The writers on Agents of SHIELD dug deep into the catalog of Marvel characters to find a really obscure group of bad guys for “Watchdogs.” They are an obscure hate group that, in the comics, was part of a long term plan in one of Red Skull’s conflicts with Captain America. They played a large part in the early career of John Walker, who was one of the men to temporarily replace Steve Rogers as Captain America before going on to become US Agent.
For the tv show, things happen differently. The episode opens with Mac taking some rare time off. We get to learn about his background and family situation. Mac has a brother, Reuben, who thinks Mac works for an insurance company. Their parents have moved into a condo of some kind, and Reuben is trying to keep the family home up, even though he recently got laid off. Reuben is under a lot of pressure, which will play into later events. Mac makes a vague comment about people he likes from work getting transferred away, which is in reference to the team losing Hunter and Bobbi recently.
The Watchdogs show up on the news, having attacked an ATCU facility. They are demanding information on the Avengers and any other super-powered people. They also have advanced implosive weapons, which are a variation of some early Stark-Tech. Howard, not Tony. Reuben thinks the whole thing is awesome. Mac, understandably, is a bit less thrilled. Mac is even less thrilled when Coulson calls him in to work the case, interrupting his family time with his brother.
The Stark Tech in question is called nitromene. It turned the entire ATCU building into a much smaller sphere. Fitz and Mac have a very entertaining scene where they geek out about nitromene and its neutralizing agent, that of course Fitz knows about and has. Daisy watches the two of them, amused and lost. Coulson chimes in that he knows of someone who is very interested in nitromene and other early Stark inventions: former SHIELD agent Felix Blake, who we’ve seen a few times before in the series.
While all this is going on, Simmons is doing something unusual for her: putting in extra time at the firing range. This is where May finds her, and they compare notes about Lash. Of course May feels bad about what’s happened to him, since Lash was, in part, her husband Andrew. Simmons, for her part, feels guilty about letting him out of the module back at the castle during their big fight with Hydra, when Lash went on to slaughter all the captive Inhumans Hydra had rounded up. They agree on a new plan to try and work together to both locate Lash/Andrew and try to cure him.
Daisy is familiar with the Watchdogs, which makes sense on two levels. She’s still a very skilled computer user and social media type. Also, the Watchdogs have been very vocal about going after the Inhumans, and she is one, so it makes sense she’d be keeping an eye on them. Daisy has some ideas about how to get more leads, but Mac isn’t happy with this plan. They have a debate about the morality of Daisy’s plan, but she goes ahead in spite of Mac’s concerns.
Lincoln must be feeling like no one wants to work with him by now. Recently, he kept getting paired with May, who isn’t exactly the warm and welcoming type. Now he goes off on a mission with Coulson, who is making cryptic remarks about Lincoln’s recent SHIELD evaluations.
There’s a lot of tension this episode. Coulson is riding Lincoln pretty hard. Mac and Daisy are disagreeing about her methods. Reuben is getting more and more pro-Watchdog, which isn’t sitting well with Mac. I guess everyone is tense in the wake of Hunter and Bobbi leaving.
Finally, getting a few leads, the team goes after the Watchdogs. Mac, Daisy, and Fitz raid one of their meetings, while Coulson and Lincoln check out ex-Agent Blake’s safehouses. Nothing goes quite as planned at either site. Fitz gets put in new and different danger, and he and Daisy have to work carefully to save him from a really gruesome death. Coulson and Lincoln have an encounter with Blake that has a few surprises along the way. And Mac gets a surprise of his own at the Watchdog raid, with some ugly emotional fallout later.
There’s a shootout/cat and mouse fight involving a few of the cast. Mac finally gets his “shotgun ax” he’s been talking about since the silliness of the two SHIELDs storyline. Ruben makes peace with what he learns about Mac and his team, and realizes the Watchdogs aren’t that great. Daisy finds out something she can tease Mac about.
The episode ends with a meeting between two different factions that are making SHIELD’s collective life difficult. I’d say it’s more one side pulling the strings than a meeting of equals, but either way it’s not good for SHIELD. There’s an exchange that bodes ill for the future.
What I liked: They haven’t done much with many of the agents’ backgrounds, so it was nice to learn more about Mac. Daisy being as committed as she is to stopping the Watchdogs was perfectly in character. The Coulson/Lincoln scenes were written and acted well.
What I didn’t: I’m not sure May and Simmons’ side project is a good idea, but we’ll see how it develops. The problems with Mac and Ruben were reminding me a bit of the Brothers Diggle over on Arrow. And no matter what version of them is being used, the Watchdogs are kinda lame.
I’ll give the episode a 3 out of 5. It didn’t wow me, but there was nothing really bad about it either. I’m hoping it gets better as the season finale starts coming closer. And I miss Hunter and Bobbi, even with their alleged project coming down the road.