Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 'Parting Shot' offers shocks and awws

Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from Tuesday night's Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 episode, "Parting Shot."

At the end of last week Bobbi and Hunter stowed away “in the belly of the beast,” aboard Malick’s jet headed for Russia, where an Inhuman settlement was to be established. Instead of the action picking up immediately from there, we find the duo in separate interrogation rooms, in Siberia, being accused of murder. Through a series of flashbacks, we discover the team wasn’t exactly left alone in Russia, but they and the entire team got caught up in an assassination plot to take out the Russian prime minister – at the hands of an Inhuman who can manifest sentient “darkforce” shadows. Of course it turns out Malick was pulling the puppet strings all along, and instead of wanting to work with the Russians, was actually sowing the seeds of coup. And by episode’s end, we learn Bobbi and Hunter are in those rooms and are willfully taking the fall for the murder, to protect S.H.I.E.L.D., which leads to them being disavowed.

Highlights: Shadow people, teary-eyed sendoffs.

Even though Bobbi and Hunter were center stage, this was a solid team episode in which everyone had a part to play. We so often see these characters heading off on their own missions, but they all work best when they can rely on one another. It was also a great spy-fi ep, as they snuck around a Siberian base, taking out soldiers, hacking old computers and doing it all without causing an international incident (which would also expose the existence of S.H.I.E.L.D.).

The threat of the Inhuman with the darkforce shadow (reappearing after its role on Agent Carter) was a compelling one. It forced the team to think about what may potentially happen when Inhumans begin showing up in positions of power and in government roles. In this case, it wasn’t a good thing, as that Russian general cracked the neck of the prime minister’s attaché. What’s more, he was a powerful son of a gun, and roundly kicked everyone’s butt (in a nice display of special effects for MAOS), which led to the realization that the only way to stop the shadow-man was to kill its projector. Tough call, but a necessary one; unfortunately, it happened right in front of the prime minister, leaving Hunter and Bobbi holding the bag.

So, speaking of Bobbi and Hunter, this was a sad but effective send-off for the pair. We knew they looked to be in trouble, but the disavowment at the end was still a surprise. Plus, the ongoing conversation between the team about the couple’s lack of a true vacation, and all the focus on their relationship, telegraphed something big. And of course, fans also know that they are heading off to star in their own spin-off pilot, Marvel’s Most Wanted.

Still, who knew they’d be leaving so soon?

The departure was handled poignantly, if it went on a bit too long. The double-speak with Coulson in the interrogation room was sharp and hard to watch, because Phil realized he had no choice but to let these two go (even though he offered a big exit). But seeing the two in a bar, watched by a spy type, then begin to receive shots from around the joint, and spotting their teammate; it was all very heartfelt. Mac’s reaction especially resonated since he has the deepest connection to these two. The mission highlighted that MAOS shines when everyone is in on the action, but the bar scene highlighted the heart of this spy family. It was really touching stuff.

And it served as something of a mini-pilot by exploring more of their dynamic as a couple, and sending them off packing as fugitives.

I should have seen this coming.

Two weeks ago, I was on the set of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and should have seen the departure of actors Nick Blood and Adrianne Palicki coming. First up, Blood was cleanly shaved (and he looked like a different person), and admitted he had had some time off.

While Blood, along with everyone on the cast, was super dodgy about what would transpire in last night’s ep, he did offer these revealing thoughts on Hunter and Bobbi within the confines of S.H.I.E.L.D.

“At the end of the day, Hunter is very independent-minded. He’s not going to be forced out or forced into anything either; he’s going to make his own choice. So yeah, I guess for a while he’s played the game and then various things have come up which make him again question it. And it’s not necessarily like he’s saying that people are doing something wrong, it’s just not his way...

Hunter prefers it when he’s not working under the jurisdiction of S.H.I.E.L.D., and [last night’s episode] is an opportunity where they’re on their own, they can make up their own rules, just turn their phones onto airplane mode and ignore the calls from back home. I think Hunter’s probably the one that’s more inclined to put focus on their future and their relationship, whereas Bobbi kind of sees the greater good as a more important focus for her. I think when they’re off on their own together, you see how they compliment each other. Without the distractions of S.H.I.E.L.D., or other people, they compliment each other. You start to see in episode 13 how the goodness in Hunter isn’t necessary linked to S.H.I.E.L.D. Not everything S.H.I.E.L.D. does is necessarily the right thing or the moral thing to do, so disagreeing with it doesn’t make you immoral or ungood or whatever. He’s willing to ignore the rules and regulations to get the right thing done, and that sometimes Bobbi needs a little bit of that kick in the backside to send her in that direction. By the same token, Hunter needs Bobbi’s rationale to make sure he doesn’t go and get himself in trouble again."

[Check out more from that set visit, including teases from the cast and Season 3 plans from the showrunners, thoughts about Ward as Hive, and where they stand on Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man.]

Lowlights: Too much, too soon?

The episode did seem a bit rushed to sell the relationship between Hunter and Bobbi. Also, Hunter was vocally questioning Coulson’s methods more than we’ve previously seen, which stood out. We have known the pilot for Marvel’s Most Wanted was on the way, and MAOS has been pushing things between the pair a lot over the last few episodes. It has been largely enjoyable, but feels a bit overly orchestrated at times.

OK, so I enjoyed the departure scene. But is Mr. Clearly Surveilling Stand Out In Crowd Spy Guy (probably not his actual character name) really so bad at his job he’s not going to notice six shots of booze being delivered by the server, and a group of people longingly staring, and toasting to seemingly no one? Would he not then observe each of those background characters slowly leaving the bar, one after another, giving knowing, lingering glances at the couple at the table with those six shot glasses?

Seriously, if that’s the level of average spy we get in the MCU, I’m glad we have S.H.I.E.L.D.

Also, do you think Bobbi and Hunter did all those shots and finished their beers? If so, maybe we’ll get a one-shot adventure: Marvel’s The Hangover, in which Bobbi and Hunter get drunk and steal Redwing from Sam Wilson, or something.

 Finally, will we ever get the full recipe of Hunter’s mushroom soup?

Line of the night: It was a throwaway, but I quite enjoyed when Malick said of Hive-Ward, “He’s still gathering himself.” Get it? He’s sucking the life out of others, and pulling himself back together! OK, you got it. Also: “Amadeus Ravenclaw Hunter.”

Predictions: Hive-Ward and Malick’s daughter are going to have some sort of creepy hookup, aren’t they?

What did you think of "Parting Shot," and what do you think is up next for MAOS?

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