Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3 episode 8 review: Many Heads, One Tale

We learnt a lesson in MCU history in this week’s season 3 Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode, as well as witnessing some stellar spying…

This review contains spoilers.

3.8 Many Heads, One Tale

Nope, that isn’t a typo. This episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was dubbed Many Heads, One Tale. Not tail. While it’s fun to Google the episode and count how many websites autocorrected the spelling to the wrong version, it’s probably more pertinent to get to the point – this was a ruddy excellent episode.

The titular ‘tale,’ of course, refers to the story of HYDRA’s history that Gideon Malick unravelled for the tenacious Grant Ward at the end of the episode. Many Heads, One Tale essentially interweaved Joss Whedon’s first Avengers movie, with Captain America: The First Avenger and the recent events of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. to clarify some of the MCU’s history.

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If you need catching up – we learnt that HYDRA actually predated the Red Skull, and has been meddling with alien artefacts for ‘hundreds of generations.’ They have their own ancient Monolith (in brick format) that matches the one that Fitz and Simmons have been preoccupied with all season.

Malick has been up to no good for years, which explains why he looked so shifty as a member of The Avengers’ World Security Council (it’s nice to have clarification that they’re the same character, too). Now, HYDRA is planning to welcome alien baddies from the mysterious purple planet to wreak havoc on Earth, offering an army of Inhumans – that Malick has covertly amassing behind the ATCU’s back (if you believe Rosalind) – as a gift to the new big bad.

It’s certainly a lot to take in. Essentially, though, this is a streamlining process. Malick, HYDRA, Ward, the ATCU, the Monolith, the mysterious ‘other’ than Simmons met on that planet… they’re all actually part of one mega arc. As Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been telling us since season 1 – #It’sAllConnected.

All these revelations gave Many Heads, One Tale a thrilling feel, bringing to mind the huge rug-pull of season 1’s The Winter Soldier tie-ins. Those episodes are often glorified as S.H.I.E.L.D. at its best, and this week’s episode definitely deserves to be considered with the same regard.

Let us not forget, in all the excitement, that this was a great episode before we reached the last five minutes. Throwing out the superhero antics for almost the entire running time, this week we got to see the eponymous Agents doing some genuine spying as Coulson orchestrated a full-scale investigation.

Taking up a decent chunk of the episode, Bobbi and Lance were sent into the belly of the beast that is the ATCU. Here they met the terror that is… Steve, the IT guy. This was an ingenious idea, and seeing Lance play dress-up as a Mr. Robot-style tech expert raised some very hefty laughs indeed. It’s certainly better than his thuggish tracksuit look glimpsed earlier in the season.

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This strand culminated with Bobbi breaking into the secret lab. We then saw her thrust into a particularly impressive batons-versus-superpowers fight scene, which showcased some serious imagination from the writers. Behind the scenes, Mack and Skye were getting shit done. Skye’s hacking was actually quite fun to watch, and Mack’s role-play phone call bit was pretty amusing.

Up in the air, May apologised to Lincoln on Andrew’s behalf, which was a sweet gesture. Back at base, Coulson confronted Rosalind. Whether or not you believe Coulson is capable of sexual deceptiveness, seeing the two shady directors trying to pick each other apart made for an engaging dialogue scene. I would’ve liked to see a little more of that, but there’s only so much you can squeeze into 45 minutes.

All in all, this episode offered consistent thrills from start to finish, and some big shake-ups for the show at large. Next week should be a big one too, we’d wager. 

Any guesses on who the ancient Inhuman up on that planet might be, then?

Read Rob’s review of the previous episode, Chaos Theory, here.