Agents of SHIELD Season 3: “Paradise Lost” Recap and Critique

This week’s episode of Agents of SHIELD, “Paradise Lost,” dealt with themes of dishonesty, betrayal, and losing your religion. The subplot involving Gideon and Nathaniel Malick’s complicated sibling rivalry was a nice touch and it was good to get a tease of what Hive will look like when he’s not busy looking like Grant Ward. And, it was good to hear that Coulson regrets his brutal murder of Ward. Coulson had been taking on a lot of qualities of Nick Fury lately but, although Fury’s great, I prefer Coulson’s sit-com dad approach to SHIELD’s directorship, at least for the purposes of this show. Now, on with the recap …

Agents of SHIELD : “Paradise Lost” – The Recap

“Paradise Lost” employed flashbacks to Gideon Malick‘s childhood revealing his initiation into HYDRA following his father’s death in 1970. Gideon Malick’s memories focus largely on his brother Nathaniel showcasing the their close relationship. A cameo from Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond) gave these flashbacks a sense of context within the MCU, Whitehall having previously appeared in both flashbacks and present-day episodes of Agents of SHIELD. One of the flashbacks featuring Whitehall even involved a cameo from the unflappable Peggy Carter, the titular character from Agents of SHIELD’s sister show, Agent Carter. Whitehall’s cameo helped solidify the concept of the MCU’s HYDRA as a timeless criminal cult, a quality the nefarious organization lacked in earlier episodes. In Gideon and Nathaniel’s meeting with Whitehall he instructs them from his prison cell to check their father’s favourite book, Paradise Lost, if they want to know the truth about the kind of man their father was.

After a certain age, the Malicks participate in a HYDRA ritual that involves pulling stones from a bag. The person to pick the single white stone out of a number of similarly shaped black stones is selected as “The Traveler.” The Traveler must touch the monolith, which sends him to Maveth. Gideon and Nathaniel’s father, having realized that the position of The Traveler was not an enviable one, had been ensuring that he would not be selected by cheating during the selection process for years. Hiding a notched white stone in his copy of Paradise Lost, Gideon and Nathaniel’s father was able to switch this stone with the stone used in each performance of the ritual. When reaching into the bag, their father only had to ensure that he avoided picking up the notched stone, leaving it for another.


These memories are dredged up for Malick when he returns to his family home to find that Hive has called a surprise meeting of the heads of HYDRA that will be held shortly on the property. This sudden meeting concerns Malick who just witnessed his own death in a vision supplied to him by Charles Hinton in last week’s episode. Malick is convinced that Hive will be the one who does him in and fears that tonight could be the night.

At SHIELD HQ, Coulson is having a crisis of conscience over having murdered Ward while also discussing with the rest of the team how to best track down eliminate Hive. Members of the team reassure Coulson that he did the right thing but he isn’t convinced. Having killed Ward to avenge the death of Rosalind Price, he claims that he allowed Ward to win. As Coulson says, the cost of that win is being, almost literally, haunted by Ward’s ghost.

Daisy and Lincoln seeking to learn more about Hive decide to track down an unpowered Inhuman named James who Lincoln remembers from Afterlife. James, Lincoln recalls, used to talk about the captivity and eventual return of the Inhuman leader. May, also in an effort to learn more about Hive and HYDRA’s plans, is tasked with taking Giyera hostage and interrogating him.

Daisy and Lincoln’s mission goes pretty well all things considered. Although they employ some less than savoury negotiation methods, the two are able to retrieve a Kree artifact that James apparently stole from the Afterlife archives. James opens an old wound for Lincoln, though, exposing to Daisy the fact that Lincoln nearly killed a girlfriend of his in a drunk driving collision. Getting in on the honesty, Daisy tells Lincoln that she witnessed the death of a team member in a vision brought on by accidentally touching Charles Hinton.

