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Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s midseason finale is as sleek and as lean as the nine episodes that preceded it in this, the show’s third, year. Even if there’s a not a lot of surprises.

Picking up where’s last week’s cliffhanger left off (at the end of the prematurely named “Closure”), Coulson is unconscious on the alien planet, and Fitz is one wisecrack away from having his jaw broken by Ward; who’s more than happy to offer him up to the “ancient god” that Hydra has sent them to bring back through the portal. Mack, meanwhile, is faced with the tough choice as to whether or not to blow the portal to kingdom come lest the beast that comes through it is dangerous enough to destroy the world.

Alas, things proceed pretty much about the way we’d expect them to. Coulson wakes up (after we get our one and only scene of him and Ros in bed, posthumously of course, in the form of a dream). Then he goes after Ward, determined to exact some Old Testament justice. The Hydra snake loses Fitz, thanks to Will, whom we soon learn isn’t really Will, but the sought-after creature, who took his form after killing Simmons’ lost love. Upon finding Fitz, Coulson gets bloody satisfaction by killing Ward. Though of course Brett Dalton’s contract being what it is, the bad boy gets reanimated by the creature who finds his own way through the portal, much to the delight of Malick.

Elsewhere, Andrew escapes his imprisonment when Hydra transports him and a handful of his fellow Inhumans to the castle to serve as an army for the returning creature. But when Andrew “Lashes out,” he slaughters them instead; though Daisy and her new team of Inhumans successfully break into the stronghold and wreak havoc on Malick’s goons.

With just seconds to spare, Coulson, Fitz, Daisy, and co. return to S.H.I.E.L.D. But, to Jemma’s sorrow, without Will.

The resolution offered by “Maveth” to this first half of the season is welcome. Honestly, I can’t imagine dragging the Fitz-Simmons-Will triangle out much further. But by just killing Will off before Simmons (and Fitz) can even face him, the show opts for the easy way out of a sticky narrative situation. Ditto the creature coming back via Ward, which is disappointing in part for how it denies us an opportunity to see the beast we’ve heard so much about.

It’s true the scariest horrors are that which we don’t see, which take infinite form in our imaginations. But S.H.I.E.L.D. is first and foremost an adventure show set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and at least some spectacle now and then is welcome. The show has been criticized before for sometimes taking the low-cost alternative in its storytelling choices. Yet if the CW’s The Flash can conjure up CG beasties like Grodd on a regular basis, shouldn’t Marvel’s flagship series be able to do the same once or twice a year? Did S.H.I.E.L.D. blow its effects budget on Lash? Because even the Inhuman-targeting assassin gets short shrift this week. Mostly I’m just disappointed that the show looks to continue on its path to have Ward rejoin S.H.I.E.L.D. at some point in the future. He’s been a fine villain thus far, but, after what he did to Ros, he needs to go. Especially now that he’s talking like a Scientologist.

Agents of SHIELD 2

Declassified Deliberations

— “You know you’re wired different than most folks.”

— “Hey, here’s a great idea. Why don’t we go to an alien world and summon a hellbeast?”

— “I’ll be damned. Tatootine.” (Nothing like a little cross-brand promotion by Disney.)

— “Bobbi and Hunter are with me. May, you take the power rangers and go find Fitz and Simmons.”

— I love the fact that Bobbi’s breadcrumbs for her teammates to follow are a series of Hydra goons she beat senseless. Though again, we’re denied the sight of Agent Morse kicking all this ass.

— You just knew something was bound to go wrong with the plan to rescue Will when Fitz says, “Jemma’s gonna be really happy to see you.” Silly Fitz, don’t you ever watch Mutant Enemy shows?

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).

Images: ABC

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