Following on immediately from when last weeks "Scars" ended, "S.O.S Part 1" is the first half of what is meant to be viewed as a feature length finale, frustratingly split into two halves by Channel 4 for broadcast in the UK. We follow Hunter and May as they attempt to rescue Bobbi from Kara and Ward, while pretty much every other character attempts to deal with the fallout of Gonzales' death at the hands of Jiaying when the Inhumans vs SHIELD war begins in earnest.
Based only on this first half of the finale, it's already clear that the set up "Scars" undertook was worth it. Straight away we are flung into the action, the episode only continuing to build momentum as it progresses by moving as quick as it dares. This isn't to say that "S.O.S Part 1" feels rushed - rather, the pace that Agents of SHIELD is accustomed to is thrown out of the window in order to really up the ante and provide a finale that is, at least in it's first half, exhilarating.
The events of the episode develop quickly and dramatically, yet still allow time to dig in with the characters and scenes that need it most, particularly in the parts where Ward and Kara are torturing Bobbi. It is here that "S.O.S Part 1" really excels - these scenes are surprisingly graphic for Agents of SHIELD and legitimately had me squirming at some points, making Bobbi's inevitable breakout attempt really matter. The stakes are much higher than usual for a fight scene, and the torture leading up to her escape attempt positions the subsequent action sequence as a desperate struggle for survival rather than the consequence free fight that we are used to.
One thing that I will say is legitimately underwhelming about "S.O.S Part 1" is the part of the episode that finally deals with Cal's transformation into his super strong alter ego, Mister Hyde. Nothing about this section works as it should, particularly the truly awful design of his character once he has "hulked out". His Mister Hyde persona is not the powerful behemoth that the show deserves - instead we get some ill fitting prosthetics and a more simian-like way of moving that wouldn't even have been acceptable in the early episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, never mind as a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I don't know if this was due to budgeting issues or if this was the actual intended conclusion to a full seasons worth of "just you wait, he's a-coming", but I can't express just how much of a misstep was taken here - when even MacLachlan consistently great acting can't save it, you know you've messed up.
It will be interesting to see how "S.O.S Part 2" wraps up the second season of Agents of SHIELD, but based on the first half we should be looking at a pretty great conclusion to a season that has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Agents of SHIELD is worth a damn. No, it isn't perfect - but it is a worthwhile aspect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that, when firing on all cylinders, really makes for some great TV.