Last night’s Agents of SHIELD was mostly about moving all the pieces into position for the second half of the season. And the actual “case of the week” was meh. But there were some brilliant moments, that remind us why this show has become such an essential part of the Marvel Universe.


Spoilers ahead...

So “Bouncing Back” was another “putting ducks in a row” kind of episode, with a case of the week about a woman with limited superspeed powers (she can only travel as far as she can get in one heartbeat, then she snaps back to where she started.) The long-term stuff included Daisy working on her team of Secret Warriors, and hints of tensions between humans and Inhumans on the SHIELD team.


But there were still some great moments that reminded us why this show has grown on us. Chief among them: the scene above, where Coulson admits he doesn’t quite trust himself after he murdered Grant Ward on an alien planet, and he’s not sure what happened to him. Melinda May’s line says it all: “You joined the Cavalry.” Referring to the incident where Melinda had to commit a horrible atrocity to save people, and gained the nickname she hates: The Cavalry. That scene gave me major goosebumps. But also...

Coulson is willing to torture a comatose man—admittedly, a sociopathic son of a Nazi monster—to get info on how to find Hydra’s new leader, Gideon Malick. (And the President of the United States himself says Malick is untouchable, even after Coulson makes him stand over the bloodstains of Rosalind Price, whom Malick had killed.)

Fitz and Simmons finally talking was great—even though it’s weird that Fitz blames himself for the death of Will. Will was dead long before Fitz got there, and Fitz (almost) killed a monster that was wearing Will’s body. End of story. But this is a great moment—specifically the little fist-bump at the end of the scene. That fist bump moved me approximately 1000 times more than seeing Daisy and Lincoln kiss—Daisy and Lincoln are one of the most chemistry-free couples on television, and I’m not just saying that as an unrepentant Jastrid shipper (from Tomorrow People, Lincoln’s old show, where that actor played essentially the same character.)

Here’s the opening of the episode, where Agents of SHIELD joins the legion of shows going flash-forwards. (Off the top of my head: Arrow and Vampire Diaries have been leaning on this pretty hard.) It’s three months from now, and someone with a SHIELD uniform is bleeding on a space shuttle, just before it explodes in space. The crucifix looks like a big clue—could this be Mack, who confesses in this episode that he’s a religious man? Or else Elena, the religious Inhuman whom we meet in this episode?

Ward is Hive! And he “makes a believer” out of the skeptical Inhuman, using some kind of creepy power. This is going to be insanely fun.

So this is the most important new bit of status quo... Coulson is going to have to work with Glenn Talbot, a total jerkface who’s tried to crush Coulson several times in the past. Fun!

And finally... this was the best part of the episode’s main storyline. Specifically, the way the team coordinates all their powers to take down this dude with the Medusa-vision powers. Mack tells them about the guy’s power, then Elena puts a cuff on him (which is admittedly a bad idea). Then Joey uses his power over metal to melt the guy’s glasses onto his face, and Daisy uses her quake powers to knock him out. Nice teamwork.



All told, the main reason to watch Agents of SHIELD remains the characters—and the little moments involving Coulson and May, or Fitz and Simmons, are by far the best parts of the show.

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All The Birds in the Sky, which is available now. Here’s what people have been saying about it. Follow her on Twitter, and email her.