Through some creative ass-kickery, May is able to incapacitate Giyera and imprison him aboard their plane. Telekinetic though he is, Giyera couldn’t control or keep up with May’s flying fists and gravity-defying feet. Unfortunately, Giyera’s interrogation proves fruitless and, eventually escaping his cell, Giyera hi-jacks the plane and pilots it to a nearby Hydra base, kidnapping the entire team except for Daisy and Lincoln–and, I suppose, Deathlok and Nick Fury. Lincoln tells Daisy that this is the moment they’ve been dreading and preparing for, the Secret Warriors initiative must be put into action.

Paradise Lost
Tentacles, anyone?

Back at the Malick residence, the audience is treated to its first glimpse of what Hive really looks like when he reveals his true face to the heads of HYDRA. It’s also revealed that Hive retains the memories of his hosts. Unfortunately for Gideon, these memories include those of his brother Nathaniel whom Gideon betrayed during the aforementioned stone ritual in the same fashion that their father betrayed his fellow HYDRA members. An extra level of deceit is revealed when a flashback shows that Gideon had told Nathaniel that they should face the ritual honestly. Nathaniel watches Gideon throw their father’s notched stone into a pond, Gideon saying that the brothers are “Together until the end.” The audience, though, sees Gideon secretly pocket the notched stone. A final flashback shows Gideon using the notched stone to ensure that he will not be selected as Traveler. Nathaniel draws the notched white stone and realizes that Gideon set him up to be sacrificed instead.

Back in the present, the part of Hive that is still Nathaniel wants retribution for this betrayal. The audience, primed to witness Gideon Malick’s death, gets a surprise, though, when Hive kills Gideon’s daughter Stephanie rather than Gideon himself. Hive tells Malick that Malick has nothing to fear from him any more: the scales have balanced. Malick, though, isn’t so sure: he still has the vision of his own disintegration playing in his head.

Agents of SHIELD : “Paradise Lost” – My Critique

“Paradise Lost” was a good one: it offered some information on Gideon Malick’s backstory, showing us what kind of man he wants to be while still trying to survive. Although some people might say that they don’t care about what makes the villain tick, I prefer it when the villain is as well fleshed out as the good guy(s). I was happy to finally get to see Hive as something aside from the walking corpse of Grant Ward. I wonder if he’ll go full tentacle at some point, I suppose only time and special effects money will tell.

There were a couple of weak elements to “Paradise Lost.” Specifically, I could have done without the non-sequitur scene in which Lincoln tells Daisy his DUI story. In a chauvinistic bit of script writing, the victim of Lincoln’s drunk driving is referred to only as his, “girlfriend,” and never by name. Maybe the writers were trying to foreshadow the introduction of a new character whose name they don’t want to reveal yet, but, if they were, it was as part of a boring scene that awkwardly dragged down the action of the show.

Adding to the lameness of this scene was Chloe Bennet (Daisy Johnson) and Luke Mitchell‘s (Lincoln Campbell) acting. With all of the emotional depth of a high-school assembly sketch on the effects of substance abuse, this was one scene that shouldn’t have made the final cut. Bad script writing? Bad acting? I’m not sure what was to blame but it was probably a blend of both. As a rule of thumb, unless the episode or film in question calls for a discussion of a serious real-world issue like drunk driving–“Paradise Lost” did not–and the director, writers, and actors are capable of selling the scene, this type of overblown character development is best avoided.

Michael Bedford
Michael Bedford
Under intense scrutiny by the Temporal Authorities, I was coerced into actualizing my capsule in this causality loop. Through no fault of my own, I am marooned on this dangerous yet lovely level-four civilization. Stranded here, I have spent most of my time learning what I can of the social norms and oddities of the Terran species, including how to properly use the term "Hipster" and how to perform a "perfect pour." Under the assumed name of "Michael Bedford," I have completed BA's with specialized honours in both theatre studies and philosophy, and am currently saving up for enough galactic credits to buy a new--or suitably used--temporal contextualizer ... for a friend.