‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Recap: “Purpose in the Machine”

     October 6, 2015


While the first episode of the third season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dropped last week with a solid start, the second episode really hit the ground running. I’ve stated in my past recaps of the series that the show is firing on all cylinders when its players are doing the same — as in, no melodrama, and having a singular focus in mind — and this episode had that in spades. Our heroes are given individual missions this time around that should prove interesting moving forward, and more importantly, they’re all moving at a healthy clip. Nothing felt extraneous in this episode, and it’s all the better for it.

Along with returning main characters, such as Agent Ward and Agent May, we’re thrown back into the lives of many of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s best supporting characters in the forms of the “Berserker”/ Professor Randolph (Peter MacNicol) and Blair Underwood as May’s ex, Dr. Garner. MacNicol is delightful as ever as an immortal Asgardian, taking in the mortal life while simultaneously attempting to avoid being teleported back to Asgard. The team employs Randolph to help solve their monolith problem as they quickly discover what the monolith does, and how it works. I think that a big difference between S.H.I.E.L.D. and a superhero show such as The Flash is that while S.H.I.E.L.D. sometimes just spins its wheels, The Flash always seems to be moving forward. That may be changing; this episode is leading me to believe that perhaps it just took S.H.I.E.L.D. a bit longer to get its sea legs, but they are developing for sure.  


Image via Marvel

One of the biggest strengths I mentioned last week was in the progression of Skye — now going by Daisy — and this episode not only continued that journey, but solidified it with the help of the returning Underwood as the team’s shrink. Diagnosing Daisy as a budding leader, Garner psychoanalyzes her and comes to the conclusion that she needs some time to develop herself, and the new Inhumans she finds, in an attempt to create a new super powered team. Obviously, considering the threats the team are constantly uncovering, a new Avengers-style group is more important than ever. But, with their potentially unstable psyches, it’s a crapshoot. As the season goes on, I’m sure we’ll see the team of “Secret Warriors” begin to form but for now, it’s interesting to see the legwork being done to reach that point. Also, it’s great to see Daisy have a better handle on her powers in general.

Eventually the team rallies together and manages to open a portal to the world where Simmons is currently stranded, and surprisingly rescues her! Again, as I mentioned earlier, this could have been a storyline that had the ability to be dragged out for quite a while, but nipping it in the bud in the second episode is a welcome change. Hopefully we’ll see whatever world Simmons was housed in be explored in a little more depth, but it’s good to have her back. And with a little luck, maybe we can move past the “will they, won’t they” stuff that’s been going on for the past two seasons and change. Obviously, Simmons hasn’t exactly come back untouched from her “time abroad,” and I wouldn’t expect her to. An interesting wrinkle would be whether it’s even Simmons at all, as everything happened just a tad too conveniently don’t you think?


Image via Marvel

Ultimately, I think the weakest subplot of the night was found in Agent May’s return. To be fair, the reveal of May’s father, portrayed by character actor James Hong, was a nice touch, but ultimately it didn’t save a story that was about as predictable as it gets. We know that May’s going to join the team again, and we know that this is just a diversion to add a little tension to the proceedings. I feel that this would have worked better in a different scenario for May, but what we got just wasn’t as compelling as it could have been.

The highlight of the episode came in the form of the glorious return of Agent Ward, who has changed the most out of all the characters. Now trying to put Hydra back together again, Ward is going after former members who have profited from the organization in the past, and put them to work for him to build a stronger evil organization. You can really see how much of a ball actor Brett Dalton is having bringing the character to life with his maniacal, almost Terminator-esque focus. The fights on the boat in particular, where he effortlessly dismantles wave after wave of opponents, was well-choreographed and stood out amongst a lot of past action scenes the show has had to offer. While I may have been sick of seeing Hydra, as they seem a little played out, Ward’s twisted version is something that I’m really looking forward to seeing based on this week.

This episode was an extremely strong entry into the history of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and while I may have had some gripes with last week, if the show can continue on this path — minus a hiccup or two of course — then we’re in for a season that can stand toe-to-toe with the other superhero series on the television landscape.

Rating: ★★★★ Very good

Agents of M.I.S.C.E.L.L.A.N.E.A.


Image via Marvel

– For those who don’t know, the son of Wolfgang Von Strucker that Ward recruited, in the comics, eventually becomes the anti-hero the Swordsman. It would be an exceptionally good entry to Ward’s new Hydra if they decide to go that route.

– I’d be interested to see more of the Monolith’s effect on people and society in the past, as we were shown with the opening scene in England, 1863. Who were those guys anyway? Randolph mentions encountering someone in an Owl costume but I don’t know could fit the bill.

– Coulson mentions how ridiculous it was to have the S.H.I.E.L.D. symbols on the side of every vehicle they drove! Considering how much I’ve rallied in the past about that in my previous recaps, it’s a nice touch for them to recognize how strange that’s always been, while also jabbing at the fact that they still have their symbol on their jet of course.

– Fitz: “A sandwich would be nice.”

– Coulson: “He’s travelled through space through a portal and he’s an alien, so he’s got a lot going for him.”

– Randolph: “I don’t know what Amazon Woman and Robot Hand are capable of.”

– Ward: “Come on, I brought tacos!”


Image via Marvel