In the lead-up episode to the Agents of SHIELD
season 1 finale, we knew we were finally going to get a sneak peak into Grant Ward's backstory and how he became the cold-blooded yet somehow more human traitor he's been exposed to be.
And, of course, there is the obligatory writing on the wall to offer hope at his chance for redemption, which he hastily scribbles by not killing FitzSimmons or the dog despite Garrett's orders.
What I didn't foresee were a few unexpected reveals that Garrett was the first Deathlok and that he's dying, meaning the GH325 is just as much for his survival as it is for the creation of an army of indestructible supersoldiers.
Toss in a trip to Cuba and a completely unrealistic and easily preventable sabotage attempt by Fitz, and you've got the groundwork laid for a highly-anticipated culmination to an inaugural Marvel run.
The Story of Ward
So how did scared juvenile delinquent Ward become semi-unfeeling hard-nosed killer Ward? Turns out he took a stab at it before Garrett even got to him. They first met at a detention facility 15 years ago, after Cadet Ward stole a car and set his house on fire with his jerk of an older brother inside.
No one died, but his parents are planning on pressing charges while his sibling will insist he be tried as an adult. Or at least that's what Garrett convinces him of in order to accept an invitation to join a secret organization and "turn him into a man."
SHIELD/HYDRA break Ward out, and Garrett drops him off in the middle of the woods with some clothes and a dog to teach him to fend for himself. Ward and pooch huddle, starving in the rain, for a few weeks before he totally Castaway's it up, even though Brett Dalton can't grow a beard and doesn't have a volleyball. Garrett returns six months later to find a much different and more resilient man, so he teaches him how to shoot a gun.
Five years later, mentor and student are eating canned fruit by a fire when Garrett feels Ward has earned the right to know the truth. He pats his metallic torso and explains that he caught an IED and called for help, but SHIELD hung him out to dry. So he vowed that if he made it out alive (which he did by pushing his guts back into his body and duct taping), he would return the favor. And thus, he actually works for a secret organization within a secret organization, one that knows the true meaning of survival.
Ward has formed quite the bond with Buddy the dog, who is smart and loyal and his bestie in solitude. So Garrett orders him to kill the dog as a lesson in how not to get attached. Ward has been accepted into SHIELD, and if he's going to work as a HYDRA double agent, he must be able to stay isolated and sever ties at a moment's notice without emotion.
Anything else is a weakness. So Ward lets Buddy live, and Garrett knows it.
Coulson and his team are still holed up at the motel, trying to figure out their next move. There's one common link between everything that's happened this season, and that's the shell corporation that is Cybertek. Skye's parting gift on the hard drive was a Trojan virus that maps every server the intel is uploaded to, but because it was hastily created, they'll need to plug a flash drive into a computer with access to see any of it.
Coulson and May -- or should I say Theo Tittle and Dr. Rome, thanks to fake IDs created by Skye -- set up an interview with Cybertek as ex-SHIELD employees trying to hawk technology. FitzSimmons feeds the lines, Roxanne style, while Tripp drives/bounces and Skye unsuccessfully tries to hack the system mainframe.
The Cybertek brass don't go for it, as they clearly prefer HYDRA's youth appeal, but with the help of old-school gadgets provided by Tripp's grandfather, Coulson and May gain access to Cybertek's all-paper archives and steal a filing cabinet of information on the Deathlok project. They escape by zip-lining out the window, because Cybertek doesn't have surveillance cameras. Or external security. And they only have hard copies of their files. And they were all at that location.
Deathlok Squared and Failing Organs
The stolen files reveal that Garrett was patient zero in the Deathlok project allllll the way back in 1990, but on the Bus, it's all about the present. Garrett had ordered Mike Peterson to kill a Colombian drug lord with ties to HYDRA, knocking his head clean off with one punch, to provide a spectacle of what Cybertek technology can offer. As a reward, he allows Mike to see video clips of his son in a cell.
Ward is still pretty upset about the whole Deathlok-induced heart attack thing, which Garrett characterizes as more weakness. And while they bicker, Garrett suddenly keels over, clutching his chest. Ward plugs him in and reboots his cyborg side, but Garrett reveals that the biomechanics are fine; it's his organs that are failing.
The Centipede serum has been the only thing keeping him alive, though he's too far gone to gain superpowers from it, and he only has a few months to live. That's why the GH325 is so important to him.
Raina's Discoveries and Doubts
Raina, or "Flowers" as Garrett calls her, is still in Cuba trying to recreate GH325, and the hard drive data (which she has so generously uploaded to a main server) is inching her ever closer. She is first confronted by Mike Peterson, who demands to know why she's there if she doesn't have an eye bomb forcing her. She says it's because of her interest in what's on the inside of special people, and she sees something in Skye's blood that makes her believe they share a common bond.
