Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Recap: 'Purpose in the Machine'
Last week we saw the team back together and stronger than ever working to find and protect the new Inhumans, but this week's episode focused on the mystery of the monolith. The episode starts us off in Gloucestershire, England, 1839. A well dressed - but decidedly unlucky man - is shoved into a room with the monolith and is absorbed into its ominous inky black depths, just as Simmons was at the end of last season. Outside the room, the man in charge of this sacrifice of sorts assures the remaining members of their group that their "best minds are working to understand [the monolith], but as far as we know in all of history no one has ever returned". But their "best minds" didn't include Leopold Fitz.
Back in present time Fitz is where we last saw him, screaming at the monolith to "do something." He gets his wish as the monolith sloshes around again, but before it can do any harm, the team shows up to close the containment doors. Disaster averted, Fitz valiantly continues to scrape together evidence, and this time he's hit gold- or in this case, sand. The sand is from another world that predates Earth by a billion years, proving that the monolith is a portal, which explains the desolate alien landscape from the end of last week's episode. This means that Fitz will finally get the experts he needs to help him find Simmons. The first expert they track down is Professor Randolph, an Asgardian who has been enjoying life in a Norwegian prison since we saw him last.
Fitz shows the Hebrew script to Randolph who remembers seeing it in a castle in Gloucester, the same one from the beginning of the episode. He agrees to help the team get Simmons back, on the condition that the monolith is destroyed afterwards. Fitz, Randolph, Agent Morse, and Agent Coulson take a group field trip to the ruins of a castle where they find what looks like an ancient laboratory for the monolith. Daisy and Mack fly it in and the team discovers that the tech opens the portal long enough for it to cause "Daisy" (No, Coulson, not Skye) to pass out due to a deafening pulsing sound that only she could hear. Fitz realizes that the machine opens the portal by emitting a frequency that resonates with the monolith. In the most intense scene of the episode, Daisy's seismic abilities allow her to open the portal long enough for Fitz to rescue Simmons.
Meanwhile, we find out that Agent May has been visiting her father, and although he can tell something's not right with "Millie," he doesn't press the subject. Hunter shows up and tries to recruit Agent May to help him go after Ward. She refuses at first, insisting that she's out of the game and wants to live a normal life now, but it's clear that she won't rest easy until she knows Ward is out of the picture.
Apparently our favorite despicable traitor has been busy using cheap fear tactics to get information. Between driving fast cars as people cling to the front, ruining yacht parties by means of rat infestation, and having billionaires tortured, it seems that Ward has been doing some recruiting of his own. The owner of the yacht turns out to be the son of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, one of Hydra's "greatest leaders." After tacos and a short conversation with von Strucker, we learn that Ward plans to rebuild Hydra, stronger than ever before.
Recruiting Inhumans to become members of the Secret Warriors is the priority this season. Daisy is frustrated with the slow process, which isn't made any easier due to Dr. Garner's negative evaluations of potential recruits. She knows firsthand how it feels to suddenly have uncontrollable abilities and sees her team as a symbol of hope, something that could improve lives, and the world. Daisy has grown up a lot since we first met her; now instead of using her hacking skills to track down others with special abilities, she has her own. But her overarching goal hasn't changed since that first episode, she still wants to help people realize that "being different can mean making a difference." Despite her frustrations, Dr. Gardner's "sage advice" is spot on. He reminds Daisy that not all of the recruits are going to be stable, and that they all have the potential to become monsters. Over the course of the season we'll undoubtedly be seeing new Inhumans struggling with the potential dark side of their abilities.
Overall, the episode left us with even more questions than before:
What exactly happened to Simmons to cause her to wake up in the middle of the night, brandishing a weapon? Is the monolith actually destroyed? Will Daisy's "recklessness" and Coulson's "desperation" lead to costly mistakes? Why did von Strucker Jr enroll in Dr. Garner's class? He could obviously use some psychological guidance, but somehow I doubt that's what he has in mind. These are just a few of the plethora of intriguing questions that have yet to be answered this season.
With ancient castle laboratories, Secret Warriors, and giant subwoofers opening portals to alien worlds, this episode just can't seem to "help itself with the cool." "Purpose in the Machine" was as good as the last episode, and if this keeps up we're in for an amazing third season.