TV Recap: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ‘Purpose in the Machine’


Purpose in the Machine Plot Summary:

When all hope seems lost in the search for Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) makes a startling discovery that changes everything. Ward (Brett Dalton) begins shedding unnecessary baggage in his quest to make a newer and better Hydra. May (Ming-Na Wen) grapples with an attempt at normal life. Hunter (Nick Blood) begins hunting for his former ally. Daisy (Chloe Bennett) is desperate to form her Secret Warriors.

Despite this only being the second episode of Season 3, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. already has a lot on it’s plate. One of the big reasons why “Laws of Nature” did so well was because of how tight the story was. It was all about the Inhumans, how the world is reacting to their presence, and the revelation of Lash (who I was way off in calling a Kree. So much for research) as a threat. Searching for Simmons was an exciting b-story, but fitting in Ward and May was rightfully pushed off for breathing room. Putting focus on both those fronts was an expected part of “Purpose in the Machine,” especially since we need to know what’s going on. However, putting it all together resulted in a packed episode that was great but was hampered by its own design.


Case and point, making the first half of Daisy’s story a focus on her trying to make Secret Warriors happen as soon as possible. Her first possible recruit? Joey Gutierrez, the guy we last saw having a complete breakdown about being an Inhuman. Excellent timing everyone! All of this felt like an unnecessary push to make forming the Secret Warriors a prominent focus of this season. It absolutely should be, obviously, but that doesn’t mean we need it pushed onto us so soon. I actually felt like Dr. Garner (Blair Underwood), who spent that entire segment essentially wondering why he was even brought there. If this entire part was just cut out and moved elsewhere, nothing would have been lost.

This wasn’t even the big story for Daisy either! That came later when she learned her vibration powers allow her to detect frequencies. Those exact talents were woven perfectly into the episode’s incredibly exciting main focus: getting Simmons back. A ton of time was spent on this and I’m very happy it took a focus so early. When Fitz noticed the sand on his finger, I practically cheered because I knew we were already making massive progress on this front. Their mission ended up bringing back the always excellent Peter MacNicol to reprise his role as Dr. Randolph from the very disappointing first Thor: The Dark World Season 1 “tie-in.” Like everything about this show past that first year, he was much better, and letting him rock out as an Asgardian was awesome. You know who else was awesome? Badass scientist Leo Fitz who just dives right into danger because the possibility of saving Simmons exists. He’s the real hero of this show, no one else.

Simmons is even saved too! Hooray! The writers couldn’t resist making it a “will they/won’t they” event, and for a hot minute I actually expected Simmons to get left behind. Fortunately that wasn’t the case and the show’s resident duo is back together once again (though Simmons definitely has some PTSD that will surely be a focus). As amazing as this is though, I really hope it’s not the end of the Obelisk portal story. Introducing an entirely new world with a possibly insane monster threat seems too good to just finish after three episodes. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if we learn another portal exists, and some angry Inhuman (Lash perhaps) opens it like Daisy did and brings intergalactic insanity onto Earth. One can hope!

The Ward story was really exciting, effortlessly continuing off this cliffhanger to show this unstoppable beast of a human creating his own pure evil supergroup. He beats and kills frivolous people without batting an eyelash, and he already has a pretty sizable force rallying behind him. The big twist here was the introduction of Werner von Strucker (Spencer Treat Clark), son of the nefarious Baron von Strucker. You know only bad things can come out of these two forming a menacing powerhouse. Clark was great at the end when we saw him actually embracing his family’s evil lineage, but the true star is unquestionably Brett Dalton. This guy is like a Terminator at this point with how easily he dispatches enemies. Can’t wait to see what happens there.

Cast of Agents of SHIELD Season 3
Photo Credit: ABC/Kurt Iswarienkio

Most of what revolved around May was the textbook “I want to live a normal life but my agent past keeps beckoning.” I’m sure we all knew from the very beginning that it would end with May getting back into the field. Stuff like this always does and I wish we didn’t have to go through it. However, this did give us plenty of material with James Hong as May’s father William. Hong is the ultimate “That Guy,” appearing in everything from Seinfeld, The Big Bang Theory, World of Warcraft, and, of course, Big Trouble In Little China. S.H.I.E.L.D. was basically him adding another name to his extensive acting resume. It was also a fun little Mulan reunion as both Hong and Wen starred in that classic Disney film. Despite knowing how it would end, introducing William provided some great insight into who May was before she became an agent. Her Mom was an agent too, May was a figure skater before she did martial arts, and May’s hiding out because Ward might be trying to kill her family. It’s all very compelling material that makes May a better character. I just wish it wasn’t wrapped around a brief, predictable arc like this. I really want William to come back in some form too.

That’s on hold though because May officially joined Hunter on their mission to kill Ward. I’m glad May is wrapped up in this now because, to be perfectly honest, I definitely care more about watching her get revenge than Hunter. Hunter’s a fun character for sure, but we’ve been with May since the beginning and she by far has the biggest bone to pick. If they ever do decide to eliminate Ward from this show, it should absolutely be his former lover doing the deed.

“Purpose in the Machine” was a fun episode, but it definitely would have benefited from some story trimming. Not entirely unlike how Ward was killing unnecessary Hydra baggage! We didn’t need a focus on forming Secret Warriors this early in the season, especially when the only viable option just went through Terrigenesis. We also didn’t need the cliched “I want a normal life” focus for May. Yet there was plenty of great material too, like Fitz being awesome, Simmons getting rescued, Ward forming his squad, and May and Hunter teaming up. We already have a lot coming into play this season and hopefully the show can keep it all together, because right now, things are getting pretty exciting.

Rating: 8.5/10