Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S03E16 “Paradise Lost” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: E4, Sundays, 9pm
Writers: George Kitson, Sharla Oliver
Director: Wendey Stanzler
Essential Plot Points:
- Malick, having seen a vision of his own death and convinced that not-Ward is responsible, returns to the Malick mansion where his daughter, Stephanie, and – to his shock – not-Ward await.
- Not-Ward has been charming Stephanie and has also called a meeting of Hydra’s inner circle to be held later at the mansion.
- Malick recalls when his father died in 1970 and he and his brother were summoned to see Daniel Whitehall in his cell. He told them it was time to choose a new path for Hydra – his path – but Gideon refused, preferring to carry on their father’s mission to resurrect the Hydra God by periodically sending “travellers” through the portal.
- Whitehall sneered at their religion and told them that their father was a coward who cheated in the selection process.
- Nathaniel found a notched stone in a copy of Paradise Lost that their father used to make sure he was never selected.
- He showed the stone to Gideon, who pretended to throw it into a pond but in fact palmed it. He promised Nathaniel that they would be, “Together until the end.”
- Later at the next selection for a traveller, Gideon used the stone to avoid being selected but condemning Nathaniel to become the new sacrifice to the Hydra God in the process.
- Back in the present, Gideon is worried that not-Ward retains the memories of all his victims. Is Nathaniel in there somewhere? Does he want revenge?
- Yes and yes. After revealing his true Hydra God self to the inner circle (but only from the back for the viewer giving the impression he might be Davy Jones from Pirates Of The Caribbean) not-Ward meets with Gideon and Stephanie.
- He reveals that yes, Nathaniel does remember and Gideon must know the meaning of true sacrifice…
- …Then he kills Stephanie. “Together until the end,” he tells Gideon.
- SHIELD, meanwhile, visits a company that has just been taken over and stripped bare by Malick. They find evidence of research into invasive species and ways of creating genetically engineered plants and animals to resist them.
- Simmons also theorises that not-Ward is some kind of parasite who controls his victims and retains their memories.
- On the mission May fights and beats Mr Giyera. They take him on board the Zephyr and secure him in a containment chamber.
- But he escapes and uses his powers to take control of the zephyr and knock everybody inside unconscious. He flies the plane straight to a Hydra base. Just before May cops it she manages to send out a distress call.
- Daisy and Lincoln visit a hostile proto-Inhuman called James whom Lincoln knew at Afterlife. Jiaying had refused to subject him to the Terrigen mist because he was deemed unsuitable to have powers. He now lives in a trailer in South Dakota, and is seriously pissed off with the world.
- Lincoln recalls James once broke into Jaiying’s private archive and came away ranting about the second coming of some ancient Inhuman who could raise the dead. Could this be not-Ward?
- After avoiding being killed by his landmines, Lincoln gets James to talk by promising to let him a Terrigenesis crystal.
- He tells them what he learned of an ancient Inhuman called Alveus who was designed by the Kree to lead an Inhuman army but instead lead the Inhuman revolt against the Kree. But then the Inhumans started to fear him and they had to band together with normal humans to banish him.
- He gives them an alien device – a globe slightly bigger than a baseball – that he also stole from the archives; he doesn’t know what it does.
- But Lincoln tricks him and takes the alien device without giving him the promised Terrigen crystal (he also makes sure not to mention canned fish).
- In a fit of pique James tells Daisy that Lincoln nearly murdered a former girlfriend.
- Lincoln comes clean – though murder is overhyping things. He used to drink and get and angry and one night crashed his car nearly killing his girlfriend.
- Then Daisy and Lincoln receive the distress call from May.
- They decide to gather the Secret Warriors together to mount a rescue mission.
Considering that while you’re watching this episode, not an awful lot seems to happen, that’s one hell of a chunky “essential plot points” section this week. That’s because there’s loads of exposition going on in all three of the parallel plot lines. The result is an episode with sporadic moments of excellence but which overall feels clunky, lumpy and unbalanced.
There are some spectacular visuals (Daisy blowing up the minefield), impressive fight scenes (anything featuring Mark Dacascos in action as Mr Giyera) and lovely moments of characterisation, especially Coulson realising that killing Ward has turned out to the worst thing he could have done. The moment when Fitz finds his boss inadvertently taking out his stress out on in an innocent metal pipe is disproportionately affecting. Coulson now knows what the audience realised even as the SHIELD boss was crushing the life out of Ward; this isn’t the way SHIELD agents should operate because it drags them down to Hydra levels, and there going to be consequences. It’s still good to the see the show – and the characters – acknowledge that.
