Admittedly, this feels a little by-the-numbers - Simmons got her big drama, so it's time for Fitz to have his - but his double act with Ward was entertaining enough to mostly ignore that kind of quibble. Ward's always been a little dull and bland; pairing him with someone new, especially in the form of automatic door-botherer Fitz, seems like a wise move to keep him interesting. (And seriously, can we talk about Fitz and the automatic doors and how we've all been there? It was joyful).
The actual mission seems a little beside the point. The duo were called up to dismantle a device called Overkill (really), which could trigger all sorts of weapons by creating sonic vibrations. But the actual disabling was all over very quickly and not too interesting; instead, this was really about the journey, and about Fitz proving himself to Ward, and about Simmons and Fitz and their sweet connection, and about a sandwich.
I had a few problems too with the duo's eventual salvation; they're facing a huge group of very angry men with guns, who hold off from shooting just long enough for The Bus to arrive and save them. It's over so quickly that we don't even see them climbing into the plane. But again, that's not really the point of the episode, which mostly seems to be: 'SHIELD is totally messed up'.
The visit to The Hub was fun enough - oh hi, Victoria Hand and Jasper Sitwell! - but I was left with an uneasy feeling about the whole institution. It started with the oft-repeated phrase "Trust the system", which just had too much of a ring of the robotic "it's a magical place" for me. Incidentally, even Coulson doesn't have the security clearance to find out what's going on with him. I can't help but have something of a bad taste in my mouth about SHIELD right now - sure, our guys are good guys, but to some extent they have to follow the rules.
This is the basis for the bulk of the rest of the episode; Coulson and May are all for doing everything by the book (they would be - they have Level Eight clearance), but that's not good enough for Skye, who wants to know the details of Fitz and Ward's mission. I've always defended Skye as a character, but this week she verged into irritating for me. Why is she surprised that she can't know everything? Has she never heard of security clearance? Can she just not follow how her knowing things could be bad for everyone, especially given that she was intensely untrustworthy only a couple of episodes ago?
Still, while her stubborn tantrums bugged me, at least her bad girl persona rubbed off on Simmons ("This is actually a bit thrilling!"). Just as it was fun watching Fitz come into his own in the field, it was massively entertaining seeing Simmons utterly fail at being sleuthy. Skye tries to guide her through a pretty simple hacking operation, only for her to openly talk on comms, get flustered, and shoot Sitwell. Success.
Of course, the duo are successful enough that Skye can figure out that there's no extraction plan in place for Fitz and Ward; something Coulson himself was also kept in the dark about. His angry confrontation with Hand at this point was good to watch, in the sense that Clark Gregg is great at being incensed. But I hope that now he knows details about his own recovery are being kept confidential, he will begin to question his superiors a little more, because it's all just a little too creepy so far. We know that he is already wrangling with these dilemmas, courtesy of his weird little tai chi chat with May (I loved her rolled eyes), but maybe now he realises how much he's personally being affected, things will start to move into action.
For now, that seems like a storyline Agents of SHIELD is willing to drag out a little longer, just as it is doing with Skye's genealogy. At least there were some intriguing developments; not only did Skye try to find out about her records before searching for Ward and Fitz's mission (so much for doing it for the team), but Coulson dug deep to find out that a SHIELD agent left her at the orphanage. He knows why, but he's not telling us just yet. Who is Skye? What happened? And why was May tutting over pictures of what looked like a woman murdered in a crime scene?
Not everything was perfect about this, of course; Skye hugging Coulson in gratitude at the tiny scrap of information he gave her felt a little forced and corny. But at least we're on the road to discovery with Skye, and hopefully it will be something dramatic enough to make the journey worthwhile. I know Agents of SHIELD hasn't been what everyone had hoped for, but I'm still finding it an entertaining hour of television each week, with plenty of clever, funny lines and action scenes, and thoughtful moments. For now, I'm still totally on board.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know below!