Forget last night's tie-in to "Avengers: Age of Ultron"; the most recent episode of "Agents of SHIELD" shined by bringing the band back together -- and points to how the show can get back to basics by the end of the season.
Spoilers for "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." past this point.
ABC was of course heavily hyping Coulson (Clark Gregg) and company's set-up for this week's debut of the "Avengers" sequel, but where last year's parallel storyline to "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" blew up the concept of "SHIELD" in the best way -- not to put it too bluntly -- this year's parallel was a distraction.
In case you didn't watch, yes, "S.H.I.E.L.D." led directly into the opening scene of "Ultron," with Coulson providing info to Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) about the location of both HYDRA leader Baron Strucker, and Loki's scepter. Our man even got to say, "Time to send in the Avengers," which was pretty cool.
Add in clairvoyant Inhuman Raina (Ruth Negga) predicting that men of metal would rise, and the world would be changed forever, and you've got some cool refs, but nothing that you couldn't already glean from trailers for the movie.
Which is unfortunate, because the rest of the episode was great. In order to take down a HYDRA base and rescue two captives, Coulson brings the original team back together. And honestly, I wasn't expecting what a thrill it would be to see them all assembled on the Bus one more time.
The new characters introduced this season have been great, shaking up existing relationships and allowing the writers to jam-pack each hour with a ton of plots. In particular, the second half of the season has been a beautiful balancing act of plotlines that will start crashing together in the last two weeks of the season.
But the original dynamic is what started the show, and returning was a more than welcome surprise. Where the first season you could see the gears turning as "S.H.I.E.L.D." -- and the characters -- figured out what they wanted to be, season two has seen them all get darker and more complex.
So when everybody gets back together for one last mission, all of those relationships and their baggage come to play. Not only was their one scene together dramatic, but it was funny, too, with whip-smart dialogue and a laugh out loud funny stinger.
Unfortunately, all of that got pushed aside for an "Ultron" tie-in that ultimately was less satisfying than the character dynamics we know and love.
Who could have predicted that, right? After numerous fan complaints that the show doesn't tie into the movies enough, it's tying into the movies that proves to be the distraction, while the show itself is the main event.
"S.H.I.E.L.D." is finally the show we wanted it to be: exciting, twisty, funny and with great characters that have a deep, emotional relationship with each other. And that should be the focus of the show, plain and simple.
We don't know how the season will end, but with the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. in control, and Coulson back to running missions, it seems like a prime setup for season three to get back to basics... Only this time, maybe without the movie tie-ins holding it back.