Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recap: Chaos Theory
May confronts Garner about his alter ego, and Rosalind shows her true colors.
Last week, we learned that May’s husband, Andrew Garner was the face behind Lash — the vicious Inhuman monster that’s been killing other Inhumans. This week, we got the story behind how the mild-mannered psychologist got to that point, though we probably still have more to uncover, particularly the specifics behind why and how Garner acts the way he does. Nonetheless, this episode was a nice reminder of how the season is continuing to evolve, giving us questions and then following up with answers fairly quickly. At the beginning of the season, it seemed that the main focus was both Lash and Simmons’ disappearance. Seven episodes in, it’s clear that those stories, which are unraveling quickly, are only part of what is going to make up the bigger picture of season 3.
But let’s backtrack for a moment and take a detour to Maui, where May and Garner are sharing a romantic moment on their break from S.H.I.E.L.D. We finally get more context about the May that we saw in the season premiere, who went off on vacation and then returned to L.A. alone. At this point, May is still seriously contemplating leaving S.H.I.E.L.D., which Garner is surprised about. But May’s just trying to be smart about her priorities — she finally got her ex-husband back, she’s happy again, and she doesn’t want to be the reason they don’t work. Garner assures her that he doesn’t plan on losing her. After all, they’re older now. And that means there can be new beginnings.
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Speaking of new beginnings, Skye is arguing with Coulson about how Rosalind is choosing to treat the Inhumans. She’s defensive about the fact that they’re not getting a chance to “be who they are” and actually doing a pretty good job of pleading her case until Garner steps in with some psychologist rationale (and, uh, personal experience, I guess). What happens if a person is hurting themselves or those around them? What if they can’t stop? I suppose this pretty much confirms that Garner is absolutely aware of what he’s doing when he’s Lash, even if he can’t stop himself. Coulson breaks up the argument by announcing he’s meeting with the president and his advisors in Colorado to talk about the issues of enhanced people. He’ll go under the guise of being a consultant with the ATCU, but Coulson wants Skye to talk to Rosalind before their meeting, in order to show her what a successful Inhuman experience can be like.
Reminder: A successful Inhuman experience is NOT Andrew Garner, and that’s all poor May can think about. Bobbi, of course, has no idea what’s going on, but does let it slip that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been attempting to track Lash. When they return to base, May immediately starts gathering information about Garner’s whereabouts, finding out that he’s at a training facility offsite called “The Cocoon.” Garner has offered to re-assess Joey (remember Joey?) because, well, we kind of forget about him. It’s okay, though, because Joey’s doing great! Somewhere along the line, he’s shed his resentment and learned how to control his powers, and he’s even started to think that he can definitely be an asset to S.H.I.E.L.D. “My fate is in your hands,” he proudly tells Garner, who promptly Hulks out and kills him. (Okay, I’m kidding. He doesn’t. That part is just a vision.) Their session is interrupted by May, who has had enough of her husband’s secrets. She’s going to find out once and for all what’s going on. And when Melinda May shows up unannounced and tells you that you need to talk…you don’t just walk away.
NEXT: Let’s just watch the sun rise
Bobbi and Hunter are still trying to work out their issues. Hunter wants to keep going on his Ward revenge bender, but Bobbi dissuades him by pointing out he’s been both reckless and stupid. Similar to the conversation May had with Garner, she doesn’t want either of them to get so wrapped up in revenge and work that they lose sight of what’s important: each other. Moreover, Bobbi can take care of herself. She doesn’t need a knight in shining armor, and she doesn’t need Hunter to keep her safe by killing Ward. She needs Hunter to keep her safe by being here to fight by her side. Meanwhile, Simmons is starting to wonder whether or not she should’ve told Fitz about Will. She decides to bring him her phone in the hopes that he can look over the data, and it’s kind of like the most awkward and adorable peace offering, complete with Simmons telling Fitz, “I always felt better having you as my second pair of eyes.” Let’s make one thing clear: Simmons might be confused about who to have feelings for, considering that her relationships with both Fitz and Will are rooted in very different personal foundations. But anyone who thinks Simmons doesn’t have feelings for Fitz needs to watch them in scenes together, especially during this episode.
