Episode: 22 (S01E22)
Airdate: May 13, 2014
This week marks the end of a somewhat uneven first season for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., an uneven season that has finally started to bring things together in a solid seven episode story-arc that has not only increased the stakes for the entire team, but has also managed to salvage what appeared at first to be a mediocre new offering. In addition, the improvements over the last month and half likely had something to do with ABC’s decision to renew for a second season. Some of you, especially those that gave up after the first show or the first few, may be wondering why Agents is worth your time again. On the surface, the addition of Bill Paxton has given the show clout above and beyond the already excellent acting of Clark Greg and Ming-Na Wen, and this week we’ll be seeing a special guest star from the movie series as well (more after the break). However, the reasons to rejoin the show run much deeper than who it has been casting recently; rather, the show has improved it’s quality on every level, from acting to writing, and (in true Whedon fashion) it has shown that even the oddest and most apparently disconnected episodes from early on actually play an important role in the denouement about to happen. Everything’s connected, and in Whedon We Trust.
<<Spoiler Warning: This Sneak Peek will examine events of the entire "Uprising" arc of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. leading into the season finale airing next week, as well as revealing my thoughts on where the series is heading going into its second season. Click through at your own risk!>>
The episode synopsis over at IMDB says: Dark secrets are revealed as Coulson and his team put everything on the line to stop Garrett and the forces of HYDRA.
I have to be honest – Coulson and co. are not going to be stopping HYDRA anytime soon. Garrett? Maybe. HYDRA? It would be a huge mistake in the narrative flow going into Season Two if they were to do away with the BIG BAD so handily. HYDRA represents a massive long-term threat, one hearkening back to World War II, and there’s no way that Coulson and his team do any more than to cut off one of its heads – something set up when the HYDRA reveal occurred five weeks ago. I also have to question what exactly these “dark secrets” are; is there something more sinister and more deeply hidden than Ward’s betrayal? I suspect this week’s synopsis may serve more to link with what has already happened than with any new revelations coming this week.
Now, let’s take a look first at the short Promo video, followed by the much longer Sneak Peek ABC released a couple of days ago.
We open on Coulson, gun in hand: “You ready to change the world?” May responds, “I’m ready to kick some ass.” Cut to an armored vehicle, Coulson driving it through a barrier as he smiles at Trip in the passenger seat; we see him firing a rocket from one of two pods flanking the crew cab, exploding in the midst of a group of well-armed security personnel (HYDRA? Private? Impossible to tell). Jump to on of the S.H.I.E.L.D. air transports, flying through the clouds. We hear Skye in voice-over: “We have a weapon much better than a bomb that will destroy you.” As she speaks, we see Coulson and May with Trip in the background, appearing to speak with official types; Skye, face lit by computer screens, leaning in as she does her mojo; and Ward, gun up, pointing at someone we see from behind – it’s likely Coulson, based on the vest and white shirtsleeves; finish on Skye, saying the last couple of words, and an angry Deathlok, firing his arm missile while gritting his teeth. ABC voice-over continues: “The battle for survival, requires a special Marvel guest-star,” as we jump through May and Skye reacting to an attack (Deathlok’s?), followed by a close-up on what appears to be Director Fury in deep cover (hiding, apparently, as the actor Samuel L. Jackson wearing sunglasses), and then random male hand hitting a red button (could be Garrett). Coulson chimes in: “Fury always said, a man can accomplish anything when he realizes he’s a part of something bigger,” starting with Coulson lowering his gun from behind, then punching an unseen enemy; Skye looking worried; Coulson, speaking; two men fighting in a dark room, spinning blades between them (could be Garrett and – someone?); then Garrett, head rising up (after being struck, perhaps), and hitting Coulson with all of his newfound GH-325 inspired super-strength, sending Coulson flying. Cut to Coulson, gun aimed in front of him, saying, “Bring the house down.”
