After last week's superb season opener, Purpose In The Machine was one of those frustrating serial TV episodes where there's a lot of chess piece moving, but nothing truly dramatic happens until the final third of the hour.
It's a story with three strands. Once Fitz realises that the Monolith that 'abducted' Simmons is a portal, the main team enlist the help of the Asgardian hiding on Earth as Professor Elliot Randolph (Peter MacNicol, previously seen in season one's The Well).
He leads them to a ruined castle in Gloucestershire, England, where they come upon a hidden room full of ancient equipment designed to 'operate' the Monolith.
When the equipment is damaged during their first test, Daisy realises she can use her Inhuman abilities to replicate the effect and that she actually has the power to open the portal, albeit for a very short time.
Meanwhile, Hunter is setting in motion his scheme to infiltrate Hydra, so he can get to Ward, and calls upon May for assistance. She has been in Arizona with her aged father (James Hong), who is recovering after a hit-and-run, that the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents fear may have been Ward targeting their loved ones.
Ward, however, is off trying to reforge Hydra, and part of his plan involves kidnapping idle rich kid Alexander Braun (Spencer Treat Clark), who turns out to have a key family connection with Hydra.
Don't get me wrong there's some great character material here, such as Ward stringing along his minion in the belief that the kidnapping is purely motivated by money, when, in truth, it has a very different purpose; May's claims of wanting a "normal life" away from S.H.I.E.L.D.; and Fitz's continued driven desperation to find Simmons.
But, ultimately, until the climax of each of the episode's threads, Purpose In The Machine struck me as one of those episodes that would work better when you're binge-watching a season rather than watching a single episode a week.
Storywise, I was delighted with where everyone ended up when the final credits rolled, but I wish they could have gotten there sooner.