When we last left our heroes on Agents of SHIELD, Fitz and Ward had gone through the Portal on a quest to unleash a Hydra-worshipped hellbeast, Coulson had gone through the Portal on a quest to unleash justice upon Ward’s face and everyone else was on a quest to keep each other from getting dead. In the winter finale, “Maveth,” they all manages to accomplish their goals, which does not bode well for humanity or certain sections of Tumblr.
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Mack for Permanent Director
The first thing that needs to be said is that Mack is a fantastic Director, probably better than Coulson, if we’re being honest. After Coulson’s dive into the Portal, Mack gathers the team to figure out what they’re up against. Hydra has the castle armed to the teeth. They have units of soldiers on the premises and have imported at least half a dozen Inhuman pods ready to be utilized. SHIELD, on the other hand, has three Inhumans — two of whom have never been on duty before — one dysfunctional married couple, one inexperienced Director calling the shots and one Melinda May.
Luckily, Mack is Agents of SHIELD‘s resident logical thinker, so he comes up with a good plan. They won’t use backup because the risk is too great. Instead, they’ll sneak into the castle through an old drain and split into two teams; one will rescue Fitz or Simmons (they don’t know which one went through the Portal) and one will get everyone the hell out of that Portal and back onto Earth.
Go Go Power Rangers!
This means that we finally get to see our Inhuman squad in action, though only for a second. But it’s a beautiful second. The Power Rangers, as Mack dubs them, all bond over how scared and unheroic they feel, which reminds May that most people experience those emotions before combat. The Power Rangers stop Magneto Giyera, whose name in no way evokes copyright infringement, in mere moments, and Joey realizes he’s bulletproof in the process. Other than a spectacularly satisfying sternum-crunch, the best thing about this episode is that Joey doesn’t die.
While this siege is happening, Simmons manages to free herself from her Hydra captures. To escape pursuit, she hides in the Inhuman containment area and finds Garner, still in the SHIELD pod. He immediately tries to convince her to let him out. This is a fundamentally bad idea, and Simmons knows it. But she is also about to be captured and possibly killed by Hydra, so she doesn’t have much of a choice. She lets Garner out, he gets his Lash on, etc.
So have Hydra’s mustard gas experiments had an effect on Garner? At the very least, they haven’t helped. May goes looking for him later, after Simmons informs her that he’s on the loose, and finds the body parts of the other Inhumans strewed about the room. Lash (or Garner, as the distinction is becoming less and less pronounced) tore them limb from limb. May is all “Nope, I’m out,” and goes back to dealing with the Portal.
Fitz and Will Meet at Last
Speaking of the Portal, the crew on the other side is having a grand old time. Fitz immediately starts trying to annoy Ward into distrusting Hydra. Ward has good reason to distrust. He literally jumped through a hole in the space-time continuum, to a planet whose chief export is death, because a paternal-sounding guy complimented him. Homeboy doesn’t have a reasonable leg to stand on.
Also not having a leg to stand on? Will! Fitz tricks the Hydra bros into getting close to Will’s bunker and then dives in. Will’s leg is badly injured from a run-in with It, but otherwise he seems very Will-like and not at all evil. Fitz convinces Ward not to kill Will by saying that they need him as a guide. Ward asks how long Will’s been on Maveth to gauge how much useful information he possesses. “Feels like forever,” Will responds. What an insignificant and foreshadowing-less answer that is!
Will is super down for Fitz’s plan of leaving Ward and his cronies to rot on Maveth. He decides that the best way of doing this is by leading them through the no-fly zone. At some point, Ward and Hydra come across a giant, Hydra-looking statue in the wasteland. This has an inexplicably profound effect on Ward’s psyche, although Ward’s psyche is so malleable that he would probably have a similarly profound reaction to mediocre guacamole.
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Oh, yeah, Coulson is also on Maveth. Although his grief and rage drove the plot to this point, he’s kind of the least important part of this episode. He awakes from a minor head injury after dreaming of Rosalind. “I’ll be damned,” he says as he looks around the planet. “Tatooine.”
