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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – S3E2 – Purpose in the Machine

Previously on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ‘Laws of Nature’

Starring: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennett, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Nick Blood, Adrianne Palicki, Henry Simmons | Director: Kevin Tancharoen


Gloucestershire, England, 1839.

Nine gentleman in stuffy formal attire stand around a dinner table, passing around a satin and retrieving its contents. The men turn their hands palm up to reveal black stones; unfortunately for the dapper lad in the corner he grabbed a white stone, and was immediately pressed into service. Given a rapier, top hat and a satchel full of unknown items, the nervous volunteer is escorted to a door with a mysterious glyph etched into the wood. The lords quickly secure it behind him as the noble patsy is face-to-face with the Monolith itself.

“Will he come back,” asks a foppish dandy.

No one needs a Magic 8-Ball to know the Monolith Express is a one way trip to nowhere in particular. …or is it?


Daisy and Mack discuss Joey’s status as a potential Secret Warrior, a decision that rests on the recommendations of Dr. Andrew Garner (Blair Underwood). Y’know, May’s kinda sorta hubby! Naturally, Mack has concerns about Inhumans but Daisy wants to get her team up and running. With Simmons MIA, Bobbi on IR and May on indefinite leave, personnel is a bit thin. Suddenly, Morse and Hunter run in to warn the two Fitz has compromised containment and pounding his frustrations out on the Monolith. Wait, that doesn’t… read well… nevermind.

The four pull Fitz out in time and close the unit just as the Monolith “liquefies” to transport another sad sap into oblivion. Coulson is ready to chew Fitz’s head off but they all sympathize with the poor guy. Leo unintentionally discovers a clue on himself thanks to Bobbi and races to the lab to have it analyzed.

The proof Fitz has been looking for is nothing more than run-of-the-mill sand, but it has the distinct quality of being five BILLION years old. Seeing as the sample is older than anything on earth, Fitz postulates the silica transferred from wherever Jemma is trapped. Therefore the Monolith must be a portal across space-time and Simmons is still very much alive. Coulson – lovable buzzkill that he is – reminds Fitz that it’s been months since Jemma disappeared and she could be as dead as disco on Planet X.

That possibility, however, is not stopping anyone from finding out for themselves.

Coulson, Fitz, and Morse will begin the initial search for more data about the Monolith, Daisy and Mack will stay on base to assist Dr. Garner with his assessments, and Lance? Well, Hunter’s gonna Hunter and go after Ward.


Slowly yet steadily, Ward has been restoring HYDRA from the ground up with recruits and soldiers hungry to prove themselves. For some of the old guard, their obstinance and avarice require lessons in humility. Ward is teaching his latest student Carmine by zigging and zagging through an abandoned warehouse with him on the hood of a convertible. Ward espouses his grand plan for HYDRA to Kebo (Daz Crawford), calling for a “leaner generation” with a stronger dedication to their goals. The ride mercifully ends for Carmine but not before he’s surrounded by the new blood and Ward threateningly asks him “Where is the kid?”


Coulson is trading barbs with Professor Elliot Randolph (from way back in season one’s “The Well”), who refuses to help SHIELD investigate the origins of the Monolith. Randolph prefers to keep a low profile considering all that’s happened during Phase II, plus he likes being served food and having all the books he could read. Well shit, sign me up for a stay in a Norwegian prison! Yeah, just kidding… kinda. Coulson gets Randolph’s attention by alluding to the idea of informing other agencies of his location so they could take him apart for study. For science! With no other choice but to tag along, Randolph releases himself from his cell and tells the guards to fit the bill on Phil.


Dr. Garner arrives on base, welcomed by Mack and Daisy. Rather than jump on Garner’s back and ask why he continues to drag his feet on approving anyone for her team, Daisy tries to butter him up with offers of refreshment. That doesn’t last long as she demands to know why Garner is taking his sweet time, and when May is coming back to fight the good fight. Garner replies matter-of-factly, “You should ask her yourself” then drops the mic in the hangar before tending to his duties.

