this what Mack does with S.H.I.E.L.D. all the time? “I’m a mechanic. I hate this stuff.” Using their childhood home to their advantage, they manage to take down more than a few intruders, and Mack even lets his brother use a gun. Can we talk about how Mack gets hurt but STILL manages to be amazing and kill them with a kitchen knife? And if that wasn’t enough, Mack makes a shotgun ax. A SHOTGUN AX. Mack, please marry me.
Daisy arrives with help and to soothe Ruben about the fact that he had to shoot so many people. It’s a cute moment, where Daisy admits she’s his partner: “When I need someone to watch my back, he’s the person I want.” Don’t think Daisy doesn’t feel remorse for getting so caught up in her personal agenda that she wasn’t there for Mack, because she also realizes that she completely missed the fact the ATCU attack was simply a cover for another distraction…one that leads back to Malick, according to company plates. So what did Malick take from there? (Or, more accurately, what did Malick have BLAKE help him take from there?) We don’t know, but we do see Blake — the real Blake, still alive but not as spry — getting weaponry. Real weapons. Like, a huge missile. So they can hunt down those freaks. (Hey, you probably don’t want to call a powered guy a freak, Blake. Just FYI.
- Mack setting up a roadside stand and trying to sell his brother off to strangers is my favorite S.H.I.E.LD. story. Ever.
- Mini Mack and Alfie should be the new S.H.I.E.L.D. show. I’d watch it. (I seriously would). I also hope Daisy does use that nickname at some point, so I can keep cackling.