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Recap / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S3 E1 "Laws of Nature"

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S.H.I.E.L.D. struggles to deal with the rising number of new Inhumans, only to be confronted by a shadowy new group seeking to do the same by any means necessary. Meanwhile, Fitz struggles to solve the mystery of the monolith and Simmons' disappearance.


Tropes:

  • Absentee Actor: Neither Ming-Na Wen nor Brett Dalton appear (though unlike the times this happened last season, Dalton still appears in the credits).
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  • Accidental Misnaming: Coulson slips and refers to Daisy as "Skye," noting how it's difficult to break old habits. Hunter and Mack both shrug and say no, not really. Justified in that Coulson has known her as "Skye" for longer than either of them have known her at all.
  • Alien Sky: The Wham Shot of the final scene is Simmons darting across a blue-saturated landscape, which then pans up to reveal she's apparently on a habitable moon of another world visible in the sky.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The simulation Coulson runs charting the spread of Terrigen through the world just shows everything lighting up in 17 months. It's not clear if that's limited to the oceans or if it's charting the global water table, but either way, the world is going to be very different in two years.
  • Artificial Limbs: Coulson has a robotic hand to replace the one Mack was forced to cut off. He says he's on his third one.
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  • Bait-and-Switch: At first it is heavily implied Rosalind's black ops team is killing and dissecting inhumans like HYDRA did last season. Then it turns out they were just recovering and studying the bodies left behind by Lash.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: When getting ready to fight Lash, Mack says that he'll need a bigger gun. Or his ax. Or "some kind of shotgun/ax combination of some sort".
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Hunter briefly puts on an American accent when he's quoting Bobbi saying "I can't do this any more."
  • The Bus Came Back: President Ellis makes his second appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Call-Back:
    • May is still "on vacation". Coulson seems to believe it's permanent.
    • President Ellis references the events of The Avengers (2012), Thor: The Dark World, and Avengers: Age of Ultron when referring to attacks against humanity. He also references the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D..
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    • Coulson's amputated and petrified hand, still clutching a terrigen crystal, is seen in containment in the lab, and the ax that amputated it framed in his office.
    • When Fitz is pretending to offer a group of terrorists a briefcase full of splinter bombs, they recognize them from the attack on the United Nations, and Fitz also notes that one was used to kill Bakshi.
    • Coulson calls May's disappearance losing his remaining hand, just like Fury called his death losing his "one good eye" in The Avengers (2012).
  • Continuity Nod: Quite a few of them.
    • Skye has officially taken up the name Daisy Johnson.
    • Coulson reiterates Fitz's theory that Simmons could have shrunk out of existence, citing the Pym Tech incident.
    • Rosalind reveals to Coulson that she knows about T.A.H.I.T.I., even quoting Coulson's season 1 catch phrase of "it's a magical place."
    • Bobbi is able to learn enough about Joey to make him think that she'd been spying on him for a long time just by reading his Facebook page, echoing Coulson's comment back in season one that social media made his job much easier, as people started voluntarily surveilling themselves.
    • Daisy mentions that the world has been a little 'twitchy' since Sokovia fell out of the sky.
    • In his speech to the nation, President Ellis mentions alien threats that have come up in New York, London, and Sokovia.
    • Simmons is still in the outfit she was wearing at the end of S.O.S., Part 2—but by now it's become quite tattered and filthy. Her boots are worn and dirty, her jeans have large holes at the knees, and she's ripped the sleeves off her blouse, using them to turn her jacket into a makeshift satchel.
    • Coulson is drinking from the “I Hate Mondays” mug from "A Fractured House" (somebody bring this from home?).
  • Cool Plane: The replacement for The Bus, Zephyr One, is bigger, better, and looks a lot stealthier than its predecessor.
  • Covert Group: The Advanced Threat Containment Unit (ATCU), the organization led by Rosalind Price, until President Ellis make it official during a press conference to ease public fears about the growing Inhuman sightings.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Joey comments that he spent his childhood with a secret, and he was miserable until he revealed it. Daisy doesn't like comparing that to Terrigenesis, but it's implied that she's every bit as uncomfortable with the ongoing struggle to keep it secret as she is the potential consequences of revealing it.
  • Driven to Suicide: Subverted. Fitz has spent months tracking down any and all leads to figure out what the monolith has done, and when he exhausts all avenues (and Coulson is even contemplating having her declared dead), he heads down to the Monolith to be with Jemma inside. When it doesn't respond, he completely loses it.
