Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S03E12 “The Inside Man” REVIEW

Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD  S03E12 “The Inside Man” REVIEW


stars 4

Airing in the UK on: E4, Sundays, 9pm
Writer: Craig Titley
Director: John Terlesky


Essential Plot Points:

  • Coulson (under an alias) and Talbot (in a “dress”) head to an international conference in Taiwan to discuss the Inhuman situation.
  • Coulson is convinced Malick will have an inside man there to influence the discussions.
  • Talbot takes along his new pet superhuman bodyguard: Carl Creel, the Absorbing Man.
  • Simmons uses the opportunity to question Creel about how the origins of his powers (which aren’t Inhuman-related) and how he was able to touch an Inhuman obelisk without dying.
  • Creel = blank face. So Simmons takes a sample of his blood.
  • No “aliens” are allowed at the conference (Creel, though superpowered, has human DNA) so Coulson only takes humans agents. Except Mack who seems to be on holiday.
  • Weapons aren’t allowed either. Hunter takes no notice…
  • At the conference in Taiwan, Talbot casually insults everyone, grumbles about wearing a dress (it’s a traditional costume to show respect for the hosts) and narrows down the suspects for the inside man to… everyone. He is very amusing in a cringey, car-crash TV kinda way.


  • Meanwhile, Coulson’s team is using SHIELD tech to get into all the conference participants’ rooms to see if they can pinpoint the inside man.
  • While doing so Hunter sees Creel outside looking suspicious and goes off to find out what he’s up to instead.
  • Hunter finds a van which contains Talbot’s son in an ACTU Inhuman hibernation tank. Before he can report it to the team, though, Creel appears and knocks him unconscious.
  • At the conference Talbot suddenly claims that Coulson is the inside man, telling the other participants that he’s the head of Hydra.
  • Malick enters the conference and backs Talbot up. Coulson realises Malick has some hold over Talbot.
  • Malick charms the conference then has Coulson lead away by his men.
  • Then Malick double crosses Talbot as well. Instead of freeing Talbot’s son as he promised, he tells his men to kill both Coulson and Talbot. Then Malick leaves.
  • But before Malick’s men carry out their orders, Talbot reveals that he has his own inside man: Creel.
  • Creel appears, knocks Malick’s men unconscious and frees his boss and Coulson.
  • May, meanwhile, has recovered the van containing Talbot’s son.
  • Malick has left with the Russian delegate from the conference, who has plans to create an Inhuman nation within his own country. Malick offers him a flight home in his private jet. Bobbi and Hunter manage to stowaway on the jet.
  • Back at SHIELD HQ Simmons works out that Creel’s blood can be used as a vaccination against terrigenesis.
  • Daisy is not happy with this but Lincoln believes people should have a choice whether they transform or not, knowing there’s a chance they could become a monster like Lash.
  • They row then have a make-up snog. They probably have make-up sex too but this an ABC show so it’s only implied…
  • Not-Ward feeds on five humans. It is not pleasant.




Who would have thought that Brigadier General Talbot would be the comedy highlight of an episode of Agents Of SHIELD? And not as the butt of the jokes either. Forced to “wear a dress” and try to charm a bunch of people whose names he can’t pronounce he is as delightfully un-PC as Alf Garnett and Frank Gallagher ever were. Admittedly, we’re laughing at him more than with him, but all credit to the show for using him in such an entertaining way. Plus, he’s also allowed to be intelligent; his back-up plan with Creel saves the day and leaves Coulson looking woefully unprepared. It’d be too easy to carry on portraying him as a bellowing, blinkered military dunderhead but this canny, crass spin on Talbot elevates an solid episode of Agents Of SHIELD into a really entertaining one.

On a pure plot and action level, “The Inside Man” is no slouch either. There are a lot of twists and unexpected developments to make sure things never get dull. You kinda suspect Creel will turn out to be a good(ish) guy but you can never be quite sure (and Hunter’s still clearly not convinced). Some decently-choreographed fights and excellent FX (especially for Creel) help make this a lean, mean, tightly assembled episode. This is SHIELD knowing what it does well and delivering it style. While there’s nothing particularly earth-shattering or jawdropping in the eipsidoe, the intrigue, humour and slick action keep it constantly entertaining.

