There are a lot of metaphors that describe the sort of television episode that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. aired tonight. Table setting. Domino erecting. Chess piece moving. You know. The thing you do when you there’s something else you really want to do but can’t do cold because things aren’t where you need them to be just yet.
Television shows do this a lot. Sometimes it’s a necessary evil—unless you’re one of those fancy streaming shows with every episode launching at once, an episode of television has a whole lot of work to do. You have to account for scheduling, and remind people of the important stuff they may have forgotten for the week or two the show was off the air. You have to think about entertaining people who haven’t been keeping up, while not boring those who have. You have to construct a satisfying, hour-long narrative, but make sure it contributes to whatever ongoing arcs it may be juggling.
Television is hard.
“… Ye Who Enter Here” isn’t the best episode of AoS this season, mostly because it has all this work to do in advance of next week’s Winter Finale, and it’s alternately really eager and really hesitant to get there. The show has all this stuff it wants to tell us, but there isn’t enough plot to spool it out over. So you get an uneven episode, one that would come closest to being the second season’s most skippable episode thus far if it weren’t for everything else in it being absolutely great—the fight scenes, the banter, and a few crazy revelations.
But yes. The plot.
Most of this week’s action follows two stories: Coulson, instead of taking the whole gang straight to the city, is forced to send Skye, May, Trip, and Hunter off on their own when he learns that Rayna is being hunted by Hydra thanks to Patton Oswalt as the Brothers Koenig. This is the least interesting plotline (it feels like wheel-spinning) but easily the most entertaining because it comes with some wicked cool fight scenes and Patton Oswalt’s creepy how-many-of-you-are-there schtick is really funny this time around—he complements the team, and doesn’t feel like a stunt.
The second major plotline is the most interesting, but the also the least entertaining to watch. You think it’d be exciting—finally! The City! (Totally Attilan, by the way). But it actually just ends up with Coulson and Morse hanging out around Old San Juan waiting for the episode’s final act to start—which is great, but you know, it comes 50 minutes into the episode.
You see? Table setting.
Team Skye’s mission to extract Rayna is a pretty straightforward affair: They find her and are promptly attacked by Agent 33. Because of the wrecked disguise she used when we saw her last, Agent 33 now has May’s face, but with serious scarring where the mask was burned in her fight with May—which, by the way, doesn’t the safe house 33 attacks Skye in look an awful like the same apartment May fought 33 in last time? Or is it just me?
Either way, Skye gets her first really big fight scene, and it is fantastic—I’ve commented on this before, but it bears repeating—Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has gotten very good at action, and the close quarters combat on display here is genuinely very fun to watch. Skye eventually gets the better of Agent 33 with a little help from Hunter, and Rayna figures out why Hydra is after her—Whitehall has the Diviner. She then tries to escape with Hydra, but then May hits the Hydra goons that come after her with a van, so Hydra loses this time—unfortunately for Team Skye, they also know S.H.I.E.L.D. has a tracer on Rayna, and they plan on trying to crack it.
During all this, Coulson and Morse are walking around Old San Juan and not really doing anything besides pronouncing tostones wrong.
NEXT: Time to drop some knowledge.