Note: While I have made a habit of writing complete episode recaps combined with my reviews, starting with tonight’s episode of Agents I will be writing reviews and recaps as separate articles. I will place a link to the recap within the review, and vice versa, when both articles are complete
Episode: 22 (S01E22)
Airdate: May 13, 2014
This inaugural season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had its ups and downs, but fortunately for the series most of the ups have come recently, and the announcement last week that ABC is picking the show up for a second season means that they have noticed that the show is beginning to show some real potential. The “Uprising” story-arc has led viewers through the last six weeks at a break-neck pace, as events have kept the team on edge and always on the brink of disaster. Last week left us with some pretty big questions, and there are several more that have been simmering all season long, so the questions are: does the season finale live up to the rest of the “Uprising” arc? and do we get answers to any of the questions Tancharoen and Whedon have been teasing us with? Click through after the break to find out.
<<Spoiler Alert: This review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S01E22 – “Beginning of the End” – will discuss major plot points and events in the episode, as well as spoilers that apply to events in the recently released movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier; read at your own risk!>>
In a nutshell: the season finale was a success. I have a few minor quibbles here and there, but for the most part, this episode not only served to tie up the major plot points of the “Uprising” sequence, but did so while giving us a dose of humor the show has at times tried to give us, while often missing the mark. Tonight’s episode was, in my opinion, the best of the season, and leaves me wanting more just as the show goes into its summer hiatus.
The episode begins in a Cybertek office – their head office, in fact – where the president of the company is introducing a new employee. As he shows the man around, he asks him what brought him to Cybertek; nervously, he says it was the incentive program, something that becomes very important later on.
We get over to Havana, where the team was left at the end of last episode, surrounded by super soldiers and a man wielding the Berserker staff. The guy holding the staff makes the first mistake – he calls May “The Cavalry” – and she dispatches him with a quick upper-cut, taking the staff and feeding off of its energy. The team deals with the super soldiers, while Skye plugs in her trojan activation flash drive. As soon as she’s done, the team vacates.
We see Garrett growing more and more unstable. The introduction of the GH-325 surrogate into his system last week may have saved his life, but it has also given a huge boost to his inherent narcissism. This leads to quite a few humorous moments, as he’s completely oblivious and uncaring about how he appears to those around him, doing and saying everything with a great deal of exaggerated gravitas. One of the best moments of the entire night came when he’s telling Coulson and Director Fury, eyes bugged out with intensity, “I am the key to the future of the universe,” when they simply ignore him to discuss how crazy Garrett is.
Fitz and Simmons managed to survive the fall from the Bus last week. Fitz guesses correctly that the Bus was in near-vertical mode and close to the ocean’s surface when they were ejected, but it isn’t terribly believable that he was able to strap them both down in the time he had available. In the case, they’re both injured – both have head wounds, Simmons bad enough to have knocked her out, and Fitz has a broken arm. He tells Simmons that he tried to jury-rig the defibrillator to send out a distress signal, but then realized it would only be on S.H.I.E.L.D. frequencies, thus useless. They talk a bit, and Fitz all but says he loves her – but he can’t, so he asks if he can show her how he feels. They figure out a way to escape the cargo pod, and swim to the surface, Simmons dragging an unconscious Fitz behind her.
There was some hokum at this point about them only having enough oxygen for one, and Fitz telling Simmons that she had to hold her breath all the way to the surface – they’re ninety feet down – both of which make no sense. If a person held their breath from ninety feet deep, which is at three atmospheres (pressure increases by one atmosphere approximately every 33 feet), their lungs would burst. An embolism would kill them quickly, and very painfully. In addition, you wouldn’t need oxygen – a simple deep breath of the air in the pod, blow the window, and slowly let the air out as they ascended would be adequate to get them up alive. However, none of that would matter, as they’d be quickly in trouble from the bends. Except…
…in a fortuitous turn, Director Fury is at the surface waiting to give Simmons a hand – literally. Fitz’s signal was picked up, and they came to get them. It was a real pleasure to see Director Fury on the show again. He’s incognito, so isn’t wearing the distinctive eye-patch, looking more like someone who’s living under a bridge, as he tells Coulson a bit later.
Coulson and Trip scoping out Cybertek
Coulson, May, Trip, and Skye take on Cybertek, and work very well as a team – well, as two teams, really. The men blow a hole in the wall, and the women rush inside to confront the Cybertek technicians. They use the trojan to take control of the super soldiers, and they lead Coulson right to Garrett. Garrett’s superpowers are news to Coulson – he says, “Well that’s new” when Garrett punches him all the way across the room. Fortunately for Coulson, Fury makes his second fortuitous appearance at this point. In one of the cooler moments in the episode, Fury hands Coulson the gun he used against Loki in The Avengers, and Coulson tells him, “I know what it does,” as he turns and takes out all of Garrett’s bodyguards.
Before Skye can get everything done to help Coulson from the control room, a confused Ward shows up. He’s just tried to stop Raina and Quinn leaving with the gravitonium, only to be stopped by Garrett and given the job of getting Skye. If there’s one thing we learned about Ward tonight, it’s that he’s extremely weak-minded. Skye hits the nail on the head when she tells Ward he isn’t evil – Garrett is evil; Ward is just weak. Before Ward can stop Skye, May shows up and they proceed to kick the living crap out of each other.
Not the last hole in a wall May will pass through tonight
The fight is pretty epic, crashing through walls, using table saws, power cords, crowbars and the like. It goes on for a good five minutes, interspersed with other scenes, but it ends with a simply excellent move, as May grabs a nailgun, spikes Ward’s foot to the ground, and punches him right in the larynx before knocking him out with a boot to the head. Just before she punches him in the throat, he starts to say something – I was really afraid he was going to make some BS claim about working for Fury all along at this point – so it was a nice touch to see her silence him so effectively. This was a nice example of the writers choosing to go against the obvious, something they did a few times tonight.
