Agents of SHADE: X-Factor

Reader, I’ll be honest with you: I went into last night’s Agents of SHIELD expecting the worst.  I figured today’s SHADE was going to be a lot, well, shadier.  There is the matter of Trip’s death, and the fact that the narrative has already seemed to turn him into an idea that they can all aspire to instead of a real person to be mourned.  That’s a problem.  But it’s also a problem that I think will continue throughout other episodes, and I want to see how deep the narrative digs that particular hole before I really step in.


This is the first episode back after the hiatus, and it actually had a lot of strong points.  Today, we’re going to look at one of the more prominent ones.  SHIELD is finally realizing that shoving everyone together into a nuclear team dynamic isn’t actually working.  They’re making a point to show us that outcasts are really beginning to take center stage.  And I think that’s going to be very good for the show in the long run.


Let’s be clear: they can’t say “mutants” on Agents of SHIELD.  It’s probably one of the main reasons we’ve shifted so much attention over to aliens and the Inhumans.  But I’m under no such contractual obligation, and so I will make the comparison for them.  You’re welcome, guys.


There’s a reason so many of us here at GeeksOut! love the X-Men.  They’re us.  They’re the weirdos and the outcasts.  The ones who can’t show up to an event without protestors.  The ‘abominations.’  The X-Men always have been the comics metaphor for those of us who don’t have the body or the talent or the straightness for a different super hero team.  Or maybe we lack the straight and true moral compass.  Or maybe we’ve just never been allowed to join because we’re too loud, too strange, too dangerous.  But we are the X-Men.  And Agents of SHIELD has finally realized that we’re here.


Technically, we don’t have the X-Men on Agents of SHIELD.  We have the Inhumans, and it’s going in the same angle, narrative-wise.  Born different, sudden mutations, mutations lead to deformities and powers that can’t yet be controlled.  Cue the rejection from loved ones, the turning of backs, the fear of the unknown.  This is not a new plotline, per se.  But it’s an important one.


We should take a look at our cast of outcasts (get it??) this week. We have Skye, who’s powers are invisible, but very prominent.  She spends the episode trying to convince everyone that there’s nothing wrong with her.  Her saving grace comes from Fitz, who’s visible disability has set him apart from the entirety of the cast since the beginning of season 2.  Both Skye and Fitz are demonstrating problems with control over the mind, and they seek solace in each other.  Because, as dramatic as this might sound, no one else can really understand what they’re going through.  Just as we in the queer community must protect our own, that same idea can be applied here.  


Fitz and Skye are outcasts now.  They have to protect each other from the ‘normals.’  And it’s hard, and it’s hurtful, because those are their friends.  Their loved ones.  But they’ve been put in a position of almost certain rejection from anyone that is not like them.  And it’s not always outward.  Sometimes it’s micro-aggressions.  Shared glances behind backs.  But for now, we must remember that true protection comes from each other.


We can even take this to a bigger extreme with Raina.  Her powers have manifested in the form of a severe physical deformity, which has shattered her entire sense of self.  Once again, the shows tendency to go “ about suicide?” comes up, and guys, you really need to stop doing that.  Because Raina’s resentment of Skye’s physical appearance, her self-loathing for wanting this, her actual, physical pain from her new powers, can all culminate into something much more than “I should walk into traffic.”  Yes, that depression is real and it happens and we should look at it.  But this show has also used suicide a few too many times for the message they’re trying convey to really stick.


But let’s look at Raina and the man who saved her (Gordon.)  They both have very apparent physical differences.  They can’t hide in plain sight the way Fitz or Skye can.  To continue the X-Men comparison, they are the Kurt Wagners and the Hank McCoys.  They can’t deny their otherness.  They have to bear it every day.  And here, we see a divide within a divide.  A splintering among the outcasts.  There are those who can be ‘normal-passing’ and those who cannot.  And it is of the utmost importance that Raina and Gordon support each other.  


However, it is also vital for Skye to come to an understanding with Raina as well.  She will likely never fully understand where Raina is coming from, or what Raina is dealing with.  But she does need to understand that they are, to everyone on the outside, in the same boat.  They’re both ‘differents’, and that usually tends to get you lumped together.


So where does that leave us with Agents of SHIELD? Well, for one, I think we should hope the storyline doesn’t try to deny the otherness overall.  A huge, huge part of this plot going well will be whether or not the main cast can accept that yes, there are others.  They’re people you love.  And they can’t be ‘fixed.’  Allies must be understood as such.  And outcasts have to protect each other.


Anyway, we’ll see where this takes us.  Until next week!