Notes in no particular order:
1. WOW. I am not a young guy, I have been watching since Howdy Doody, and I thought I had seen it all. This is the first time I have ever seen an A-List series with a plot arc that intersects an in-theatres A-List movie, in real time. OK, you got me. Simultaneous media? Impressive.
2. Generally, this series has evolved faster than any series I have ever seen. I guess I should have seen this coming, since Buffy fans must remember how each new season of Angel/Buffy started so slow you wondered if you were on the wrong channel...? And then took off like a rocket. Very Whedon.
3. Speaking of all things Whedon, I want to make one thing very clear. We are talking the man (and his family too, it seems) who more or less invented the "long arc." So while (in real time, at least for me) I am only at episode 18, I want to make a prediction. Whether or not this series is destined to be short-lived, or a mainstay (I suspect the latter); and whether or not the final episode this season "appears" to resolve things, or not; I am totally confident that Joss and his team have already mapped out stories to the year 2044. Of course, even within the most optimistic probability matrix, the series won't be here then (and neither will I) but that is how he works. He can't help it.
Why is this important to share? Because this means that no matter how many unresolved arcs and sub-stories you THINK you are dealing with now, Joss and his team have already planted the seeds in prior episodes for several dozen more to come, and you just haven't noticed. (Don't feel bad -- neither have I.) History may record that Marvel's association with Team Whedon is one of the most fortuitous business combinations in history. The Marvel archive to Whedon is what sunlight is to Superman. (Oops, politically mixed metaphor)
PS: Human nature fascinates me. Studies have shown that individuals from all cultures become nervous and uncomfortable when a story is left unfinished or incomplete. And the media use this against us. This technique was very popular a century ago ("cliff hangers") and is now very much back in vogue. I know that I for one will be waiting for AGENTS OF SHIELD to pick up next year, as will, I suspect, several millions others. But whether or not this is because I am being truly entertained... or merely teased ... is another matter entirely.
Coulson and his team are running as fast as they can as the U.S. Air Force is moving in and taking over. The Bus is busted, and barely patched together, and Coulson makes it perfectly clear that he is livid with Agent May and no longer trusts her.
By now you should know Fury is not dead but Coulson knows this only by his own faith. Meanwhile, Ward and Garrett are off to raid the most secure facility Shield had to get what goodies are there... Brett Dalton's Ward I like as an Agent of Shield... but the performance in this episode lacked something now that we know he is a villain... perhaps it was that he didn't show himself to be conflicted save with his lines... Dalton might want to work on that a bit.
Too, both Ward and Garrett need to show us they're invested in HYDRA though both scripted dialog and acting... nothing we've seen so far convinces me they are. Clark Gregg, however, does a great job of selling Coulson as a man ready to crack this episode.
Of note: Ruth Negga's performance as Raina continues to shine. She is one of the most interesting villains on the show so far even though she's revealed very little about herself. Her manner shows that she is invested and a believer. Her shock at discovering the true nature of "The Clairvoyant" is believable.
Let's first start with Garrett and Ward, or as you may know them the Clairvoyant and his Hydra thug. I have to say, Ward is so much more intriguing now that he's a bad guy. And Garrett, well, you can tell Paxton's having a ball playing him. Their infiltration into the Fridge for high profile prisoners and dangerous items was very entertaining and it sort of makes sense that Shield never destroyed anything so its cool to see the plasma beam and the berserker staff make an appearance. Plus, now that Ward is rejoining the team, it will be fun to see him be a double agent, and see if anyone notices.
On the team's storyline, it was good to see the team reel after the Hydra incursion. I'm glad that Trip is staying on. He reminds me of Sam Wilson with the swagger that he brings to the character. I'm also rooting so much for Fitz to tell Simmons how he feels. With Simmons fawning over Trip, watching Fitz kind of panic over losing her is heartbreaking. I like the inclusion of Patton Oswalt's Agent Koenig. Oswalt brings a stern yet lovable goofball to the show that works well with the rest of the cast. Clark Gregg was excellent in this episode, especially when he snaps at May and the rest of the team saying that they must continue to fight against Hydra and not back down. That felt really powerful because Coulson is Shield.
A couple complaints in this episode. First, Raina was felt kinda weird to me. Her curiosity was well done early in the season but now it's just unsettling. Especially her wide, unblinking, curious eyes that look like they are going to bulge out of her head. It's just kind of annoying to me. Also, while it is cool to have Glenn Talbot in the MCU, I just can't ignore how bad that fake mustache was. I mean, it just looked like two uneven kit-kats that were on his face.
+ Ward is so much more fun now + Fridge break in + Gregg's performance + Oswalt joined and Trip staying - Raina's uneasy presence - Talbot should have been better - Slowed down a bit since the last episode.
Final Score: 8.4/10