There are spoilers concerning Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. midseason premiere here.
In its midseason premiere, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. roared back into action with not one but two Inhumans we've never seen before, a big bad looming on the horizon, and police corruption in developing nations.
The episode, "Bouncing Back," makes it seem as if the S.H.I.E.L.D. creative team spent their entire winter hiatus figuring out how to cram as many special effects as possible into 43 minutes and decided Bogota, Colombia, was the solution. As the show begins, we learn the heavy-hitting S.H.I.E.L.D. agents — Daisy (Chloe Bennet), Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki), Hunter (Nick Blood), and Mack (Henry Simmons) — have traveled there to investigate an Inhuman incident involving a weapons transport gone wrong.
While half the team is off on an international adventure, the other agents are back at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, trying to figure out how to undermine Hydra boss Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe) and cripple his organization by way of a captured prisoner and a chat with the president of the United States.
"Bouncing Back" is perhaps the most action-packed S.H.I.E.L.D. episode we've seen in a while, but its most thrilling moments don't come without some sacrifices in storytelling. Here are three of the midseason premiere's biggest moments.
Meet Yo-Yo, the Inhuman slingshot
One of the most difficult tasks for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — or any other superhero TV show — is figuring out how to incorporate superhero powers in an inventive way, and on a television budget. Throughout most of its third season, S.H.I.E.L.D. has staged fairly straightforward fight sequences: Someone shoots a blast of energy out of his hands, aimed at someone else.
"Bouncing Back" adds a new wrinkle to this approach. It introduces the character Elena "Yo-Yo" Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), who is able to use super speed in limited bursts (she also goes by Slingshot in the comic books). Her power is constricted by time; she can run at superhuman speeds for the span of one heartbeat, before slingshotting back to her starting point.
We catch a glimpse of this ability right away, without any explanation. And at first glance, Yo-Yo seems like any other speedster. But as the episode progresses, we, along with the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, slowly began to understand how it works.
Yo-Yo's limitation is actually the coolest part of her depiction, and allows for some quirky action sequences — like when she cuffs the entire corrupt police department — without it seeming like she's too powerful for the universe (since she has to keep returning to her starting point).
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems ready to take on a very broad story
S.H.I.E.L.D.'s conflicts with Hydra have been a central element of season three, but there's a bigger story in play that the show hasn't devoted as much time to: the Inhumans popping up all over the planet.
This plot was introduced at the end of season two and picked up when the show returned this past fall: Terrigen, which activates Inhuman genes and powers, had been purposely spilled into the ocean (to stop a villain from using it), and as we're reminded in "Bouncing Back," it has now spread worldwide.
Yo-Yo's introduction is a good way for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to return to the idea that not all Inhumans are on the same page: Some are bad, some are good, some don't even know how they have powers. And not all of them live in the United States. Hydra is well aware of this, too.
The variable of the Inhuman population increasing in unpredictable ways raises the question of how many more Inhumans we'll see this season, and opens the door for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to add unlimited villains and heroes in the future. The series has really been leaning into this possibility with its marketing for the second half of the season, which is all but promising a superhuman clash in the finale.
However, I do wonder what the show will give up in order to pursue this storyline. The first half of season three admirably concentrated on telling a story of humanity and exploring what parts of a person are lost when they join S.H.I.E.L.D. We saw the relationships between various sets of characters — most notably Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) and Andrew Garner (Blair Underwood), as well as Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) — pulled, strained, and even vaporized because of the agents' scarred psyches.
"Bouncing Back" felt like a counter to those developments, with the characters' personal evolutions and relationships tacked on at the end of the episode or serving as interludes between sequences. It'll be interesting to see which way the rest of the season will end up tilting.
What's going on with that spaceship crash?
The show's current big bad is Ward (Brett Dalton), who is now the villain known as Hive. He's creepy. He's hungry. And he's capable of some of weird stuff. But he's no longer the show's biggest mystery.
At the beginning of "Bouncing Back," we're flashed forward to three months from now and plunked down into the cockpit of a malfunctioning spacecraft. The control panel is going haywire, beeping constantly. Eventually, everything blows up.
But before the explosion, we see a couple of clues. There's a necklace — a gold cross — suspended in zero gravity, and there's a glimpse of someone's arm who's sporting the S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform and logo.
And that's it.
Presumably, the S.H.I.E.L.D.-uniformed arm is attached to one of the good guys, someone who will seemingly die, but we don't know who it is.
What makes the scene particularly effective is that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn't been shy about killing off its characters. Figuring out who's gonna meet his or her space doom is, at the moment, more fulfilling than seeing Ward act bad again; the mystery also provides a nice breather from all the Inhuman stuff going on. It's a smart way to get us back into the season.