Images: ABC

Images: ABC

Speaking of May, she appears to be having a grand time working on her golf swing in Sun City, Arizona. That is, if her doting father William (James Hong) would stop critiquing her technique. Their time on the driving range is respite for both of them: For May, a means of relaxation; for Dad, rehab after hip surgery. Her father suspects something is amiss with May (yeah, maybe a couple things Pops) but isn’t trying to push matters.

Back at HQ, Randolph is assessing the Monolith and its erratic shifting from solid to liquid and back. Intrigued though he may be, Elliot has no clue why they want him around. “I’m no interstellar travel expert. I’ve never studied gravitational lensing or zero-point energy fields or quantum harmonic oscillation theory!” Boy, shut up. You’re qualified as hell. Professor Randolph reluctantly becomes part of the team, mainly because Amazon Woman and Robot Hand say so. Elliot issues one demand: the Monolith must be destroyed. A condition Coulson absolutely agrees with, whether they succeed or not.

Bobbi hands Randolph the parchment Fitz acquired last week; Randolph immediately recognizes the Hebrew symbol and claims to have seen it carved in a castle in Gloucestershire England in 1853. “TO THE PLANE!” Elliot shouts. “…am I allowed to say that?” I have to admit the Professor is growing on me a little. Only a smidgen.


Meanwhile in Ibiza Spain, Ward and Kebo scout a boat that’s owned by “The Kid”. Once more Grant waxes philosophic about rich folk, in particular the contrary lifestyle of sedentary maritime enthusiasts. Naturally… While the Kid is entertaining his guests, Kebo sneaks on to the lower deck and releases a duffle bag full of rats. Rats on a boat?! GROSS. The only thing that can be done now is burn the whole thing into the ocean. It’s an effective plan however, as it clears the yacht of the partygoers and gives Ward the opportunity to make short work of his bodyguards.

The team arrives at the dilapidated castle in Gloucestershire, where Randolph recounts the costume party that was quite lively in 1853. There was a giant owl and fire dancers… No one really cares as they search for more clues. Coulson easily finds another symbol and pushes the correct brick (is his robot arm psychically attuned?) to access a hidden chamber.


Back at the base, Daisy continues to harass Dr. Garner for not rushing any of the new Inhumans into active duty (which seems super irrational and inconsiderate). Andrew is not without sympathy and understanding as he’s watched the news about the growing Inhuman “threat” and the ATCU. “All these people that are transformed have the potential to be monsters.” In explaining why she feels a reason to hasten the Secret Warriors, Garner recognizes that she is walking a path similar to her mother’s, and we all remember how well that turned out.

At the May residence, Melinda is chopping up veggies like they owe her child support. William shares with her a box of memories he found while cleaning out the house. As the two reminisce about her childhood, May catches a shadow darting across the draped windows. She opens the door to greet her old associate Hunter with a knife to his throat. When the woman wants her privacy, the woman REALLY wants her privacy.


Coulson, Bobbi, Fitz, and Randolph enter a secret laboratory that’s a fairly new installation to the Gloucestershire castle. Morse remarks that it reminds her of “the bunker under the Louvre”, which puts Elliot into a tizzy. The four activate the equipment in the lab and discover its purpose is to control and stabilize the Monolith. Coulson calls Mack and orders him to load ol’ Stoney on Zephyr One.

The Kid – now bound in the HYDRA stronghold – is given an ultimatum by Ward to either give him access to his bank accounts, or lose his teeth, eyes and other extremities in the process.

May and Hunter have a tense conversation outside of her father’s home; Lance hopes to enlist Melinda’s services to eliminating Ward once and for all. She declines and intends to assist dear old dad with his rehabilitation. Hunter, well versed in her father’s medical history, alludes that the hit and run he suffered could have been HYDRA’s doing. May suspects as much and still declines his offer.

Before Lance departs, he gives Melinda an open invite to a gun drop in case she changes her mind. Knowing how paranoid she is now, the opportunity to strike at HYDRA may never come again. “Next time it won’t be me outside your window.”