Fitz starts analyzing the phone, finding the birthday video, pictures of the planet…and, you know, a picture of Will and Simmons being cozy. Before he can get irrationally upset, he stumbles upon one of the many recordings that we heard Simmons make in “4,722 Hours.” And when I say many recordings, I mean many recordings. Fitz gets emotional as he listens to her talk about her struggle to stay alive, her musings on how it feels when you realize you want to be with someone all the time, her memories of the first time they met, and her promise to keep talking to him — no matter what. This is clearly Iain De Caestecker’s moment, but what I love about this whole scene is that it’s basically Simmons saying “I love you” to the one person she’s always put her trust in. And while I’ve always been a fan of unconventional emotional declarations, I’m pretty sure this one takes the cake.
Fitz eventually has had a breakthrough, thanks to Simmons’ phone. He notices that Will’s NASA logo, when turned upside down, resembles the symbol carved in the chamber door. Is this the same group that sent Will through the portal? Was it really NASA? How deep does this mystery actually go? All those questions are probably important, but my attention has currently been thrown by a beautiful, quiet moment from two people who have arguably been the characters to watch all season. Fitz says he may have found something to help them open the portal, then admits he fixed her phone and therefore heard her recordings. Simmons claims she absolutely meant every word of what she said when she was stranded. So what should they do about it? Well, sometimes the best thing say in these types of situations is nothing at all, and Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge do more in these few minutes of screen time than most actors do in one episode. Part of the reason “FitzSimmons” has made such an impact is because you felt the bond they shared, even when you also saw it displayed verbally and physically. Nowhere are we reminded of that more than during this moment, during a sunrise that Simmons never got to see — one that she’s now sharing with her best friend, who doesn’t even have to ask why it’s significant.
NEXT: Lashing out
Rosalind arrives at the base to meet Daisy, where the two continue to disagree about tactics to keep Inhumans safe. Daisy calls Rosalind out for being afraid of people with powers, which Rosalind doesn’t dispute because, “for every Daisy Johnson, there’s a Lash.” It’s actually not a bad argument. Needless to say, their talk doesn’t go so well, something Coulson figures out as he gets ready to go undercover. We get more of Rosalind and Coulson being intimate when Rosalind helps him with his tie, though Coulson’s still being cagey about what actually happened to his hand. The two are interrupted by the arrival of Mack and Lincoln, whom Mack has brought back to S.H.I.E.L.D. because Lincoln knows who Lash is. While off the grid, he had gone looking for his friends from Afterlife, finding most of them dead. Lincoln soon realized that whoever was killing them was using Jiaying’s old ledger, and that until S.H.I.E.L.D. — and Andrew Garner — only one person had access to those names. The group is hesitant to believe him (guess my theory of Evil!Coulson is out the window for now) until they realize they saw May accessing Garner’s information. Skye futilely tries to believe there’s still some good left in Garner, but Lincoln sets the record straight with his Inhuman knowledge: Garner is still in transition, which means that when the transition is complete, he’ll eventually stay Lash. Permanently.
May pretty much cuts to the chase with her husband, telling him she tracked his flight logs, realized that he pulled his bloodwork from his medical files, and finally, how von Strucker had seen him transform in the convenience store. Garner tries to backtrack, then tries to explain, but May is hurt and confused and done trying to beat around the bush. She pushes Garner to the breaking point, and he snaps, but instead of killing her, he knocks her out and brings her to a room at Culver University. Once May regains consciousness, Garner admits he panicked (yeah, panicked and shot her) before attempting to explain. Apparently, when they came back from Hawaii, Coulson sent him a bunch of Inhuman materials from Afterlife…including Jiaying’s ledger. When Garner opened it, he found it had been rigged with terrigen crystals — because, as we remember, Jiaying is a sneaky little leader who always protected her people first and foremost. Garner was affected, but instead of dying, he survived and transformed thanks to his apparent Inhuman DNA.
