At the beginning of the season, we learned that “Maveth” is the Hebrew word for “death.” It’s a word we would hear over and over, mostly in relation to the monolith. But “death” has also been seen throughout the season in other ways: through losing those we love fatally (Rosalind), through losing those we love non-fatally (Garner), and through losing our sense of self (Simmons). The winter finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. made it very clear that even though Ward believes the monolith gave him life (more on that later on), death is still very much a threat for these characters.
Last week, we left off with Fitz, Ward, and some other Hydra guys having gone through the portal, along with Coulson, who had made the jump without anyone knowing. Ward wants to get this mission over with, and his impatience for Fitz and his science pisses him off enough to ignite a fight between the two. When Ward tries to threaten him with the fact Simmons will be killed if he doesn’t make it back, Fitz doesn’t back down: He just reminds Ward he’s expendable.
I’ve talked about character growth a lot this season, but seriously, watching Fitz grow up on screen has been an unparalleled treat. From the first episode of season 3, he’s proven himself by standing up for his beliefs and his friends. Two seasons ago, and even last season, he probably would have backed down from Ward altogether. Now? He’s stepping up and meeting his match. Their fight is interrupted by the discovery of a statue that looks like a Hydra symbol, and, uh… hail Hydra, I guess?
Back on Earth, Hunter and Bobbi return to base and tell an aggravated Mack everything that happened. (Seriously, Mack’s been in this job for like, less than a day and I’m pretty sure he already needs to drink.) How do they get Fitz and Simmons back? Easy: Just take over the castle, open the portal again, and bring them home. Which would be super easy if, you know, the compound wasn’t being watched by Hydra. Oh, and Daisy’s noticed that they’re bringing in Inhumans from the ATCU (for that whole army-building thing Malick’s into), including Garner, so they’re pretty much doubly screwed. Super Awesome Leader Mack figures out that the only way to do this is through infiltration — no tactical support — and Daisy finds that they can get into the castle via the aqueducts in the portal chamber. The group ships out on Mack’s orders, and I’m left wondering if it’s wrong that Mack has won me over as a leader in one episode more than Coulson has in more than 50.
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Back on the planet, Fitz has had it with Ward and is making that clear. What Fitz is really doing is searching for Will’s bunker, which he finds — along with a battered, injured Will, who instantly realizes who his savior is. They don’t get much of a chance to talk before Ward finds them, however, and he goes in for the kill. Fitz saves him by declaring that Will is going to be their guide. Ward sees the symbol on Will’s space suit, which seems to convince him enough.
Will tells them that he was attacked by “It” after Simmons left, hence his injury. Hearing this, Ward becomes instantly more on board with Will Daniels, Alien Planet Guru, though Will isn’t really sure why Ward wants to find this creature in the first place.
Meanwhile, Coulson — remember Coulson? — is having a really nice dream about waking up in bed with Rosalind. Coulson just wants to stay in bed forever, and I don’t blame him, because that bed looks darn comfortable. But like Galadriel talking to Frodo, she instructs Coulson that he needs to get up and finish his quest. Coulson awakens and takes in his surroundings. “I’ll be damned,” he says. “Tatooine.” Not quite, Coulson. But hey, it’s a decent guess.
NEXT: Go, go Power Rangers!
Fitz, Ward, and Will lead the rest of the Hydra team across the planet, where Fitz fills Will in on everything. Personally, I’m just surprised Ward is letting the two of them have a conversation without being suspicious of it. Granted, he doesn’t know who Will is, or that Fitz knows him, but I figure he’d be at least a little curious about who Fitz is getting so chummy with. Fitz admits that he spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like when he finally met the man who saved Simmons’ life. The verdict? “There’s a lot more blood, and I never considered the smell,” he jokes. (This is important when you think about later revelations.) “I can see why Jemma loves you,” Will shoots back. Fitz tells Will he wants to try and find a way to lose Ward before they get to the portal extraction point, and Will directs them through a canyon.
Meanwhile, our fearless Secret Warriors are getting down to business. Joey’s abilities are coming in handy, as he takes down the metal guards to get into the ducts and Mack instructs them to “take the Power Rangers and go find Fitz and Simmons.” Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie: He can lead, AND he’s up on pop culture! May takes out a bunch of Hydra people, as you do, but Simmons doesn’t need much saving. (YOU GO GIRL.) She steals a knife and gets out of her bonds, escaping into the compound, eventually coming across the stash of Inhumans.
