Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Beginning of the End

“I’m ready to kick some ass.”

And kick it she did. As did this finale, which brought Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s awkward first season to an action packed close.

I was surprised by how low the body count was. Once it became clear they would have to use their big brains to rescue themselves, I was convinced that either Fitz or Simmons would die, with one sacrificing their life to save the other. And it very much looked like it was going to be Fitz. To be perfectly honest, if we had to lose one of them I would rather it be Fitz. It’s not that I don’t like Fitz, it’s just that I like Simmons more. The minute he handed their one oxygen mask to Simmons it looked like he was a goner for sure. Then he went and admitted his true feelings for Simmons, a certified kiss of death on a Joss Whedon show. So imagine my surprise when he survived. Or had he? It was also odd that we didn’t see him again after Fury’s rescue. There wasn't even a scene of him in a hospital bed being looked after by whoever the hell is looking after him. Fury has used questionable methods to save an agent before. Has he done so again? We'll just have to wait and see.

I’m glad that Samuel L. Jackson’s appearance wasn’t just some quick cameo. Putting aside the improbability of him getting to Garrett’s New Mexico base so quickly, Fury’s appearance was one of highlights of the episode. It is a shame Jackson is an expensive A-list movie star because I really would love to see more of the Coulson/Fury comedy double act on the show. Their deadpan reactions to Garrett’s craziness was just priceless. I wonder if Joss had a hand in writing their banter, because it really sounded like something he'd write.

Once the dust had settled and the bad guys were dealt with, Coulson finally let his (former) boss have it. And Fury just sat there and took it without once apologising. He doesn’t regret using T.A.H.I.T.I. to bring back Coulson. As far as Fury is concerned Phil is just as much an Avenger as granddad, shell head or goldilocks and therefore worth saving. He’s the heart of S.H.I.E.L.D., the very best of them and one of the very few people that Fury absolutely trusts. Which is why he’s now given him the keys to the kingdom. Or, to be more precise, what’s left of it. As sad as I am to see motel era S.H.I.E.L.D. come to a premature end, I am excited about this development. Phil Coulson, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

If this finale did anything it was confirm that we should all get on our knees and accept Melinda May as our lord and saviour. At the start of the episode she swiped the Asgard Berserker staff from that goon who foolishly called her the Cavalry like it was no big deal and then proceeded to use it to demolish the barbershop basement of evil and all who dwelt there . Later, in a moment that gave me immense joy, she beat turncoat Grant Ward to a bloody pulp, nail-gunning his foot to the floor, crushing his larynx to shut him up and finishing him with an epic roundhouse kick. That’s what you get for calling the badass ladies of S.H.I.E.L.D. “eye candy”. With May on Coulson’s side, HYDRA never stood a chance.

Skye is now well on her way to becoming one of my favourite characters. Her journey from annoying hacker to badass S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is now all but complete (loved her strutting into the Cybertek office, cool as ice, and threatening everyone with her “bomb”). Having her end the season by saving Mike and his son was a nice way to bring things full circle. It is just a shame the emotional damage Garrett has done to Mike isn’t something that can be easily fixed. Now he’s going to walk the earth like Cain from Kung Fu, making amends for the horrible things he was forced to do. But at least he’s alive. He was another character I didn’t think would live to see season two. I was expecting him to sacrifice himself to help the team defeat Garrett.

Unsurprisingly, the injection of Raina’s hybrid Centipede/T.A.H.I.T.I. miracle drug made Garrett go cuckoo. And not just any brand of cuckoo, but full blown “I can see the building blocks of existence” cuckoo. Even Ward was like “Woah, dude, you’re losing it”. Bill Paxton was clearly having a blast here, relishing every last one of Garrett’s crazed utterings. I was a little disappointed when super Gunn took him out. As the season’s big bad, Garrett deserved a better ending than that. Then, when they showed us his fully intact body I knew instantly that he would rise again Michael Myers-style to further terrorize our heroes. And he did. And then he got atomised mid-speech by a nonchalant Coulson in the most Joss Whedon moment of the entire series.

