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Everybody Makes Their Choices In a Stone Crazy Agents of SHIELD Episode

Illustration for article titled Everybody Makes Their Choices In a Stone Crazy iAgents of SHIELD/i Episode

Last night was the midseason finale of Agents of SHIELD, and it put a pretty definitive capstone on the “alien planet” storyline as well as the ATCU storyline. Most importantly, it gave a few of our main characters some defining choices, which turned out about as well as you’d expect.

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Spoilers ahead...

In “Maveth,” Ward’s team of Hydra goons takes Fitz to the alien planet where Simmons was trapped, with Coulson in hot pursuit (once he wakes up from bashing his head, that is.) And Fitz manages to track down Will, the guy that Simmons shacked up with, but he’s not what he seems. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang mount an assault on Hydra’s castle, rescuing Simmons (sort of) and eventually blowing it up. (For some reason, this episode was not called “Have Fun Storming the Castle.” Why??)

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The most chilling part of the episode is the final few minutes—first, the look on Coulson’s face as he hugs Melinda May on his return from the planet he christened Tatooine. And then, Grant Ward’s triumphant return from the other planet, except now he’s an evil alien zombie, possessed by the creature that devastated an entire civilization that once had nine great cities. Ooops.

So the main thing that makes this episode so fascinating is the choices these characters make. Let’s run ‘em down one by one:

Phil Coulson absolutely chooses revenge over expediency, and Grant Ward is sort of right when he says that this is a short-sighted and ultimately self-destructive path. Coulson is still in the middle of grieving for Rosalind, as we see in a dream sequence when he’s still unconscious on the alien planet, and he’s basically determined to kill Ward no matter what it takes. He does keep Ward alive long enough to locate Fitz, who’s heading for the portal that will get him and his new friend Will off the planet. But then there’s a moment when the portal is closing, and Fitz is telling Coulson to leave Ward, and Coulson just can’t. He has to finish Ward, with his bare hands. Specifically, with his cyborg hand, which he then removes and leaves at Ward’s side. Judging from that last shot of Coulson’s face, this cold-blooded murder leaves a mark on him, even with all the other people he’s killed over the years. And it seems as though Coulson’s thirst for revenge is what enables that alien thing to possess Ward’s fresh corpse and get the frak off the planet.

Grant Ward, meanwhile, finally makes his choice. Early on in the episode, he discovers a huge structure that his Hydra brethren apparently built on the alien planet, and is filled with a new devotion to the cause. He finally believes in something greater than himself, and no longer has any need for closure or revenge. Before, he was just attaching himself to Hydra to get a father figure, and then to get payback against his former SHIELD buddies—but now he’s seen something that actually convinces him. He seems actually sincere when he tells Coulson that he’s moved past all of the petty concerns that are motivating Coulson right now. In fact, Ward seems like he might not even mind sacrificing his life so that the monster can get a path to Earth.

Fitz’s choice is the saddest of all, in some ways. He makes this huge noble effort to reach out to Will—he actually risks his life to get to Will, and then convinces Ward that they need Will to get them to the portal. And he is incredibly sweet to Will, his main romantic rival for Simmons, treating him as an ally and friend from the first second they meet, because if Simmons trusts this man then so does Fitz. Even Will seems kind of startled by how decent Fitz is being. And then... “Will” can’t help reminiscing about the civilization that was on this planet, and how the planet’s inhabitants had a chance at greatness but threw it away. And Fitz realizes that he’s been “nobly” protecting the monster that Hydra came here to find, because this is actually a zombie reanimated by the alien creature. Fitz is forced to shoot Will several times, and finally light him on fire with a flaregun—which at least succeeds in driving the creature out of him. And then Fitz has to tell Simmons that Will, who saved her and cared about her, is dead, which is a moment we see without any dialogue, but the looks on their faces are enough.

