Agents of SHIELD: 3.02: Purpose In The Machine

A stronger, more focused episode sees Marvel's Agents of SHIELD trying to recover Simmons from the alien planet. The script is witty, tense and emotionally driven with sparkling one-liners and character moments.

Phil Coulson has had a strange journey throughout this series from agent to leader to father figure and not every one of those roles has gelled well so it's nice to see more of that personality that made him such a beloved part of the MCU to begin with shining through in this episode. Clark Gregg has a great sense of authority here and a lovely comic delivery that benefits from some great material.

The episode also sees the return of Peter MacNicol as the Asgardian Elliot Rudolph. He and Coulson play of each other well and his excited “To the plane!” betrayed his otherwise well hidden roots. Talking of hiding, we again get to see how the events of Sokovia are effecting characters in this world. As much as the wider references are fun, this was handled with much more subtlety than the season opener.

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Their mission takes them to Gloucestershire which begs the question, when will England's finest MI:16 appear in the show?

It was great to see Daisy using her powers once again and Chloe Bennett continues to prove herself real hero material even though she largely took a back seat in this episode. She's adapting well and clearly enjoying more exciting material. The recurring joke of Coulson's inability to adapt to the name change was again very funny (though lets hope doesn't outstay it's welcome).

Whilst Coulson, Fitz and Bobbi are turning to the Asgardian in exile, Hunter starts on his mission to hunt down Ward and Hydra. Hunter turns to May who we find playing golf – or trying to – with her father. May's subplot is easily the weakest element here, not because it's the least flashy storyline, simply because her return to the fold is inevitable.

Meanwhile Daisy and Mack are focussing on assembling their team of Secret Warriors (which get name checked in this episode) and Ward is focusing on rebuilding a stronger, more determined Hyrda. Ward makes a charming villain and fun to watch.

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Brett Dalton delivers a strong villain and the most consistent face Hydra has had in the whole MCU. When he recruits Werner Von Strucker it just serves to remind you how much the movies wasted Thomas Kretschmann as Baron Von Strucker. The Baron's son appears to be a petulant young man but hopefully proves to be a worthy adversary in later episodes.

The real emotional core of the series has always been Fitz and Simmons and Fitz's desperate rescue attempt was thrilling, heart pounding entertainment. It was a real surprise to see Fitz rescue her so early in the season in a sequence that was wonderfully paced with Bear McCreary's music particularly great here. The final moment of the episode, as Simmons rested her head on Fitz was genuinely touching.

The episode has real emotional punch and the large cast are all handled well by DJ Doyle's cracking script and Kevin Tancharoen's slick direction. Season 3 is already shaping up to be the best yet.

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