“You should be thanking me”
Was it just me, or was this one of the best episodes of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ so far? Sure, Season 3 has already been full of twists and turns, but in ‘Many Heads, One Tale’ the twist felt like it had been coming for a long time. Remember when the show had just started and the hashtag #ItsAllConnected was used to promote it? That hashtag finally made sense at the end of this episode. There were a few retcons here and there, but nothing that felt overly contrived or nonsensical. Plus, the build-up to the end reveal was ‘AoS’ at its very best as well!
I was not a big fan of Ward trying to bring back HYDRA. Come on, we’ve been there and done that, not just in ‘AoS’, but in the two Captain America films as well! We’ve been through it so many times that I thought even Ward’s spin on the group could not be anything totally different. Sure, the HYDRA storyline has provided us with entertainment (Hunter’s ‘Fight Club’ experience, for example), and the beginning of ‘Many Heads, One Tale’ gave us another short and sweet fight scene, this time with Ward. He easily took care of Gideon Malik’s henchmen after Malik refused to give Ward the location of Von Strucker’s family vault.
“Stop trying to do all the right things”
And what was in the vault? At the end of the episode, we would find out…Ward tracked down the location of the vault, but found Malik there. Malik opened up a safe to reveal…a piece of the Monolith! This intertwined with SHIELD’s infiltration of the ATCU and Fitz’s research into the Ram’s Head symbol found on Simmons’ astronaut. In a great sequence of editing and quick cuts between both Malik/Ward and HYDRA, it was revealed that the Red Skull didn’t create HYDRA…it’s been going for centuries! Simmons showed us pictures of the Ram’s Head symbol over the years…until it turned upside down into the HYRDA symbol we are all so familiar with! Malik told Grant that once upon a time, a great Inhuman was sent to that alien planet that Fitz landed on. HYDRA want to bring the Inhuman back, and is preparing an army of Inhumans to follow it…
Everything finally (almost) made sense! #ItsAllConnected! The Inhumans, HYDRA, the Monolith, the ACTU…all were driving towards this one destination. Not only was it a great reveal, but it was directed and edited exquisitely. The slow drip of information, the swapping between the two locations, the dramatic pauses before everything clicked…And, of course, SHIELD managed to bring Simmons back from the alien planet, and Malik wants Ward to find out how. Thus, they can bring back the great Inhuman and give him his army (and of course, you can always count on Powers Boothe for an immersive performance, and as ‘Malik’ her gave yet another one!)!
“Oh, cut the melodrama!”
A reveal can only be as good as its build, and this episode was pitched perfectly to end on a peak. Coulson’s intentions regarding Rosalind and the ATCU were revealed after Mac’s uncertainty about him. Coulson didn’t trust Rosalind, so he invited her to look around SHIELD so the rest of the team could infiltrate the ATCU. Admittedly, this plotline didn’t make sense; wouldn’t Rosalind notice that Coulson’s top agents aren’t around him? Wouldn’t this make her a little suspicious? It provoked a bit of head scratching from me. Surely Coulson could have kept a few of his top agents behind? Well, I suppose Fitz and Simmons were still in the building (which provided yet another highlight of the episode, as Simmons got angry with Fitz for not having any emotions. Fitz lashed out, but ended his angry rant with a kiss…).
However, the infiltration provided a great amount of enjoyment. There was Hunter’s ‘Mr.Robot’-style cover as a hacker, which came to pieces when he typed like an old man. Bobbi saved herself and broke out her twins batons (which now have a cool boomerang effect modification!) against an Inhuman telepath. But could he only move metal things? Regardless, it was a top-notch fight sequence. Not only that, but May revealed to Lincoln the reason behind her silence: she wanted to find the words to apologise to him for not stopping Lash/Garner before he killed Lincoln’s Inhuman friends. Truly, not a word or character was wasted in the entirety of the episode.
I’ve been unsure of Season 3’s direction up to this point. Sure, it’s been exciting and full of twists, but everything has happened thick and fast. Plotlines were rushed to their climax before they had chance to develop. But ‘Many Heads, One Tale’ interwove all of these plotlines into one climactic reveal with an expertise that I’ve rarely seen in ‘AoS.’ And what a climax it was! Indeed, it felt more like a mid-season cliffhanger than just another episode. ‘Many Heads, One Tale’ once again showed me why I watch ‘AoS’…but how will they build on this reveal? We can only stay tuned!
VERDICT: 9/10. ‘Many Heads, One Tale’ was a superb episode of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ that build to a climactic reveal that both surprised and thrilled. It turned everything about SHIELD on its head…but can the rest of the season fulfil this promise?