There are spoilers about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. here. Please leave if you don't want spoilers.
No one saw that coming.
For the past few weeks, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been teasing the existence of a villainous Inhuman named Lash. He's been a stranger since "arriving" on the scene in the season three premiere; the only concrete things we knew about him were that he enjoys busting holes in people's chests, and that his name is Lash. In Tuesday's episode, "Among Us Hide," we were thrown a monumental curveball when we learned Lash's secret identity — he's Dr. Andrew Garner (Blair Underwood), a trusted (former?) ally of S.H.I.E.L.D and May's ex-husband.
The reveal — which came by way of Werner von Strucker (Spencer Treat Clark) — is a major game changer, crumpling everything we thought we knew about both Lash and Garner up until this point. Garner isn't as calm or as good as we thought he was, while Lash is perhaps even more evil. And now that we know Lash's identity, it makes his killings, his motive, and this show more confusing than ever.
Lash is a massive departure from the comic books, but his motive might be the same
Lash plays a pivotal role in Marvel's comic books. Similar to what happened on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there's an event in the comic books that unleashes Terrigen upon the world and triggers the metamorphosis of new superpowered Inhumans, humans with latent alien DNA. In the comic books, there's an Inhuman royal family, an Inhuman civilization, and a lost Inhuman civilization that Lash is part of; the comic books' version of this story is a different beast and comes from an entirely different perspective, but the result — the new Inhumans on Earth — is the same.
And there might be a part of Lash's character that stays true to the comic books.
In "Among Us Hide," Daisy questions Lash's motives and is puzzled as to why Lash killed an Inhuman named Dwight Frye (Chad Lindberg) but chose to let her live, even though she, too, is Inhuman. Lash isn't killing Inhumans indiscriminately, she surmises. But she's clueless as to the method he's applying. That we know Lash is Garner makes it even more bizarre, since it means Lash has been able to access and evaluate the Inhumans that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been keeping safe.
The comic books might provide some context. In the comic books, specifically the "Inhumanity" series, Lash has a rigid sense of value. Inhumans, to him, are either worthy or disposable. And Inhumans' worth depends on their powers:
When Inhumans don't display powers Lash finds worthy, he destroys them:
If we reflect this knowledge back onto the show, we can guess why Daisy (Chloe Bennet) was allowed to live while Frye wasn't. Daisy has the power to cause earthquakes, while Frye's power allowed him to get sick when other Inhumans were near. Lash's other victims could be Inhumans like Frye whom he doesn't think deserve to represent his race. We've only seen a couple of those Inhumans so far, and they sported meager powers compared with Daisy.
However, there is one drawback to this theory: Lash tried to kill Lincoln Campbell. Campbell has the power to wield electricity — something that, on a scale of "worthy" powers, seems like something that would warrant a pass from Lash. So perhaps personal reasons rather than ideological ones are driving Lash's killings.
With "Among Us Hide," Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gets political
There's a very political plot creeping beneath the surface of this big episode. Coulson (Clark Gregg) visits Rosalind Price's (Constance Zimmer) Advanced Threat Containment Unit (ATCU) — the organization that, along with S.H.I.E.L.D., is monitoring and studying the Inhuman outbreak. But the ATCU and S.H.I.E.L.D. have very different mentalities regarding Inhumans.
Price compares the Inhuman transformations to terminal cancer, and the ATCU's method for dealing with Inhumans is to put them into a stasis until, in Price's words, "someone finds a cure." This runs opposite to S.H.I.E.L.D., which sees the Inhumans as powerful assets.
Daisy, who at times seems to relish her Inhumanity as a blessing, is infuriated by the ATCU's treatment of its Inhumans. Price thinks she's doing these men and women a service. Everyone else, including the audience, is left in the middle.
The theme of outsiders and minorities being seen as threats is one that Marvel has frequently explored with mutants and many of the X-Men storylines; those stories tend to side with the mutants who still choose to protect the humans who despise them. But the approach Marvel is taking with the Inhumans on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is slightly tweaked, something that feels almost like an allegory to the pro-life/pro-choice debate combined with the mutant minority narrative.
There isn't a tidy answer to how to deal with Inhumans the way there is with Marvel's mutants — neither S.H.I.E.L.D. nor ATCU's methods are ideal.
S.H.I.E.L.D. agents turn off their humanity, until they don't
Lately I've been intrigued by Hunter's evolution as an agent. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s third season has served as somewhat of a training manual for the character, as he's learned how to turn off his humanity in order to become a better agent. It's resulted in Hunter killing someone he thought was his friend in episode three, and then going after Ward in episode four, even though it meant Garner would die. (Garner obviously didn't die, but Hunter didn't know he'd survive.)
Now Hunter has to deal with the fallout.
May (Ming-Na Wen) doesn't trust him. He's been taken off Ward's case. And now he's trolling for jobs. It's a curious situation, since it seems entirely personal (especially May's anger toward him) rather than analytical: If Hunter didn't go after Ward, Hydra would have shipped all the weapons S.H.I.E.L.D. had supplied to Ward as part of the sting. Coulson himself advises the team to turn off their humanity in dealing with Rosalind, but doesn't seem to follow that advice when he sides with May over Hunter.
What doesn't feel right is seeing Hunter back down and roll over. He's had to endure some pretty traumatic stuff (see: friend killing) for the sake of this job, and has been told to shut off everything personal. He was simply acting in accordance with that stiff credo. And now that he's being punished, it seems he's acquiescing to the charges being thrown against him.
It's a shame Hunter isn't putting up more of a fight, because surrendering doesn't follow the logic of this season or the show as a whole. Time and time again, we've seen people act rashly or with their hearts (see: Daisy and the formation of her Inhuman team; Coulson acting out of desperation to save Simmons), only to be punished or told to stand down. But Hunter followed his orders, and he's being punished anyway. It would be a shame to see the thoughtfulness that's gone into making S.H.I.E.L.D.'s third season about the idea of balancing humanity and this inhumane job — and the argument that doing so is ultimately impossible — treated as an afterthought.