Marvel's Agents of SHIELD: 3.09 Closure
So much to get through and so little time - what an action packed and largely focused episode this was. Coulson and Rosalind finally got to have that burger together, and that's always a bad sign for a character. It really was a case of calm before the storm as Ward assassinates Rosalind. There's much to be said against the trope of killing a female character to provide motivation for the male hero and whilst I will miss Rosalind and Coulson together, it gave us an angry, reckless Coulson we so rarely get to see. It also felt "justified" in narrative terms; it's personal for Ward and it's personal for Coulson. Still, it's a shame to see her go.
Goodbye also to Banks as he also bites the bullet at the hands of Malick's sinister Inhuman agent. The ATCU is largely done away with here and though it won't be the last we see of that outfit, it does feel like the show is trimming the fat as it prepares to bring the Secret Warriors front and centre. We're strictly back to SHIELD vs. HYDRA but now both units have a common goal - finding Inhumans. It's tighter, more focussed than the often messy season 2.
Everything ramps up after Rosalind's death. That opening action sequence was fantastic stuff (though don't try that candle trick at home kids), showing Coulson can still hold his own even when his team is filling up with Enhanced and Inhumans.
Coulson responds by interviewing his agents to find a weakness, reflecting back on the events of Season 1 - this season has made plenty of links to the first already and will continue to do so. Ward's intimate understanding of his enemies is what makes him such a lethal villain - as evidenced when he takes Fitz and Simmons hostage later in the episode - and the Agents of SHIELD need to figure out what they really know about him. Ward's brother Thomas is his weakness - his longing for family and sociopathic denial; every villain thinks they're the hero.
Although this was very much Coulson and Ward's episode, everyone seemed to have plenty to do and everyone had their moment (though the show is going to have to carefully balance it's load as the roster grows).
It feels like the show is moving to wrap up the Ward storyline, doesn't it? I can't say anymore about future episodes for fear of spoilers but they're laying the groundwork for something really exciting.
As a quick aside I found myself reflecting on the role Malick played in the first Avengers movie and how that fits into Hydra's retconned plans. Oh well, any excuse to watch the movies again - and surely that is the joy of a show like this. The Inhuman retcon gives new focus to what the Red Skull was doing with the Tesseract in Captain America: The First Avenger and there is a quick name check for Winter Soldier's Alexander Pierce (and hints at why his goals don't mesh with Malick's).
Coulson made Mack acting head of SHIELD as he doesn't have a conflict with Ward, it also meant the character - often at a loose end - had something to do. He has often acted as conscience to the group so the role fits him well, and when it came to getting Daisy one step closer to having her own team he proved he had the capacity to lead. Are they planning a series without Coulson in it? It would certainly make it easier for the writers to bring the show closer to the movies and the way things are going a spring clean is going to be needed soon - two many characters are going to bury this show.
I have a few nitpicks as the show returned to that castle in England where Fitz was able to save Simmons; I can't quite believe that castle A) wouldn't be in the hands of English Heritage and B) they would allow Hydra to set up that much artillery. More seriously, wasn't that a secret chamber previously and yet this time Coulson was able to parachute into it? Aw, who cares when Coulson jumping out of the Quinjet was such a great scene.
The episode had a real sense of agency and purpose, resulting in a tense climax and fantastic cliffhanger ending. Next episode is the mid-season finale (luckily we won't have to wait for the show to come back) and I can't wait to see what happens.