Naturally, she finds Garner. After Simmons gives him the cliff notes version of the past few episodes (no one knew the ATCU was working for Hydra, yadda yadda yadda), a distressed Garner asks her to get him out,and promises not to hurt her. He sweetens the deal by telling her he’s the only one who can protect her, and given the fact that Simmons is kind of out of options and does trust Garner a little bit, she’s convinced to open the module. Garner transforms, which allows her to escape, though she doesn’t get very far before being cornered again. But she’s saved by May, as the team continues to infiltrate. (Daisy announces her arrival with quake powers and gets shot at, but Bulletproof Joey saves her). Simmons tells May that Garner saved her life, but May’s still hesitant to trust him.
Back on the planet, Ward is suddenly interested in picking Will’s brain. He wants to know about the ancient statue he saw when he arrived; Will says “It” used to live there. As Ward boasts about all the Inhumans that are going to make “It” very happy, a sandstorm arrives, and Fitz realizes Will has been leading them into one of the “no fly zones.” In the commotion of the storm, Will and Fitz distract some of the soldiers and kill them. After being separated, Ward’s group attempts to wait out the storm… that is until he finds himself on the receiving end of an attack, too — but not from Fitz or Will, who have taken off. Instead, his foe is none other than Coulson, who has managed to pick up on their trail after finding Fitz’s jacket from a scuffle earlier. I’m beginning to think this place is like the world of Xena: Warrior Princess, where you can just kind of wander around and eventually you’ll run into each other. That, or it’s just really small.
Earth: The team reconvenes, barricading themselves in the portal room, before noticing May isn’t there. Simmons realizes she must have gone back for Garner, which she did — though she probably wishes she hadn’t. She arrives to find the containment modules in ruins, along with tons of severed limbs. When she relays to the team that Garner has killed all the Inhumans, it’s clear Simmons is more than a little upset. (He did save her, after all. And assuming he escaped and will be around for the next half of the season, I’d be interested to see how that interaction goes down.) Malick also finds the destroyed room, realizes S.H.I.E.L.D. has infiltrated, and gives orders to attack the chamber.
As the group tries to figure out how far back this whole alien thing goes and how many people were probably trying to cover this up through the years (hint: a lot), they butt heads about the best course of action concerning the portal’s opening — especially after Simmons tells them she’s pretty sure it’s responsible for the planet’s desolation. Lincoln is vehemently against bringing anything back, which is kind of understandable, considering he’s an Inhuman. Mack decides to send everyone back to Zephyr One, electing to stay. He tells May to blow the castle if Hydra gets inside, and should anything happen, May gets to be the new director. Tactical May accepts this, but Daisy can’t. She decides to stay with him because 1) she can keep the portal open with her powers, 2) he’s her partner, and 3) did I mention he’s her partner? I freakin’ love these two.
NEXT: Death doesn’t discriminate… it takes and it takes
Alien Planet: Coulson forces Ward to lead the way to the extraction point, beating him up so that he’s got enough blood to attract the monster. Ward, probably realizing his best attempt at getting through this is to just be the man he’s always been. He spews some stuff about Hydra’s worth, admitting that he chose Hydra for vengeance, for a father figure, and for closure. But that was before he saw what the planet had to offer him. Because now, his life has meaning. “Everyone was wrong about this place,” he tells Coulson. “It isn’t death. It’s a new beginning. Malick was right. This is all meant to be.” (Another line to remember when reflecting on later events.) He even believes Coulson is part of a grand plan, a pawn just like him. Coulson, always the professional, shoots him in response.
But then Coulson zeroes in on Fitz and Will, who are walking toward the extraction point. Fitz tells Will how happy Simmons is going to be, but gets distracted when he sees the ruins of an ancient civilization. And finally, we get some hard answers about the planet. When we were introduced to it in the premiere, my prevailing theory was that it was the Blue Area of the Moon, the ancient Kree city. And it seems my theory is (possibly) correct: According to Will, the civilization used to be nine cities, who were all fairly advanced but feared change. This left them easily divided and they ended up warring among themselves, destroying their entire race. While cleaning Will’s injury, Fitz starts to become suspicious at the guy’s breadth of knowledge… how does he know so much about the city? Because he was there. Surprise! Will Daniels died saving Simmons when she escaped through the portal and this Will, the one that Fitz was happily preparing to send home, is “It.”