  • Easily Forgiven: Coulson allowed Lincoln to return to civilian life as a doctor, since he did a Heel–Face Turn in the season 2 finale, something Mack was not happy about—after all he did seriously harm multiple agents.
  • Fanservice: Daisy wears a cleavage baring tank top for the interrogation with Joey and then continue to be in it till she leaves the building to meet Lincoln.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • The ATCU believes the Inhumans to be belligerent aliens that are a threat. "Lethal force" is always allowed.
    • Mack is still this as he did not approve of Lincoln being allowed to live a civilian life. Part of it seems to stem from Lincoln having severely wounded some of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents on the Iliad.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: Mack's reponse on meeting Lash. He's smart enough to discuss doing something different next time.
  • Foreshadowing: The oceanic dispersal of terrigen will reach 100% global coverage by early 2017, meaning every potential Inhuman on the planet will have been empowered for most of the year by the time the TV series premieres in the fall of that year
  • Freak Out!:
    • Joey breaks out with unhinged laughter when Daisy explains that he's not really human anymore.
    • Fitz has one at the Kree Monolith, screaming at it to do something.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal:
    • The events of Season 2 have left Lincoln heavily disillusioned with being an Inhuman, calling his gift a curse, and he's just trying to live a quiet life as a regular doctor.
    • Joey's freakout over gaining Inhuman powers leads him to insisting on going back to his previous life.
  • Karma Houdini: Invoked by Mack, who isn't happy that Lincoln is getting a free pass for hurting the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that tried to stop Jiaying's plan.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Coulson, much like the audience, laments the difficulty of a main character's name suddenly changing after two seasons.
  • Lured into a Trap: Coulson has Rosalind's movements staked out so he can catch her at a moment of weakness. It turns out she deliberately set it up so he'd take the bait, and had her team in plainclothes waiting for him.
  • Meaningful Echo: In-universe. Rosalind Price drops the episode's title in a Just Between You and Me speech with Coulson. Later, President Ellis repeats it precisely, indicating that her influence is far-reaching indeed.
    Rosalind: Mr. Coulson, it's others who answer to me. The laws of nature have changed, and until the laws of man change to reflect that, we can only do what we feel is right.
    [later]
    President Ellis: The laws of nature have changed. And until the laws of man change to reflect that, we must do what we feel is right.
    Coulson: People really do answer to you, don't they?
  • Motive Misidentification: Coulson and Rosalind both believe the other is behind the murder of the various Inhumans due to the supposedly sinister backgrounds of each group before realizing neither is responsible.
  • Muggles Do It Better: Mack's gunfire does a better job of harming Lash than Daisy and Lincoln's powers do.
  • No-Sell: Lash is able to force his way through a Combined Energy Attack from Daisy and Lincoln. He's also uninjured by Mack's gunfire, though it does drive him off for a few moments.
  • Not Me This Time: When Rosalind blames Coulson for several dead Inhumans, both parties realize there's a third party out there killing them. A second case happens concurrently in the hospital, as Lincoln is blamed when the electronics start shorting out, only for him to state it wasn't him. Not so coincidentally, it is the Inhuman Lash that is responsible for both situations.
  • Puppet King: President Ellis to Rosalind Price if her comment "other people answer to me" is anything to go by.
  • Red Herring: The scene with Rosalind inside ATCU headquarters ends with a shot of a morgue filled with corpses being examined, with one uncovered body looking like something was extracted from his chest. After two years with bad guys experimenting on people, the easy assumption for viewers is that her group had them killed. They were actually killed by Lash and ATCU is examining the bodies they recovered trying to find out who did it and how.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Fitz references the real-life fall of Mosul and the illegal trade of historical artifacts.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Lance clearly wants to go on one against Ward for what he did to Bobbi at the end of last season, but he's waiting for Bobbi to get better first, so she can join him.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Fitz's attempts to find Simmons shows him successfully talking his way into the safehouse of a Arab mobster, talking him into revealing the location of the ancient document on the Monolith he was looking for, and then tricking the mobster's leader into detonating a flashbang in his own face so Fitz could grab the document and run. Then it turns out that all that was written on the scroll was one word: "Death". Fitz takes the reveal badly. Very badly.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Fitz grabs a shotgun and uses it to blast off the locks on the container for the Monolith.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Rosalind and Coulson trade a few good barbs after she lures him into a trap. This is acknowledged by both of them.
