UnSHIELDed: "Agents of SHIELD" Heads to Infinity & Beyond as Inhuman Secrets Unfold

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has wasted no time picking up the pace this season; as the team successfully rescued Simmons from her extraterrestrial trip last night, the show also continued gearing up to expand the Inhumans mythology. With an Asgardian in tow, the episode dropped hints aplenty about just how far the reach of the Kree Empire may really extend.

When dealing with something as alien and dangerous as the monolith, even S.H.I.E.L.D.'s best are out of their depth, so they turned to Asgardian Elliot Randolph for help. With centuries' worth of experience and expertise in subjects humans don't yet even know exist, Randolph paves the way for informative exposition and answers. While he's able to provide the team with the Gloucestershire location of a contraption designed to utilize the mysterious obelisk/dimensional portal that "ate" Simmons, he also serves another, subtler purpose: laying the foundation for expanded Inhuman mythology. One moment in particular, which comes at the end of the episode and is over rather quickly, may just plant the seeds for the show's upcoming Inhuman storyline. After Randolph witnesses Daisy's display of power, he asks Coulson what she is; when Coulson responds "Inhuman," Randolph is immediately taken aback and says something along the lines of, "Now that is a word that I haven't heard in a very long time." While Randolph has been on Earth for a few centuries by this point, his statement and intonation imply that his knowledge of the Inhumans may actually come from before his tenure on Midgard.

"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Recap: A Show Torn Between Two Worlds

You might be wondering what the Inhumans, an ancient race currently entrenched across humanity, has to do with space. In the comics, the Inhumans have a long -- and not always pleasant -- history with the cosmos. For instance, in Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Marin and Jose Ladronn's "Inhuman" miniseries, they are are abducted by Ronan the Accuser, enslaved and used to halt an alliance between Spartax and the Shi'ar. The same miniseries explains that the Kree designed the Inhumans for the sole purpose of using them as weapons, intended to serve the Empire. Though Black Bolt ultimately frees his people of this bond, the Inhumans chose to remain in space with their newfound freedom -- while the Royal Family returns sullenly to earth, divisively splitting the community into two factions. Through "War of Kings," "Realm of Kings" and beyond, the Inhumans -- including the Royal Family -- found themselves consistently at odds with the Kree and other galactic empires. As such, Randolph's comment in this week's episode may hint at a similarly interstellar background for at least one faction of Inhumans, a hint that may potentially account for where Inhuman mainstays like Black Bolt, Medusa and Karnak are during the Inhuman explosion currently taking place on Earth.

There's also the little matter of Simmons' intergalactic vacation. Her location was revealed in a post-episode stinger last week, and this episode expounded on her whereabouts. Though viewed through a heavy, blue filter, the planet she has been on seems to be warm; despite torn clothing, she shows no signs of hypothermia, and the terrain is comprised mainly of sand. Though it's yet to be seen how she survived, or if she encountered any sentient beings, it seems likely that Simmons spent her exile on Hala, which I posited last week. It appears that Simmons spent the hiatus in a desert, which boasts impressive stone spires as part of its landscape. Not inconsequently, the Kree homeworld, Hala, has been depicted in similar ways in recent comics, as well as on animated series like "Avengers: Earth Mightiest Heroes" (though these scenes are generally washed in dusty yellows). What's more, the Kree connection to Inhuman mythology makes Hala the logical destination for the monolith's transport.

We also learned a few more clues about the monolith. For one thing, as Randolph pointed out, its liquid episodes aren't random -- there's a factor that Fitz and the other S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists had yet to discover. However, while it becme apparent that sound vibrations affect it, Fitz's intense scene with the monolith may offer another hint. The monolith seems to react more frequently when a non-human entity is in the room. For instance, it didn't react to Fitz; however, as soon as Daisy entered the room, it liquefied. The same happened when Randolph and Coulson, who still has some Kree blood running through his veins, came to inspect it. It acted most ferociously when it was surrounded by Inhumans in the Season 2 finale. If this is the case, that implies Simmons may not be entirely human herself; with those bearing Inhumans genes unknowingly nestled among the human population, there is a possibility she may be one of them. As one of the more anti-Inhuman members of the team, this could potentially set up some excellent tension and drama for the character.

Though the Inhumans continue to dominate the show, Ward and his new Hydra faction were nicely developed, and we got a glimpse of what May has been up to since the Season 2 finale. Between these, Daisy's Secret Warrior goals and Fitz's daring rescue, the episode placed a huge emphasis on the concept of community. Each character must build or rely on another in order to accomplish their objective; even Ward, whose past team-ups have ended in tragedy, realizes he cannot lead Hydra alone, and taps Baron von Strucker's son Werner as his compatriot (of course, how equal this partnership will turn out to be is yet to be seen). After months of working alone, Fitz is only able to rescue Simmons when he turns to the rest of the team for help. Though Hunter is on a purported solo mission to infiltrate Hydra, he recruits May to his cause and celebrates Simmons' return with wild abandon. Daisy hopes to build a safe Inhuman community with S.H.I.E.L.D.'s help, and S.H.I.E.L.D. -- along with Dr. Andrew Garner -- reciprocates by providing a balanced, objective assessment of her NuHuman recruits.

While the theme ties the separate plots of the episode together with a nice bow, its purposes may be more nefarious, at least for your heartstrings. With "Captain America: Civil War" drawing ever closer, the team is all but destined to shatter as they fall in line with differing ideologies. By showing how crucial it is for these characters to work together, the upcoming conflict will be even more poignant in contrast. It isn't time to break out the tissues just yet, but it won't hurt to prepare yourself for the long road ahead.

Where last week's debut took deliberate steps to set up "Captain America: Civil War," "Purpose in the Machine" swung in the other direction, planting the seeds for the Marvel Cinematic Universe's developing Inhuman mythology. However, the show didn't abandon its "Civil War" march, setting up for an inevitable split in the team's allegiances. With sharp storytelling and balanced pacing, this week's episode builds a solid foundation for the rest of Season 3.

This Week's Cogs...

  • Though the MCU's S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded by Peggy Carter and Howard Stark, the opening scene's secret society seems to wink at Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver's "S.H.I.E.L.D.: Architects of Forever," which ties the organization back to historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei and Sir Isaac Newton.
  • Randolph mentions "a man dressed up as an owl" at a costume party he attended in the 19th century. Could this be a nod to Agent Jeremiah Warrick, the bumbling S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with the head of an owl from Mark Waid's current "S.H.I.E.L.D." series?
  • The snark was strong with Coulson this episode as he continues to unravel and become harder than he's ever been before, even going so far as to tell Hunter to kill Ward.
  • May's father calls her "Millie." D'awww.
  • In the comics, Baron von Strucker has three children: Andrea, Andreas and Werner. The former two are twins and combine their abilities to become the supervillain team Fenris. Werner took over Hydra briefly, following his father's alleged death. Looks like the show's storyline is par for Werner's course.
  • Astute viewer and CBR community member NDHorse pointed out that Bobbi's Terrigen-contagion projection map from last episode roughly coincides with "Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2's" release. If the show sticks to our timeline in the real world, we might get some galactic Inhumans after all!

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