Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s “Many Heads, One Tale” begins with Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe) having a chat with former-Agent Ward about his place in the Hydra organization. Realizing that Ward may be a tad too unstable to help put the organization back together, Malick decides to nix him by unleashing a few goons on him, but to no avail. Ward tends to be one of the shining stars of the season, but I’m happy to say that he’s only one of several as everything was firing on all cylinders. Ward’s action scenes were flawless, but none more so than his infiltration, and exit, from a commercial airliner. As I’ve said in numerous other reviews, Brett Dalton revels in the character of Agent Ward and is able to turn charm into menace at the flip of a switch. His “humble” beginnings as one of the Agents has helped to lay the groundwork for the excellent character he has become, and I’d love to go back to the first season to see just how much he’s changed.
Meanwhile, the Agents are allowing Director Rosalind from the ATCU into their headquarters for the first time to further their level of trust. It’s a great dynamic that both Coulson and Rosalind’s organizations have in that while neither can trust the other, and their organizations are trying to learn as much information as possible through less-than-admirable means, their mutual attraction is gumming up the works along the way. Coulson and Rosalind’s relationship has been one of the strongest new elements added to the third season, and this episode helped to exemplify that. The couple struggles with their ability to form a relationship in a world where trusting relationships are an impossibility. They’re a couple that is able to reel in the audience, but also one that is doomed to fail, which makes for such a compelling element.
Speaking of relationships, it’s time to swing back to the Fitz/Simmons train once again! The story of these two has been frustrating to say the least, so it was a fantastic change of pace to not only see Fitz’s emotions brought to light, but also for him to go quite meta and nearly break the fourth wall, voicing the frustrations of the audience. Fitz has been placed in the absolutely horrible predicament of trying to help save Simmons’ literal star-crossed lover, so much so that even Simmons is taken aback at all the shit that’s been shoveled his way, perplexed at why he’s willing to assist her on this. Fitz understandably freaks out and states that “even the bloody cosmos want to keep them apart,” which practically got a round of applause from me while watching it. Left with little recourse, Fitz grabs Simmons and lands a kiss on her that has been a long time coming, and while it doesn’t necessarily answer the question of “will they or won’t they?” it’s a huge step in the right direction.
One of the weaknesses of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., though, has always been its unruly cast. With so many characters vying for screen time, it sometimes bogs an episode down in attempting to make sure they’re all given something to do. This episode is the perfect example of how to juggle everyone properly. Each character is given a purpose, from Mac’s charm in selling the ATCU on being visited by the “FBI’s Cyber Security Team” to Hunter’s hilariously ridiculous hacker gear (along with his horrible attempt at actually using a keyboard), everyone gets their moment in the sun. When all those gears are working in unison, this episode best exemplifies what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can be, and really should be, moving into the future.
Back to the action — as Coulson and crew attempt to covertly reveal the ATCU’s secrets right under Rosalind’s nose, quite a few secrets are revealed. The ATCU unwittingly being a tool for Hydra under the lead of Malick is a nice twist, one we already knew, but was thankfully revealed to both Rosalind and the rest of the cast without being dragged out to unnecessary lengths. The idea of attempting to manufacture Inhumans for Hydra’s own nefarious needs is an intelligent one, and allows for further conflicts for the Scooby gang to face head-on as the season progressed. The action here was on point as well, to say nothing of the CG which gelled quite well. Bobbi’s neat new batons, along with anything involving planes, helped illustrate how the series has been able to use its budget better as time has gone on.
The story moved at a fast and entertaining clip, revealing a lot of “megatons” along the way, keeping me on the edge of my seat. While I’m not entirely sold on the idea of Hydra having yet another new secret origin (which blows my “Pantheon” theory out the window), I’m willing to accept it if the reveal works out. Everyone has their mission by episode’s end, both heroes and villains, and there are enough compelling subplots here to make sure that the season is anything but boring.
“Many Heads, One Tale” represents the best that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has to offer and I hope that the showrunners continue to take the lessons that they’ve learned in previous seasons while using this episode as an example of how to pave the path for everything in the future. The hour was excellent addition to the third season, and this should be the episode you show to your friends who are still on the fence about the series overall.
Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent
Agents of M.I.S.C.E.L.L.A.N.E.A.
– Guesses on who the big bad that Hydra worships turns out to be? Off the top of my head, here are some potential candidates: The Unspoken, Scorpio, Ego the Living Planet, or Kraken.
– Ming-Na Wen did a wonderful job as May following the fallout of her husband’s “Lashing out.”
– Fitz: “Why don’t you go deface a Picasso or something?”
– Lincoln: “Living on top of each other like Keibler Elves.”
– Ward: “Trick is, you want them to know it’s gonna hurt.”
– Rosalind: “Couldn’t even check my Fantasy Football scores!”
– Ward: “From all of us here at Hydra, thanks for flying the friendly skies.”
– Fitz: “We’re cursed! The bloody cosmos want us to be apart!”
– Hunter: “Didn’t know we were fighting a bloody alien, this isn’t a fair fight!”
Editor’s Note: The only pictures ABC released for this episode all had characters frowning with their arms crossed, if you noticed that pattern.