It occasionally feels like Daisy in season three has been somewhat relegated to the background after two seasons of being almost the central character. That gets rectified to an extent in this episode, as we see her lead her first mission with her own hand-picked team of Inhumans, and come to grips with the challenges as well as the privileges that come with leadership.
It’s certainly a change of pace from the last episode – sure, we open with a glorious sequence as the Inhumans are called up from their daily lives and initiate an action-packed rescue, but this is really only the appetizer. The main course which follows is a deliciously twisty and tense thriller, as paranoia gets ramped up amongst both the Secret Warriors themselves and the rest of the team. The fact that the show keeps you guessing right up until its final reveal, having spun out the question in a way that feels neither overdone nor intrusive is impressive stuff, and I can honestly say that when that reveal comes, I was shocked.
There’s a lot to like here character-wise, from the budding relationship between Mack and ‘Yo Yo’ to the final, oh-my-god-it’s-so-overdue progress of Fitz and Simmons’ relationship. There’s interrogations, double-crosses and triple crosses and a main villain who finally feels like the HYDRA we expect as well as the sort of adversary that a team like SHIELD would demand. The Hive has plans which are obscure even to its most trusted confidantes, and it’s clear that Brett Dalton is relishing his role as enigmatic but extremely powerful bad guy.
All too soon though, that reveal comes, and the episode leaves us reeling and wanting to know exactly how this new twist will play out. The sting is actually fairly disappointing by comparison, amounting to little more than a recount of facts we already know (because we just saw them) and a bit of chin-stroking by Hive. It feels like a let-down in context of an otherwise compelling and tightly-written episode, almost as if the writers felt that they had to have a sting and just threw any old thing out to pad out that allotted thirty seconds. It’s a minor gripe though – this is easily the best episode of the show to date, and we can only hope that they are able to match it as we march towards the finale.
Verdict: Everything that SHIELD should be distilled into an almost flawless hour, let down only by a final sting that feels more afterthought than genuine tee-up. 9/10
Greg D. Smith