Coulson and Ward see Fitz and Monster!Will fighting and engage in a battle of their own, where Coulson is getting the revenge he’s been waiting for since Rosalind’s death. While Coulson is actually beating Ward up pretty heavily, Fitz is having a tougher time with his foe, who is trying desperately to get through the portal. Eventually, he blasts him with his gun, which causes the monster to catch fire. Fitz urges Coulson to escape with him through the portal that’s just re-opened, but Coulson still has a debt to pay: He walks over to a barely conscious Ward, thinks of Rosalind… and uses his robot hand to kill his former teammate. This is not a drill, you guys. Ward dies. For real. We see it. Fitz sees it, too, but there’s no time for discussion because the portal is about to close. Daisy and Mack are trying to keep it open, but Bobbi and May see Hydra approaching on the monitors and make the call to blow the castle up.
Never doubt the leadership of Mack, however. Everyone survives, and there’s a very emotional montage of reunions between Lincoln and Daisy, Coulson and May, and, of course, Fitz and Simmons. We don’t see Simmons ask about Will, but we don’t need to, because we see the conversation through their silent exchange. (Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker once again steal this scene by doing little else, and it’s amazing. Even if they don’t give us another kiss, which I admit I was hopeful for. I know, I know… too soon.) In the midst of it all, Coulson and Fitz share one of those looks like the four hobbits did when they returned from their journey across Middle Earth: While relieved to be home, they both have just experienced something life changing that they’re not sure how to talk about with anyone else.
But they’ll have to talk about it, sooner or later. Because when Malick is stopped in his car, the person standing in his path is none other than Ward. Who obviously got out of the portal. Who looks reborn in a way that we should all we scared of. (Remember what Ward said about the planet giving him a “new beginning?”) If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wants us to take anything away from the midseason finale, it’s likely this: Despite everyone’s best efforts, “It” DID make it over here after all and has reincarnated itself in the form of Ward, who is definitely a new and improved Big Bad.
- A lot of Ward fans have had the long-time theory that Ward will eventually become “Hellfire,” which is a decent guess given that when we left the character, we also left him with the monster… who, even though he was technically dead, was still burning. Hellfire (alias James Taylor Slade) is the grandson of Phantom Rider in Marvel’s comics and has the power to charge items with fire when delivering an attack. Oh, and he’s also tied to Secret Warriors, and he was discovered to be a double agent for Hydra at one point, so there’s a lot of subtle connections to make here. Ward could also be no one, he could simply be “It” reincarnated, or a new Inhuman altogether. But of course, this is all speculation, and my guess is that no one’s going to talk about it for a few months, so: Who do YOU think Ward is?
- This hour marked a huge turning point for Coulson, who we’ve seen spiral further and further in the past few episodes. One thing that Coulson always seemed to pride himself on was that he was better than Ward and Hydra, in that he wouldn’t let himself get selfishly motivated. After tonight, it seems like he’s fallen into the trap of becoming someone he never wanted to. Or maybe this is who he’s been all along. Whether or not that affects him as a director remains to be seen, but in any case…
- …I’m assuming that Coulson getting home means no more Acting Director Mack, and that makes me sad. More Mack! More unintentional Hamilton references! All joking aside, I absolutely loved Mack taking on this leadership role and it’s one of my favorite developments that the show has done. All the kudos to Henry Simmons. I hope if nothing else, this has proven to the writers, viewers, and also the S.H.I.E.L.D. team that we NEED more Mack. Now.
- Question A: If “It” was really Will, did that mean the monster knew ahead of time that Fitz and Ward were coming? Because I’m thinking he certainly wasn’t so lazy that he sat around for days/weeks/months, pretending to be injured, waiting to be found in that bunker. Another option would be if the monster saw them arrive.
- Question B: If the planet really IS the Blue Area of the Moon, does that mean we get the Citadel of Uatu the Watcher?
- “This is how S.H.I.E.L.D. works — make a plan, plan turns rubbish, make a new plan.” The wise words of Lance Hunter should be on a welcome packet for anyone joining up. Or a T-shirt.
We’re taking a short break to follow Peggy Carter’s adventures in L.A., and then we’ll be back in a few months — which gives us a lot of time to theorize, theorize, theorize. The portal is open for your comments.