Bring the house down indeed. The “Uprising” story-arc, kick-started by the cinematic connection to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, has not only done the unlikely – rebooted Agents mid-season in a series-saving move – but has reified characters, especially Skye, who was the most hated character of the first half of Season One. For those that gave up early-on and rejoined recently, Skye was much maligned and disliked (including by this reviewer) for being a prototypical Mary Sue. When her actual birth name was revealed to be Mary Sue a couple of weeks ago, it was not only a sop to those of us who complained early on, but a way for the writers and showrunners (Maurissa Tauncharoen and Jed Whedon) to let us know that they were in on the gag from the beginning – Skye was written as a Mary Sue, in order to distract us from the much more sinister currents running just below the surface. This short Promo suggests that the action i the season finale will be, if nothing else, non-stop, and that we’re going to get the confrontation between Coulson and Garrett that we’ve been waiting for since Garrett was originally “arrested.” The real question remains: which way will Ward blow? Is he recuperable? How many S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are you allowed to kill, and still be let back into the fold? It would make sense to keep Ward going into the next season, but really only as an enemy; as much as he seems to have genuine feelings for Skye, and given the fact that he did what he could to avoid killing Fitz and Simmons last week, he’s still done enough damage to S.H.I.E.L.D. that any kind of “triple agent” narrative is going to be a very hard sell.
My thoughts, based on this Promo? Garrett is going to bite it, despite his physical advantage over Coulson. A lack of any Raina or Ward in this clip indicates that they are likely both to survive for future seasons, and will either play a key role (hence ABC’s unwillingness to show them), or will be removed as players early on. They will both survive the episode, whereas I suspect Garrett will not. The lack of any glimpse of Fitz and Simmons here doesn’t really say anything, other than ABC is attempting to maintain the mystery of their fate left at the end of last episode – I fully expect to see them both again this week, despite the problems involved with falling one hundred feet with a sudden stop at the end, as they did last week in the lab pod ejected by Evil Ward.
Speaking of Ward, he may somehow be brought back into the fold in this episode. I sincerely hope he will not – he’s too far gone, and actually plays better as a conflicted baddie, but as he is one of the main players, I won’t be surprised if Tauncharoen and Whedon contrive to bring him back to Coulson’s side. The thing is, if Coulson has taken six episodes to trust May again, how will he ever trust Ward again? If played true, there’s no way Coulson takes him back, but there’s been a lot of stretching by the writing team this season, so anything is possible.
Let’s take a look at the longer Sneak Peek video:
We start with a fly-by shot of the S.H.I.E.L.D. transport moving through the clouds, and then cut to Coulson, readying equipment and his team. He says, “We only get one shot at this, so let’s go over the plan one more time to make sure we’re clear on exactly what we’re doing, okay? Trip and I will crest the ridge, using a noise-maker to grab a three-wheel, maybe something with more fireworks, and open a window for you two [looking at Skye and May as he says this]. You crawl in, grab the dealer, force his hand, he’ll get us our ace in the hole, and then Bob’s your uncle.” Skye looks up and says, “Roger that,” and Trip adds, “Makes it sound easy.” May hands him a gun, looking him in the eye. She says, “Coulson, it’s a solid plan you’ve mapped out, but it hinges on a gamble. A big one.” He replies, looking at the floor, “And back-up isn’t coming. It’ll be just the four of us.” May hands a gun to Trip, as Coulson continues, “We’ll be out-manned, and outgunned. But Fury always said, a man can accomplish anything when he realizes he’s a part of something bigger.” We see Skye looking at him, as Coulson finishes, “A team of people who share that conviction, can change the world.” May looks thoughtful; Coulson asks, “So what do you say? You ready to change the world?” Trip and Skye look convinced, but May says, “No,” loading her gun, “I’m ready to kick some ass.” Trip smiles, as does Coulson. “That works too,” he says.
Cut to the Bus. Ward is walking with Raina. He tells her, “I’m saying, just talk to him. He says everything’s fine, but he’s not acting that way.” They walk up towards the containment/holding room on the Bus. Michael “Deathlok” Peterson is standing guard. Ward says, “I don’t know what’s going on with him.” He pauses; “I don’t like it.” Raina looks at him and nods. She heads in, leaving Ward and Peterson to eye each other like two cocks of the walk. Raina walks in, and Garrett is sitting at the interrogation table, rubbing his own neck like an addict hitting the DTs. He’s totally entranced by the gravitonium, held within a containment cube. “Captivating, isn’t it,” says Raina, walking around to face Garrett from one side of the pulsating mass. Garrett says, “First time I saw it it reminded me of a lava lamp. Course, that was before I could see through it.” Raina pauses, then says, “Quinn’s expecting the Gravitonium in payment. When he’s done, I think it would be wise to let him have it.”
