A review of tonight's "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" coming up just as soon as I wish I was a hat guy...

As the next-to-last episode before "SHIELD" takes a winter break in favor of "Agent Carter"(*), "Ye Who Enter Here" was among the busiest season 2 episodes to date, with the full regular cast featured (plus semi-regulars Bobbi, Tripp and Mac), along with the return of Raina, Agent 33 (with the "Freaky Fried-May Face" burn from the May vs. May episode), and Patton Oswalt as two different Koenig brothers(**). Pretty much everyone of import was around but Skye's crazy father, and we got a bunch of new info about the mystery city, which seems more blatantly than ever to be Attillan, given Raina definitively identifying the blue-skinned aliens as the Kree.

(*) Hey, turns out ABC marketing occasionally can take a hint, and they ditched the awful "Sometimes, the best man for a job is a WOMAN!" tagline for "Agent Carter" in favor of one ad with no narration at all, and another with the much more acceptable tagline, "When a mission matters, send in a one-woman army."

(**) And for now, they do appear to be brothers, given their anger over Ward's murder of Erik. They could still turn out to be Life Model Decoys or some other bit of Marvel technobabble, but Oswalt makes them seem very human. 

Yet even with all the characters and bits of business to deal with, the episode never felt overcrowded or rushed, and was able to focus on the character element that's made season 2 such a huge improvement over season 1.

If Bobbi isn't actually a cast regular by spring, it'll only be because Adrianne Palicki doesn't want the gig, because Bobbi's become more and more central to things as the season has gone along. Here, we got extended Bobbi scenes with Simmons and with Coulson, as she talked with the former about her estrangement from Fitz and the latter about how he differs from SHIELD's previous director, and both scenes added depth and shading to what happened later in the hour. Even her brief conversation with Mac about the perils of getting back together with Hunter had a purpose, in reminding us that these two are old friends — just as we got a few brief nods to Mac and Fitz's new friendship — so that his possession by the Kree technology and ensuing possible death(***) hit much harder than if he was just the big handsome guy who stood in the background and fixed things.

(***) We don't see a body, which by comic book show logic means there's a very good chance Mac is still alive, especially since he seemed super-strong and damage resistant in his possessed state. If this is it for him, though, I'll miss the light touch Henry Simmons brought to a character who could have been a throwaway, but I also recognize that there's not a lot of deadweight in the cast the way there seemed to be a year ago. Mac and Tripp are probably the two most tangential SHIELD agents (and, yes, they're the only black men on the show), but both have provided value through their bonds with other characters and through the gentle humor each brings. Last fall, I'd have happily jettisoned the whole ensemble save maybe Coulson and May, but now if/when characters die, it's going to sting more.

Skye's interrogation of Raina, meanwhile, could have just been a massive exposition dump, but worked because Skye's interest in her past — and disgust with the father Raina knows better than Skye herself does — has become an interesting part of her character, and not just another puzzle to be solved. Obviously, there's more to come with the Diviner, the hidden city, and what powers Skye and/or Raina might develop, but there's also a clear character arc behind this, with Ward's obsession with Skye — and his apparent attempt to play triple agent to save her — providing another interesting wrinkle.

The hour wasn't perfect — the stunt doubling for Agent 33 in her battle with Skye was weirdly more obvious than in the May vs. May fight, and the closing scene with 33 and Whitehall somehow fizzled, even as he was ordering the destruction of the Bus and all aboard it — but on the whole was another solid, engaging installment, and a good set-up for whatever's coming next week.

What did everybody else think? Were you happy to see the very large Mac finally put into combat, even under that circumstance? Did the Koenig brothers amuse you? Do you figure Palicki and Clark Gregg enjoyed their brief location shoot? And any predictions on how many characters will be in jeopardy — and in what manner — at the end of the mid-season finale?

Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "TV (The Book)" about the 100 greatest shows of all time, is available now. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com