Even before last week’s revelation, it wasn’t too much of a surprise to imagine Andrew as Lash’s human alter-ego, what with the mysterious absence May alluded to placing a target on his monstrous, dreadlocked back. “Chaos Theory” actually afforded us the chance to see that ill-fated honeymoon, including its ultimate resolution of Andrew ending up exposed to another of Jiaying’s traps, not that we necessarily needed to fill in the blanks for ourselves.

What proved most refreshing was the unrelenting pace Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 has torn through, wasting precious little time setting up and answering its mysteries, rather than pad things out unnecessarily, as had been the case in varying instances across the first two seasons. “Chaos Theory” did nothing to slow down that momentum either, ending out the hour with all involved aware of Andrew’s identity, and even putting an end to his rampage with a tense and exciting capture.

Best of all, Andrew didn’t need to Lash out (unfortunate, but accurate pun) to alert the team, rather everyone involved tonight put the various pieces together, as Lincoln confirmed Lash to have access to S.H.I.E.L.D. files, while Mack observed May in distress over flight logs, and Coulson recognized the implication of their subsequent absence. It’s a nice bit of balanced teamwork that often goes unappreciated with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., one compounded by the troubling news that Andrew would eventually make the change permanent.

If he didn't look enough like Blanka already, he's already Street Fight-ing Chun-Li.

Acceptance of loss seems to be a running theme throughout “Chaos Theory,” whether May reluctantly coming to grips with her inability to protect Andrew from his misdeeds, or Fitz struggling through the cell phone recordings of Gemma and Will. In the former case, Andrew places a particular sting on May’s past experiences, erroneously comparing her heartbreaking experiences in Bahrain to his own compulsion to kill, while the latter case finds a similar grief in watching Simmons’ recording describe the life they might have had together.

Skye and Rosalind too find a certain compromise in their ideals, admitting that some Inhumans need isolation for the protection of others, a murkily topical issue for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to explore, given the ubiquity of debate surrounding deadly weapons in the wrong hands. The same ultimately goes for Bobbi and Hunter as well, Bobbi recognizing that the vendetta against Ward could transform them both into monsters, if it doesn’t kill them first.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t closing up shop for 2015 just yet, though we’ll likely enter a second phase of the season now that Lash has been tentatively tabled, while Rosalind displays a troubling new association with the same Gideon Malick we’ve watched pull Ward’s threads over the past few weeks. We also got an intriguing new lead for Fitz and Simmons’ investigation into the monolith, something of an ancient organization that sent Will’s team in the first place, but whatever the final episodes of the year bring, “Chaos Theory” caps off what has to be the show’s strongest run to date.

Not only was the ultimate exposure and capture of Lash some pretty thrilling heroics, but the series seems to have found a serious groove of organized character beats along the way. We’d seen plenty of May’s past, but the initial decision to keep Andrew’s secret to herself seemed a surprising line to cross, a moment not lost in a shuffle of other surprises for Coulson, Skye, and everyone involved.

Except Joey, who disappeared for another six episodes.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • “To new beginnings!” And the inevitable tragic irony of toasting to such things!
  • So … does no one’s facial hair grow after spending time in a cocoon?
  • Did Bobbi actually kill Kebo in the pool last week? That wasn’t made terribly clear.
  • Also, “The Cocoon” is in NYC? So much Marvel going on there, yet they never intersect.
  • Evil one-night stands always, always tempt you with breakfast.

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