The season 1 finale of Agents of SHIELD is everything I expected it to be, and yet I’m not disappointed in the slightest. It’s the mark of a quality show to be more or less predictable and still deliver a wildly entertaining ending to a sometimes shaky inaugural run.
My love of comic books and all things Marvel dictates that I will watch no matter what, but the real question is if the series will hold the attention of the casual viewers, or, more important, turn them into paying customers at the box office. So if this is your first introduction into the Marvel Universe, I trust you’re here to stay.
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“The Beginning of the End” puts a tiny little bow on the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and sets the stage for future film crossovers while serving as the bridge in between flicks. And, if they so choose, there is plenty of room for standalone serial episodes next season as we work towards the revelation of Skye’s true nature and why the heck Coulson carved alien symbols into a wall, a la over-the-edge Garrett.
All is Right in the End
There is nothing overly surprising about the events that transpire, save a couple of twists. You’ve got the classic culmination fights between Ward and May and Coulson and Garrett. Sam Jackson is awesome and badass as Nick Fury. Deathlok is freed from his exploding eyeball prison and FitzSimmons is rescued, with Fitz professing his love. Good wins out.
And anyone hoping for Ward’s redemption or eventual consummation with Skye — and there were quite a few of you — are incredibly disappointed. But the potential for a good heart aside, what he’s willing to do to May during that fight leaves little room for a return to decency. Thank goodness because evil Ward with a glimmer of hope is soooo much better than good vanilla Ward.
I don’t want to waste a lot of time on a recap of the episode because it’s the finale for crying out loud and you should just watch it. And if you’re online reading this, you can probably access it in some capacity. But just in case, here’s the synopsis.
Bringing Down the House
People are flocking to volunteer for the Cybertek supersoldier program because of the mysterious “incentives program,” which seems like a promising benefits package but actually involves kidnapping loved ones and holding them hostage.
The company brass watches through eye cameras as May, trapped with Coulson and crew in the basement of the HYDRA barbershop headquarters in Cuba, wrestles away a Berzerker staff and bashes the pillars to collapse the building and facilitate the team’s escape. But not before Skye installs the flash drive into the HYDRA computer, giving her access to all of Cybertek’s goings-on.
Coulson discovers that FitzSimmons put a tracker on the Bus, but they’re not responding and are presumed dead. But if they’re still alive, finding Garrett is the only way to save them. A plan is hatched.
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Do the Evolution
On the Bus, Garrett is drunk with power and GH325, and with his newfound clairvoyance, he decides to ditch HYDRA and just enslave the world with his new theory of evolution. Raina, who has no allegiance to anyone, sides with him and asks him what she will become. Ward, who thought the goal was always simply to save Garrett’s life and cut bait, thinks his mentor has lost his marbles.
While Quinn pitches the supersoldier idea to the military, Garrett walks in, says there’s a new future in the works and kills the general … by tearing out his rib and stabbing him to death with it. Kind of like the reverse of Eve’s creation.
Ward flips out to Raina about what Garrett has become, and she advises him to get on board because after Skye’s true nature is revealed, he might actually have a shot with her. He replies that Skye thinks he’s a monster, and Raina tells him they can be monsters together.
Everything’s Better Down Where It’s Wetter
FitzSimmons are now resting comfortably on the bottom of the sea after Ward dumped them out of the Bus in a pod. They barely survived the drop, suffering various injuries. They’re low on supplies and oxygen, there’s no way out and all Fitz can muster up in terms of an SOS signal relies on old SHIELD frequencies that no one is monitoring. So they’re going to die.
That is, until Simmons comes up with a plan to blow the window so that they can swim the 90 feet to the surface. But there’s only enough oxygen for one of them, and Fitz demands that Simmons inhale it. He doesn’t have the nerve to tell her his true feelings, so now he’ll show them. While she protests, he blows the door and she swims to safety, pulling an unconscious Fitz up with her.
Now in the middle of the ocean with no flotation devices or reason for hope, they are rescued by Director Nick Fury, who has been monitoring that obsolete SHIELD signal searching for Coulson. Fitz is alive, but barely, and from her decompression chamber, Simmons tells Fury how he can find Coulson.
Coulson and Tripp steal a Humvee from the Cybertek facility and blow a hole in the wall to let May and Skye gain access. Then they draw the supersoldiers away while the ladies bust into the operations control center and prompt the supervisor to put the soldiers into a failsafe mode called Default Directive. Integrated into the system, Skye is able to order them to protect Garrett at all costs, just as they’re about to break into Coulson and Tripp’s Humvee. Coulson follows them to his target, while Tripp inexplicably disappears until the last five minutes of the episode.
Ward confronts Skye, who he admits awoke a weakness in him that made him focus on what he wanted for a change, distracting him from his focus on the mission. Then he makes a disturbingly rapey statement that maybe he should just take what he wants and awaken a weakness in her, but that’s all interrupted by jilted lover May’s flying attack.
