Who watches the Watchdogs?
In the wake of Bobbi and Hunter leaving S.H.I.E.L.D., this episode starts exactly where it should; focusing on the characters that got shafted before. In Naperville Illinois, Mack (or “Alphie”) is working on motorcycles with his brother Ruben. You know, with all he’s been through in the last season and a half, I forgot that Mack was even a mechanic.
They talk a bit about how Mack never comes and visits any more, because he buries himself in work – which Ruben thinks is insurance. Mack admits that work hasn’t been great lately; management is out of control, new inexperienced people are coming in every day, and his two friends just got “permanently transferred”.
Never knew Mack (still) felt that way about Coulson and Lincoln.
They set out the gameplan for the day; lunch, beers, bikes. Ruben, as it turns out, is a great cook and picked up some steaks. While Ruben prepares the steaks, Mack turns on the TV. The internet hate group that Daisy mentioned two episodes ago, The Watchdogs, have become a bit more that that; they are on the news with weapons, military gear and masks. They are very anti-superhero (Civil War setup!) and make a statement by destroying an A.T.C.U. facility with what appear to be Nitramene paintballs from Agent Carter season one.
Also, the scrolling text at the bottom of the news reel says that a “gang war rages on in Hell’s Kitchen”, so shout out to the Daredevil fans!
Mack is very concerned by what he just saw; Ruben thinks it’s awesome. Coulson calls Mack and tells him that he is needed on the scene – even though it’s Mack’s week off, he’s down a few agents and this is serious. Ruben is disappointed but Mack promises they’ll get to their plan soon.
As Coulson debriefs Daisy and Fitz, they mention that the Watchdogs have just gotten more and more militant after the battles in New York and Sokovia – they are no longer content to spew hatred in internet comment sections. As they leave, they run into Lincoln, who is on his way back from the Cocoon, where he was for his agent assessment exams. Coulson reveals he’s received Lincoln’s assessment reports and that he’s going to sit this mission out.
That can’t be good.
As they assess the crime scene, Fitz discovers that my suspicion was correct; the Watchdogs used Nitramene, a substance designed by Howard Stark after World War II. Just like Jarvis taught us in Agent Carter, Nitramene can be neutralized with sodium hydrogen acetate. Daisy leaves to tell Coulson, and Mack asks if they should bring the compact imploded rubble cube of the building. Fitz points out that it is 100k tons, as it is literally a building compacted into a cube.
As Daisy tells Coulson that they used Nitramene, he remembers that there was one former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was obsessed with perfecting Nitramene; a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Daisy had met. He went off the grid when he got out of the hospital after Deathlok broke his spine.
In the Watchdogs facility, we see former Agent Felix Blake about to explain the plan of attack to his team.
You may remember Blake from season one, when the aforementioned attack took place – but he originated from the short “Item 47”, which he co-starred in with other S.H.I.E.L.D.-Agent-Turned-Evil Jasper Sitwell.
At the S.H.I.E.L.D. shooting gallery, Simmons is practicing. May shows up and gives her some tips, but asks her why she is practicing shooting. Simmons admits that he feels guilty because of the countless lives lost and put at risk to save “helpless little Simmons”, as she is the only female there who can’t kill with her bare hands. She blames herself for Will’s death and putting Fitz in danger, but mostly for setting Lash free; an act which saved her life but killed dozens of Inhumans. May refuses to let her blame herself.
On the Zephyr, Mack, Fitz and Daisy try to figure out the plan. Daisy proposes finding some of the more vocal members of the group and roughing them up; even if they weren’t involved, they must know some information, right? Mack refuses to go along with this, and so Daisy drags a hesitant Fitz along with her.
It’s interesting that in season one, Daisy (then Skye) was so against S.H.I.E.L.D. because she thought they a big shady power-hungry corporation that used violence and intimidation tactics to get what they want. She joined them after learning otherwise; now she is becoming everything she hated. I wonder if she realizes this?
Meanwhile Coulson is taking Lincoln on a mission. He knows where Blake’s safehouses are, and plans on taking Lincoln to go raid them. Lincoln is relieved, because he thought Coulson was unhappy with his evaluation. Coulson admits that he isn’t happy, but wants to see it for himself.
