Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S03 E02: Purpose in the Machine


Faithful viewers of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” will remember the Asgardian Berserker from the first season episode “The Well” Not only did it introduce the secretly Asgardian Professor Randolph, but also it was the first time we began to see dark cracks in the shell of Agent Grant Ward. Both men return this episode, as does Agent Melinda May, so meet me after the jump for my thoughts on “Purpose in the Machine.”

The Monolith

We open on Gloucestershire in 1800s England, a Hellfire Club-like gathering (impossible as Fox owns the rights, but wouldn’t that just be cool all the same?), where they force a young gentleman into a room with the monolith. It of course it melts and takes him away. Cue opening credits. What a weird and wonderful way to die and/or pursue science. This is only the opening of what amounts to a pretty solid episode with a beginning, middle, and end, with very little subplot debris. I like it.


The Monolith is of course the ancient Kree relic the Agents found last season, a point of contention in the war with the Inhumans. It was also what ate Agent Jemma Simmons in the closing horrific seconds of last season. Speaking of last seconds, it should be noted that Simmons was not so much eaten, as transported across the universe to a weird inhospitable blue planet as seen at the end of last episode. Fitz, in his tantrum, has determined, with the discovery of sand – alien sand – that the monolith is a portal, and now that he has, nothing is going to stop him from finding Simmons.

Children and Parents

Coulson has got Hunter hunting down Ward and what’s left of Hydra. While Ward is collecting members and financial backing, Hunter tries to recruit May. That financial backing is… dun dun duh… the son of Baron Von Strucker. I like that the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron keep getting referenced, especially this particular loose end. Ultron killed off Strucker far too easily in the movie. It’s good that his son at least might get some play here.

Melinda May is chilling with her dad in Sun City, Arizona. Good old James Hong. Just seeing him on even the small screen makes me want to pull out the Big Trouble in Little China DVD and watch it right now. Hong plays his usual wise and cagey old man to his daughter, imparting wisdom even when it is unwanted. May insists she’s out, but they’re pulling her back in. She’ll be back in the fold before too long definitely. Interesting that May spent time separately with her mom, her dad, and even with her ex-husband. Couple this with her sloppiness using payphones, I wonder if she’s gone a little soft?

The Berserker

For the mission into the Monolith, Coulson tries to recruit the Asgardian berserker, Professor Randolph. He’s different now, but so is Coulson, but not in the way May is different. Both a little darker, a little stronger, and desperate to get what they want. Coulson actually threatens him pretty solidly. I wonder if he would have dared do the same with Lady Sif. Heck, I wonder if she’ll even be back – “Blindspot” is getting some fairly substantial praise, even though I didn’t like it personally.


I did like Randolph’s joke about Asgardians being able to hold their drink, and then he tried to hold all the drinks, this landing him in an appropriately Norse jail. Coulson reasons that if they’re going through a portal, he wants someone who’s been through portals before – an Asgardian. There is a chill in the air however that with all the Inhuman and alien hysteria, even an Asgardian berserker wants to keep a low profile. He is a help, as he identifies a symbol with the Monolith to one from an English castle he once visited centuries ago.

Castle Vibe

Wouldn’t it be cool if this was Garrett Castle of the Black Knight mythos? Now that the series has finally embraced it’s super-powered roots in this third season, why not link in at least hints to another Avenger into the mix? Speaking of Avengers, is anyone else getting the sense that Mockingbird is just hanging around because the writers neither expected her to be here because of her proposed spin-off (which apparently may be on again as opposed to off) nor know what to do with the character now? With May gone, we need Mockingbird more than ever. And yeah, Skye/Daisy/Quake has powers, but she can’t kick ass the old-fashioned way like May or Morse.


In a sub-basement of the castle, they find a Victorian lab workshop that might or might not power the monolith portal. They soon discover the purpose in the machine. Although the machinery breaks down – it is over a century old – Fitz figures out how it works. Just like the Flash spinning his way from Earth-One to Earth-Two, the key to travel through this monolithic portal is vibrational frequency. Good thing they have Skye/Daisy/Quake handy.

Love on Hala

Of course instead of sending through the remote probe, Fitz jumps right through. There is some serious tension in this final scene here, some great television. I opened this review talking about faithful viewers. Those who have given up on this series, it’s better than ever, and you don’t know what you’re missing. Catch up, it’s worth it.


My only worry with this ending is what may be coming. We spent the second season with a new determined Simmons and a broken Fitz. Have the roles now reversed? And how long will it take to fix this? Hopefully not an entire season. And what did she see on Hala? Yeah, I’m still betting it’s Hala, the Kree homeworld.

Bits of Agent Business

Director Coulson’s hand attachments remind me, not for the first time of 1970s action figure Mike Power the Atomic Man from the old G.I. Joes. I really hope as time goes by, he gets some really cool, non-normal looking ones, you know, something to do the spy genre and Hasbro proud. Also as Daisy, along with Mack and Garner, tries to build her new team, the term ‘Secret Warriors’ is dropped for the first time. More to come…


Ex-Agent Grant Ward continues to demonstrate the mad fighting skills that made him such a good Agent back in the day when he was a ‘good Agent,’ although laced with a brutality that underlies his true calling. If Hydra is coming back, they might just be that much more dangerous with a leader who takes an active hand in things as opposed to just sitting back and barking orders. Our heroes are in big trouble down the line…

Next: “A Wanted (Inhu)Man”

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