TV Review: Agents of SHIELD – “Many Heads, One Tale”

Coulson
Agents of SHIELD has been balancing three main storylines this season, dividing its attention between the Inhumans/ATCU/Lash problem, the FitzSimmons monolith mystery, and the hunt for Ward. It’s been very compelling, but with such a large cast and wide array of stories, it was running the risk of feeling unfocused. Luckily, this week deftly brought all those threads together in a stellar action-packed episode. As the hashtag goes, it’s all connected.
Warning: this review contains spoilers.
The main focus this week was the trustworthiness of the ATCU. I appreciate the way the writers have differentiated this story from the "real SHIELD" arc of last season by having Coulson ally himself with them from the start. Whether that was the right thing to do has been the question since, and just as I was about to get weary of the uncertainty, "Many Heads, One Tale" put all questions about the ATCU to bed.
Even though Coulson and Rosalind have great chemistry together, I’m glad Phil did not let his guard down with her—something both his team and the viewers were concerned about. Their confrontation was saddening, thanks to Constance Zimmer, who really sold how hurt Ros was even as her steely resolve did not waver. But it was also necessary, as it revealed the truth about Gideon Malick, who is shaping up to be a formidable foe.
As part of that plotline, Bobbi and Hunter teamed up to break into the ATCU, and they were as entertaining as ever. Between Hunter’s hilarious cover as a hacker who could barely type and Bobbi’s kickass fight scene with a telekinetic henchman, this was good old-fashioned espionage at its finest—with a supernatural twist.
Fitz-SimmonsMeanwhile, the Fitz and Simmons subplot continues to be the absolute best. Instead of throwing in typical love triangle tropes that would have undermined both their characters, Agents of SHIELD has handled their situation with refreshing maturity. Jemma’s frustration with Fitz’s abnormal level of understanding was a perfect reaction. Fitz also got to vent his frustrations, admitting that he is not as OK with the Will predicament as he’s been letting on, while voicing his (and the fans’) feelings that their relationship was cursed by the cosmos (aka the writers’ room). And finally—finally—they kissed. Though it’s unclear what—if anything—it will lead to. It was an emotionally satisfying scene, and probably this episode’s best.
Another one of this week’s strongest elements was Ward. He took down three Hydra assassins in a great action scene and tortured them for information. He charmed then terrified a flight attendant before blowing open and flying out of an airplane door. And he showed just how ruthless he was towards May and the rest of the team in his final confrontation with Andrew. Again, so many other shows would have manufactured a redemption story by now, but Agents of SHIELD just keeps making Ward more and more depraved.
What’s great about this episode, though, is how it organically tied all of the different storylines together under one umbrella—SHIELD’s eternal enemy, Hydra. Hydra’s the one who sent Will to the alien planet as a sacrifice to the creature, now possibly revealed to be an Inhuman. Hydra’s the one building an army of Inhumans through the unwitting ATCU, reminiscent of the way they were using the unwitting SHIELD for Project Insight. The current face of Hydra, and the facilitator of those events, is Gideon Malick, clearly the main antagonist for the foreseeable future. And now Ward’s working with him. Every element of the show is now part of a singular, focused, and driven narrative. (Take note, Gotham.)

Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)

Notes and Observations

  • It’s bold of the show to retcon Hydra’s origin this way. It feels a bit contrived, but it gives everything a greater purpose and a sense of history, so I’ll take it.
  • I like that Bobbi’s batons can now be summoned with those nifty magnetic wristbands.
  • Apparently Hunter’s undercover persona was responsible for the Ashley Madison hacks!
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