Well, almost constantly. Daisy and Lincoln’s newfound roles as the “two views from inside Inhumanity” is laid on a little thick. Sure, Daisy has been Miss Militant Inhuman for a while now but she’s usually had to argue with humans. So the decision to make Lincoln an Inhuman with differing views is a clever one and hopefully in future will produce some good dramatic friction. But for the moment it’s being handled like subtlety is  bad word, and the sudden revelation that Lincoln regards his powers as like a “war inside my head” has the whiff of retconning.

Over with Not-Ward, things are just getting gross. Let’s hope it’s not too long, though, before he gets out of that windowless room and shows us what he’s really capable of.


The Good:


  • Talbot has never been more entertaining. He shamelessly un-PC attitude at the symposium (“I don’t put on a dress for just anyone”; “I gotta say it’s nice to be able to finally put a series of faces to all your unpronounceable names”) provided some laugh-out-loud moments that you actually feel a little guilty about laughing at.


  • Creel was put to good use in the episode too. He wasn’t just the episode’s one last great twist (when he turned out to be Talbot’s inside man) but also the source of a whole new dilemma for the show to explore: should potential inhumans be allowed to choose if they want a “cure” (a word that would make Daisy screw up her face and make Lincoln deliver a speech that starts, “Well, technically…”)


  • The Absorbing Man effects were also very, very good. If only they’d work on giving him a real character he’d be a great regular addition to the show.


  • It’s another episode full of great Bobbi and Hunter moments. Bobbi’s stunt when she slid along the table after flinging her batons at some poor grunt was very cool, while Hunter’s smug smile when he shows Bobbi and May that he has smuggled some weapons onto the mission is quintessential Hunter…
    Hunter: “Buon appetito.”
    Bobbi: “I love you.”
    May: “I don’t hate you quite as much.”
  • Also, Hunter’s description of Daisy and Lincoln as, “Shake ’n’ Bake” was hilarious.


  • Okay, this was deeply, deeply icky – and not a little pervy –but it did make Ward’s new monster self about 100 times scarier (yeah, we know you know that we know he’s a certain Marvel villain but he hasn’t been officially named on the show so far, so we won’t refer to him as that yet).


  • “What I am gonna do with this hand? It’s kinda freakin’ me out.”


The Bad:

  • Coulson takes absolutely ages to react when Malick turns up at the symposium claiming that Coulson’s the head of Hydra. He just stands that with an odd fixed grin. Okay, there was little he could do or say change things but we’d like to have seen him out up a bit more of a fight.


  • The idea that Lincoln is not as in control of his powers as he seemed to be when we first met him feels a little like a square peg plot line forced on a round hole character. Until a few episodes ago he always seemed so at ease with his powers, so this feels a tad artificial.
  • Wasn’t Bobbi worried that wearing black while clambering around the outside of a white-stone building in bright sunlight might be a little conspicuous?
  • Surely President Ellis, now he knows about Malick, would have made sure Malick’s international reputation wasn’t all peachy clean by now?


And The Random:


  • In the Marvel comics universe, Eden Fesi is a mutant who calls himself Manifold, and is a member of the Secret Warriors. He’s an Australian aborigine with the power to teleport.
  • Creel says that he gained his powers from an experiment: “Something went wrong?” asks Simmons. “Something went right,” Creel replies with with an evil smile. In the comics, though, Creel gained his powers when he drank a liquid which Loki had laced with a magic potion.
  • Was Hunter’s line, “Fits like a glove,” supposed to be a bit of a pun? After all, he knew that Fitz had been working on the palm-print device, so he could have been saying, “Fitz like a glove.” Oh, just ignore us…
  • Daisy mentions the Watchdogs, an Inhuman hate group trolling the internet. We will be hearing more about this lot in a future episode.
  • Director John Terlesky used to be an actor, though he never hit what you’d call the big time (there’s a lot of “Guard #2” and “Body #3”-type entries on his IMDB list. Amusingly, though, he did play a character called Bucky Barnes (presumably not the Winter Soldier) on the sitcom Empty Nest. His biggest role was the title character in the B-movie Deathstalker II (1987). This probably makes him the only Agents Of SHIELD director ever to have had his portrait done by Boris Vallejo.


Review by Dave Golder


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