As Mack shows up back at Ruben’s home, he finds Ruben had drank all their beers and is upset with him. Mack offers to help fix up the bike, but Ruben isn’t mad because of the bikes – he just has a lot going on. He can’t find a job, his health benefits are about to run out, and the mortgage isn’t in great shape either. Mack thinks he called him here just to ask for money, but Ruben said he never asked for money. They fight about how Mack is never around, and how Ruben is being “screwed by the system”. He starts talking in protest-speak, and Mack realizes that he has been reading Watchdogs literature online. He warns him to stay away from the Watchdogs.
At the Playground, May calls Simmons into a meeting room and lays out everything she has on tracking down Andrew. She says that Simmons isn’t at fault; Andrew is. Simmons agrees but can’t make the guilt go away – May says to use it. Simmons agrees to help May track down Lash.
On a quinjet, Lincoln asked what his evaluation said. Coulson reveals that it said he didn’t follow orders, he has control issues that didn’t stop with A.A., and he’s there for Daisy and not for the team. As Lincoln tries to protest, Coulson shuts him down and says that he will decide whether or not he gets to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
Meanwhile, Daisy is going through with her plan of shaking down a Watchdog. She gets in his car, and intimidates him by shattering his windows. He tries to escape, but Fitz is there with a gun. He begs not to be hurt, and Daisy tells him to talk. A disgusted Fitz walks away.
Daisy calls Mack and tells him she got some intel, and he disappointedly realizes how. He agrees to meet her at the farm the Watchdogs are meeting at. Ruben comes home, and Mack tells him he laid out all the pieces of the bike for him. Ruben offers to make some food, but Mack has to go.
At the Playground, Simmons is walking May through new tactics on how to seek out Lash, using biology and instincts. She asks what May will do when she catches Lash; May says she will kill him. Simmons reveals that they are working on a vaccine, but May tells her to stop giving her hope and refuses to try.
At the farm, Daisy and Mack use Icers on two guards. Fitz deploys one of his D.W.A.R.F. drones to spy on some Watchdogs. They overhear Blake’s voice and realize he is there, but they can’t get visual confirmation of him. Ruben shows up at the Watchdogs farm and sees Mack there. Mack Ices some guards and Daisy blasts one away with her powers. The remaining Watchdogs mistakenly think Mack did it, and run to tell Blake. Mack calls the mission off and goes to find Ruben, who has fled. Ignoring Mack’s orders, Daisy goes to infiltrate the barn anyway – but still can’t find Blake. Fitz is shot with a Nitramene paintball in the neck. Daisy uses sodium hydrogen acetate on him, but it does nothing. They realize Blake modified the formula, and that Fitz is going to implode.
In a safehouse in Atlanta, Coulson and Lincoln find Blake calling the shots from a computer in the basement. Blake is surprised to see Coulson, and not A.T.C.U. agents. Coulson reveals that he is working with the A.T.C.U., and Blake deduces he is keeping S.H.I.E.L.D. alive within it. Coulson tells him that he wanted to recruit him for the new S.H.I.E.L.D., but Blake was upset to discover that upon leaving the hospital, HYDRA had taken over and now S.H.I.E.L.D. is only there to protect “freaks” – even Coulson is one. He doesn’t believe S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for protection anymore; they brought Chitauri to Earth, he was hospitalized by their cybernetically enhanced soldier, and now the Avengers created Ultron. Coulson realizes that Blake’s tactics don’t include speeches, and accuses him of stalling.
In the containment pod, Fitz, Daisy, and a Watchdog captive are trying to figure out how to stop the Nitramene. Fitz wants to call Simmons, but Daisy wants to rough up the Watchdog – which she does. He claims he has no idea what Blake did to suspend the Nitramene, and by the word “suspend” Fitz realizes that they need to freeze it with carbon dioxide. Daisy freezes Fitz’ neck and it works. She decides to turn the Watchdog over to the A.T.C.U. and Talbot.