Zephyr One installs the Monolith into the lab while Randolph and Fitz make the proper adjustments. Mack and Daisy arrive to lend a helping hand; the latter is now sporting a perma-pout because the Doc Garner said that she’s reckless. Fitz activates the machine and it causes the Monolith to revert to its liquid state. Its activation has unintended consequences to Daisy who suffers the mother of all migraines. Before things get any worse, the machine breaks apart and the Monolith returns to solid form.

Fitz goes manic knowing the Monolith can be turned on, regrettably at the expense of Daisy’s safety.


Kebo is putting The Kid through the ringer, believing he’s close to getting access to his accounts. Having no more of Kebo’s shit, the Kid unleashes his inner Jason Bourne and stabs him with a pin and attempts to cave his head in with an cast iron paper trimmer. Ward rolls in with soda in hand (because Ward) and admits he knew who the Kid was all along: Werner Von Strucker. Son of Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, Ward appeases to Werner’s dark nature to make a name for himself within the leaner, meaner HYDRA. If that won’t do it, well… there are the tacos.


William shares a whiskey and his opinion with May about her staycation. Obviously he loves her and enjoys spending time with his daughter, yet Dad knows May isn’t completely out of the spy game. William decides to impart a heartfelt anecdote to Melinda about her perseverance that he’s witnessed since the age of 7: no matter how hard she fell, she always got up.



Rather than fix the decaying components of a 19th century machine, Fitz experiences massive brainwave and intends to use Daisy to activate the Monolith one more time. A camera and sensor are mounted and ready to enter the portal but Leo has other plans and JUMPS IN TO FIND JEMMA HIMSELF.

Boy Genius lands head first in the middle of a sand storm, yelling out for Jemma in every direction. Amazingly, it does the trick as the two manage to find each other in the midst of a harsh tempest. Things aren’t faring well in Gloucestershire as Daisy is seconds from unconsciousness and the entire lab is near collapse.

In the most tension-filled moment of the “Purpose in the Machine”, Fitz loses and regains Simmon’s grip while being dragged back to earth. As Leo and Jemma barely touch fingertips for the third damn time, the Monolith explodes! WHAT! WHY! Stop messing with my feelings, show!

Coulson, Mack and Randolph stare worriedly down the well, as there’s nothing but a pile of rubble. Thinking the worst, something moves under the foam debris stone remnants and Fitz emerges! Did he… could she… she is! Simmons is saved from her perilous experiences on Planet X!


Simmons is resting comfortably on Zephyr One while Professor Randolph exhibits concern for Daisy and her Inhuman ilk. Dr. Garner calls May to spread the good news of Jemma’s return, however she now has other plans with Hunter to take on HYDRA.

Jemma awakens with a sharpened stick in hand, apparently haunted by the vicious beasts she encountered for months on end. Once Jemma realizes she’s back home in the safety of SHIELD, Simmons crawls out of bed and rests against her sleeping Fitz.


Back at university, Dr. Garner is chased down by an eager student requesting a transfer in his psych class. “You know why most people take psych, right? They’re trying to figure out their families.” Werner smiles, “You wouldn’t believe how messed up mine is.”

Agents of SHIELD S3E2
  • 7/10
    Plot - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Dialogue - 8/10
  • 6/10
    Action - 6/10
  • 10/10
    Performances - 10/10


A well-rounded episode, “Purpose in the Machine” provided a great deal of progression in regards to establishing the leadership skills of Daisy and Ward, respectively. The addition of the younger Von Strucker should provide a level of complexity to Hunter and May’s manhunt for HYDRA; it won’t be a simple run and gun but a chess match that could cost both sides valuable pieces.Thankfully viewers won’t have to wait half the season to witness Fitz and Simmons’ reunion. Jemma’s reintegration into SHIELD and society in general will assuredly be a difficult – yet entertaining – process. Expect Fitz to be invaluable companion for the traumatized Simmons, given the adversity he faced last season.

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About Rexlor Graymond (493 Articles)
Rex Graymond is 24.6kg tripolymer composite, 11.8kg beryllium-nickel-titanium alloy. Constructed in Northern California. Loves comics and films almost as much as pancakes. ALMOST.
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