I just recently finished up the third season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and to be completely honest, I wasn’t really sure what I had expected but I did mostly like what I saw. The Mary Sue actually has some really great recaps of each episode from this season that discusses the plot of each one in addition to some great commentary.
*Spoilers for season three of Agents of SHIELD
This season focuses primarily on Inhumans after a good portion of the terrigen is accidentally released into the ocean last season and a small portion of the population is going through terrigensis. Much of the beginning of this season is spent trying to find new Inhumans while also fighting with the US government through the newly formed Advanced Threat Containment Unit (ATCU) on who gets dibs. All of that is also happening while SHIELD is attempting to find and kill Ward and bring Simmons back from wherever she ended up after being grabbed by the monolith. In addition to both Ward’s growing Hydra and the ACTU, there’s a mysterious creature also going after Inhumans and killing them.
Eventually (if that already wasn’t enough), finding Simmons meant realizing she was on an alien planet, which was also inhabited by a mysterious and terrifying creature. This creature (named Hive) ended up being one of the first InHumans who had been banished from Earth centuries before and once returning, was hellbent on turning everyone else inhuman.
Needless to say, this season is filled with all sorts of plots and characters. But for the most part, the show holds its own and does a significantly better job of balancing everything out. We really get to know many of the characters through not only their actions and words but also how other people interact and treat them. This season offers a little bit more into Mack, for example, through not only his relationship with his brother, Bobbi, and Hunter but also through his actions. I really loved that because I feel like we can learn about a character even when they might not be on screen through the characters closest to them.
I also really loved the two latest InHuman recruits to Daisy’s Secret Warriors initiative – Elena Rodriguez and Joey Gutierrez. The fact that both were Latinx, frequently spoke to each other in Spanish, and at least for me, not too stereotypical, was a welcomed change. But the addition of these two to the other characters of color on the show doesn’t mean that the show is perfect when it comes to race. In fact, Agents of SHIELD seems to have a weird relationship with its characters of color.
Okay so I just finished season three of the show but the entire time I was thinking about this! https://t.co/ophWxKxygn
— charlie (@contagiousqueer) 28 June 2016
While there are many characters of color in the main cast throughout the show (i.e. Skye/Daisy, May, etc), there are seems to be a weird trend that the show follows. Most of the black characters so far have ended up monsters, dead, or a combination of the two. Raina goes through a drastic physical change in addition to gaining her powers in season two – only to be killed by Jiyang later on. Tripp dies in the Kree city after being exposed to the terrigen mist. Mike Peterson is repeatedly experimented on and blackmailed for most of season two. In this season, Dr. Garner also goes through a physical change after coughing in some mist of an old Afterlife book and ends up being killed saving Daisy.
Jiaying, Agents of Shield, is fridged not once but twice for to advance for Daisy and Cavin’s stories. pic.twitter.com/WxJqW1Kfbc
— Fangirl Jeanne (@fangirlJeanne) 8 May 2016
These aren’t the only characters to get this kind of treatment nor is it limited to black characters. A.L. Baroza questioned what was going on with the characters of color on this show last year for Nerds of Color and brought up the fact that in the first two seasons, many of the characters of color end up dead, evil, or physically mutilated. And yes, you could argue that in the spy line of work, the chances of someone being one of those three things eventually is bound to happen. But it seems like most of the monsters, tragic and violent deaths, and more seem to happen more to the characters of color.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the show is complete trash or that it’s horrible thing to like it. Like so much else, there’s good and bad to this show. Some of the good, for example, includes Roslyn Talusan’s acceptance of her Asian heritage because of Daisy Johnson. But again, the great treatment of one character doesn’t guarantee that the rest will be treated the same.
AoS is using disability/disease as a metaphor (again). In some ways, there are interesting parallels to real world stuff.
— Eb (@erabrand) 17 March 2016
And then there’s the metaphor of the InHumans. This season walked the line between the InHumans being similar to race and disability but doesn’t really seem to quite make it work. A part of that is the fact that the reason InHumans are different is because something else happened to them. Comparatively, the X-Men are different because of an inherent mutation and the metaphors that the X-Men could be don’t really translate well to inhumans. Joe Glass wrote about this awhile back, saying in particular that:
Inhumanity does not work the same way at all. Whilst true, it does involve having to have the Inhuman gene, it also requires an outside incident: Terrigen Mists. Looking far enough back in the Inhuman mythos, it gets worse: Inhumans are the by-product of experimentation on humanity by an outside force (the Kree) and their powers come from their own experimentation to unlock the potential of the changes made to them.
Why is this a problem? It’s because that allegorically this means you are different because SOMETHING was done to you. An outside effect CAUSES your difference.
This doesn’t stop season three of Agents of SHIELD from at least attempting to use the inhumans as a metaphor for race and disability. But the show never quite articulates it in the right way to really make any of it work and it comes out a little flat to be honest. For one thing, I’m not sure what the writing team for this season looked like, which could play a factor in this. For another, there was already so much happening in each episode that the inhuman metaphors seemed to take a backseat and weren’t fine tuned enough to really work.
There are a lot of things to really dig into when it comes to this show, especially for season three, that I haven’t even touched yet. While I didn’t like everything about it, I did really enjoy watching the latest season and I’m really excited to see what season four brings, particularly if Coulson is no longer the director as implied by the very last scene. To be honest, I’m kind of excited by the idea that he’s not director anymore because one, it gives him more leeway in dealing with problems and two, Maria Hill would have easily been the better SHIELD director. It’s not that Coulson is terrible and incompetent but rather that he lets his decisions and actions be guided by his emotions for his team than anything else.
I’m also really interested to see what’s happening/what’s next for Daisy after everything that’s happened to her. In between being drugged and controlled by Hive, losing two places she called home (with Hive and then with Shield), and losing Lincoln all in the span of a few months, I can’t imagine the amount of trauma and emotional baggage she must be grappling with by the end of it all. She has been through an incredible amount of shit throughout the show that I wasn’t really surprised to see that she had left and was on the run.
It turns out that I had a lot to say about the latest season of Agents of SHIELD and while I again don’t think it was perfect, I did really like watching it and I’m definitely planning on watching season four when I can.