‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: ‘Purpose In the Machine’ Focuses on Best Relationship
Recap and review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 3 Episode 2 – Purpose in the Machine:
It seems as though, with Season 3, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is finally exploring the more complicated side of what it means to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Granted, I don’t exactly expect we’ll see this cast on the big screen any time soon (although I desperately want to, even if just in a cameo), but what they’re doing ties into a larger mythos that Season 3 seems anxious to expand upon. “Purpose in the Machine” is an encouraging episode for the season ahead.
One of the things I liked about this episode was that, even while exploring vast concepts like Kree artifacts and alien worlds, the story was still a relatively straightforward, but emotionally weighted, rescue mission. In this case, Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) was hellbent on saving Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), even if that meant tethering himself to a line and diving through a portal to try and pull her from the alien land in which she was trapped. It’s an emotional story that makes great use of the show’s best relationship, since FitzSimmons is more or less the heart of this show, even more so than the relationship between Coulson (Clark Gregg) and May (Ming-Na Wen), or even Coulson and Daisy (Chloe Bennet). Come to think of it, the best relationships tend to involve Fitz, since I found his friendship with Mack (Henry Simmons) to be one of the highlights of last season, due in large part to how emotive and likable an actor Iain De Caestecker is, and what an easy chemistry he has with much of the cast. That chemistry is what anchors the FitzSimmons relationship, and imbues it with a greater dramatic weight than other relationships get, on this series.
Basically, this was a slam-dunk story to pursue, because there was virtually no way to be indifferent about it, even with the outcome not really being in doubt. Of course they were going to save Simmons, but that inevitability didn’t dull my investment in the storyline, nor my intrigue in the mechanics surrounding it. For instance, this episode brought us the return of Professor Elliot Randolph (Peter MacNicol), the Asgardian trapped on Earth. Here, he helps Coulson, Fitz, Mack and Daisy (much like Coulson, I’m still getting used to not calling her “Skye”) learn more about the Kree artifact that could potentially lead them to Simmons. In the past, the show would have made a huge deal out of the arrival of an Asgardian. Yet, over the course of these two seasons, the show has gotten over its “OMG! It’s a Character/Race from a Marvel movie!” bombast. In this instance, the MCU character serves the story, rather than the show and its characters serving the larger purpose of the MCU. In short, the gang is led to a chamber that controls the portal to the other world where Simmons is trapped. Of course, while Fitz managed to pull Simmons out of the alien world, it doesn’t come without a price. Simmons is stricken by nightmares that have her on edge. Could we be looking at an inversion of the dynamic between Fitz and Simmons from Season 2? It seems as though Fitz will be the one trying to bring a drastically changed Simmons out of her shellshocked state, and that could make for a compelling character arc to follow over the coming weeks, provided it doesn’t get dragged out too far.
Meanwhile, there were other developments that helped this episode contribute to the overall feeling that this is a more focused season than last, at least from the perspective of character building. May has retired to Arizona to wile away the days with her father. However, Hunter (Nick Blood) tracks her down and implores her to return to S.H.I.E.L.D., since this is basically who May is. There’s been a gradual shift in May’s character since we first met her two seasons ago, from someone who was largely defined by her career, to someone who was at odds with the things she had to do as a part of that career. Now, she’s looping around to being someone who accepts her role as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but doesn’t allow herself to be defined by it.
May’s story is an interesting inversion of the journey of a guy like Ward (Brett Dalton), who isn’t so much leading Hydra as becoming the embodiment of Hydra’s ideals himself. Here, he recruits Baron Von Strucker’s son for a deep cover role, embedded as new recruit to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Secret Warrior program. In essence, Ward is doing what he knows works: embedding Hydra within S.H.I.E.L.D., with the hopes that it’s a plan that will work again. Honestly, if it does, that would somewhat undermine the development that S.H.I.E.L.D., as an organization, has undergone over the past two seasons, having been destroyed and then rebuilt again in a new image. However, I still feel there’s a story to tell about the restructuring of S.H.I.E.L.D., what with the organization basically fighting itself internally last season. We haven’t entirely explored the fallout from that, at least not to the extent I feel the show could. Still, “Purpose In the Machine” was a solid episode thanks to its focus on its best aspect, the strong relationships between its characters.
But what did you think of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Purpose In the Machine”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., read our review of last week’s compelling season premiere!