30 January 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E4 "Devils You Know" review

I've got to say, I'm more than a little impressed with the speed that the third season of Agents of SHIELD is developing. I've mentioned it before now, but "Devils You Know" proves beyond reasonable doubt that the show is done spinning it's wheels - we are only four episodes in, but "Devils You Know" feels more like a mid-season finale than just the fourth episode in a twenty-two episode season. It would seem that critics of the shows tendency to drag things out no longer have a leg to stand on, and that can only be a good thing - maybe the general discussion surrounding Agents of SHIELD can finally get past "Trust me, it got better".

Starting with a fairly routine recruitment mission gone wrong, "Devils You Know" has Daisy, Mack and (later) the ACTU attempt to track down Lash and the people who may be helping him, while Hunter and May continue their mission to find and kill Ward, whose version of Hydra is slowly but surely growing in size and power - in part thanks to Hunter, who seems to be willing to put innocent people in danger as long as he can get his revenge. Elsewhere, Simmons is still investigating the portal in order to try to reopen it.

After last week's episode "A Wanted (Inhu)man" had Coulson and Rosalind come to some kind of partnership, "Devils You Know" takes a little time to explore how strained that partnership is, and the way that different members of SHIELD are reacting to it. At one point, Coulson tells a sceptical Daisy that them working together is a means to an end, but he doesn't have an answer when she asks him whose end that is. It's clear that neither organisation actually trusts the other, but having them work together like this (while still clearly hiding as much as possible from each other) is much more interesting than the direction I thought this storyline would head in. I'd also like to point out just how much I am enjoying the growing Daisy/Mack friendship - her superpowers negate the traditional 'brains/brawn' dynamic that they may have once shared, and Mack is quickly becoming my new favourite character thanks to his sense of humour.

It's also worth mentioning that "Devils You Know" gives us another good look at Lash, and I've got to say that in spite of my initial concerns, I like it. I said in my review of the seasons first episode that "I want my bad guys to look scary and intimidating, not like they just walked off the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer", and I'm happy to say that Lash looks much better in this episode than he did in "Laws of Nature" - the hair looks better, he looks more 'real' and he feels like an actual threat. We learn a little bit more about him in "Devils You Know" too, and although that information raises questions rather than answering them I'm genuinely curious about what Agents of SHIELD has planned for the character.

Also refusing to answer questions is Simmons, whose story is developing at a snail's pace in comparison to the rest of the show - not that this is bad thing though. It makes sense that she would still be finding it difficult to connect to people or talk about her experiences this soon after returning to Earth (never though I'd be talking about that when the show first started), and although it's frustrating seeing "Devils You Know" end with virtually the same cliff-hanger as last weeks "A Wanted (Inhu)man", it looks like next weeks "4,722 Hours" will actually be explaining why Simmons feels that she needs to go back.

If "4,722 hours" focuses on Simmons' time on Planet Whatever as much as it looks though, it means we will have to wait even longer to learn what happened on the Hunter, May and Ward side of things. It is this area of the episode that really moves quickly - without delving too far into spoiler territory, what I assumed would take at least up until the mid-season break has been dealt with by the end of "Devils You Know" in a way I genuinely did not expect. We already knew that Hunter and May are out for revenge - but they seem to have forgotten that Ward is too, and it looks like their underestimation of him may have cost them dearly. I've seen people criticise the character of Ward as not being bad enough for a bad guy (something I've disagreed with since we first found out he was a member of Hydra), but "Devils You Know" should certainly make them reconsider.

"Devils You Know" is probably the best episode of Agents of SHIELD season three so far, and even though it doesn't answer the question that we all want answering (What happened to Simmons, damn it!) it certainly manages to make up for that by pushing forward certain plots much quicker than I think anyone anticipated. No, Bobbi still doesn't have anything to do (which is getting just a little bit annoying now), but "Devils You Know" has plenty to be dealing with anyway, and handles it all really well.

This article was originally published on OutLoudCulture.

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