Coulson accuses Blake of working with HYDRA to find A.T.C.U. locations, and Blake accuses him of coercion tactics to find Watchdogs locations. Lincoln claims that Blake is spreading hate, and Blake disagrees – he’s using the hate that’s already there as a tool. He asks if Coulson has ever killed anyone out of hate. (The answer is yes.) He says hate is a good motivator. Coulson agrees, and says that Lincoln is an Inhuman and really hates Blake. The only reason he is holding back is because he’s following orders – so Coulson orders Lincoln to kill Blake. He starts to protest, but then does it; only to discover he was a hologram. Coulson admits he knew, and wanted to see what Lincoln would do. He noticed that it was a non-lethal attack, but is impressed that he still attacked when asked. As they look through Blake’s computer for a target, they realize Blake knew they would send Inhumans to attack; he’s after Daisy.
(Well, Mack, mistakenly. But same idea.)
Mack arrives at the Mackenzie house and Ruben starts questioning who he is. He is mad that he lied to him and is helping freaks. Mack tries to explain himself but Ruben won’t let him. Mack reveals he is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. – but then five Watchdogs break into the house, thinking they’re Inhumans. Ruben realizes they aren’t the good guys as Mack forms a battle strategy. They are going to slip out the kitchen door into the woods. Ruben asks if this is what he does at S.H.I.E.L.D.; Mack says that he’s a mechanic and hates doing this kind of stuff. He grabs their dad’s shotgun and kills the lights. He takes out a Watchdog and gives Ruben his assault rifle. They get attacked by a few more, taking one out, and make their way to the kitchen. Mack realizes only three Watchdogs are accounted for; so the other two must be waiting for them outside.
As Mack and Ruben try to figure out what to do, the Watchdog that escaped earlier shoots Mack and starts going after Ruben. The injured Mack picks up a cleaver and kills the Watchdog. As the two outside hear the commotion and start trying to break down the door, Mack duct-tapes the cleaver to his shotgun.
They take out the last two, but Mack is even more injured. He reveals that this is why he didn’t tell Ruben, and closes his eyes.
As they wheel Mack out to a S.H.I.E.L.D. medical facility, Ruben and Daisy talk. Ruben is still in shock from all the violence. Daisy calms him down and says he’s safe; S.H.I.E.L.D. will take them into custody and Damage Control will clean up.
Damage Control namedrop!
Ruben is still trying to take it in that Alphie works for S.H.I.E.L.D., and Daisy gets really excited for Mack to wake up so she can call him Alphie. She reveals they call him Mack, and Ruben says that his friends call him Mack. Daisy calls him Mini-Mack. She expresses regret that she wasn’t there for her partner, and Ruben asks if he’s good at saving people. She says that he’s who she wants watching her back, to his relief.
After the credits, Daisy is showing some footage to Coulson; they ran the plates on the Watchdogs getaway van and – you guessed it – it belongs to HYDRA. At a HYDRA base, a wheelchair-bound Blake wheels up to Giyera and asks him to keep his part of the deal; delivering weaponry to take out freaks. Apparently, he doesn’t know what he’s dealing with. Giyera tells him that if everything goes to plan, their enemies will all be dead. He then looks into the back of the van and sees what appears to be a nuclear missile.
I really appreciate how this episode took the time to focus on everyone, with special emphasis on Mack and Lincoln. It almost makes you appreciate the behind-the-scenes work done on the last few episodes even more; it is as if the showrunners realized they had too many characters and plotlines, cut Bobbi and Hunter and instantly started focusing on the two characters who were the least fleshed out.
The giddy Marvel fanboy in me also loved the great amount of references in this episode; Deathlok, Blake, the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., Chitauri and the Battle of New York, Ultron and the Battle of Sokovia, Nitramene, Daredevil, with teases at Damage Control and Civil War, as well as potentially what’s the come “three months later” (the nuke?). Hell, even the Watchdogs are taken from the Marvel comics.
I give this episode another 7.5/10. I’d say it’s closer to 8/10, but lets keep the ratings simple, shall we?
Crackpot Theories and Speculation
- Paralleling the Avengers, Gideon Malick is going to fire a nuke, and Mack is going to space to stop it. Unlike Iron Man, Mack will die a hero in the quinjet.
- Blake doesn’t seem to realize he’s working with HYDRA. His days are very numbered.