“Don’t be coy,” Garrett says, moving around to face her. “I know you’ve got big plans for this stuff. I understand it know, I can see its soul.” He leans across the cube toward her; “I can see yours too,” he says, a manic gleam in his eyes. “Ward’s concerned you’re going mad,” she says. He shakes his head, saying, “The drug didn’t just give me strength of body, it gave me clarity of mind, it gave me a vision of the world that’s waiting beneath the surface of this world.” He straightens up, staring at her. “You don’t think that’s mad, do you?” he asks, and she shakes her head. “You know exactly what I’m talking about, you always have.” She breaks almost reluctantly into a smile, and then moves around the cube. She has this strange way of almost timing her speech to her steps, so that it looks as though she is dancing and talking at the same time. “I have no allegiance to HYDRA,” she says, “Centipede, Cybertek, you. I was only ever interested in…” He finishes her sentence: “Evolution.”
She looks moderately surprised. He continues: “You know we’re prehistoric creatures, oozing out of the swamps, through the mists, clawing our way onto land so that we can finally stand. Or plant roots.” He drops his eyes as though looking for the next thing to say. “Or fly,” he finishes with a large grin. Oddly, the way that he thrusts his face toward Raina as he speaks makes him look almost reptilian, one of these prehistoric creatures he names. “Exactly,” she says. “I was saddened to learn you weren’t clairvoyant. I had a question I didn’t get to ask, but now…” “Now,” he continues, “the truth is written on the back of my eyes.” He pauses. “So…go ahead, Flowers.” His stare gets a degree more intense. “Ask.” She builds up to her question, her expression looking like it’s physically difficult to get the words out. She asks, “What will I become?”
Two storylines, two sets of characters, and a climactic meeting certain to come. We now know, thanks to last week’s episode, that Garrett is actually Deathlok version one, and now he’s become something much greater, but with a high degree of uncertainty. Is he really a clairvoyant now, after all? What exactly does he see written on the back of his eyes?
Raina let on last week, after examining Skye’s bloodwork, that Skye is an alien, and that the two of them may have something in common. Now, she’s asking what she’s going to become – this suggest that they are both alien, or perhaps something we haven’t seen yet. With her lack of loyalty to anyone or anything, is she a possible ally for Skye down the road?
Big question here: where are Fitz and Simmons? Despite the problems inherent with falling about one hundred feet into water with a sudden stop at the end (and not being belted in within the pod), I suspect they’ll both survive Ward’s ejection. How will they get back together with the rest of the team, and will it be in time to help them defeat the suddenly very powerful Garrett?
I strongly feel that Garrett will be dealt with tonight, and I think that Ward will play a role in Coulson’s success. Will this be enough to bring Ward back into the fold? It shouldn’t be, but we’ve seen some similarly difficult to fathom and/or stomach writing choices earlier in the season; I’m just hoping that Tauncharoen and Whedon have listened to fans and critics, and will start to recognize that they are dealing with pretty smart group here on the other side of the television. It’ll also be interesting to see just how big a role Samuel L. Jackson will play in Tuesday’s episode. He’s been quoted before as suggesting he’d never do television, but he’s already appeared once early in the season, and may play a slightly larger role this time around.
One last note: If you’re not watching Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., why not? Granted, the series began with more of a whimper than a bang back in September, and the odd pacing was hampered by inconsistent air dates over the first several months, with breaks of one, two, and even four weeks between new episodes. All of this has changed with the “Uprising” story-arc, a set of seven episodes that have played like one extended narrative on consecutive weeks, reaching a climax this coming Tuesday with the Season One finale. Agents was just renewed by ABC on Thursday, a vote of confidence by the network that recognizes that, despite losing some early audience numbers, the show has a great deal of potential, and has begun to realize that here in the final story-arc of the season. If you’re not watching Agents, now is a good time to come back into the fold.