Unfortunately for Garner, this transformation didn’t come with cool earthquake powers or lightning bolts or the ability to transform metal. Instead, his transformation came with a desire and a hunger. He didn’t realize that until he met another Inhuman, which caused him to “lash out” and learn that he only feels relief when he kills. This is apparently why Garner ended things after Hawaii, because he was trying to protect May and keep her safe. May asks him if he was going to hurt Joey and if he would hurt Daisy, but Garner promises otherwise. The only person he probably wants to hurt is Lincoln because, apparently, Lincoln has a dark side.
May attempts to appeal to her husband but doesn’t get very far before Coulson and his team show up with the containment module in tow. Things are already headed in a bad direction, and Lincoln makes it worse by letting his anger get the best of him, because revenge really is best served cold — and with lightning bolts. Garner “lashes out,” but before he can kill Lincoln, Mack and the ATCU show up. Coulson also tries talking Garner down, which is probably something you don’t want to do unless you’re May, and Lash ends up attacking Rosalind. (This is what you get when you date Phil Coulson, director of S.H.I.E.L.D.) Lash throws Rosalind to her death, but Daisy saves her, inadvertently proving herself right about that whole “using Inhuman powers for good” thing. May eventually intercedes, preparing to give up her life, because this is what she’s prepared for — “I just never thought it would be you,” she tells her monster husband. Achievement humanity: unlocked! Garner transforms just long enough for May to shoot him so they can get him in the containment module…where he promptly turns again.
Let’s take a look at where S.H.I.E.L.D. stands now: Lincoln is officially back, Rosalind and Daisy are temporarily in agreement about Inhuman behavior treatments (they’ve agreed to put Garner in stasis mode), and Rosalind and Coulson are going to take some weight off the day by having drinks. Only, this is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which means the episode doesn’t end without a twist: And that twist is Coulson’s new crush calling Gideon Malick to tell him she’s sorry for missing the meeting in Colorado. But don’t worry: Rosalind plans to bring him the director soon enough…because while Ward plans to cut off the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Gideon’s got his own plan for Coulson, with his own pieces already in motion.
Am I surprised about where Rosalind’s true loyalties lie? Yes and no. I initially had her pegged as a “bad guy,” as the show obviously led us in that direction, but then I thought maybe all of that was just a red herring considering there are bigger fish to fry when it comes to this season’s baddies. We don’t know how deep this goes — or how involved Rosalind is — but I’m betting we’ll learn more about that when we learn more about Malick and his past. Either way, given that Rosalind has pretty much got Coulson wrapped around her finger, the next few weeks are going to be interesting. (Can Phil Coulson EVER catch a break?)
- I still don’t feel 110 percent sure that I know what exactly makes Garner “lash out.” Garner’s talk with May seemed to imply that when people push his buttons, he loses it (kind of like the Hulk), but I still feel like there’s something more to be uncovered here. He references having a moral responsibility and only killing those who “deserve it.” More interestingly, he claims, “I am the cure,” implying that he’s trying to wipe out the Inhumans that don’t meet his criteria. While this is kind of on par with the Lash we know from the comics, Marvel also had that Lash building up recruits — and it doesn’t look like we’re going in that direction, but I could be wrong.
- Speaking of the Hulk, “lash out” is apparently the new “hulk out.” Honestly? I have to admit, I like “hulk out” better.
- Trust no one, Ward! I’ll give him credit for at least having the balls to be arrogant, no matter who he’s talking to, but I feel at some point his cockiness is going to get him in trouble. The thing about Ward is that he’s always been a careful, calculating player, ever since he turned in season 1. This season seems to be painting him as brash, headstrong, and power hungry. Which aren’t bad traits, especially if you’re trying to run an evil organization and all, but I miss the Ward who was more careful about his tactics when it came to this kind of stuff. I have a feeling it’s because he feels that being in charge means he’s got all the power, but as we learned with Malick, just because you think you’re ahead doesn’t mean you’re going to win.