Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Purpose in the Machine” Review

Posted October 12, 2015 by Kenneth Rodriguez in Comic Books

A/N: If you would like to catch-up on last week’s season premiere, you can find that here

After last week’s great start, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hopes to capitalize on that momentum by delving into the meat and potatoes of the story. Overall, it’s only moderately successful. “Purpose in the Machine” is serviceable but not necessarily all that engrossing until the end. But we begin our story in Gloucestershire, England – 1839: A secret society of nobleman selects one of their ranks to embark on a journey of no return, which means…entering the stone monolith that swallowed Simmons in the Season 2 finale.

In the present day, we pickup where we left off last episode, with everyone freaking out that Fitz broke the containment on the Monolith and is pounding on it in frustration. The Agents pull Fitz to safety, and he discovers sand on his fingers, proof that the Monolith is a portal to a planet that is carbon dated to predate the earth by almost a billion years. The team is convinced Simmons is still somewhere in the universe.

Coulson is worried about the Monolith

Coulson is worried about the Monolith

Meanwhile, Ward and his henchman Kebo are on a mission to build a better HYDRA. Ward straps an old Hydra leader to a car hood and speeds around, while going on about how the new HYDRA will be leaner and meaner. Intimidated, the old HYDRA boss discloses the location of a college kid named Alexander Braun. It seems Ward hasn’t given up on rising HYDRA from the ashes of its former leadership, but the prospect of him having command of such a force is a scary proposition. I have to say though, I know I have been very critical of Ward in the past, but he is really coming into his own in this new role of badass, take-no-prisoners-I’m-evil persona.

Coulson, Bobbi, and Fitz go in search of an expert on portal travel and find a familiar friend: Professor Elliot Randolph (the awesome Peter MacNicol), an Asgardian on earth hiding among humans. Coulson persuades Randolph to help S.H.I.E.L.D. unlock the mystery of the monolith in exchange for destroying it (he’s afraid on any possibility of a portal that could send him back to Asgard). There is an amusing scene where Randolph is reluctant because of the renewed interest in the dangers of aliens getting himself into a “pretty nice” Swedish prison is good for his low profile, but he reminds us even the lowliest Asgardians are way stronger than humans when he breaks the cell door off like it’s made of Styrofoam and blames it on Coulson (with a Wheedon-esqe “He did it!” that falls flat).

Dr. Andrew Garner, May’s ex-husband and S.H.I.E.L.D. psychiatric consultant, arrives at HQ to evaluate Joey Gutierrez, the Inhuman candidate found last week for a new team–Coulson’s Secret Warriors. Daisy asks him why he and May are not together, but he doesn’t divulge, preferring to psychoanalyze Daisy instead.

May's dad is a wise and funny man

May’s dad is a wise and funny man

Speaking of May, we find her with her elderly father, Charlie (the great James Hong of Chinatown and Big Trouble in Little China fame) in Sun City, Arizona. Charlie doesn’t believe that May is visiting him simply because he is recovering from a hit-and-run car accident, and we can clearly see May is worried about something coming for her.

Ward kidnaps Alexander Braun from his private yacht in Ibiza in a great action scene where he takes out all but one of his detail singlehandedly, except for one guy who gets a good punch in. Ward is pissed he let that happen and decides to shoot him. Clearly Ward is not playing fair anymore, and I like him embracing the bad. He takes Braun to the HYRDA warehouse where Kebo tries to forcibly extract banking data from him.

Randolph leads the Agents to the ruins of a castle in Gloucestershire–the same location from the beginning of the episode where he remembers seeing the symbol Fitz found on the scroll in the 1880s. Randolph says the key to unlocking the monolith lies within the chamber, which contains a machine that somehow controls the portal.

Back in Sun City, May brutally attacks an intruder lurking outside her father’s home, but realizes it’s…Hunter?! Hunter tries to convince May to go on the offensive and kill Ward. She refuses; she’d rather protect family than rejoin S.H.I.E.L.D. Hunter warns her that she’ll never stop worrying about Ward until he is neutralized, and we can see she certainly has that in mind.

The Monolith only affects Daisy, interesting

The Monolith only affects Daisy, interesting

Mack and Daisy deliver the monolith to the castle chamber, and the team tests the machinery. The portal liquefies briefly; they’ve done it! Fitz takes the opportunity to shoot a road flare into the portal, hoping to reach out to Simmons, but the machinery falls apart, though not before emitting an unbearable sound that only Daisy could hear, causing her to pass out.

Back at Hydra, Alexander takes Kebo out and reveals his true identity: Werner Von Strucker, the son of Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, one of Hydra’s greatest leaders. Delighted, Ward tells Werner it’s time he earn the respect befitting a Von Strucker, and tells him he will show him the world of HYDRA his father always left him out of, knowing a thing or two about coming from a “complicated” family himself.

Back at the castle, Daisy realizes that the machine opened the portal by emitting a specific frequency. Not only can she hear that frequency, she thinks she can replicate it long enough for Fitz to send a probe through the portal, and maybe give them a view of the world it leads to.

Elsewhere, Hunter singlehandedly thwarts a ring of gun smugglers. Afterwards, he lets her know she is still needed, and it’s the kick in the pants she needs. May joins Hunter in his quest to stop Ward.

Mack and Fitz try to fix the machine, but Daisy just does it for them

Mack and Fitz try to fix the machine, but Daisy just does it for them

Back at the castle again, Daisy opens the portal by resonating her vibration ability with the room (which turns out to have been designed like a giant subwoofer), but Fitz doesn’t just throw in a probe–he jumps in! While attached to the rope that was meant to hold the probe, Fitz finds himself in a sandstorm in another world. He hears Simmons’ voice calling and they reach for each other, their fingertips just pulling away before he loses control and passes out due to exhaustion. Then the Monolith explodes into tiny chunks. But out of the rubble, we see Fitz emerge with some precious cargo: Simmons is safe! Exhausted, Simmons returns to base but has a nightmare and wakes up holding a sharpened stick–something traumatic must have happened on the other side of that portal, so we are sure to see some PTSD effects in the coming episodes.

Frankly, I’m surprised they saved Simmons so quickly. I was expecting some more build-up or maybe Fitz seeing her face and being pulled out of the portal, giving him the determination he needs to know she is still alive. But I can only imagine they storylines they have planned for Simmons’ return must be worth the rush, and the bold leap of Fitz to just jump into the portal headfirst is another huge step for his character. He will really do anything for her, a bold reinvention for old Leo Fitz that I truly enjoy.

We see Randolph ask Coulson why Daisy was able to affect the Monolith, and when Coulson explains she is an Inhuman, he is surprised. He hasn’t heard that name in quite a while, so his connection to their emergence may be an interesting wrinkle for the future. Finally, we find that Werner Von Strucker has enrolled as a student in Dr. Andrew Garner’s class. This is all part of Ward’s twisted plan…

About the Author

Kenneth Rodriguez

Kenny has been completing his pokedex since Pokemon Yellow, ever ready for his next test, comics in hand. He thinks Mass Effect is the best game series ever,.. period and loves TV and Movies dearly. Follow him on Twitter @k_rod14