This review contains spoilers.
What is the ultimate purpose of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? I can take just about any show I’m watching right now and sum up its broad narrative and thematic goals in a single sentence. Supergirl is about an alien misfit doing her best to find her place amongst humanity while also trying protect it from threats. Better Call Saul is about an ambitious, but down on his luck lawyer trying to chase his dreams and taking some ethically questionable shortcuts to get there. Star Wars Rebels is about a group of broken idealists uniting in an attempt to fight back against a fascist regime and restore freedom to the galaxy. But what is S.H.I.E.L.D. about? The answer varies not from only season to season, but even episode to episode, and this inconsistency is at the heart of why the show’s quality has been similarly unreliable. This week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is actually one of the stronger episodes the show has had in a while, but even as this episode hits the mark, I’m left wondering if the show has any coherent vision of what it wants to be.
After last week’s odd back door pilot for Marvel’s Most Wanted, we’re back into the standard flow of things with our agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. One of these agents, Mack, has taken some time off to spend with his younger brother, but when a group of anti-Inhuman terrorists under the name ‘Watchdogs’ destroys an ATCU storage facility, Mack is forced to cut his vacation short. The Watchdogs, as we learn, are a hate group that has been brewing in the cauldron of Internet message boards since the events of The Avengers. With alien and superhuman activity on the rise and high profile catastrophes like Ultron’s attack on Sokovia, they have begun to unshackle themselves from the confines of the Internet and start instigating real world acts of violence and terror under the leadership of former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Felix Blake.