Tying Agents of SHIELD so closely into the Marvel Cinematic Universe has advantages and disadvantages: although it puts it quite definitely at the whim of those creating the larger budget stories, the upside is that it can attract some of the cinematic characters into ongoing storylines – as Lady Sif has done a couple of times, and as we see in this episode, some of HYDRA’s high command making an appearance.
We know that HYDRA has been experimenting with powered people ever since the post-credits of The Winter Soldier, and that takes centre stage in the ongoing SHIELD series here, as Coulson and his allies – which, to Fitz’s disgust, have to include Grant Ward – try to get to the heart of the organisation. Age of Ultron picks up some of these aspects, so hopefully SHIELD won’t just get left with tidying things up, as it did post-Winter Soldier, and we see Phil Coulson and whatever team he’s working with (the end of episode throws yet another wrench into the works regarding his plans) actually achieving their goals. Having Brett Dalton back in the fray – and with Ward no longer having to hide his more psychopathic tendencies – works well.
Alongside SHIELD vs HYDRA, we’ve also got the ongoing Skye (or Daisy Johnson as we should perhaps properly refer to her) plotline, which seems to be treading water – yes, things have changed since Cal was last in his home town, we get it… and at least we got a very brief Skye and Coulson scene.
Verdict: It’s not clear if pieces are being moved around to set up Age of Ultron or SHIELD’s own end of season run leading to a rather unsatisfying episode. 6/10