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

(Episode 3.02)

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<i>Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.</i> Review: &#8220;Purpose in the Machine&#8221;

Real Talk time guys. Our much beloved agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are the kings and queens of poorly thought out plans. Seriously, it’s becoming more and more apparent that this show was never meant to be about the highly trained badass agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with their James Bond like class (Natasha) and Jason Stathame-esque ability to escape the near impossible (Clint, and also, Natasha). Nope, we’re dealing with the agents who don’t get invites to the office Christmas party. They’re the golden shining genius, mess-ups. S.H.I.E.L.D.’s very own Island of Misfit Toys.

And if we need any proof of this, we need only look to the first three minutes we spend with the team tonight. Skye is being impatient and reckless. Trying to force a team out of a collection of baby inhumans who are arguably all on the verge of mental breakdowns. They say she’s becoming a leader, but I can’t imagine Cap or Fury being with her on this one. If anything, they’d be giving Mack a slow clap as he tries to bring some sense to the situation.

Oh, then there’s Fitz who is actively having a mental breakdown. Now I know I said last week that there are worse things than screaming at an alien monolith when you’re in emotional distress, but in retrospect I’d like to retract that thought. This is a horrible idea Fitz. Your worst idea to date. It’s only slightly worse than Coulson’s decision to leave you alone at the end of last episode. I mean the only way Fitz’s behavior could be more reckless is if he were to put his life and the life of a fellow teammate in jeopardy by jumping into an unstudied time/space barrier without so much as a “Geronimo!”… We’ll get to that.

But still, that doesn’t mean their plans don’t get results. Magic “impossible” sand results, but results all the same. Because “impossible” sand’s one very real use is proving that the monolith is a wormhole to another planet. Score one for Fitz.

From here forward, the episode itself seems to suffer from a lack of planning, though that can probably be blamed on the reappearance of Ward. Ward; who has apparently decided that, instead of creating a logical recruitment plan, he’s just going to act out all of his “English Villain Jaguar” commercial fantasies. Seriously, Ward likes to swing between being the most pragmatic, grounded Hydra member of all time and living out some very specific megalomaniac styled intimidation tactics. It’s funny in kind of the worst way. Also, why do all the new Hydra recruits look like they just escaped a dystopian teen society? I mean, you never really think of Hydra as being a young person’s organization.

In fact, the only one taking a moment to step back and make a proper plan this episode is Melinda “Millie” May, the least misfit-y of our gang. If you were to ask me who has benefited from the strongest character development on this show, I’d say May in a heartbeat. Revelations about her character are never forced and always satisfying. Seeing her interact with her father tonight is no different. Heartfelt, funny, and a little sad in all the ways parent’s relationships with adult children can be. She’s taking time away from S.H.I.E.L.D., and even as Hunter shows up and accuses her of being paranoid, it feels like she, more than anyone, is on the right track. Not desperate or reckless or losing her sense of self instead of redefining it—special thanks to Dr. Andrew Garner for diagnosing everyone tonight. She’s simply being May, looking at the situation from the outside and trying to figure out the best plan of attack.

In the laundry list of, shall we say, “inferior” plans tonight, we can include the following: breaking Professor Randolph, Asgardian-at-large, out of a Norwegian jail, getting through a crack security team using rats, and creating the world’s largest subwoofer using untested equipment and only recently harnessed inhuman powers. “How are we suppose to fix a machine, we don’t know how it works?” Indeed Mack. Indeed.

That’s not to say all these seemingly reckless, often half-baked plans don’t get results as well. Randolph escapes and brings them to an English castle where they find the subwoofer. Ward manages to kidnap Werner Von Strucker with little more than some rats and a few punches to the face. Which seriously—Von Strucker—a Hydra legacy kid like you should have better taste in quality minions.

Even the giant subwoofer works in the end (score two for Fitz), and they have a well-thought out, relatively safe plan for how to explore this deep space portal. YAY!!! Except Fitz! Fitz is going to just tether himself with some steel cable and jump right in. Really dude? Really? I know you want Jemma back. I want her back too, but you’re supposed to be a scientist. Somehow I’m pretty sure Bill Nye wouldn’t approve. Bruce Banner might. Tony definitely would.

And still, in the end, it’s all about results, isn’t it? Those results being: JEMMA IS BACK!!! The monolith is completely destroyed and we still have no real understanding of where it came from or what its overall implications are, but JEMMA IS BACK EVERYBODY!! THAT”S THREE FOR FITZ! Just in case you’re keeping count. Sure she’s a little… unnerved, and I have a feeling we have quite a few post-traumatic stress episodes coming this season. But FitzSimmons is back together again. And honestly, the Island of Misfit S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents is a lot less scary and lonely when you have a misfit to lean your head on at night.

Katherine Siegel is a Chicago-based freelance writer and director and a regular contributor to Paste. You can find out more by checking out her website, or follow her on Twitter.