Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 Episode 1 Review: “Laws of Nature”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a show that is constantly evolving. If you look back to Season 1 of the ABC series and compare it to tonight’s Season 3 premiere, it hardly seems like the same show, with new characters (and names for characters in the case of Daisy, formerly known as Skye), more serialization, and more sci-fi action. And while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. still finds itself making many changes again in its third season opener, all of these new directions feel like they’re headed to something bigger, a more balanced and effective show than we’ve seen in its first two seasons.

The clearest example of this is how quickly Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. establishes its main villains and stories for Season 3. In “Laws of Nature,” we meet both Lash (Matthew Willig) and Rosalind Price (UnREAL‘s Constance Zimmer), who both set out to challenge our favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. team in very different ways. Lash is a rogue Inhuman bent on killing those of his kind, and his entrance at the hospital is one of the most exciting action sequences Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has ever produced, as Daisy, Mack, and Lincoln do their very best to not defeat him but survive his attack. Meanwhile, Zimmer’s Rosalind is at intellectual odds with Coulson and his team, believing that the Inhumans are better off being studied and dissected rather than rescued and reformed.

What’s so great about both of these new characters is how they connect to the same idea/goal (S.H.I.E.L.D.’s search for Inhumans), but pose radically different threats. Rosalind may use her power to silence you or shut an operation down, but she can be reasoned with, or at the very least trade barbs (how good was Zimmer and Clark Gregg’s banter in their scenes tonight?). Lash, on the other hand, seems to be nothing more than a vengeful killing machine, an Inhuman that not only understands the power he has but uses it as a weapon against unassuming victims. Together, Rosalind and Lash create problems for S.H.I.E.L.D. on both a policy/political level and a physical level, allowing for the Marvel series to be both a sci-fi thriller and a spy drama and forging a connection between this season’s two main overarching plots in a much better way than the disparate threads of Season 2’s Inhumans/Real S.H.I.E.L.D. stories.

While these two stories could ultimately go their own ways and not feel as vibrant and bound together as they do right now, there’s no denying that it’s a strong foundation for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to lay in its Season 3 opener. And furthermore, the main plots being tied to one another allows S.H.I.E.L.D. the opportunity to tell other side stories, such as Hunter and Bobbi’s continued romance and his planned mission to get revenge on Ward, and it also gives the writers more time to explore the emotions of these characters who we’ve gotten to know over the past two years, instead of simply having them react to whatever disaster they are facing this week.

Nowhere is this emotional focus more important than in Fitz’s search for Simmons, which although only loosely connected to the Inhumans, is easily the best part of the premiere for two reasons. First, Fitz is finally able to step up, use his smarts and training, and be the most heroic version of himself (and Iain De Caestecker provides the character with a new type of swagger that feels just right). Second, Fitz’s struggle to accept Simmons’ “death” is grounded in such real and raw emotions, as the two scientists grew to understand and love each other more than anyone else on the S.H.I.E.L.D. team over the past two years, that any and all drama that comes from his pain is palpable. (Furthermore, these powerful feelings also bleed over into wherever Jemma is right now and whatever is hunting her; her journey to survive and return home is compelling because we’re so invested in her as a character and her relationships to with the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s members, especially Fitz.)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a solid show since it blew up its whole “case-of-the-week” structure after the events of The Winter Soldier and became a spy thriller, but “Laws of Nature” demonstrates a previously unseen potential. If the writing remains as focused and tight as it was in this premiere and if the series continues to explore the emotional (and not just physical) journeys of these characters, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could finally make its own Inhuman transition of sorts, transforming into the consistently great show we’ve always hoped it would be.

Other thoughts:

  • No May or Ward in this episode, and while I enjoy both characters, I didn’t miss them here. Perhaps limiting the amount of characters in each episode can be a good way for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to tighten up its narrative every week.
  • Simmons appears to be rubbing some type of dirt or sand on her face and is clearly running away from something or someone. Do we believe the person/creature/alien that is chasing her can smell her (hence the reason for the dirt)? And where do you actually think she ended up after being sucked into the monolith? It looks like the desert, but it definitely isn’t of this earth.
  • We’ve known about it for a while now, but it’s still going to take me a good, long while to get used to calling Skye “Daisy.” Also, I give the S.H.I.E.L.D. writers credit for that funny meta moment about her name between Coulson, Mack, and Hunter.
  • “Laws of Nature” probably gets my vote for Fitz’s best episode of the series, although it’s only just ahead of the Season 1 finale, “Beginning of the End.”
  • Constance Zimmer makes any show infinitely better, so perhaps that’s another reason why I loved this premiere so much.
  • Mack had the best line of the episode in my opinion, after having fought Lash: “And I need a bigger gun. Or my axe. Maybe a shotgun/axe combination of some sort.”
  • Andy will be here next week to cover the rest of Season 3, but I hope you guys enjoyed my take on the premiere!

What did everyone think about the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 premiere? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Comment below and let me know.

[Photo credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC]

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