Official synopsis for Watchdogs:
“When a radical group called The Watchdogs emerges with plans to eliminate the Inhumans, Agent Mack and his brother become caught in the crossfire. Meanwhile, Simmons discovers a powerful chemical compound that could alter the future for Inhumans.”
We bid farewell to Bobbi and Hunter in last week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and this week it becomes clear that Mack has taken this loss the hardest. Watchdogs finally took the time to focus on Mack’s long-neglected backstory, revealing much about his character. Although he’s been a part of the team for almost a season now, he’s often been sidelined in service to developing other plots. All we really know of him is his distrust of Inhumans, and dislike of being on the front lines. It was a refreshing change of pace to really follow his story and see the impact that his two close friends’ departure has had on him.
The episode opens with Mack having a much needed vacation, and spending some quality time with his brother Ruben. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has always done best when focusing on character-driven stories, and this was a nice glimpse of Mack’s personal life outside of the team. The brothers’ bonding time gets abruptly interrupted when the Watchdogs, a militant group aiming to strike back against Inhumans, comes into play. The name of the group was dropped by Daisy as a set-up last week, so it was no surprise to get an episode shining more light on the situation. As in previous seasons, the show is clearly building towards relevance within the MCU (this year it’s Captain America: Civil War), and we’ve been getting small doses of what seems to be an inevitable clash between the powered and non-powered character. This week’s episode really hammered that home, with the clash in ideals from the non-powered Watchdogs, and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
There were a lot of name-drops from the wider MCU this week, from the Avengers to Ultron, but it was a cool link that the technology the Watchdogs used to take down the ATCU building was originated by Howard Stark. Although Hive remained conspicuously absent during Watchdogs, it was interesting to see the return of a familiar face in Felix Blake. Last we saw of Blake was in Season 1, after he suffered a spinal injury at the hands of Deathlok, an even that goes a long way towards explaining his opinions about the superpowered. Coulson apparently attempted to find Blake to join the new S.H.I.E.L.D. at some point, but was unsuccessful. I thought it was rather too easy for Coulson link the Watchdogs to Blake, but clearly it was needed to set-up a conversation where Blake accuses Coulson of also being a ‘freak’.
I’m relieved that Coulson took Lincoln with him to find Blake. I was debating whether or not Coulson was testing Lincoln for the good of the team, or testing whether Lincoln was suitable for Daisy. Lincoln has been so bland and boring to me up to this point, so if he’s sticking around then he needs to stop moping, and the show needs to start making him more than just a love interest. The powerful dialogue that could be had over the choice to have powers or not has been turned into little more than a lovers tiff between him and Daisy, rather than a possible commentary on the events leading up to the Civil War we know is coming. It was nice to see him having a story of his own this week, although rather confusing that his disobeying a command was what led Coulson to believe that he’d obey orders in the future.
Daisy also took it upon herself to disobey direct orders this episode, taking Fitz on an unsanctioned mission to obtain information on the Watchdogs with a view to them down. Although her mission nearly gets Fitz killed, and seems somewhat hypocritical given that when we met Skye she was the definition of vigilante, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is clearly going out of its way to create a divide among the team. If done correctly then in a future episode we should get a mention how Daisy is going too far. She did reflect at the end of the episode with Ruben that she should have been there when Watchdogs attacked Mack and his brother. Sadly there seemed little thought spared for Fitz.
A definite highlight for me the week was Elizabeth Henstridge. She perfectly portrayed Simmons’ guilt following the events of the beginning of the season: Will dying and the aftermath of letting Andrew go. Jemma and May finally have a long-awaited interaction, with the two women discussing the guilt that they feel for their actions every day. Jemma also attempts to offer May the hope that they could use the unfinished vaccination against Terrigenesis to bring Andrew back, but May declines this offer, saying that she refuses to hope for anything.
Overall, Watchdogs seemed very much to be an episode building towards the show’s own version of Marvel’s Civil War, but the character-driven plot and consequences made it one of the more enjoyable of the season. Next week is being promoted as a game changer and, given that we’re two thirds of the way through the season, a sense that the dual storylines of Hive and SHIELD might meet is long overdue. Hive’s back next week, along with visions of the future which will no doubt cause more discord within the team.
What did you think of Watchdogs? Let us know in the comments below or find us on Twitter to chat about the episode.