What’s been so important about the growth of Agents of SHIELD since its uneven first season is that not only does the scope and story of the series feel more epic, but its characters have become more vibrant and relatable. Viewers not only understand and enjoy each individual’s strengths and weaknesses but have come to fully believe that these people work well together as a team and would do anything to help one another. And that is why last night’s episode of Agents of SHIELD, “Purpose in the Machine,” was so satisfying, as we saw each member of our favorite SHIELD team listening and cooperating with each other and doing their very best to make sure Simmons was saved. It all culminated in a beautifully shot and scored sequence that was both incredibly exciting and intensely emotional.
As I mentioned in my review of last week’s premiere for TVOvermind, Agents of SHIELD has been constantly evolving as a series, attempting to find a strong center that it can build upon, and in Season 3, it has finally found that with its fully formed group of characters. What has made these past two weeks of the show such terrific episodes is not that we’re dealing with Inhumans or Asgardians (as Peter MacNicol’s Elliot Randolph returns for the first time since his guest appearance in Season 1’s “The Well”), but that the show is telling human stories at on a much larger, grander scale.
Put Fitz and Simmons, Daisy, and May’s stories all together, and you’ll see a depth of emotion that was sorely missing during the first half of Agents of SHIELD’s first season and the latter half of its second. Plot or other Marvel properties aren’t dictating what’s happening with these characters anymore: we want to see Fitz find Simmons because of how desperately he’s searched for her (and also because Elizabeth Henstridge and the character she plays are terrific); we want to see Skye assemble the Secret Warriors not because they’ll be an awesome team to watch in action but because we understand her need and desire to help other Inhumans in a way that her mother never could; and we want to see May interact with her father because it makes sense that she would want to try to escape the insanity of SHIELD to become a “real person” again for a little while. Even Ward’s rise to power as the leader of Hydra works similarly, because we know that his actions are partly out of revenge for what happened to Kara last season and also because Hunter and May have good cause to go after him for what he’s done to their lives.
The only fear I have with Agents of SHIELD Season 3 so far is that it might be juggling a little too much. With so many different threats (Rosalind, Lash, Ward) and stories to explore (the Secret Warriors, where Simmons has been, Hunter and May’s mission), I’m hoping that the series doesn’t trap itself in the pitfalls of overly complicated and disparate plotting again, as it did back in the second half of Season 2. However, as long as the writers keep the focus on the characters and their very real, very human emotions, as they have done such a wonderful job of in these first two hours, then this could easily become the best season of Agents of SHIELD yet.
- Can we talk again about just how terrific the team’s rescue of Simmons was? Everything about that scene, from the teamwork (as Daisy opened the portal, Fitz jumped in, and Mack, Coulson, and Bobbi helped bring him back) to the emotion (Fitz calling out “Jemma!” and their hands being so close to breaking apart), was superb. Easily one of the best sequences Agents of SHIELD has ever done.
- May’s time with her dad was fascinating to watch and a nice, light reprieve from the intensity of this episode’s other stories. Also, May was a figure skater that loved Dorothy Hamill! Who could have guessed that?
- Just like Coulson, I’m still having trouble not calling Daisy “Skye.”
- Blair Underwood’s Andrew is always a pleasure to have on Agents of SHIELD, but Von Strucker enrolling in his class at the end of the episode has me really worried about what will happen to May’s ex.
Episode Rating: 9/10
What did everyone else think of “Purpose in the Machine”? And do you agree with me that this could potentially be Agents SHIELD‘s best season yet? Comment below and let us know.
[Photo credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC]