So, who else is ready for next week’s winter finale? Because THAT happened. And THAT happened. As is custom for penultimate episodes of this show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ramped up big time, while setting up very specific plots that will no doubt lead to something big. So without further ado, let’s begin.
Because hard truths solve everything about a relationship, Coulson and Rosalind are having a casual dinner date at Rosalind’s apartment. She’s even brought burgers from DJs. They’re flirting and eating, and maybe there are people (like Banks) who are a little wary that they’re still seeing each other, but Rosalind doesn’t care and neither does Coulson. They discuss Malick, with Rosalind clueing him into her strategy now that she knows she’s technically working for Hydra: She’s going to go back into the ATCU, and it’ll just be another day at the office. Coulson is worried that he can’t protect her, but Rosalind thinks she’s the last person on earth to warrant needing a bodyguard. And maybe she’s right, because no one probably could have protected her from the sniper shot that interrupts their dinner. Rosalind is killed instantly in front of Coulson’s eyes. Oh, dear Rosalind. We hardly knew ya. (Really! She told Coulson there’s a lot he doesn’t know about her.)
Who committed the JFK “shot heard round the world?” Unsurprisingly, Grant Ward. (Best since Romanov, huh? Because that’s some Hawkeye sniper skill right there.) Ward doesn’t exactly keep himself hidden: He calls Coulson and admits he murdered his girlfriend because, well, he wanted Coulson to know what it felt like to see someone he loves bleed out in front of them. (Ahem, Kara.) He also drops that he’s planning to take Coulson out, resulting in an ambush in Rosalind’s apartment that Coulson just barely survives. He escapes by jumping out a window and is saved by Mack, who he had emergency-texted, and is taken back to base where he pretty much loses it.
It doesn’t take long for the whole team to figure out what’s happened, and for as much as some of them may have been wary about Rosalind, it’s clear that they all understand how it feels when someone you care for is senselessly murdered. Coulson spirals into all the levels of anger and grief, and after he’s calmed down a little, May comes to see him. Coulson wants all of the original team members to tell him what they remember about Ward — no matter how uncomfortable it makes them. This involves re-hashing May’s one-night stand, Fitz’s brotherly relationship (take note, this will be important later), and Simmons’ short-lived friendship. May’s assessment: He wants people to think of him as a hero. Fitz’s assessment: He was trying to replace something in his life that he lost. Simmons’ assessment: “He was a bad flirt, always laughing at his jokes and those ridiculous puns.” (I’m glad even the writers have realized Brett Dalton’s episodic tweets are amazing.)
And then we cut to Daisy, because maybe the writers want us to believe that SkyeWard is still alive and well after all. (Anyone who’s worried about Daisy being too soft, though, don’t worry — she assures Coulson she’s never going to forgive him for this.) Coulson wants to know how she fell for Ward, and Daisy opens up easily; messed up childhoods make it pretty easy to bond. She maintains that for whatever reason, Ward never lied to her, probably because of their pasts and struggle to belong. More importantly, she tells Coulson that as screwed up as he is, she understands how he could have landed in Hydra/Garrett’s hold and how after years of being abandoned, father figures and powerful organizations could be pretty appealing. Even more importantly, she lets Coulson in on this secret: Ward doesn’t kill because he feels nothing. He kills because he feels too much.
NEXT: I am not throwing away my shot
A distraught Banks comes to base, where the team shows him the space logo and mention that when Ward called Coulson after killing Rosalind, he also let it slip that Malick wants to open another portal. Banks reveals the NASA program (not funded by NASA, clearly, but by an independent project funded by Gideon Malick) was already up and running when he joined, though the facility was supposedly shut down years ago. But remember: Cut off one head, two more will take its place.
Malick has relocated with Ward to the castle in England where Fitz reopened the portal. Ward is still too cocky for his own good, and Malick is pissed at Ward for almost killing Coulson, who they need alive. Malick then shows him a carton containing five different stones, all extracted from the monolith centuries ago. The idea was that they should be divided among Hydra’s most powerful leaders — because, you know, one monolith to rule them all. (Apparently, centuries later, no one has learned we should not give men powerful objects.) Anyway, remember how Ward was intent on finding the things in that vault, a.k.a. Hydra’s weapons? These stones are the key to everything Hydra’s been working toward. (Since, you know, as of last week we’ve retconned the entirety of Hydra’s origins.) All it takes to open the portal is a full set of the stones, which Malick now has, and the right vibrational frequency. Seriously, would it have killed Hydra to come forward with this information sooner? It would’ve saved Fitz a lot of angst.
Back at base, Hunter tries to offer his condolences to Coulson, which turns out to be a bad idea. Apparently, Coulson’s now just pissed at Hunter for failing to kill Ward in the first place — amazing what grief-fueled revenge can do. Bobbi calls him off, and Coulson takes responsibility for Rosalind’s death, since it’s his fault Ward was put on the team in the first place. When Hunter asks for another shot at killing him, Coulson does better than that: He makes Mack acting director and then authorizes an off-the-books mission with Hunter and Bobbi that will help them track Ward down. What is it? Robbing a bank, apparently. But inside that bank is one Thomas Ward, whom you might remember as the younger brother who was thrown down the well in season 1’s “The Well.” They kidnap Thomas and then call Ward to let him know where they stand. And Grant Ward may be a killer, but if it’s one thing that will sway his emotions, it’s those family connections.
