Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S03E11 “Bouncing Back” REVIEW

Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD  S03E11 “Bouncing Back” REVIEW

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stars 3.5

Airing in the UK on: E4, Sundays, 9pm
Writer: Monica Owusu-Breen
Director: Ron Underwood

 

Essential Plot Points:

  • “Three months from now” somebody who may be a crucifix-wearing SHIELD agents appears to have met a bloody end in a spaceship orbiting Earth.

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  • Back in the present, President Ellis gives Coulson the official nod and wink for SHIELD to carry on working… in secret. Ellis will appoint a new boss to the ACTU who will be the public face of Inhuman control, but will be answerable to Coulson.
  • Mack, Bobbi, Hunter, Daisy and Joey (who only appears to have been let out because he can speak Spanish) search for an Inhuman who stole a shipment of police weapons in Bogotá, Colombia.
  • It turns out this new mutant has the ability to run at super-speed for the duration of one heartbeat, then she “yo-yos” back to where she started.
  • She’s called Elena Rodriguez and she captures Mack when he gets too close to capturing her.
  • She ties him up in the bathroom of her ordinary working class apartment, and while there is a language barrier, she and Mack start to bond and she doesn’t come across as all supervillainy at all.
  • Daisy, Hunter and Bobbi to the rescue! They free Mack and capture Yo-Yo.
  • Hunter and Bobbi follow Yo-Yo’s “accomplice” – her cousin – to find out what he’s doing with the stolen weapons.
  • On the SHILED quinjet the other agents learn the truth (thanks to translation software and Joey): Y0-Yo and her cousin were taking the weapons away from a corrupt police force! Yo-Yo, despite having a fiery temper, is one of the good guys.
  • Bobbi and Hunter discover Yo-Yo’s cousin dumping the weapons into a river. The the police turn up with a pet Inhuman who can paralyse people with a stare. They kill Y0-Yo’s cousin (because he’s only a guest star) and capture Bobbi and Hunter.
  • Yo-Yo joins forces with the SHIELD agents to infiltrate the police station, slap the cops round a bit and rescue Bobbi and Hunter. Despite SHIELD having, in the past, infiltrated far higher security bases than a crumbling Colombian police station they make a right old meal of it… but it’s still all very exciting.
  • They capture the Medusa-eyed Inhuman, Lucio, but then a Hydra craft swoops in and extracts him from under their noses.
  • Mack tries to convince Yo-Yo to return with them for training but she refuses. Daisy reasons she can let Inhumans carry on living normal lives and call them up for duty as-and-when necessary. Oddly no one else goes, “Are you MENTAL? We spent MONTHS training Joey!” It’s not like Yo-Yo didn’t make a serious error of judgement during the raid on the police station. But Daisy is all about Inhuman rights now. Which is nice. But possibly a big mistake.

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  • Coulson is determined to track down Gideon Malick. He places the vegetative Werner Von Stucker – who once foolishly turned to Malick for help – into the Theta Brain-Wave Frequency Machine but Strucker’s mind is, initially, too far gone. Some ECT therapy from Lincoln makes him conscious enough to reveal the way he communicated with Malick, using a password to gain access to a phone in the backroom of an antiques shop (any other Fringe fans half expecting the communication via an old typewriter?).
  • Coulson phones Malick, May traces the call. They don’t actually locate him but they do expose multiple Hydra offices forcing them to be closed down.
  • Malick doesn’t seem particularly worried. He’s more interested in finding out what this new entity inhabiting the body of Grant Ward is going to do. Which for most of the episode is eat and watch telly. Then he goes all weird and scary to stop Malick whinging and prove, well, that he can be weird and scary.
  • President Ellis tells Coulson that Talbot is the new boss of the ATCU. “Oh boy,” says a clearly bemused Coulson, like this is the end of an episode of Quantum Leap.

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Review:

After the fireworks of the last couple of episodes, “Bouncing Back” is a less bombastic opening chapter in a new arc of Agents Of SHIELD. It’s a chance for some regrouping, to re-establish the format and to bring into play some new elements, themes and characters that are going to help shape the next half-season. In other words, “Bouncing Back” may not one of the big crowdpleaser episodes, but as a necessary building-block episode it still impresses. And while it doesn’t have the huge dramatic setpieces of the midseasaon finale, it still manages to produce a smaller scale action climax that ’s one of the best-orchestrated mini-skirmishes the show has delivered.

It’s good to see Daisy taking a Secret Warrior other than Lincoln on a field trip though poor Joey must suspect he only got the gig because he “speaka da lingo”. On the other hand, the fact that Mack can’t speak Spanish is a lovely touch. While season three has done a lot to rehabilitate Mack from “big guy who grumbles” to “surprisingly effective leader and really nice bloke” there was the danger he was becoming too good to be true. The fact that he’s rubbish as languages is almost endearing. Plus, the language barrier makes the scenes between him and Yo-Yo far more interesting and resonant; they bond over their faith despite not having a total understanding of each other.

What else is there to like? Bobbi and Hunter being a cute couple, babbling away and both admitting to being “Inhuman curious”. Ellis appointing Talbot as the boss of the ACTU. Ward as a freaky alien brushing up on his human history. Yo-Yo being an “Inhuman” with fire in her belly, knowing her own mind and not needing Daisy to come along along and hold her hand. (Again, Joey must be feeling a little inadequate at this point…).