Then she corners Ward to ask what he knows about Skye, because her DNA matches that of a long-forgotten baby in a village a long time ago. The entire village was wiped out as monsters tried to get the baby, and those monsters were Skye's parents. They didn't get the child, though. This info is not new to us, as we found out much earlier that SHIELD intervened and saved her, and the agents who survived later lost their lives protecting her secrecy. But it's interesting that Ward/HYDRA are finally catching on.
Also, Raina thought that Garrett shared her interests, but after his medical episode, she's realized that he's just in this to not die. So even though she is successfully able to recreate one single dose of GH325, don't be surprised if she ends up jumping ship soon.
Defecting to Cuba
Tripp is able to track Cybertek shipments from around the globe, but they all end up in Cuba, so that's where the base has to be. They pack up and fly out, but they arrive too late, as the file theft has prompted Garrett to hastily move the operation to the states, where Quinn is acting as the posterboy for the new enterprise.
FitzSimmons find the Bus at a nearby airfield, but despite orders not to engage, they devise a plan to sneak a drone on board. That is, of course, until Ward finds them and brings them on the plane. Meanwhile, Coulson, May, Sky and Tripp are planning a mad dash to the runway, until Skye points out that there might be a computer left behind that they can use to activate the Trojan virus. They enter, where Centipede supersoldiers are waiting for them with at least one Berserker staff.
While Fitz talks tough with Garrett, Ward catches him fumbling in his pockets and grabs his hands, where he finds an old-time joke buzzer. Ward incorrectly identifies it as such, but it's actually an EMP that Fitz uses to short out parts of the Bus and Garrett's insides. A ballsy move on Fitz's part for sure, but this scene had me rolling my eyes. Everyone is well aware of his gadgets, and there's no way anyone, especially Ward, would think it was actually a prank gizmo. So I didn't buy it, but it got the job done.
Fitz's Hope and Super Garrett
Ward desperately tries to recharge Garrett, who realizes those methods are ineffective and orders his protege to kill Fitz and Simmons "for him." It's just like Buddy the dog all over again, and so Ward begins his pursuit while Raina stays with Garrett. He instructs her to inject him with the GH325, even though using it means no more serum in the future for others to enjoy.
FitzSimmons escape their guards and run smack into Ward before locking themselves in a pod with a glass window. Ward demands they open up, but Fitz, who has refused to accept that Ward is evil, again pleads with him to do the right thing. Fitz says he knows that Ward cares about them, and Ward whispers that he does, and it's a weakness, before releasing the pod into the ocean.
So sure, he gave them a fighting chance. But dropping a sealed metal canister into the depths of the Atlantic isn't exactly saving them. If no one finds them, it will be an even worse death. But I guess it's better than just killing them.
Back on the plane's deck, Raina mixes GH325 with the Centipede serum in Garrett's chest sack, and he is immediately rejuvenated and claims he can feel the entire universe. With the GH325 being the missing ingredient in the supersoldier serum and no more of it existing, that means Garrett and Garrett alone is the one perfect, stable specimen in the Cybertek fleet.
The Culmination is Coming
The epilogue shows us Quinn in Washington, DC, using the Colombia incident to pitch Cybertek's solidiers to the US military. It was a one-man operation with no support team and no extraction plan, and with corrupt organizations like HYDRA and SHIELD out there, this is the only way to keep the nation safe. He offers them 1,000 soldiers and a tour of the facility.
I'm not quite sure if injecting Garrett with the serum compromises that plan, since the current Centipede soldiers need extensive work and outside substances to remain stable, even with the improvements Scorch's fire-resistant blood offered. If the GH325 is no more, I don't see how the plan proceeds, though I doubt that is of concern to Garrett.
The last remaining SHIELD team takes the fight to HYDRA in the finale, and Ward is sure to be the key player in determining who wins and loses, lives and dies. And if his revealed weakness is any indication, he's grown far too attached to his former teammates to kill any of them. Plus, May is really pissed and bottling up all her anger for a final confrontation with her former lover.
Agents of SHIELD hasn't officially been renewed, but ratings aside, it has proven essential to filling in the gaps of the Marvel Universe and serving as the bridge between films. Based on that dual purpose, I think we can be reasonably comfortable in at least getting a second season.
What do you think will happen in the finale? How will the saga of Ward end? Will anyone important die? And what significance will the appearance of Nick Fury have in the grand scheme of things? Tune in next Tuesday at 8pm to find out how it all plays out.