With Garret now out of the picture, the question is what to do with Ward? This episode went to great lengths to emphasise that Ward can’t function without Garrett to guide him. He is a soldier who needs orders. What will Ward be without Garrett? He said himself, he was never loyal to HYDRA. Only Garrett. Will he use his time in lock-up to re-evaluate his life and turn over a new leaf? I hope not. Evil Ward is too much fun. Redeeming him would not only be farfetched, but dull as well. Far better to leave him as a villain the team may sometimes have to make uneasy alliances with in dire situations.

The episode ended with not one, but two juicy teasers for season two. The first saw Raina pay a visit to a mysterious, blood-covered individual to let him know that she’d found his daughter: Skye. Looks like we’re going to get an awkward family reunion next season. This is all very Alias. Hopefully Skye’s family history won’t turn out to be as convoluted as Sydney Bristow’s or, god forbid, Henry Mills’. And I pray that daddy Skye at least takes the time to have a shower before he gives his daughter an hug. All that blood will just ruin her nice clothes.

The second saw Coulson get up in the middle of the night, go down to the storage room and start writing the same code on the wall that Garrett was scribbling down earlier, the very same code we saw in ‘Eye Spy’ (I was wondering if they were ever going to get back to that). Raina’s version of the T.A.H.I.T.I. serum made him crazier but it also expanded Garrett’s minds and tuned them into… something otherworldly. Coulson seems to be tuned in as well, but isn’t full aware of it. The mental blocks Fury put in after he was revived have kept this suppressed, but it now looks like they are starting to crumble. How long before Skye starts doodling the same code? Will the serum have any effect on this ‘Darkness’ Raina said she has inside of her? And why isn’t it autumn yet?

Intel and Assets

--The team have a new base, the Playground, with the familiar looking Agent Billy Koenig (Eric did say he had a brother) to help out and get them all fixed up with lanyards. Does Fury have secret bases scattered across the globe staffed by Patton Oswalts? Are they twins, clones or Life Decoy Models?

--The opening scene in the CyberTek office was very Whedony, showing us something seemingly ordinary (a new employee getting a tour of the office) and then flipping it to reveal that something very not ordinary (this is where Deathlok and all the Centipede soldiers are being controlled from) is really going on.

--When Raina asked Garrett what she would become was she talking about herself specifically or humanity in general?

--Triplett has now been fully integrated into the team. He’s still a little bland, personality wise, but I’m starting to warm up to him. He’s a better fit for the team than (fake) Ward was, sharing Coulson’s boyish love for the work they do. There’s been no word yet on whether BJ Britt will be a regular next season, but I would be very surprised if he wasn’t.

Coulson: “Who do we talk to about getting a haircut?”

Trip: “I bring the noise and the funk wherever I go.”

General: “This is your safety consultant?”
Quinn: “He’s part time.”

Coulson: “Sir?”
Fury: “You don’t have to call me sir, Coulson, look at me. I’m dressed like I live under a bridge.”

Ward: “Reminds me of the old days.”
May: “You were never on top.”

Fury: “You didn’t tell me he’d gone this crazy.”
Coulson: “He’s really stepped it up a notch.”

Four out of four Loki blasting guns that packed a pretty good punch.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


Anonymous said...

I'll be brief; 3 points :

a) oh, wow
b) one of the BEST hours of TV for 2014
c) eagerly awaiting the next season...

Billie Doux said...

Melinda May is awesome. She's been my favorite character on this show for awhile, and will probably continue to be. And somehow, Skye became a favorite, too.

I record Agents of SHIELD because I can't watch it immediately. It used to sit on my DVR for a couple of days. Not any more -- it's slowly moved up as a priority for me. These past few episodes have been terrific, and I loved this finale. The Coulson/Fury scenes and that last moment with Garrett were sooooo Joss Whedon. I was getting close to giving up on Agents. I'm so glad now that I didn't.

Lesley said...

I posted on Facebook that I would watch an hour of coulson and fury with their dry wit and then some may kicking ass. No plot. No other characters. And I would be fine. Joss seriously just did a master class how to end a season. Wow!

sunbunny said...