Simmons makes the choice that will probably haunt her the most. She has just escaped from the Hydra goons who were holding her prisoner, and quite possibly planning to kill her as soon as they got their portal open again. And she finds the containment module that is keeping Dr. Andrew Garner, Melinda’s ex, under wraps. Andrew convinces her that if she lets him go, he’ll protect her—and he actually delivers on his promise, killing the Hydra goons and leaving Simmons unscathed. But then, fully transformed into Lash, he goes on to do what he does best: Kill all of the Inhumans that Hydra has brought to the evil castle, to provide an army for the alien creature when it comes to Earth. (The mechanism of that army is left unexplained—do Inhumans have a basic in-built need to obey the alien creature? In which case, how is that going to affect Daisy? Or was this just Hydra’s fond hope?) In any case, a dozen Inhumans are slaughtered so Simmons can escape, and the look on Melinda May’s face when she realizes is pretty crushing. Simmons is going to have to live with that blood on her hands.

Mack, meanwhile, is stepping up and being a real leader to the SHIELD crew. Coulson made Mack acting director when he decided to go “rogue” and go after Ward. And it’s really in this episode that Mack takes the leadership mantle seriously, commanding the rescue mission at the castle and keeping all his people alive. The bit at the end when Mack decides to stay behind and blow the portal, and then his crew starts concocting an alternate plan that risks more lives—but then Mack says “what part of ‘that is an order’ did you not understand?” is great. It’s pretty clear, at this point, that Mack is actually a better SHIELD director than Coulson because he has more perspective and a better ability to step back and see the big picture. And he’s less obsessed with keeping secrets for the heck of it. It’ll be interesting to see if Coulson recognizes that—especially once Coulson is forced to confront the results of his petty thirst for revenge in this episode: Zombie Ward!


Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All The Birds in the Sky, coming in January from Tor Books. Follow her on Twitter, and email her.

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DISCUSSION

Cool_Breeze
Cool_Breeze

The Walking Dead.

Hot damn. Thanks to cryptic tweets from cast members and ominous headlines all week, I was legitimately worried that we might lose Fitz or Coulson or Ward this episode. There was so much going on, and Ward went full Hydra there at the end of the last episode - breaking his promise never to hurt Simmons himself - that I was very concerned about Fitz and Coulson’s well being.

That ending, though.

1. Fitz has had it up to HERE with Ward. Like, he really hated him going into the last two episodes, but the brutality he made Fitz listen to (Simmons’ screaming) pushed him to a whole new level of contempt. When Ward was getting on him at the beginning about focusing on finding the portal, his response was glorious: “Why don’t you shut the hell up.”

And in line with Ward crossing his own line, when Fitz kind of sort of reached for his weapon (but maybe it was just interesting hand placement that caught both of them off guard), Ward knocked him the fuck off that ledge. Fitz didn’t crack. He knew what Ward wouldn’t let himself believe: The only reason Malick sent them through the portal was because the entire team, Ward included, was expendable. Fitz was keeping it real: He knew he might not make it back, and knew that Ward was using Fitz as bait for the Hydra thing - not just for his smarts and help locating the portal.

Throughout the episode Ward made remarks to insinuate that Fitz was bait - an offering, if you will - to the monster. Fitz knew it. Every time Ward made those remarks, Fitz gave him the stink eye or immediately changed the subject. And yet, he stayed calm, and got the job done.

It was interesting to see Fitz use Hogface’s knowledge of the monster as an excuse to keep Ward from killing him. Not only did Hogface know his way around the planet (he HAD been there for 14 years...), but Fitz genuinely needed to get Hogface back. For Simmons.

2. Okay, the monster: It has to be Hive, right? Maybe not Hydra-created-it-in-a-lab Hive, but the MCU version of Hive. Instead of being genetically engineered parasites, maybe this Hive was an early Inhuman, who was sent though the portal by other Inhumans because they recognized the danger it posed. Once it got to this new planet (which apparently had an ancient civilization and nine cities on planet) it wrecked shit - exactly what the Inhumans that sent it away feared it would do to Earth.

In the comics, Hydra “fed” unwitting agents to Hive as a host, so the parasites could merge into one being. All those people Hydra sent through the portal were sacrifices to act as new hosts, allowing Hive to live on. Hive is very intelligent, but has no identity of its own. Hive takes over for it’s host, and makes that identity it’s own.

