24 April 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E16 "Paradise Lost" review

"Paradise Lost" is one of the most uneven episodes of Agents of SHIELD in a long time. It's a clear attempt to return the shows focus to the season-wide plot that made the first half of Agents of SHIELD third season feel so fresh, something I've been clamouring for since the mid-season finale - but "Paradise Lost" fails to really balance all three of the plots that it deals with, resulting in an episode that varies wildly from genuinely interesting to... well, a bit boring, frankly.

Now that SHIELD have learned that Ward has somehow returned from Maveth, "Paradise Lost" sees Coulson sending Daisy and Lincoln to find out more information about ancient Inhumans from someone Lincoln used to know, while the rest of SHIELD investigate a facility owned by the company Gideon Malick's version of Hydra took over last week. Meanwhile, Gideon begins to realise that he may have bitten off more than he can chew with Hive, and we get to learn more about Gideon's past in a series of flashbacks.

Oddly enough, it is the Gideon-focused portion of the episode that ends up being the most interesting, tying back into the history of Hydra within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and giving us greater insight into why Gideon does the things he does. At times it's been difficult to believe that other Hydra leaders like the Red Skull, Alexander Pierce or Daniel Whitehall have been invested in bringing Hive back from Maveth, and "Paradise Lost" answers that by simply showing us that not everyone believes in Hive to the same extent that the Malick family does.

This portion of the episode also allows us to spend some time with Hive while we learn more about the way it works. We've known for some time now that it keeps the memories of those it absorbs, but I didn't expect that "power" to be put to use in the way it is in "Paradise Lost" - it's interesting seeing Hive act on the memories of those that he has absorbed and the way that affects Gideon is actually pretty great. For the first time Powers Boothe (the actor who plays Gideon) is given us a chance to really shine and he does, selling the complicated emotions that Gideon is feeling throughout "Paradise Lost" with ease.

The rest of the episode is significantly less interesting, mostly thanks to the way that both of the other plots only really exist to set up later episodes. Daisy and Lincoln's investigation doesn't really yield any new information about Inhumans, and instead gives us a development in the relationship between the two of them - a relationship that I have no interest in thanks to the simple facts that I still don't buy them as a couple, and I don't particularly like Lincoln as a character. It still seems as if the show doesn't really know what to do with him - every time we've learnt something new about him, it's just made him more unlikable, and the latest revelation in "Paradise Lost" just makes him seem like... well, a total asshole to be honest, frustrating when actor Luke Mitchell quite clearly has a lot more to offer than the show is allowing him to.

But it is the plot that sees the rest of SHIELD on a mission to infiltrate a facility that really falls short of the quality I've come to expect from Agents of SHIELD. There are some good moments here (such as when Coulson finally confronts the fact that he was wrong to kill Ward), but for the most part this portion of the episode feels utterly directionless, a flimsy excuse for an underwhelming action scene and unconvincing set-up for next weeks "The Team". The characters here are under-utilised and the motivation for the mission under-explained - it is, in short, the least entertaining portion of an episode of Agents of SHIELD that we've seen in a very long time.

"Paradise Lost" may not be a bad episode, but it's certainly the least stable we've had in some time, and that's a little worrying - meaning that it's now up to next weeks "The Team" to continue the plot left unresolved by "Paradise Lost" while also delivering a more focused episode. And you know what? I believe that Agents of SHIELD will do just that. After nearly two full seasons of fairly consistently good episodes, this show has earned the right to drop the ball from time to time, and I feel confident in saying that this will probably end up being an anomaly rather than the norm.

This article was originally published on OutLoudCulture.

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