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REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 3×11 “Bouncing Back”

After being on hiatus for what felt like 4,722 Hours, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned in full force, with new Inhumans emerging from the woodwork and old enemies leveling up to transform from bad to big bad. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wasted no time putting its characters, and its viewers, back into the thick of things, a smart move considering the nearly three months of wait time had the potential to revert the show back to the beginning and strip away its upward momentum. Luckily, that didn’t happen because, “Bouncing Back,” was a stellar episode that made the wait for S.H.I.E.L.D’s return well worth it.

Let’s get into it!

There was more than one time jump in this midseason premiere, with the first forty seconds of the episode serving as a flash forward (HOLY HELL WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE FUTURE?!) and the present timeline of the show picking up three months after the events at that infamous Gloucestershire castle. The S.H.I.E.L.D. field agents track down a new Inhuman in Colombia and, after a rocky start, manage to recruit her to join the team in a remote capacity to generally be awesome, use her powers for good, and help them save the world whenever it needs saving re: Always.

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While, “Bouncing Back,” predominantly focused on the introduction of the aforementioned Inhuman Elena Rodriguez, AKA YoYo AKA Slingshot, it seems as though the larger theme and plot of the season will center around the fallout of Coulson’s actions on Maveth, namely his using of that robotic hand to take out longtime adversary Grant Ward. (What would Steve Rogers say Phillip?!) Killing Ward was a clear turning point for the Director, forcing him to make his self-described, “hard choice,” and no doubt setting him on a path that is far less marked, and far more blurry, than the one he has been attempting to traverse since we first met him in Iron Man. Coulson is gung-ho about stopping Malick, going so far as to using the infamous T.A.H.I.T.I. machine on young Von Strucker for any information he can use against Hydra’s big bad- a decision that the Coulson of old wouldn’t have even entertained. The fact that the President of the United States basically says, “You do you,” is a bit ominous since apparently Coulson is now willing to do anything in order to reach his desired outcome. While he manages to cause a bit of monetary damage to Gideon, Hydra still manages to acquire a new Inhuman, which brings us to…

Another glaring issue stemming from Coulson’s literal crushing of Ward on Maveth is the fact that, in doing so, he brought an entirely new evil to earth. As we saw after the fall finale’s tag, OG Inhuman Hive has taken root in Grant Ward’s corpse and is now back on Earth, eating raw meat and gaining his strength in preparation to do some damage. I have to admit, I prefer watching Brett Dalton as the sinister and disturbing Hive than I did watching him play the, “misunderstood,” Grant. Where Ward was marginally threatening, more smarmy and delusional than truly menacing, Hive is a physical reflection of that indescribable feeling you get when you see something ominous and immediately know trouble is around the corner. I mean… watching him eating raw meat and watching horrific news segments?! So skeevy.

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And team S.H.I.E.L.D. still doesn’t know that this new incarnation of Ward even exists!

There’s an entire base of secret agents in store for a rude awakening.

After the flak that the show got in Season 1 for its lack of superheroes (even though it’s called AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D. and everyone really should have grasped the show’s concept from the title alone) there has been a steady uptick of powered people as the seasons have progressed. Even Bobbi points out that, “Powers are the new normal.” There is now a fairly equal balance between humans and Inhumans and, while the latter will no doubt be getting an increasing amount of screen time due to the reiterated promotion of the Secret Warriors, the former seem to be packing the emotional punches to counter the Inhumans’ physical ones. Fitz and Simmons are still shouldering their respective guilt for all of the drama that went down in 3A, with Fitz assuming that Jemma blames him for Will’s death and Jemma worrying about the new chasm that such false assumptions are causing for their relationship.

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And, though it wasn’t really touched upon in, “Bouncing Back,” Jemma’s perpetual guilt over anything and everything that goes wrong will probably come back into play since she has likely shouldered some responsibility for releasing Lash and inadvertently allowing him to kill all of those Inhumans.

It’s no surprise that S.H.I.E.L.D. will be heavily pushing the Inhuman and Secret Warriors storyline as the season progresses because it’s the one facet of the Marvel Universe that the show has been able to introduce and mold before its cinematic counterparts inevitably decide to sink their claws into the topic. S.H.I.E.L.D. has been forced to contort itself to fit the events occurring on the big screen, so I actually think it’s refreshing to see the show bringing something to Marvel fans that the films haven’t yet touched upon. In a similar vein, it seems as though S.H.I.E.L.D. is getting a jump start on the issues that are set to dominate Captain America: Civil War. The upsurge of Inhumans has naturally led to a similar increase in the number of people wary of them and the lines are already being divided between those with powers and those without them.

Episode Grade: B

Episode Highs:

  • Hunter and Bobbi were delightful in this episode, hilarious and kickass as usual, and it’s making me sad that they’ll likely be departing for Marvel’s Most Wanted before the season’s over.
  • The VFX with YoYo was really good, particularly the scene with her running around the pod while simultaneously staying still.
  • Hive’s makeup was stellar, super creepy and wholly disconcerting.
  • YoYo is a GREAT addition and Joey was particularly wonderful.

Episode Lows:

  • S.H.I.E.L.D. already had an enormous cast and now even more characters are being thrown into the mix. Unfortunately, this takes much of the screen time away from many of the characters that I’d like to see more of. Having this many characters means there are A through Z plots, something that could either get confusing or a bit tedious as time goes on. It’s hard to stay invested in a show’s characters if you only get fleeting glimpses of them each week.
  • The pacing seemed a little slow. Right? Maybe that was just me.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Who do you think was caught in space/a fiery explosion in that flash forward?
  • Anyone else think that Fitz and Coulson keeping the events that took place on Maveth *cough* Coulson killing Ward *cough* from the team is an absolutely TERRIBLE idea that will bite them in the butt sooner rather than later?
  • Now that we know that Hive takes the memories of those whose body it possesses, how do you think it’ll use Ward’s to mess with the team? And who do you think has the biggest target on his/her back? We have Coulson who killed Ward, Fitz who set Hive’s last host on fire with a flare gun, Jemma who technically left Will on Maveth, and then the rest of the team that all had unfinished business with Grant. And that’s just the hosts’ beef, who knows what Hive is actually up to.

Sound off with your speculations on Twitter or in the comments below!

About the author

Silje Falck-Pedersen