“Watchdogs” – The Recap
“Watchdogs” was another episode of Agents of SHIELD that lived up to its potential. Action-packed scenes with lots of tension building throughout made for a fast-paced episode. However, beyond the super-powered espionage that, when done well, makes Agents of SHIELD stand out, “Watchdogs” also included a couple of elements that I’ve been raving about in earlier reviews: Agents of SHIELD doesn’t make use of enough Marvel properties that originally appeared in the comics and many of the characters on the show aren’t fleshed out in a meaningful way. Featured in “Watchdogs” was the right-wing terrorist group known as, you guessed it, Watchdogs that originally appeared in Captain America #335. Meaningful fleshing-out of a character comes by way of humanizing Mac–or Alphie–who also originally appeared in the comics.
“Watchdogs” started off as a picture of fraternal bliss. Mac and his brother Ruben are working on their motorbikes and discussing their lives. And, though things aren’t going exceptionally well for either of the Mackenzie brothers, they’re both grateful to have some time together to commiserate. This bliss is short-lived though. Flipping through the channels, Mac and his brother come across a breaking news alert that shows right-wing terrorist group the Watchdogs attack and implode an ATCU building. Mac becomes visibly concerned when his brother describes the attack as “awesome.”
Coulson calls Mac in to help investigate the attack. Although Mac wants to stay with his brother and enjoy some R&R, Coulson eventually convinces Mac to assist, reminding him that they recently lost two agents. Ruben is understandably upset, believing Mac’s cover story of working as an insurance advisor and not part of an elite team of international super-spies. Mac promises Ruben that he will be back before too long to work on the bikes.
The team is able to piece together that the attack was perpetrated using nitramene—Agent Carter fans may remember this Stark-created substance from that show’s first couple of episodes. Armed with the understanding that The Watchdogs are using nitramene, Coulson suspects that former SHIELD agent Felix Blake, who was working on advancing nitramene-based technology, may be the mastermind behind the attack. Longtime Agents of SHIELD viewers may remember Blake from the show’s first season in which Blake helped the team fight the Clairvoyant. And, as is mentioned in “Watchdogs,” viewers may also remember that Blake was put in intensive care after having his back broken by a brainwashed Deathlok.
Simmons is busy working on her headshots at the firing range, she feels responsible for whatever carnage Lash may have unleashed since she released him from his cell. Tired of putting her friends’ lives at risk in order to be saved, Simmons is determined to become a crackshot if not a human killing machine like May. So, when May asks Simmons to help her find Lash, Simmons immediately accepts. May and Simmons discuss a potential cure for Lash but May brushes the suggestion off saying that when she finds him she’ll kill him.
Daisy, Fitz, and Mac meanwhile are trying to come up with a solid lead on the Watchdogs. Daisy suggests an old-fashioned shakedown of a known Watchdogs member in order to find out where they meet. Mac, refusing to go along with the shakedown plan, describing it as “kind of Gestapo” decides to go back to his brother’s house but Daisy is able to convince Fitz to be her accomplice. When Mac gets back to his brother Ruben’s house, he finds him drunken and surly. Ruben accuses Mac of not being a good brother or son and exposes himself as a Watchdog sympathizer.
Daisy and Fitz’s morally questionable shakedown of a member of the Watchdogs pays off: they learn the location of a Watchdog compound. When Daisy, Mac, and Fitz arrive at the compound they locate former agent Felix Blake by identifying his voice. Daisy reports to Coulson that she has audio confirmation of Blake’s presence at her location. Coulson instructs the team to observe but not to engage. This order becomes impossible to follow when an apologetic Ruben shows up on his motorbike, having followed Mac to what he thought was an insurance investigation. Ruben effectively blows the team’s cover and Daisy engages the enemy against both Coulson and Mac’s orders.
Coulson, having enlisted Lincoln’s help with a side mission to one of Blake’s known safehouses is also following a lead. Surprisingly, Blake appears to be in the safehouse that Coulson and Lincoln are investigating even though Daisy just heard Blake’s voice at the Watchdog compound. In fact, neither Coulson nor Daisy are anywhere near the real Felix Blake, only holograms of him. Coulson’s mission, intended largely as a proving ground for Lincoln pays off in more ways than one. Not only does Lincoln finally prove to Coulson that his allegiance is to SHIELD and that he’ll obey orders, the two also realize that Blake’s plan was to have Coulson’s team bring an Inhuman to the compound in order to identify or kill one.
Things aren’t going so well for Fitz and Daisy. Fitz, during his retreat from the Watchdog compound is hit by a the same kind of gel-like nitramene round that imploded the ATCU building. It sticks to his neck and threatens to implode him. Luckily, Daisy is eventually able to freeze it off like a wart with some handy liquid nitrogen, saving Fitz from a very messy end. The implosive device dealt with, a captive Watchdog reveals to Daisy and Fitz that Mac rather than Daisy was identified as their Inhuman. A Watchdog assault team is en route to Ruben’s house to kill Mac.
Ruben and Mac’s brotherly dispute about honesty and protectionism is interrupted by a Watchdog assault team seeking to kill Mac. The brothers are able to fend the Watchdogs off but Mac takes a bullet to the arm during his “shotgun-axe” heroics. Luckily Daisy arrives before long with medical assistance. While Mac gets coddled by paramedics, Daisy ensures Ruben that Mac is a great dude.
As the final scene reveals, though, the Watchdog attack on the ATCU building was all a distraction from the main event! Security footage shot before the Watchdogs’ attack shows a van with plates that can be traced back to Gideon Malick. The team suspects that Malick stole equipment from the building and staged the Watchdog attack as a cover-up. This is confirmed when we see Giyera reveal what appears to be a nuclear warhead to a non-holographic and wheelchair-bound Agent Felix Blake.
“Watchdogs” – My Critique
As I said earlier, this episode had a lot of what I look for in Agents of SHIELD. Although some of the fraternal bonding was a bit tiresome, it served to flesh out Mac as a character rather than have him be just an exceptionally well-built mechanic. “Watchdogs,” in a very superficial way, even contained a couple of topical issues facing the American government, including public paranoia about refugees and the questionable tactics of some members of governmental spy agencies. And, though some may have felt that the ending to “Watchdogs” was tacked on, I thought that it was a good way to top off this action-packed spy romp and remind viewers of the long game being played by Gideon Malick and the rest of Hydra.