Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Recap: ‘Failed Experiments’

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – 'Failed Experiments'

This review contains spoilers.

During this season of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, the Girl of Steel herself, found herself exposed to red Kryptonite while aiding the National City firefighters in putting out a fire. As the effects of the red Kryptonite began to take hold, Kara became more aggressive, more manipulative, and even more sadistic. Her typical bright, unfailingly optimistic demeanor was warped leaving us forced to watch our hero not only alienate the people she loves, but worse still, revel in the power of tearing them down with her words. It was a dark moment for this character who up to that point had wanted nothing but to help others and inspire hope. The thing that made it the most painful, though, was not just seeing Supergirl betray her ideals, but understanding that – even though she would never dream of saying these things in her right mind – there was an honesty born out of deeply buried pain at the heart of what she was saying.

This week, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. attempts to do something similar. During the climax of the episode, Mack disobeys orders to confront Daisy – still a thrall to Hive – and attempts to connect with whatever part of her might be fighting against the influence of her Inhuman captor. But Daisy is not receptive. She not only refuses to join Mack, but she lashes out against him, saying that the familial dynamic of the team was a sham, that Bobby and Hunter left because they never cared for their fellow agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., that Coulson manipulated them all to further his own agenda. The only problem with this is that I don’t believe Daisy actually believes any of this.

When Kara lashed out at her sister, her words pierced like knives because we as an audience were made to understand the emotional truth behind these verbal attacks. As much as we had been shown the deep, earnest, honest love Kara and Alex share, we had also been shown how seeds of bitterness had been sown over time – how some part of Alex resented the way Kara fell out of the sky and into her life, in the process making her feel inferior to her newly adopted sister with godlike powers; how Kara recognized this jealousy, and was made to hide her powers from the world and how Alex in particular tried to warn her against ‘coming out’ as Supergirl. Even though Kara was not in her right mind, there was an ugly, painful truth to everything she said. With Daisy, though, having followed her on her journey with S.H.I.E.L.D. for three years now, we know that what she’s saying is false. Even if the emotions didn’t land, there was a big teary-eyed farewell for Bobby and Hunter, we’ve seen the genuine compassion Coulson has for Daisy, and what’s more, we know that Daisy has seen it to. When she says these things to Mack, they don’t hurt in the same way Kara’s attacks do, because unlike Kara’s grievances, none of these are true.

This is the same drum I’ve been beating all season: none of this works because there’s no solid foundation for us to anchor to. Everything is fluid and formless with wholly new situations and character dynamics being conjured out of thin air every single week. This episode that was clearly meant to be the emotional climax of the season lands with all the impact of a bag of cotton balls because none of the emotions are based on anything true.

David Daut

David Daut

Though his taste has been described as ‘broken’, David maintains that the Fast & Furious series is the greatest cultural achievement of the modern era.