It’s a manhunt on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Lincoln on the run is a pretty pathetic situation, until he finds an electrical tower and really puts his inhuman abilities to work. All is forgiven, though, as the resulting electrical shower might be the most visually satisfying image in this show.
There’s a lot to love in this episode, but the high point is watching Simmons readjust to life back on good ‘ole planet Earth. Her body is quite predictably out of sync with our world, and as promised there are some heavy recovery episodes ahead. Still, the most interesting thing is how the show is portraying her new inability to cope with what was once routine. She talks several times about there being too many distractions; too much information for her to process now that she’s not alone and focusing on survival. The production shows this problem in one of the smartest ways I’ve ever seen. They pull us into Simmons’ stimuli overload with her. How many times have any of us been in a quiet room and a cell phone vibrates? Having such an innocuous thing interrupt our day unexpectedly can be jarring, and—if you’re like me and have a tendency to misplace your phone—a bit panic-inducing. So it’s not a far leap for us to understand how Simmons may feel overwhelmed when such interruptions break into the bubble of calm she is desperately trying to cling to. It’s a really impressive device for letting us feel her tension just a little bit more. It’s a tension that’s not going to leave her anytime soon as even though there was no animal life on planet X, she still felt she was being hunted. Sorry, felt? No I’m pretty sure she feels that even now.
Speaking of hunted, let’s talk about Hunter and his unfortunate fashion choices. No seriously, where did that jacket come from? I know you’re undercover, but dude… It balances out in the end because May and her Blondie tank top are pretty much the definition of perfection. And why are they dressed so out of character? They’re undercover, infiltrating the ranks of Hydra via Hunter’s old contact, Spud. Spud played by Dan Feuerriegel. If you spent his scenes wondering where you’ve seen that guy before, you probably remember him as Agron on Showtime’s Spartacus series. Either that, or the Australian soap opera McLeod’s Daughters because, you know, two kinds of people…
And Spud’s kind of people are apparently super violent Hydra agents. Hydra officers? Hydra-philes? Hydrants? Whatever they’re going by these days, the only way in is through Hydra’s very own fight club. It’s pointed out that May probably would have faired better at this than Hunter, but after getting over the surprise of having to fight Spud (and taking off their undershirts because that’s how we know this just got serious), Bobbi’s snarky Brit holds his own. And May’s reasons for not fighting make a lot of sense. A petite Asian woman beating up a giant brick wall of a man would certainly get back to Ward much more quickly than she and Hunter could ever hope to rise up the Hydra ranks. It’s a sentiment echoed later when May is forced to defend herself from what is pretty clearly about to become sexual assault. While usually I’m not a fan of just throwing this kind of situation into an episode for the heightened tension (because, while it absolutely makes us nervous for May’s safety, it’s statistically guaranteed to bring up anxiety of a much more personal nature for some viewers) the show handles it pretty well. May takes her three attackers out without breaking a sweat and to make sure it stays quiet, points out how embarrassing it would be for others to know a petite Asian woman had taken them down. Way to use their pride against them, May. That would be some down and dirty spy craft right there.
So while Hunter and May infiltrate Hydra like the skilled super spies they are, Lincoln seems to have trouble just blending in with normal human beings. Sure it doesn’t help that Rosalind and the ATCU have plastered his photo all over the news, calling him violent and dangerous. Funny. In that photo, he doesn’t look dangerous. Unless by dangerous, you mean dangerously close to being cast in an ABC medical drama. Lincoln, seriously, I hear Grey’s Anatomy is hiring. Based on his lackluster display of survival skills tonight, I just don’t think Lincoln is going to make it to the end of the season. Pulling an Emperor Palpatine on a bus is bad enough, but going to your AA sponsor who is being played by that guy who always ends up betraying people for the “right” reasons? I think we all knew where this was going from the moment you got in that car, Lincoln. Goodbye, John, you will be missed. Maybe try not to betray your friends in the next role you’re cast in.
It all circles back to Daisy in the end. Or rather, Phil and Daisy and Rosalind. First, am I the only one who thinks they want to develop a bit of flirty-flirty antagonist-protagonist tension between Coulson and Rosalind? I can’t be the only one seeing this, right? The man checked out her car. That means something.
What it really all boils down to is that the ATCU needs to show results and they’ll do that either by taking Lincoln or Daisy. In classic Coulson fashion that means “Bye Bye Lincoln”—except Lincoln escapes. Looks like they’ll just take Daisy after all—except Coulson’s got the one thing they need more: Coulson. Once again, we watch Phil make a deal with the devil to protect one of his own, and while I really admire this trait in our fearless leader, I’m getting a little tired of it always being Daisy. Daisy, I need you to pull yourself together and just be the slightest bit less reckless. Superheroing is all fun and games until the person closest to you self-sacrifices one too many times. Just ask Cap. Or Tony. Or Wanda. At some point it stops ending well.
There are other things about tonight’s episode that are applause worthy. May’s reveal that Andrew ultimately ended their relationship was played with just enough subtlety that you could have missed it, subtitles for a drunk Hunter and Spud were pretty inspired, and while we didn’t see much of Bobbi, her physical therapy scene with Fitz is a great example of how to incorporate off camera story development.
Oh yeah, Fitz. His restaurant scene with Simmons tonight is one part adorable to two parts heartbreaking. Even with all their trauma, it’s great to see these two characters falling back into their old groove. The beauty of the FitzSimmons relationship really cannot be exaggerated. It’s a balancing act. They support each other, reach out to each other, and respect each other equally. It’s a pretty idealized version of a friends-to-lovers relationship as the show resolutely avoids creating a power imbalance between the two just to drag out tension. No relationship (even on TV) is perfect and I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before cracks begin to show. Still if the earlier electrical shower is the show’s most visually satisfying moment, it’s safe to say that Fitz and Simmons sitting side by side in an empty restaurant, may just go down as the most emotionally satisfying one.
Katherine Siegel is a Chicago-based freelance writer and director and a regular contributor to Paste. You can find out more by checking out her website, or follow her on Twitter.