Despite the title, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. provides almost no closure to their storylines tonight. Instead, closure is promised in next week’s episode. This episode is largely about the quest for closure, with Coulson looking to put Ward down once and for all. But Coulson’s not quite there yet; this episode is largely about maneuvering the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents into position for next week’s (hopefully) explosive finale.
Tonight sees the brutal, shocking end of Constance Zimmer’s Rosalind. She’s shot through the neck in the opening minutes of the show. While this show has pulled off fake deaths before, this seems pretty definitive. But I’m a little frustrated; we questioned Rosalind’s motivations every single episode up until her death. We never really got to know her character, and just when the show starts building her up as a person (she was killed on a date with Coulson), they off her. Coulson’s bloodlust is understandable, but it doesn’t resonate with us because we didn’t know Rosalind.
Coulson crosses the line tonight, kidnapping Ward’s brother as a way of getting close to him. I admit, I breathed a sigh of relief when Thomas turned out to hate Ward as much as S.H.I.E.L.D., mostly because I think Coulson has already crossed too many lines for this to really register. Coulson has detained people without legal representation, beaten prisoners, and ran illegal wire taps. Kidnapping a civilian seems about par for the course for him. I liked Thomas Ward’s presence, but I hope we never see him again; I’d like at least one person who crossed paths with Ward to have a happy ending.
Malick’s grand plan is basically to repeat the second episode, where vibrations in the church opened the portal. Malick name-drops Alexander Pierce and John Garett tonight, but he calls them “bloodthirsty” and “vain” respectively, which I find fascinating. The idea of Malick disapproving of his colleagues is almost more interesting than the actual plot tonight. I’m imagining Malick trying to convince Pierce to back off Project: Insight, to focus on opening the portal, to bring their Inhuman Hydra King home. I’d really love to see an Agents of Hydra show, focusing not on anti-heroes, but full-fledged villains, wondering if they’re making the right choice to advance their specific objectives.
FitzSimmons is kidnapped by Hydra in order to open the portal and obviously Fitz caves to save Simmons. You probably figured that out by the third word in the last sentence. I was really bothered that they brought Simmons into the portal chamber while Fitz worked. The only reason she was there was to set up a “shocking” stinger at the commercial break, when Fitz’ cooperation was obvious from the get-go. I really love FitzSimmons together (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge have great chemistry), but I would dearly love for this romance subplot to end already. The arc is beyond terminable now.
Yet if there’s one character whose longterm arcs are served well tonight, it’s Mack. He’s only in two or three scenes, but they’re huge scenes for his character. Before Coulson goes on a personal quest of vengeance, he names Mack acting Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.. It’s a perfect reversal of last season, where Mack openly distrusted Coulson, to the point of spying on him for Robert Gonzalez. Mack trusts Coulson more now, but he’s not just a company man. To me, at least, Mack is much more intensely moral than Coulson, and actually seems to grapple with the ethics of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s actions. I wouldn’t mind seeing him stick around as Director for awhile longer.
And Mack’s first big decision as Director? To finally pay off all that Secret Warriors viral marketing from earlier this year. Mac pulls the trigger on the Secret Warriors, assembling Daisy, Joey and Lincoln to attack Hydra (next week, of course). MCUE writer Cooper Hood pointed out how poetic it was for Mac to be the one to form the Inhuman team. His first exposure to the Inhumans was being possessed by the Kree temple, and since then, he’s been wary of the Inhumans. He was the first S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to call them a threat. But thanks in no small part to his great rapport with Daisy, Mack’s position has changed from wary ally to full-fledged friend of the Inhumans. Mack’s my favorite character on the show, and I love the way the show has grown his character incrementally since his humble debut a year ago.
And with all the pieces in place for next week, it’s a little disappointing to see it end with such an anti-climax. This isn’t a bad episode, just a severely transitory one. I will say this: it does a great job of setting up next week’s episode. I am deeply curious to see how this all plays out. My one big hope: a body count among the main cast. Ward especially needs to die at this point. I’m going to be really disappointed if in the end, he’s left alive on that planet.
3.5 Thrown Phones out of 5. Both Coulson and Ward abuse their cells this week. I like that Coulson’s at least doesn’t break; it’s a heavy-duty spy phone after all.
Oh yeah, didn’t Banks die in this episode? I forgot he existed before his body hit the floor.
I rag on Coulson a lot in these reviews, but he was really good tonight. His one-man fight against Hydra goons in the open was quite good.
Tonight’s episode was directed by Kate Woods in her S.H.I.E.L.D. debut, and I would love to see her stick around awhile longer. She brought a lot of great framing and high energy to this episode. The production design was also great; I’m a fan of the retro sci-fi machine blinking behind a strapped-down Fitz.
Fitz on the alien portal: “It’s just an old wives’ tale Hydra mums tell their goblin babies.”