By the time he finds Ward, a sandstorm has already allowed Will and Fitz to kill two Hydra soldiers and escape. Ward is left with two others, whom Coulson shoots. He also shoots Ward but intends to do this killing up close.
Ward convinces Coulson not to kill him by saying that he’ll never find the Portal and return home without his guidance. He then talks about how he’d been aimless and without a true sense of self for most of his life, but seeing that crappy tentacle statue earlier has given him spiritual enlightenment. He has a mission, he’s part of something greater than himself, it was a really sweet statue, etc. Coulson shoots him again just for being weird.
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Mack for All the Awards
Back on Earth, the whole team has made their way into the Portal room and barricaded themselves inside. Their time is limited, though; not only do they have only a few minutes before the Portal opens, but Hydra is redoubling their efforts to get inside. Also, Simmons has informed everyone that the whole point of this mission is to bring death incarnate to earth, so there’s that.
Mack comes up with a plan that has the least risk involved. He will stay in the Portal room and wait for Fitz and Coulson to return, and to kill any death incarnate-looking things that come through. Everyone else will get back to the plane. He’ll come back in a smaller vessel if he can, but if Hydra gets through the doors or if It comes through the Portal, his team is ordered to blow up the castle with him in it. Everyone immediately starts thinking of other plans, but Mack is having none of it. His plan involves the least loss of highly-skilled life, and his word is law. The only change to the plan is that Daisy will stay with him, as her powers can influence the Portal and she refuses to leave her partner. Mack is such a better Director than Coulson.
Love Triangles Never End Well
On Maveth, Will and Fitz are making their way to the Portal, and Ward and Coulson are making their way to Will and Fitz. Will and Fitz find the ruins of a magnificent city. As Fitz tends to Will’s injured leg, Will explains that there used to be nine cities on Maveth, all advanced but all easily divided. They waged war on each other until they were all destroyed. “How do you know all this?” Fitz asks. “Because I was there,” Will responds, as Fitz simultaneously discovers that the leg he’s holding is very, very not human.
It attacks Fitz, saying that Will died months ago when he helped Simmons get back home. That’s kind of a waste of a love triangle. Was the whole point of Will’s storyline this one twist? In any case, It’s just about to kill Fitz when Coulson arrives and shoots It. Ward uses this change to attack Coulson, and two separate fights break out as the Portal opens nearby.
Bullets only temporarily slow It down. So Fitz uses a flare gun instead. He lights It ablaze from within, and it finally falls, a not-at-all-significant ooze slithering from It’s mouth. Fitz calls for Coulson to come through the Portal, but Coulson is too busy kicking Ward’s ass to listen.
Coulson finally has Ward prone and helpless. Here, we have what I think is supposed to be a moral dilemma. Will Coulson show mercy, as he is supposed to do as a “hero,” or give in to his need for revenge? Yes, this is supposed to be a poignant question, but the man traveled to a murder planet for the privilege of killing Ward. There is no way he is going to walk away from this. Coulson instead reaches down, splays his robot hand across Ward’s chest and crushes him to death. It’s so beautiful.
Death Comes to Earth
Back on Earth, Mack and Daisy can’t wait any longer. They give the order to their team to blow up the castle, and blow it up they do. Everyone is momentarily distraught by the loss of their friends, but then the escape shuttle rises from the flames. Mack emerges and is greeted by Bobbi and Hunter, probably so they can plan how to overthrow Coulson. Daisy’s next, and she and Lincoln have a much-earned make-out session. Then there is Coulson, one-handed, arriving to be embraced by May.
Fitz is there too, but his reception isn’t so joyful. Simmons runs to the window to see if Will is also coming, and when he doesn’t, she knows what has happened. She embraces Fitz, sobbing, while Fitz and Coulson share a significant “I saw you kill someone with your cyborg hand” look. All was well-ish.
That is, until the very last scene. Malick is driving to wherever it is people go after they’ve ruined the mission of a centuries-old death cult. But in the middle of the road, clutching an abandoned robot hand, is Ward. It’s not Ward, though, since Ward just had his sternum pulverized. It is It, finally back on Earth and ready to bring damnation. Hail Hydra.
Agents of SHIELD returns Tuesday, March 8, 2016 at 9pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)