Realizing that the first season of Agents of SHIELD had a similar trajectory to the first season of Angel. Definitely 'meh' in places and often weighed down by dumb stories of the week. Plus a major change halfway through the season amped up both shows quite a lot. And let's face it, except for the late ever-lamented Firefly (RIP), all of Joss's shows first seasons have been the weak link. He takes the character and relationship building slowly which makes for better characters and relationships in the long run, but a bit of a boring beginning. Looking forward to season 2!

Agree with everyone that Fury and Coulson's deadpanning was a high point of the episode. As was Coulson's killing of Garrett during his evil monologue. It reminded me of when Spike is vowing vengeance on Buffy in season four and gets zapped by the Initiative.

Anonymous said...

I just wish Lost hadn't forever made me cynical of network television teases.
All the relentless amount of unresolved, uncommitted ideas and fates thrown around this episode just screamed “we haven't figured any of this stuff out, let's hope we can come up with something interesting come next seasion.”

Suzanne said...

Count me in as someone who was ready to give up on AoS early on, but who, after being dragged back my husband to watch the episodes that came after Winter Soldier, has become more and more impressed each week. I really enjoyed the finale as did everyone else and look foward to next season now.

Sophie said...

(Silent lurker's first comment): This was such a great review, and I loved the Skye/May interaction. May and Coulson's adorkable scene was another great moment.

Concerning Ward/Garrett, I actually found that the flashbacks explained a lot about how close they were. A key moment is when Garrett tells Ward not to apologize, Ward has earned every step of his way, and doesn't owe anything to anyone. Basically, Garrett was the first person who really made Ward take pride in his own abilities. This is a huge deal for Ward, who has been told by everyone that he is essentially worthless, and it's why Ward believes he owes Garrett everything.

It helped that Garrett seemed so straightforward and honest to Ward. Someone like Coulson would have tried to get Ward to see the good in the world, but Garrett has a kind of "tough love", yeah-the-world-sucks approach, which matches Ward's viewpoint.

Finally, you have to remember that Ward came from an extremely abusive home, and went on to attend a military school, then landed in a juvenile detention center. He doesn't have the clearest understanding of what a healthy relationship is, and he doesn't recognize that Garrett is just using him from the start. All Ward sees is the person who gave him the tools and opportunity to build his self-esteem and confidence. Garrett also became his S.O., and (presumably) watched Ward's back on field missions for S.H.I.E.L.D./HYDRA.

Apologies for the super-long comment! It's my first time commenting on this website, but I really wanted to mention how abuse shaped Ward's perspective.

Sophie said...

Oh my gosh, sorry. This was supposed to be on the previous episode. Cringe.

T. said...

Fun fact about that "Loki blasting gun": is from that Marvel Avengers Facebook game. It's called Coulson's Revenge.

drnanamom said...

Great review, great show. I've loved it from the very beginning but then I enjoyed season 1 of Buffy.

Iago said...

The finale just aired in the UK last night and wow, that was satisfying!

The stuff with Fitz/Simmons really got to me, especially Simmons talking about death in such a beautiful way. I like how, when the series started, Fitz/Simmons were essentially interchangeable but over the course of the series they've gone off in two pretty different directions. Fitz kept his naivety a lot longer, his innocence and his fear, whereas Simmons seemed to accept the reality of the HYDRA world much more quickly, lacking any illusions. Both heroic in their own ways: lovely to see.

There was an abundance of deadpan, with May, Coulson and Fury all sparking off each other. Again, May started off the series as the big enigma, aloof from the rest of the team and by the end she was right at the heart of the team. Her smile when she saw Simmons was a thing of beauty and May and Skye need to work together more often: they were great fun.

A little touch that caught me at the end was the music playing over the bonus scenes: it struck me it was similar to music from the nuclear holocaust scenes in BSG. I'm hoping this isn't a portent of doom from Mr McCreary.

Docnaz said...

Sophie, that"s Ok, keep posting!