There’s a million variations on the old “You may be done with the past, but the past isn’t done with you” saw. And for good reason: So much of who we are, and what we do, is filtered through our previous experiences, and those collective histories dictate our future actions, for good and ill. Often, this is meant as a way of pointing out things we haven’t noticed about what came before, or events and emotions we’d buried, or forgotten. But sometimes, it’s the exact opposite, and there’s situations or repercussions we just can’t forget. Melinda May reminded Simmons of that just a couple weeks ago, when she told her to embrace her guilt, and use it. Perhaps that’s the distinction between morality and amorality—when we don’t feel right about our past actions, it’s the issue of whether we try to right them or bury them.
These opposing approaches to the past were at the heart of “Paradise Lost,” and they were represented by Phil Coulson and Gideon Malick. The former continues to be haunted by what happened on the alien planet; his vengeful murder of Grant Ward has come back (quite literally, he ruefully notes) to haunt him. Coulson let his anger dictate his actions, and even if they were necessary—something Fitz certainly thinks is true—they had unintended consequences, ones the team is now paying for in blood. It’s not that the alternative was letting him win, as Fitz suggests. “Don’t you see? When I killed him, he did,” Coulson says. Ward got his big gift, just not in the way he had anticipated. But Coulson’s nagging doubt at his own actions spurs him to act now, and behave the way he thinks is right.
Contrast this with the story of Gideon Malick. Throughout “Paradise Lost,” we got flashbacks of his days as a young man, when Gideon and his brother Nathaniel discovered their father had been cheating at the stone ceremony all those years. That fear of being a traveler made its way into Gideon, who—for all his big talk—ended up choosing the same cowardly route as his dad, and leaving his sibling sentenced to death (and eventual rebirth, of a sort) by passing through the monolith. But he willfully buried his past, hiding it as his father did, beneath lip-service pieties and that old edition of Paradise Lost. He couldn’t own up to his actions, which meant he had no excuses, no defenses, when Hive threw that betrayal back in Gideon’s face. We may be done with the past, but the past is here to kill our daughters and punish our weakness. “Now you understand sacrifice,” indeed.
Lincoln and Daisy are also revisiting the past, in a number of ways. Lincoln is trying to have it both ways, digging up what’s useful from his time in Afterlife (James) while trying to keep hidden the even older trauma from his personal history (his drunk-driving accident). Daisy properly calls him out on his evasiveness, and as Lincoln shares his past, the theme of the episode is again writ large—albeit in clunky fashion, as this series still has an unfortunate tendency to turn any potential subtext into straight-up text.
Happily, that comes after some useful table-setting, as it turns out James is fairly knowledgable about the history of Hive. He provides the TL;DR version of Hive’s past on Earth, and our heroes finally realize the first Inhuman was created for the express purpose of leading an army of his brethren. A coalition of human and Inhuman collaborators banished him, but it’s starting to be clear to even someone as slow on the uptake as Lincoln that the entity possessing Ward’s body is planning to complete the mission for which he was birthed. And that might be the difference between everyone else and Hive: He can’t wait to show people his true self. Even if, to those of us in the audience, all we got to witness was the back of his head turning into a reject from the Pirates Of The Caribbean’s Flying Dutchman. Seriously, that face better be creepy as hell, or else this was a real waste of a buildup.
The real action this week happened with the rest of the team storming the GT Agrochemical facility to capture Mr. Giyera and investigate the research Hive was so eager to either hide or use. I feel like there’s probably a big piece of paper taped to this show’s writers’-room wall that says, “When in doubt, lock someone in a room with May.” The end of act three, with Giyera turning around to realize the trap that’s been set for him, was cracking good fun. If only the fight had lived up that tease: Despite some good shots, and judicious use of slow-motion acrobatics, there was still too much cutting back and forth. Surely, Ming-Na Wen and Mark Dacascos—of all people—are skilled enough to let you film a fight sequence without feeling the need to cut away every half a second. There may not be two better candidates for such a brawl on the whole show, in fact, which was why it was a bummer to see it edited so heavily. Last week’s helmer, Kevin Tancharoen, was sorely missed here.
But Giyera is a more formidable opponent than anyone anticipated. His escape from his high-tech holding cell (maybe time to beef up those “power-resistant” prisons, eh, Simmons?) led to the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. quinjet being captured, and our erstwhile protagonists along with it. I was going to make a snide joke about Mack fulfilling his primary job requirement of getting knocked out cold yet again, but given that Giyera knocked out almost everyone, including Coulson and May, I can forgive the big guy this particular incident. It was starting to seem like they might string along the audience all season before unleashing the Secret Warriors team, but now, as Lincoln tells Daisy, she’s got her opportunity. Without some Inhuman assistance, the good guys are screwed. So it’s time to dip back into the past once more, and pull out Yo-Yo and Joey. Our agents are starting to realize the past is a veritable treasure trove; it holds nightmares, true, but it also holds heroes.
- “So Hydra’s in the oil business, now? It’s like they’re not even trying to avoid the bad-guy cliches.” A little Phil Coulson wit goes a long way.
- A fun little flashback to Daniel Whitehall in this episode. Powers Boothe is great, but he rarely gets to convey much enjoyment, something Reed Diamond oozed from his pores.
- Let’s talk about the death of Gideon’s daughter, by the way: There is zero chance this was Hive changing the future, right? I’m taking bets now that we have 100 percent certainty Malick dies in exactly the manner he foresaw.
- New Kree artifact in play! It’s no Diviner, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.
- I’m starting to suspect the floating cross we see in Daisy’s vision is a feint; curious to see who you all think is the ill-fated agent who ends up dying in space.