This Agents of SHIELD review contains spoilers.
It’s been a long road for Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. What was once a show that seemed a bit aimless and extraneous became a gripping, tense drama in the days since Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Characters who once seemed one note deepened and a show without villains has become the home to two pretty hateful sociopaths in Ward and Garrett (but stupid Quinn and his stupid haircut still stink). The show premiered with great promise, fizzled, and finally sparked into something truly special. Let’s take a look at how the season finale played out.
First off, many of the season’s plot threads played into the finale, which is much appreciated. Things like the bond between Deathlok and his son, gravitonium, Centipede, the mystery of the Girl in the Flower Dress, the once ponderous and irksome sexual union of Ward and May, the unrequited love of Fitz for Simmons, and Coulson’s anger at Nick Fury all play key parts in the finale. For a show that scuffled early and often, there doesn’t feel like there was any wasted motion in this one. Except for Quinn...Quinn stinks.
Things kicked off this week with a very Cabin in the Woods like opening, with a new hire joining Cybertek, shown here as a mundane looking corporate operation with a great "incentive program." There was a lot of griping throughout the season that Agents of SHIELD often times lacks action. Not this episode! We started off with a major brawl between the Cybertek soldiers and the Agents where May gets a hold of the Dark Elf staff introduced in the Thor: Dark World tie in episode and kicks some major ass, which was a nice callback to yet another old plot device.
Garrett, totally flying high on the alien blood Extremis Deathlok cocktail, seems like a hybrid of most of the Marvel Phase 2 films. He is a HYDRA Agent (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), a Deathlok fueled by Extremis (Iron Man 3), and also carries Kree blood (Guardians of the Galaxy), along with utilizing some Asgardian weaponry. That's a pretty cool and subtle way to make sure all of Marvel Studio’s recent films have an impact on the world of Agents of SHIELD.
I’ve said it a billion times; the show turned a corner when they finally introduced some big bads. The showrunners did a great job in making Ward a hateful and awful person, and an even better job making fans beg to see him get his pompous, dog killing ass kicked. As for Ward's doubts about his role as a tool in a terrorist organization; he should have thought about that before he kicked Coulson and SHIELD through the Barbershop window (that was a WWE reference, it’s hilarious, trust me).
Everyone probably breathed a sigh of relief with the revelation that Fitz and Simmons were alive...trapped on the ocean floor, but alive. Even better, I finally gave a crap if Fitz and Simmons would survive their predicament. Who says all those episodes of "character development" went to waste? Too bad Namor is owned by another studio because this would have been a perfect time for an undersea rescue...or at least Namorita. Marrina? The Fin even? Jeez, Marvel has a lot of fish people. Manphibian?
Those moments with Fitz and Simmons dealing with their own mortality were rather poignant. While Garrett, Deathlok, and Raina are seeking and dealing with superhuman technology and potentiality, Fitz and Simons are discussing how life itself, existing as energy that is part of a greater universe, is a super power in and of itself...quite beautiful really.
As for the other agents not trapped in a sunken death rectangle, the remaining Agents use the missing Fitz and Simmons as inspiration to take down Garrett and Cybertek. A season highlight may very well be the bit where stupid, stupid Quinn is trying to sell the Deathlok tech to some highly decorated generals, so, of course, Garrett turns on the generals and rips out a piece of one of their ribs and stabs one of them with it. OK...that was pretty sick. That move will forever be known as Paxtoning someone.
Garrett and Raina's discussion about standing on the threshold of the age of superhumans was fascinating and perhaps leads into a theory pointed out by Den of Geek’s own Gavin Jasper: that Raina and Skye could be Inhumans, or else, the beginning of a dawn of an age of superhumans beyond the core Avengers. Raina represents the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a woman who is trying to usher in a new age. Just have to say, grown people saying the word gravitonium is awkward and silly, but Raina continues to fascinate. She sees the super human revolution coming; perhaps she is foreshadowing the "age of miracles" a certain HYDRA Baron recently spoke about. Raina knows that Skye is the key to the revolution, but refers to her as "a monster" which is intriguing. Inhumans? Something else? We have all summer to discuss!
It seemed the season wouldn't end without a sacrifice, as Fitz confessed his love for Simmons too late. You could almost hear fandom’s collective hearts break during their watery escape...until we see a waiting hand helping Simmons out of the water. Nick Fury's surprise rescue is one of the most dramatic moments the show (or any of the Marvel films) has had to date!
Have I mentioned lately how much I need to see Ward get his smug face smashed in? Hey! Ask and you shall receive! Skye's introduction of her "secret weapon," the fighting mad Agent May, was pricelss. May then proceeds to smack Ward all over Cybertek HQ. Hell hath no fury indeed. She also revealed that Ward’s a bottom. I knew it! She also nail guns Ward's foot to the floor, which kinda speaks for itself.
Nick Fury has mastered the art of the dramatic entrance, and to make things even better, he even gives Coulson the same gun good ol' Phil used to blast Loki in The Avengers. Remember Cybertek's "incentive program?" It involved them holding their own employees’ families hostage, including Deathlok’s son. Once the boy is freed, Deathlok pulls a Vader and takes down Garrett. Now who didn’t see that coming?
Garrett's attempted regeneration after he was taken prisoner and his immediate vaporization by Coulson was a freakin’ hilarious Firefly-esque scene, and would make any show's highlight reel.
The season ends, appropriately enough, with the man that started it all, Phil Coulson, who is rewarded. Rewarded for the pain he endured during his resurrection, rewarded for the faith in the team he put together, and rewarded for being good old loyal Phil, the man who has been the Marvel Universe’s constant since he first uttered the world SHIELD in the first Iron Man film. Phil has been made the Director of SHIELD by Nick Fury himself, and as we look toward next season, we know it will all be okay, because we have the steady hand of Phil Coulson to lead us.
There were some bumps in the road, and it was far from perfect, but once Agents of SHIELD got a shot in the narrative arm from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it became the show it always had the potential to be. But the show is still built on questions, and we are left with quite a few:
What the heck is that formula Coulson is carving into the wall of his new HQ? What kind of shape will Fitz be in after his ordeal at the bottom of the ocean? Who is the man covered in blood that Raina meets with to close out the season...the man she calls Skye’s father? What is Skye's true nature, anyway?
- The reemergence of Patton Oswalt, but this time as Billy Koenig. LMD? Artificial Intelligence introduced at the dawn of the Age of Ultron? Hmm...
- Deathlok has now cut ties with HYDRA and wants to make up for his past sins. I guess this Marvel Universe has a new hero.
- The Loki gun from The Avengers.
Thanks for reading; it was truly an honor to be on the ground floor of this weekly tour of the Marvel Universe!