Turns out, Thomas isn’t so fond of his brother either (guess it’s that whole well thing). He basically asks them to kill him, and when Bobbi mentions that they can trace Ward as long as they keep him on the line long enough, Thomas offers to talk to his brother himself. Ward tries to rationalize and justify his childhood actions about everything from the well incident to Christian and his parents’ abuse to the house fire, but Thomas has no sympathy. He goes so far as to admit that he was the one who changed his name and distanced himself. It takes Ward awhile, but eventually he realizes that his call has been traced, and a pissed off Grant Ward is not a Grant Ward you want to be around. Trust.
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While Coulson takes on his revenge mission, Banks arrives with Fitz and Simmons at the Distant Star facility to find more information about the portal. Did I mention how much I love seeing these two back together and working in tandem, like old times? Simmons is still convinced they can’t bring Will back, especially since she thinks it’s irresponsible to open another portal. And anyway, she doesn’t want to put that many innocent lives in jeopardy, knowing what lives on the other side. Their conversation is interrupted by the presence of Malick’s Inhumans, who use their powers to make Banks shoot his team and then himself, because apparently these people can’t get enough of seeing people die in front of them. Fitz and Simmons are then captured by Malick and Ward. Can these two ever catch a break? Maybe the monolith is bad luck. Maybe Fitz is right, and they are cursed after all.
NEXT: I wanna be in the room where it happens
Malick cuts right to the chase. He wants to know if Simmons saw “it” when she went to the other planet. Simmons quickly realizes that while Hydra knows how to open the portal, they don’t know how to get back, but she refuses to give up any information. Ward capitalizes on his knowledge of Team Science Babies and splits them up; he keeps Simmons in one room where she’s tortured for information while Fitz is forced to listen to her screams. I find it so interesting to watch these two because they’re both strong in their own ways: Simmons is steadfast and defensive, and Fitz, for his part, is protective despite his fear. But both characters have grown so much since the first season that I often find myself taken aback at their development, not just with each other, but individually as well.
Mack finds out that Hydra has taken FitzSimmons and while Daisy is all about going to save them, Mack’s not so quick to rush into battle. (Alexander “I wish there was a war” Hamilton, he is not.) Instead, Mack calls Coulson to alert him of the situation. Although he’s clearly concerned, he doesn’t back down from his original plan. Mack then brings in May and asks her opinion on Garner’s assessment of Lincoln as it pertains to joining their team, to which May basically tells him there’s no way to trust his judgment. Mack lays it out for them: According to a satellite map of where Simmons is being held, Hydra knows Coulson is coming and has more than enough manpower to deal with him. Essentially, they’re outgunned and outmanned (outnumbered, outplanned) so Mack makes the decision to call in Founding Fathers of his own: Joey and Lincoln, two of the first Inhumans that we can now presume will probably become part of Daisy’s “Secret Warriors” team by the time the show returns next year.
Malick brings Simmons to the portal as they prepare to open it, and Simmons again tells them she won’t help him bring anything back. That’s okay — because Malick already has this all planned out. This time, they’re sending Fitz to the other side instead. (Cursed. I swear!) Simmons tries to talk Fitz out of it, but Fitz has had enough, and he won’t let anyone hurt Simmons again (“I lost you once. I can’t lose you again.”). He admits he’s not strong enough to live in a world that doesn’t have her in it and promises that the only thing he’ll bring back is Will. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Malick comes to see Ward because he’s got a mission for him — he wants him to lead his men on the other side. Ward’s not really on board with this; he’d rather stay and finish off Coulson, and despite Ward’s wariness of Malick’s manipulation, he does manage to become convinced that, yes, Grant Ward is the leader Hydra needs. Not Pierce, not Garrett: “You’re the finest solider we ever made,” says Malick, who is really selling this whole moment. Hey, remember when Daisy mentioned Ward couldn’t resist a father figure OR the pull of a powerful organization? Ding, ding, ding.
Malick starts to open the portal, telling the team they’ll turn it back on in 12 hours. History is happening in England! Ward prepares to take his journey with his buddy Fitz and remember that other comment about Fitz thinking that Ward was looking for a “brotherly bond?” Just like Thomas, Fitz is being thrown into the fray, though this time, Ward is sacrificing himself along with him. Coulson is watching this whole situation unfold from the plane while Bobbi tries to convince him that he’s going into the mission way too emotional, but Coulson is too far gone to listen. So as Bobbi and Hunter’s plane gets shot at by Hydra, Coulson takes his chance at the right moment and jumps into where the portal is… right as it closes.
Did you think this show would make us wait an entire week to see what happened? Of course not. Ward and Fitz, along with some other men, have made it to the other side… and apparently, so has Coulson. Except in Coulson’s case, he’s nowhere near where Ward and Fitz are, and he’s got no idea how the portal even works.
Outgunned and outmanned, indeed.
- Okay, but I want to know if Rosalind’s beloved baseball bat is okay.
- I need to talk forever about Defiantly Strong Jemma Simmons and Elizabeth Henstridge, who has really just delivered in every single episode since the start of the season, even when she wasn’t the sole focus. I love seeing her fight back in the face of someone who pretty much destroyed her life, unafraid and proud of her strength.
- “Piece of advice: Never trust a crooked jockey on a doped up horse.” Hunter’s really doing it for me in the #realtalk department…
- …but the real winner of “quote of the episode” goes to pop culture-enthused Ward, who tells Simmons, “I’m impressed with this whole Furiosa vibe you’ve got going on.” Dear Ward: Don’t push it. Furiosa could totally take you on.
- Fistbumps! Alphonso Mackenzie: the leader we all need. (Mack is such a good leader, you guys. I really want Mack to be everyone’s leader. Can we please have that?)
- Because I feel like I have to mention it since it’s been awhile (and brings back so many season one memories): shirtless Ward alert.
Theories? Comments? Drop ’em below, and I’ll see y’all next week.