They trade fists and momentum, and Ward nearly slices May in half with a circular saw numerous times while dropping snippy one-liners about her frigidness. Eventually, she pumps his foot full of nails with a nail gun, and while he’s immobile, she takes him down with a wicked roundhouse kick to the side of the face.
Meanwhile, Coulson attacks Supersoldier Garrett, who tosses him across the room like a rag doll. And that’s where he runs into Fury.
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Fury hands Coulson a SHIELD gun that neutralizes the supersoldiers in the room, and Fury pumps Garrett with a clip-full of bullets. But it’s not going to be that easy, and Garrett stands back up and goes on a rant about the great things his future holds. Fury and Coulson vamp with witty banter about Garrett misunderstanding SHIELD’s message, but they’re just buying time so that Skye can free all the incentives program prisoners and show Deathlok that they have rescued his son.
Once Mike sees that, he ignores Garrett’s orders to kill Coulson and Fury and instead turns his missiles on his former boss before super stomping his head and creating a different form of evolution — mass extinction. He’s not dead, though, and later tries to rejuvenate himself with the new Deathlok technology, but Coulson blows him to bits with another special now-confiscated weapon.
A non-verbal Ward (fractured larynx) is in cuffs, and Coulson tells him that his plan to kill FitzSimmons failed, even though he obviously was trying to save them but can’t say anything. Sort of. You know, he wasn’t not killing them, just offering a very slim chance that they might make it. Coulson plans to torture him, internally mostly, for information, but also poses the question of who Ward is without Garrett, a central figure for most of his life. It’s what he’ll have to figure out in season 2.
Peterson is now free, though SHIELD can monitor his actions through his eye camera. Coulson wanted him brought in, but Skye lets him go so that he can make amends for his previous misdeeds. All the other supersoldiers will basically return to normal without being regularly exposed to the Centipede serum, minus one exploding eye, of course.
A New Beginning
Coulson finally takes out his resurrection frustrations on Fury, who went to great lengths to keep him alive the first time. But why? The T.A.H.I.T.I. program was created to bring back an Avenger, not an agent. So Fury points out that SHIELD was founded on the notion of pure protection, that even one man is worth saving. And Coulson was worth it because he’s the heart of SHIELD.
Fury hands him a small cube, which he says is a toolbox, a blueprint to build SHIELD back from the ground up, from scratch. He’s Director Coulson now, while Fury retreats into the shadows, trading a view from above for two boots on the ground. He’s nowhere and everywhere all at the same time. May promises to always have Coulson’s back, reaffirming that if he is SHIELD’s father figure, she’s the mom.
The cube leads Coulson, Tripp, Skye and May to another secret base called the Playground, where they are reunited with Simmons and given an update on Fitz’s barely still-beating heart. GH325, anyone? Or can Fitzy not handle it? They are greeted by facility director Billy Koenig (Patton Oswalt), who sadly informs them that the Koenig they are mistaking him for is deceased.
A Double Epilogue
Raina is led down a dark hallway in a dreary building. She opens a door to a room, where a man with a bloody hand (and likely a bloody body, face, etc.) sits in a chair. She hands him a picture of Skye and says that she found his daughter.
Meanwhile, Coulson wakes up in the middle of the night, grabs an alien razor blade and begins carving intricate designs on a wall.
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That’s a Wrap
So no one else on the SHIELD team winds up being HYDRA, and Ward remains, as advertised, one nasty son of a female pooch, both of which I am satisfied with. I would’ve felt cheated if he ended up being a double-double agent, because he killed far too many people for there to be such a superficial solution.
Fitz was without oxygen to his brain for a long time and it’s unclear if he’ll fully recover, but how will it affect FitzSimmons now that she knows his true feelings? Friend zone? Coupledom? Awkwardness?
And what’s next for Coulson and May, who have a monumental task ahead of them rebuilding an organization that no one trusts while tracking down the remaining elements/villains/weaponry of HYDRA? And don’t forget that there’s still the Gravitonium and supervillain contained inside.
Mike Peterson/Deathlok is likely to return to the righteous side after he atones for his sins, and Tripp appears to be the Ward replacement on the team. But something tells me they’ll need good ol’ Grant at some point again, trustworthy or not.
The biggest questions revolve around Skye. What is she and who is her mysterious bloodied father who killed so many in his earlier efforts to track her down? And what is up with the alien carvings?
So many questions still to be answered, yet everything that transpired thus far was resolved nicely. What did you think of the first season as a whole? Satisfied or disappointed? It was a bit slow early on, as the episodes had to bide their time until Cap 2 was released. But that blew the doors off the whole thing, offering a never-before-seen relationship between big and small screen offerings. Then things really picked up steam.
What do you hope for in season 2? What needs to be improved, and what worked? Do they need more superheroes or well-known characters? Or is it fine just the way it is? We’ll have to wait until the fall to find out, with some Guardians of the Galaxy thrown in to tide us over. Hopefully, it will fill the void.
(Image courtesy of ABC)