Marvel's Agents of SHIELD: 3.08 Many Heads, One Tale
Here was a tight, tense episode with plenty of twists and reveals, emotional beats, action and a prime example of this show at it's best. Using the SHIELD ensemble in smart ways this episode made the most of the shows spy-fi promise. It's Mission: Impossible with Superheroes!
Coulson's face off with Mack and subsequent briefing remind us he can be tough when he needs to be. Hunter and Morse worked better as a pairing than they have in previous episodes and it was fun to see Mockingbird enjoy some cool new gadgets. There was a real sense of energy and purpose to the team and the episode as a whole (showing yet again how much of a step up this season has been from the often directionless second season).
There were fine performances across the board though, yet again, it was Fitz and Simmons that stole the show in a dramatic, romantic and quite heartbreaking scene. Fitz believes they are cursed and Simmons is conflicted about her feelings - though her intergalactic beau turning out to be a Hydra sacrifice might make things easier for her. It's the best handled romantic subplot of the entire show and that really boils down to the fantastic performances and consistently good writing that other couples haven't always enjoyed the benefits of.
The conflict between Rosalind and Coulson was also well handled; both funny - "We need to find better ways to flirt." - and dramatic. Coulson doesn't lose his temper often and the connection between the two (characters and actors) has made this story thread so compelling. It was nice to see Rosalind wasn't Hydra, but that clues to what Coulson had suspected had been planted weeks ago.
Ah yes. Hydra were behind it all along. We should be bored of that twist by now but here it was handled with such confidence and made real sense to the MCU. Whilst that opening discussion about the Hydra symbol and the organisations history may have been a little too much foreshadowing it was fun to see all the separate threads of this season come together in a really satisfying and coherent way. Whilst retconning the history of Hydra in the MCU was a risk it was done in such a manner as not to cheapen but justify so much of what we have seen. Handled differently this could have been a mess, but here it proved Marvel TV's head honcho Jeph Loeb right; "everything is connected." Hydra are after the Inhumans, SHIELD are after the Inhumans, ATCU is compromised. Looks like we need a team of Secret Warriors to form up soon... (May it be too much to hope to see the Red Skull return to the MCU too soon?)
Malick represents Hydra pre-Winter Soldier that still holds a position of power within government agencies, confirming that it is the same character that appeared in the first Avengers movie (and explaining his absence from Captain America's second). He's a great villain that gives some much needed direction to Ward's sociopathic behaviour. Ward really did turn his bastard setting up to eleven this week and it's hard to remember that boring, clean cut hero of season one. That he was prepared to the sacrifice a passenger plane just to get near his destination was both chilling and, well, kinda cool in a badass villain kind of way. Together he and Malick pose a real threat to our heroes and the fight for the Inhumans.
The episode wasn't without it's weaknesses. Whilst May and Lincoln's scene on the quinjet allowed us to see May processing Garner's predicament, we still didn't get to see how Lincoln will quite fit into the team. And where exactly were Malick and Ward meeting at the start of the episode? Why was Ward able to torture those men uninterrupted? Well, whilst the show was busy delivering answers we can ignore a few pernickety questions.
Bravo to the cast but special credit to the episodes writers DJ Boyle and Jed Whedon for giving us so much in a script that consistently delivered. We're a couple of episodes away from the mid-season finale and you can sense that season is picking up speed. Revealing answers, asking new questions. Soon we'll only be a couple of weeks behind our American cousins and if you've been able to stay spoiler free so far are in for a real treat!