Review: ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Weaves ‘Many Heads, One Tale’ Into Apocalyptic Marvel Mystery
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Many Heads, One Tale”:
The breakneck pace of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 already outed and captured Andrew as Lash within an episode of that particular twist’s introduction, so it isn’t any surprise that “Many Heads, One Tale” would move equally quickly to set up some new arcs, or at least connect the existing ones in a meaningful way. We only have a few episodes left in 2015 after all, until Agent Carter Season 2 steps in and pushes whatever endgame our present-day Agents have to play until March.
It’s no accident that tonight’s hour opened with a Ward-centric sequence either, the Nu-Hydra arc ranking among the least effective of Season 3 stories thus far. Agents wants to envision ward as its Spike, a breakout bad guy too charismatic to shuffle off, but no amount of bad boy stubble or fight scene, however unrelenting as our opener, can cultivate any meaningful place for the character since Season 1. The introduction of Powers Boothe’s Gideon Malick, however, brings a great deal more gravitas to a surviving Hydra, smartly reeling in Ward to a more mystery-based tale than straight revenge.
Not only that, but the amendment of Hydra’s goals into worship of the mysterious “Death” entity succeeds in directly tying together the ongoing ATCU investigation, as well as Fitz and Simmons’ research into the alien world, which until now had largely served as a point of contention for more personal issues. There was always the likelihood that the “Death” figure would return, and more likely somehow attached to Will, but it’s still a solid dovetail that also illuminates the entity as some sort of Apocalypse-esque ancient Inhuman.
There were a lot of strong elements in play tonight overall, and it was hard enough to get through all of that without the requisite squee* over Fitz and Simmons’ first kiss, one specific culmination of a relationship that really has become one of the more thoughtful, layered TV portrayals of friendship and love in years. There’s so much relatable complication hanging over a triangle with one corner galaxies away, and it’s a wonderful subversion of cliché that Simmons is the one to reach a boiling point at Fitz’s unconditional aid in returning his romantic competition. After all, it’s Simmons who has to make the choice to break one man’s heart, especially if neither displays enough petulance to make the judgement for her.
*Romantic chemistry proves notoriously difficult to feign, and it’s easy enough to hear the writers’ hesitance in Fitz’s diatribe against the cosmos keeping them apart, even amid understandable back-and-forth of their poor respective timing in prior seasons. I don’t know that the duo’s first kiss felt as passionate and cathartic as it should, but Simmons’ plea that “You dove through a hole in the universe for me” should rightly light up Tumblr tonight.
“Many Heads, One Tale” also got to have its cake, and eat it by the other major romance of the hour, revealing that while a portion of the ATCU indeed nefariously spread Terrigen rather than cure it, Rosalind herself wasn’t aware of her own group’s betrayal. It also proved that Coulson wasn’t entirely compromised by the relationship, to have had some design of the romance making it easier for S.H.I.E.L.D. to infiltrate its rival, itself a fun bit of procedural spywork that gave Bobbi and Hunter some strong action and humor beats. S.H.I.E.L.D. frequently excels at spotlighting teamwork, seen tonight between Skye feeding Hunter tech jargon, while May and Lincoln served as evac and Coulson somewhat savagely prodded Ros to come clean about the ATCU’s after-hours activities.
It isn’t hyperbole to suggest that Agents has enjoyed some incredible improvement with its third season, to the point that I’d worry the upcoming break slows its sense of momentum, but tonight’s hour served as a strong re-positioning all the same. Not only has the Lash arc managed to stealthily tie together all three of the major storylines this season (“Many Heads, One Tale,” I get it!), but we also have a few new juicy Marvel mysteries to ponder in the meantime.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- Between the ram’s head symbol evolving into the Hydra logo, and this Age of Ultron Easter egg, I’m not unconvinced we’re building toward an Angel crossover.
- Said it once, I’ll say it again. We in no way need a Skye-Lincoln romance. Lincoln was the most interesting he’s been as partner to a remorseful May, so maybe lean into that instead?
- “The only spies I know without trust issues are either young, or dead.”
- Hi, Nelson Franklin!
- Sorry, Mr. Robot made the Ashley Madison reference to beat.
- Issues with Ward aside, terrifying that flight attendant and pulling the airplane door was pretty menacing.
- So Bobbi has batons that return magnetically? This is a confusing element to introduce in a fight with a telekinetic.
- Not sure how I feel about the retcon of Hydra mythology, but it isn’t as if the movies are in any place to contradict it.
- Any thoughts on this ancient Inhuman fella?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return December 1 on ABC with “Closure.”
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