ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Purpose in the Machine TV Show Review. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 3, episode 02, ‘Purpose in the Machine,’ took a breather, of sorts, to allow key players – mostly absent from the season premiere – to get caught up, loosely connected by Coulson (Clark Gregg), before season 3 really gets rolling.
First up: Grant Ward (Brett Dalton). Last seen regarding the remnants of HYDRA as the answer to his need for a ‘family’ all his own, Ward first demonstrated the difference between his HYDRAnts, and that of the old guard, effectively reduced the divide to a form of class warfare, then went about putting his philosophy into practice. Besides the doughy dopiness of his mark, the ineffectiveness of the mark’s security detail, and the fact that the truth of Ward’s words made the mark the kind of person even viewers might want to torture, Ward’s history telegraphed the whole ruse.
Ward is still chasing after the ghosts of his own family, and following in the footsteps of Garrett. This told us everything we needed to know about his relationship with Agent 33, and the mark reveal suggests more of the same.
For all his wild-and-crazy turns, I fear Ward has become relatively predictable. Given how entertaining his last mentoring efforts have been, however, this latest Quantico stunt could prove to be a real hoot.
The second follow up was reserved for go-to Ward solution, May (Ming-Na Wen); no surprise, then, that Hunter’s (Nick Blood) assignment was getting her to her appointed Ward removal. That’s not likely to happen anytime soon, so the episode took its time to delve further into May’s background. James Hong brought a timeless familiarity to his role, as May’s father – as insightful a figure as someone like May deserves – and the pair definitely had a chemistry.
Her thread sort of ran parallel to her ex-husband, Dr. Garner (Blair Underwood), effortlessly working his way over, under, around, and through various team member psyches – including super head screw, Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki). With that display, it was almost like his character was being groomed for a role expansion. Like he was being fitted for a suit worthy of… I dunno – some kind of Quantico stunt (Quantico also airing on ABC).
On a side note, when Coulson asked Bobbi to fill in as the bus driver, was I the only one asking “can you fly, Bobby?” …It’s a classic film quote. If I had to go into any more detail, I’d be left resorting to a dejected muppet headshake (The Muppets also airing – y’know what, never mind).
The biggest missing elephant from the room was, of course, Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge); a fact that had the episode picking up where Fitz’s (Iain De Caestecker) tantrum left off. Well, technically the episode picked up several hundred years earlier, with some society of extraordinary gentiles feeding the monolith – in the name of science & discovery. Since the finest of particulates can say worlds about the largest people-grabbing space boulders, the age & nature of the thing seemed right up the alley of a people-pretending space Viking, from another world.
Taking a bit of well-spent time, to reintroduce himself, Professor Elliot Randolph (Peter MacNicol), signed on to Fitz’s expedition. The 19th century lab of the society lent itself well to Fitz going Doc Frankenstein, on his final push to break on through to the other side, and Daisy (Chloe Bennet) – not Skye, Coulson; but thanks for staying in character – kept justifying the show’s budget expansion.
I gotta say, Peter MacNicol has really grown into this character. Playing the mild mannered mere mortal, back when the character was introduced, may have been a typical turn for the actor; but coming out of the closet has added a noticeable amount of heft to Randolph – enough to have all three professionals pay him due respect. That, and he actually kept Coulson busy – since Coulson doesn’t get upstaged easily. Anyone wanting more of the Asgardian Professor (… odd word pairing, there): his reaction to the term “Inhuman” may have been his ticket back, somewhere down the road.
Now, it could have been Fitz feeling out that place, somewhere between Doc Frank & Ahab, but there might have been a hint of his season 2 coherence problem. If that’s what it was, then kudos to Agents for not just sweeping that bit of history under the rug.
The outcome to Fitz’s push could have gone either way, and still likely work (good odds to have). Success would have meant a soft-serve, to character fans (and shippers, damn the lot; but the timely wrap-up of sub-plots was what kept season 2 at a cracking pace. Failure would have meant dragging the sub-plot on (and pissing off the damnable lot); but would have also opened an exploratory parallel arc, to the terran cast pursuing the local effects of that to be explored. The whole point, to those stakes, was that the climax had a genuine sense of suspense to it – and that can be very hard to come by, where central cast members are involved.
Given the actual outcome, and that extra PTSD bit, I’d say we may have gotten a decent compromise out of both scenarios (damned good odds to have had).
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