Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “The Team”:

Before we get started … does anyone want to get out? Sorry, had to. More seriously, it’s worth bringing up how admirably solid and consistent Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has proven itself from week to week. What it lacks in colorful set pieces and characters like The Flash, Marvel’s Avengers-adjacent drama has gotten criminally good at defining its characters with subtlety, letting their relationships breathe, and crafting well-thought-out twists when the need arises.

Seriously! It’s hard to say what a Secret Warriors episode like “The Team” would look like in practice, but you’d never suspect the hour would spend only the first act (if that) on its main mission, before sliding the story into a paranoia-driven riff on The Thing. Even then, the vast array of red herrings never feels particularly cheap, between Lucio’s suspiciously-warm corpse, Lincoln’s outbursts, or Joey and Yo-Yo’s unusual behavior, that it genuinely didn’t seem like the series would venture so boldly as to make Daisy into Hive’s new mole. Not only is that one of the more interesting problems for Agents to have in the final Season 3 episodes, but it’s a surprisingly scary one as well.

Think about it: Daisy acts entirely like herself for the episode’s majority, whether self-conscious of her leadership, thorny at inopportunely tense standoff moments, or stealthily in command enough to maneuver Lincoln into Coulson’s trap. Not only that, when the character finally does confess her new position to Lincoln, Daisy still seems like herself; not under any kind of robotic mind control, just firmly aligned with Hive’s new vision. That’s a refreshing* way to play tropes of this nature, and while it’s still a pity to lose an authoritative villain like Gideon Malick in the process, Daisy’s shift is a very exciting conflict to play out in the coming weeks.

*It’s at least a little icky to have Daisy now subservient to her former love-interest/kidnapper, but it’s worth waiting to see if they steer away from the more uncomfortable territory of that arrangement.

The fanart alone has produced some disconcerting reactions.

The reveal (and apparent destruction/damage of the base) understandably pulls some focus, but it also helped that “The Team” kept everyone largely in character up until that point. Coulson almost immediately took Malick’s warning of an infiltrator to heart, and while the indirect approach was questionable, smart cookie that he is, no time was wasted bringing in human members of the team for a solution. Each Secret Warrior took the reveal in their own way as well, whether Lincoln jumping right to his sore spot for persecution, Yo-Yo railing against government bureaucracy, or Joey internalizing a sense of the walls around him. Everyone had reasons to suspect one another, the team included, and even though the lion’s share of action took place with the raid, we still spent enough time with each character for some illumination of their history.

We’re four episodes from the finale at this point, and I still have my doubts as to whether Hive has any kind of real depth to his villainy, but at least by virtue of wearing Ward’s chiseled mug, the character brings out the best in the cast. Clark Gregg has plenty to mine between the guilt and revenge of actually killing his enemy, now roundabout-ly costing him a surrogate daughter, while Skye’s current condition negates the possibility of killing Ward/Hive outright.

That’s a lot to throw on an episode ostensibly designed to introduce a first incarnation of the Secret Warriors, but so long as that card remains in play for next season, “The Team” gave a terrific bait-and-switch to set us up for the final episodes.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • I didn’t get a chance to mention it above, but Fitz and Simmons get some lovely scenes of working through their exhaustion at constant threats to the team, along with that heartfelt closing exchange of cutting the pretense of their courtship for some real lived-in intimacy.
  • I recoiled at the idea of Daisy splitting the team into inexperienced members Joey and Yo-Yo, though the former has at least some mission experience. Still an odd play.
  • Incidentally, Joey having to kill Lucio was thankfully given some afterthought, even as a running bit.
  • “I’ve met gods. Gods bleed.” – Great in Coulson’s context, an eye-roller in the Snyder-verse.
  • Would Malick not have seen/shared that Daisy was the one to kill him, or were her shockwaves meant to obscure that?
  • Between the flayed skeletons and Lucio’s skull, I’m impressed with the visuals network TV gets away with these days.
  • Yo-Yo practicing her English for Mack was cute, but when exactly did she expect to see him again, that she practiced so spontaneously?
  • So, how’s Ward about to spend that cool $960 million?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return on April 26 with “The Singularity,” airing at 9:00 P.M. on ABC.

Check Out 100 TV Facts You May Not Know!