That’s what it did to Hogface. People were speculating that Hogface was the monster all along, but apparently only took over right after Simmons left. Remember that episode: Hogface had one bullet left, and right as Simmons was leaving we heard a shot. After Simmons left, we see Hogface standing there with no ammo. It’s entierly possible that Hogface tried to kill himself and the monster to give Simmons time to escape, and after Hogface’s death, Hive took over his form as a new host.

Interestingly, Hive is limited by the limitations of its host. If Hogface was weak, so too would be Hive. He’s not immortal - Coulson shot (and stopped) Hive multiple times, and even KILLED IT WITH FIRE. Mostly. Hive has some increased strength, but can’t fly or shoot lasers out of its eyes, unless the host bady can. Ward is a super spy with some pretty good fighting skills. Now, as Walker Ward, he has all that with some added strength as well.

This explains Malick’s plan with the Inhumans, too: It wasn’t so much an army for Hive, but rather a buffet for him to pick the most capable and special host to take over. That’s why Malick was so interested in sending Andrew. Could you imagine if Hive took over Lash’s form? He’d be fucking unstoppable. Hell, Lash is basically unstoppable, and he’s kind of a good guy!

Another interesting point: Ward was dead when Hive took over. After Fitz tried to kill him with fire, some tentacles came out of the mouth. Another thing Hive can do: He can shoot his parasites at high speed at targets. Maybe Hive lives within each individual parasite, and like Groot, only needs one to survive, making him mostly immortal. Groot just needs a twig; Hive just needs a parasite. In the comics, when Hive took over the form of a dead Hydra boss, Norman Osbourne developed a method of removing Hive from the host, while keeping the host alive. This leaves the door open for a possible return of real Ward, if Hive is ever removed from his body.

Also: Hive seems to retain the memories of its host, as well as it’s personality. Hogface Hive wanted to help Fitz until it helped himself. It knew about Simmons. Walker Ward is going to retain all the shitty parts of Ward we all know and love.

Oh, and Hive was first introduced in Secret Warriors #2. This was the second episode with the secret warriors being active - they were activated by Director Mack last episode and this one was their first mission.

3. Coulson. Why did you leave your laser finger hand with Ward? HE’S DANGEROUS ENOUGH DON’T GIVE HIM SOMETHING TO PASS ON TO HYDRA SCIENTISTS, TOO!

Speaking of Coulson. Holy shit he had a day. After getting knocked out cold, he had a dream about Rosalind. Harsh. I liked how even in his dream, she was keeping him on his toes. NO. GET UP NOW. How hard did he hit the ground after flying through that portal? When he got up, he took off his parachute, WHICH DID NOT DEPLOY. He was bookin’. Coulson was stone cold for a second episode in a row. He had to have shot Ward at least twice just for kicks. I laughed when Ward was waxing poetic about the clarity and purpose Hydra and seeing that ancient half built Hydra statute gave him, more so than revenge. Coulson SHOT HIM IN THE FUCKING ARM and said “fells pretty satisfying to me.” I was dying.

Nerdgasm line of the night: “I’ll be damned, Tatooine.”

4. SECRET WARRIORS! This was their first mission, and boy was it fun. It took me back, and Joey was absolutely perfect being all giddy about his powers. He straight melted those steel beams (CHECKMATE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS) to get into the aqueduct. He opened that wall like it was a door. HE’S FREAKING BULLET PROOF!

The best was the quick pep talk Lincoln was going to give Joey when he first felt scared, and was asking about the difference between telekinesis and telepathy: “I don’t want anyone knowing what is in my head right now!” Lincoln was going to give a little motivation speech, and related that just like Joey, he thought he wasn’t a hero and would rather be anywhere else - they all thought that. But then freaking May: “I’m not.” AHAHAHAAH she’s awesome.

Even Mockingbird got in on the action. When Joey realized he could barricade the doors with his powers, but couldn’t think of the words to describe them, Mockingbird jumped in: “with your amazing super powers. GO.” Oh my. Joey is like Flash: excited about his new powers, now that he can control them. He’s going to be the Secret Warriors’ version of Hunter, you watch.

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