  • Spy Speak: Lampshaded. Coulson and Rosalind indulge in a form of it, using double meanings to taunt each other with how much they know; but when Rosalind accuses Coulson of killing Inhumans he's caught off-guard and has to check that she's not still using spy doublespeak.
  • The Stinger: Simmons is alive but stranded on an alien world, being chased by something.
  • Straight Gay: Bobbi mentions Joey's former boyfriend, and in a later conversation with Daisy he refers to having been in the closet and miserable until he came out. Daisy doesn't think it's a valid metaphor for Terrigenesis, saying this is different.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Hunter assures Joey that his day can't get any worse, and he agrees... right until the box they put him in launches into the clouds.
    • Mack put the Monolith on lockdown just in case Fitz tried to do something foolish. Bobbi assures him that Fitz wouldn't be that reckless. By episode's end, he's trying to get it to take him, too.
  • There Are No Global Consequences:
    • Averted. When Daisy dumped the crate of Terrigen crystals in the ocean at the end of the previous season, they dissolved and contaminated local sea life. That life in turn was either harvested by man or eaten by other sea life, perpetuating a cycle of contamination that is impossible to stop. Within 17 months, all ocean life, if not Earth's entire water supply, will be tainted. Any potential Inhuman who eats anything tainted by the crystals will be transformed, posing a danger to themselves and anyone around them with almost no reliable way to track potential cases. The only bright side in this quagmire is that the heavier Diviner metal laced into the crystals was filtered out, so Terrigen contamination poses no risk to normal humans in and of itself.
    • Averted with the reaction to the Inhumans. After two alien invasions, one HYDRA uprising, and one robot rebellion, the government can't simply hope the problem goes away or rely on the now-defunct S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Avengers to take care of it. President Ellis creates the ATCU to pacify people's fears.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Fitz shows on his solo mission that he's more than capable to handling himself in the field now. The Level in Badass includes a Badass Perma-Stubble of Sorrow.
    • Simmons has been able to survive on that alien world with literally nothing but the clothes on her back.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Mack has become Daisy's partner and is much friendlier to her than he was last season, to the point that when Joey and Lincoln start losing their tempers towards her he steps up to them before she does. He's even bemused by the fact that, of the pair, she's the muscle of the team. His Fantastic Racism also seems to have downgraded into understandable caution and his issues with Lincoln seem less discriminatory and more bitter that he hasn't answered for hurting S.H.I.E.L.D. agents when he was misled by Jiaying.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: After he's dumped to the floor below by Daisy, Lash melts a hole through the outer wall and is gone by the time Daisy, Mack, and Lincoln catch up.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Rosalind Price's group, the Advanced Threat Containment Unit, is willing to do whatever it takes to eliminate potential threats from empowered people, up to and including lethal force. This is shown to not be their first course of action, though, as they initially tried to detain Joey and seemed dismayed at the dead Inhumans they were finding.
  • Wham Line
    • Rosalind telling Coulson she knows about T.A.H.I.T.I. and "it's a magical place."
    • The President echoing Rosalind's "laws of nature" line.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Coulson's simulation indicates that if Terrigen doesn't stop spreading, it will be everywhere in 17 months. It's not clear if the simulation is just of the Earth's oceans or the entire water table, but in two years all a Descendant will have to do to undergo Terrigenesis is go to the beach or eat seafood — unless that's the point where Terrigen has saturated the global water table and all of them will have gone off.
    • In The Stinger, Simmons is alive and running around a strange locale. As the camera pans up, a planet and its moon are seen in the sky, indicating the Monolith has somehow transported her offworld.
  • The Worf Effect: Lash's threat level is demonstrated in his first scene by No Selling attacks by three heroes. Lincoln and especially Daisy have been presented as incredibly powerful people during Season 2. One of the first things shown in the episode is Daisy casually flicking police cars into the air like potato chips... then Lash comes along and just as casually walks through the combined power output of both of them. Daisy, at least, might be holding back out of concern for collateral damage: in a previous scene, she shook the entire base when she sent Joey flying into a wall, and now she's in a hospital. Regardless, Lash proves that he's a force to be reckoned with.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Mack's reaction to realizing they were following Lash, who had just shrugged off both Lincoln's and Daisy's powers and a full magazine from himself, and then effortlessly cut a hole in the wall to escape.
    Mack: Oh, we're going in here? Yeah, that makes sense.

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