James is fun until he becomes an exposition dispenser; let’s hope he hasn’t purely been introduced as a means to an end because initially he comes across as a character with potential. Hell, all it needs is for him to decide to increase his Omega-3 intake and he could be back as a major supervillain. Or a crap supervillain if his power turns out to be the ability to make blue turn red or sommat… (Actually, we would love to see an episode focussing on all the Inhumans who’ve been given really crap powers.)
The Malick plotline also works reasonably well, benefitting from magnificent Brett Dalton and Powers Boothe performances and a powerful conclusion. But the story of how he betrayed his brother and Nathaniel’s eventual revenge-by-proxy does suffer from being sliced up and interspersed with the two SHIELD plotlines. It’s quite dialogue-heavy as it is, which means that when the rationed scene-count has to fight for screen time the end result is a slightly ponderous. Perhaps if the episode had dropped the frankly pointless “I used to be an angry drunk” spiel from Lincoln (what is this show’s desperate and unconvincing need to make him out a reformed bad boy?) the Malick plot could have had more room to breath.
In the main SHIELD plotline, meanwhile, there’s a whole load of info being chucked at you in high speed about invasive species, parasites, hostile takeovers and intercepted messages; most of it’s delivered in such concise dialogues you daren’t sneeze for missing something vital. Then, suddenly, Mr Giyera escapes from containment on the Zephyr – apparently because he wished for it really hard – and takes over the ship with incredible ease, knocking out everyone inside but himself then flying it expertly into a waiting Hydra base. You can just about accept all this if you’re okay with Mr Giyera’s powers developing to levels way beyond what we’ve seen previously and you’re okay with all those SHIELD agents suddenly being very crap.
“Paradise Lost” is a housekeeping episode that has certain tasks it has to get out of the way in the run up to the season’s end-game and it tries so hard to inject some fun into the necessary chores. But it can’t quite disguise the fact… they are a bit of chore.
- It’s great to see Daisy and Lincoln let rip with their powers to deal with James and his landmines. It’s makes a change from superpowers only ever being employed during big fight sequences.
- Plus, the stunt guy who performs the bit when James is struck by Lincoln’s bolt does a spectacular flight through the air. All round, it’s a small but very effective little set-piece.
- May’s fight scenes are invariably impressive but this one with Mr Giyera is especially good. It’s not just the incredibly inventive fight choreography; the stark white background gives the whole affair an Avengers vibe (by which we mean Steed and Mrs Peel Avengers not Iron Man and pals Avengers).
- The transition shot in the car from young Malick to old Malick is gorgeously done.
- The not-quite reveal of the Hydra God is a brilliant tease.
- Even if you guessed the “twist” with not-Ward killing Stephanie instead of Malick the moment itself is still intensely chilling. What a bastard.
- “Well, what was the alternative? I mean, letting him live? Letting him win?”
“Don’t you see? When I killed him, he did. I knew it would come back to haunt me, I just didn’t think it would actually come back to haunt me.”
- Exposition overload.
- Unlike the last couple of episodes where parallel plots have dovetailed elegantly here it’s like channel-hopping between three different shows.
- James and his handy stories of ancient Inhumans seems to have materialised from nowhere. Even Daisy is given the line, “Trying to understand how we’ve been searching the globe for months and you never bothered to mention another Afterlife Inhuman,” as if the writers are trying to excuse the fact.
- And he just happens to have an alien device that is clearly going to have a key role to play in coming episodes…? It’s like the showrunners have suddenly remembered a whole sub plot they’d forgotten to insert earlier in the season.
- The big showdown with Mr Giyera on the Zephyr is a tad unconvincing as well. Suddenly he’s the most powerful Inhuman in existence.
And The Random:
- The Malick mansion is the same building used as the Wayne Manor in the 1960s Batman TV series (380 San Rafael Ave, Pasadena, California).
- Luke Mitchell and Axle Whitehead (James) once worked together when they were both regular characters on the Australian soap Home And Away.
- As Daniel Whitehall didn’t assume the name Whitehall until after he had escaped that cell, so surely the young Malick boys should have been calling him Werner Reinhardt.
- Fitz mentions the Dutch town of Fitz Schoonebeek but the on-screen graphic says “Schoonebeek” which is another Dutch town entirely.
Review by Dave Golder