There are some problems. Von Strucker’s interrogation is dull. Coulson’s call to Malick is disappointingly flat and pointless (unless company liquidation gets you excited). The Fitzsimmons rapprochement scene is a little too contrived (especially after so many good episodes for their relationship). But overall “Bouncing Back” is a confident, good-looking episode of telefantasy.

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What’s most interesting about the episode, though, are the elements it’s setting up for the future. There’s a lot of talk about faith and God here and not just from Mack and Yo-Yo. Simmons and Lincoln have their conversation about Inhumans’ powers not being random but part of some “intelligent design”. Putting aside the nagging worry that Lincoln has never seen fit to mention this before (it does seem, well… important) you have to wonder, who’s done the designing? The Kree? God? Somebody else?

Then we have that flashforward which shows a crucifix. This may be a simple clue as to who might be dripping blood all over the spaceship dashboard; Yo-Yo is the obvious choice as we’re shown her crucifix in close-up later in the episode, but maybe that’s a red herring. Could it be Mack, now that we know he’s a man of faith too? And could the crucifix have a more metaphorical significance? Does it signify a loss of faith when somebody learns who’s really behind the “intelligent design”.

Also, Daisy’s decision to let Yo-Yo carry on living her normal life could prove pivotal. It’a character choice that does fit in with the Daisy we know; she’s always been a Liberal (In)humanist so freedom of choice would be important to her. But crucially we’re also shown Yo-Yo making a near-fatal error of judgement during the raid on the police station. She’s raw, untrained and overconfident. Plus there’s a hint that Daisy may handle other Inhumans she recruits in the same way (it would certainly help the show’s budget not to have all the Secret Warriors hanging around SHIELD HQ all the time). It could be a decision Daisy lives to regret.

 

The Good:

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  • The hold music was an obvious gag, but it worked brilliantly within such a self-consciously grim scene.

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  • This entire exchange was wonderful, and once again makes you hope that Marvel’s Most Wanted is commissioned for a series:
    Hunter: “Invisibility. Imagine the possibilities.”
    Bobbi: “What are you imagining?”
    Hunter: “Nothing fun.”
    Bobbi: “Get used to it. We can’t put the Terrigen genie back in the bottle. Powers are the new normal.”
    Mack: “I think you’re just jealous.”
    Hunter: “Damn right I am. Tell me you didn’t try one of those little fish-oil pills. I had my fingers crossed for x-ray vision… I was just curious. I wasn’t the only one.”
    Bobbi: “I mean, I… I thought about it. I didn’t actually do it. Rehab was a bitch.”
    Mack: “Man, you two deserve each other.”
  • Mack is great throughout; clever, funny, resourceful, charismatic. Make him director again.

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  • The whole big action climax is great but we especially like the whizzy, cutty, netty things Hydra used to extract Lucio.

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  • Ward fans might feel bereft but Brett Dalton looks like he’s going to have enormous fun playing the hollow-eyed and hungry alien entity know as… ah, well that would be telling.

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  • Natalia Cordova-Buckley immediately impresses with a gutsy, intense but endearing performance as Yo-Yo. Let’s hope we see her again soon.

 

The Bad:

Agents_of_SHIELD_3.11_bouncing_back_bad_FX

  • There’s something almost Thunderbird-ish about this FX shot. In itself it looks quite pretty but it just doesn’t seem to fit into the look of the rest of the episode.
  • When Hydra casually extract Lucio why don’t they also try killing or capturing some of the other Inhumans present (Daisy, Joey, Yo-Yo)? Why stop at Inhumans? Just bomb the place and rid themselves of a goody chunk of Coulson’s army for good.
  • Coulson’s big showdown with Malick falls a bit flat. You half expect Malick to say, “Do I look bovvered?”
  • Coulson and May’s conversation about Coulson’s hand is very clunky, especially the line, “You joined the cavalry.” It might have sounded like a good idea in the writers’ room but in practice it comes across as insufferably premeditated.
  • The Fitzsimmons scene isn’t a heartbreaker. We’d forgotten what that feels like.

 

And The Random:

  • Slingshot_2Yo-Yo (right) was indeed one of the Secret Warriors in the Marvel Comics universe having been introduced in Mighty Avengers #13 (2008). Oddly, though, in the comics, Yo-Yo isn’t her codename but her real name. Yes, she really is called Yo-Yo Rodriguez. That truly is an aptronym. Her actual codename when she joined The Secret Warriors was the less silly – but altogether more boring – Slingshot. Her powers, however, were very similar, though later on in her comic book life she also had cybernetic arms after the villain Gorgon cut off her real ones.
  • Lucio is referred to as “Medusa” at one point in the episode but it’s not a name he’ll be keeping. There is already an Inhuman called Medusa in the Marvel comics universe though she has very different powers – prehensile hair. Expect to see her in the upcoming Inhumans movie because prehensile hair will look cool when rendered in CGI. How about Lucio call himself Rock Face instead? Ah, that’s already taken by a DC character. Ah hah! Go it. Paddington Stare!
  • Coulson says that his new hand, which was built by Fitz, has all kinds of new bells and whistles. Expect to see them revealed in coming episodes. We think this is the first time it’s been confirmed that Fitz is creating the hands. We wondered if Tony Stark was behind them.

Review by Dave Golder


 

 Read our other reviews of Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD

 

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