I came into this episode hoping for the best, an all out action fest that managed to bring together all, or at least most of, the mysteries lingering since the earliest episodes of the season. Instead we got some mediocre set pieces (granted, there were a couple standouts) and even more questions surrounding Skye (Chloe Bennet). The finale does leave the show in an interesting place heading into season 2 but it was a shame there wasn’t as much closure as I would have hoped. All that being said, the episode was enjoyable. With humor abound and one satisfying fight scene, there were definitely positives to take away from this.
All of the performances were great but nothing above and beyond what we have seen before (with the exception of Fitz-Simmons). Bill Paxton’s John Garrett was delightfully psychotic in this episode. Garrett is positively insane and I love it, he manages to pull off the crazy with absolute aplomb. His wild eyes and out of this world metaphors make for an intriguing new look at the, now actual, Clairvoyant. The way he murdered that government official was nothing short of demented and goes a long way in showing Garrett’s transformation from last episode. His conversation with Raina (Ruth Negga) was very revealing, proving that she is more than human (a fact that was alluded to last episode) and strongly hinting at the Inhumans. It was unfortunate to see him go, even if it was hilarious.
The best of SHIELD’s finale came from Fitz-Simmons, providing one of the most intense scenes emotionally of the entire season. Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) finally managed to tell Simmons how he felt in what he believed to be his final moments. Elizabeth Henstridge’s performance was just perfect. The tension in that tank was palpable and if either of them had truly been gone I would have flipped. Which does lead to a tiny downside. SHIELD did pass up an opportunity to display some real danger. Had either Fitz or Simmons died it would have upped the stakes of the show in a big way and made for an extremely poignant moment in the shows run. The way they were saved also felt a bit random. Fury swoops in out of nowhere to pick up the two rookies. The entrance itself was cool and dynamic but it just felt unrealistic.
It was nice to see Samuel L. Jackson get to flesh out his role on the show. I was sure he would be reduced to another one and done cameo like his first appearance but we get to see him in on the action this time around. Along with Jackson came the ‘Destroyer’ gun from the Avengers, which was a cool nod to the films but, once again, really random. How he got from the middle of the ocean to the Cybertek facility within minutes is beyond me but hey, we’re throwing logic out the window today so why not. Nick Fury’s appearance also set up key elements going into season 2. Passing the torch to Coulson and naming him director of a new SHIELD, one that he must build from scratch with the remainder of his team. This does make the status quo for season 2 quite clear and should help establish the idea of a smaller, more personal SHIELD (something that got a lot of criticism early on). It also implies that more than HYDRA will return as enemies. Adrian Pasdar as Glenn Talbot probably won’t appreciate a non-sanctioned spy agency running around the globe, especially after his last encounter with Coulson. Aside from Fury’s uncanny ability to be everywhere at once (which is humorously addressed) his final conversation about TAHITI was a little shallow. Sure he said he considered Coulson one of the Avengers, thus making the serum a viable option but the way that plotline was wrapped up seemed hurried in order to get it out of the way.
The final confrontation between May (Ming Na-Wen) and Ward (Brett Dalton) was the one set piece that wasn’t bogged down by special effects. The action was visceral and brutal, exactly the kind of thing I expected of a finale showdown. The way May nailed Ward’s foot to the ground and roundhouse kicked him in the throat was devastating and understandable considering what Ward had done to the team and her. All of the other action was pretty by the numbers and the VFX were poorly handled, luckily there wasn’t a ton of it.
The story of Mike Peterson’s transformation into Deathlok has been one of the highlights of the inaugural season and it was great to see his storyline be one of the few to actually get some closure. His reunion with his son and vengeance on Garrett was unexpected but ultimately satisfying. Skye being in contact with Deathlok was never really explained but seeing him take out Garret after so much torture was worth it.
Despite the randomness, AoS’s finale leaves the show in an exciting place come time for season 2. Coulson is the director of a new SHIELD (and can write alien… which is also random, why could Garrett do it instantly after being injected and Coulson only showed any signs at the end of the season?). Fitz is in critical condition and will more than likely come back a little different than when we last saw him. Deathlok is on a journey of redemption and we get a sneak peak at a brand new threat, Skye’s dad (who isn’t a literal monster, boo)! The Gravitonium is still out there and Raina hasn’t been taken in, big things lay on the horizon for Agents of SHIELD and it will be exciting to see how the next season plans on addressing them.
Overall I give this episode a 7.5/10
PS – Patton Oswalt is back! Returning as Billy Koenig, seemingly confirming the existence of LMD’s in MCU continuity. While this hasn’t been explicitly stated it seems like a fair assumption. Also, I’ll be doing a full feature on where I think season 2 will be going as well as covering everything i failed to mention here. Check back in to OTL News for all things Marvel!
UPDATE – After watching the episode again I have edited a few parts. Garrett was never outside and neither was Coulson. That scene could have been handled better (still felt out of place) but the points I made before are moot.