The opening scene of the episode becomes suddenly important, as we see that the incentive program is in fact a wing of the building filled with kidnapped family members. Skye manages to find Michael Peterson’s son, their “ace in the hole.” Meanwhile, the true climax is happening with Coulson, Fury, Garrett, and Deathlok/Michael Peterson. There is a great repartee between Coulson and Fury, some of the best dialogue of the entire season, and you can see Garrett practically bursting to be heard. When he sicks his man on them, he’s surprised to see Peterson turn on him instead – Skye has gotten his son to send him a message, and for the first time in months, he’s free to make up his own mind. He ends the fight by stomping on Garrett’s head, apparently killing him.
Fortunately for us, however, he’s not quite dead yet. In a scene near the very end of the episode, we see him crawling up onto an automated operating table and initiating it. He’s nearly dead, but the machine begins to replace everything, right up to his head. He’s Deathlok v3.0, bigger, stronger, more advanced. He gets off the table, his face a bloody mess, and starts to wax poetic about what he’s going to do – when suddenly he explodes in a burst of bloody mist. Coulson is standing in the doorway, the 0-8-4 tesseract weapon from episode 102. He quips, “Guys, I found it,” as he turns and walks out of the laboratory.
There were actually several scenes at the end, each of which would have counted as a stinger on any other night, but all of which serve to set up next season. We see Coulson laying into Fury, and Fury turning over the reins of S.H.I.E.L.D. – what’s left of it – to Coulson. His mission in the next season will be to rebuild the agency from the ground up, and Fury gives him a “toolbox” (a tiny metallic cube) to aid him in the job. Fury – he’s going away for a bit. Next, we get Coulson and team arriving at a new location to find Simmons there. She tells them that Fitz is alive, but doesn’t go into details. Then who do we see, but Agent Koenig – only this is Agent Billy Koenig, not Eric. He tells them that this is The Playground, his own name for a nameless base, much like Eric called his base Providence. This is, I assume the “brother” Eric mentioned. Next, we see Raina, entering a decrepit room, and approaching a lone sitting figure. She tells him/her/it that she’s found his/her/its daughter, and lays down a picture of Skye. An arm dripping with something – blood? – takes it. Finally, we get the real stinger: Coulson awakes, looking confused. He examines the schematic Garrett’s insanity led him to etch into glass earlier in the episode, a copy of the alien schematic they’d both seen on the wall at the old Centipede base in an abandoned racetrack. He takes a knife, and begins to carve into a wall – it’s the same schematic again, only much larger and more detailed. Perhaps there is more to Garrett’s statement that he and Coulson are “blood brothers” than it seems.
I really liked tonight’s episode a lot. It was the funniest episode of the season, with several laugh-out-loud moments, while also keeping the tension ratcheted up, and putting all of the team members in danger. Fitz’s health is still a big question mark, Skye’s parentage doesn’t look too appealing, and Coulson has to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D. from scratch. No one is going to have it easy going into next season.
Questions that were answered and story-lines ended:
– Director Fury is alive (no-one but Coulson knew going into tonight)
– Garrett has been dealt with
– Fitz finally told Simmons how he feels – through actions, not words
– Raina is likely far more dangerous than Garrett ever was
– the controllers that were bursting eyeballs in agents and super-soldiers? Low-level tech-company functionaries. Best. Reveal. Ever.
Questions unanswered, both old and new:
– what is Fitz’s condition?
– who are Skye’s parents, and therefore Skye?
– how is Raina related to Skye?
– what was Ward going to say to May?
– is Billy Koenig a clone or an LMD (Life Model Decoy)? I don’t think he’s simply a twin – no grief over Eric’s death.
– “I have a weapon much better than a bomb that will absolutely destroy you.” “Why is that?” “Because you slept with her, and she’s really pissed off.” Skye and Ward, just before May attacks him
– “I’d like to have a lengthy conversation about that. It might get loud.” Coulson to Fury about his involvement in the T.A.H.I.T.I. Project, while they’re under heavy fire
– “You didn’t tell me he’d gone this crazy.” “He’s really stepped it up a notch.” Fury and Coulson in response to Garrett’s insane comments
– “Dad, what are we? We’re a team.” Michael Peterson’s son, via Peterson’s implant
– “Your torture, is going to be internal.” “And a little bit external.” “Sure, some of that.” Coulson and May as they tell Ward what they have in store for him
– “Now, I’ll be unstopp…” Garrett after his reconstruction into Deathlok v3, just as he’s hit by Coulson’s Tesseract gun
– “Hey guys, I found it.” Coulson right after he disintegrates Garrett, excited to show the team the gun he just retrieved
A tie, between the banter Coulson and Fury share while ignoring the increasingly manic Garrett, and the end scene, when Garrett goes through his painful reconstruction, the music soaring, only to be turned into a fine mist by Coulson’s nonchalant use of the Tesseract gun.
Other things we learned tonight:
– Coulson is, according to Director Fury, an Avenger
– At least one of Skye’s parents is still alive, and it doesn’t look pretty
– Raina is loyal only to “evolution” – this should frighten us considerably
– Bill Paxton does a helluva lizard impersonation; he also does crazy very well
– Agent May is dangerous around construction equipment – she really nailed Ward. Really.
– Mike Peterson is now a free agent, a super-powered Deathlok without his HYDRA or Cybertek masters. Will he become a recurring superhero? Where will he go for spare parts?
Steve’s Grade: A
Despite a few quibbles, my favorite episode of the entire season, and a strong finish to the inaugural year for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Funny, intelligent, and with some of the best dialogue and acting of the year. I look forward to Season Two with a great deal of anticipation.