TV Review: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 Episode 21
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EPISODE 21: "Ragtag"
SYNOPSIS: Ward 's betrayal and HYDRA's shocking secrets are revealed as Coulson's team goes undercover on a mission that leaves no one unscathed.
BREAKDOWN: (The following column contains MAJOR SPOILERS, so I don't recommend reading this if you haven't watched this episode).
We are now just one episode away from the finale of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. For a series that started out strong and then lost it's way, this show finally got back on track thanks to a narrative boost from CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and the implosion of the very organization in the title of the show. While it seems likely to return for a second run in the fall, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to finish out here with a bang. We have had about a half dozen quality episodes in a row, so hopefully this penultimate story will keep the trend alive.
With Coulson, the team, and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) planning their next move as Deathlok and Ward progress with the next steps in Garrett (Bill Paxton) and HYDRA's plan, the showrunners decided now would be a good time for a flashback heavy episode that reveals how Ward became the double agent he is today. Fifteen years ago, at a juvenile detention facility for setting his house on fire, Ward is approached by Garrett and offered a chance to join HYDRA.
THe team analyzes everything they, and by proxy the audience, have encountered this season in the form of Ian Quinn, Deathlok, HYDRA, Ward, Garrett/The Clairvoyant, Centipede, The Guest House, and Coulson's resurrection, which connects to one thing: Cybertek Industries. This company appears to be what could be behind everything on the show, but the team needs proof. Despite loading a program onto the hard drive taken by Ward that will map all systems it is loaded onto, Skye was unable to finish it and thereby needs to plug a USB drive physically into a computer to get it started. In other words, a convenient storyline to fill an additional episode's running time before the season finale. Triplett even manages to get his grandfather's Howling Commando gear to help the ragtag team in their mission.
Aboard the Bus, Reina tells Garrett she is close to replicating the formula that resurrected Coulson and saved Skye. Garrett is pleased and also provides Mike Peterson the chance to see his son via video. Only Ward is unhappy after Garrett instructed Deathlok to leverage Ward's life to provoke Skye into providing access to the hard drive. It seems apparent that cracks are developing in the Garrett/Ward relationship. In the next flashback, we find Ward under the impression he is preparing to join S.H.I.E.L.D. when Garrett leaves him in the woods to fend for himself for several months as a way to prove he has what it takes.
Within CyberTek, Coulson and May pose as a pair of scientists as they try to infiltrate the computer system at the company and HYDRA ally. Skye discovers the fourth floor is protected, sending Coulson and May deeper into the building. They discover CyberTek has no computers and all the files are hardcopies. Amongst the hardcopies they find that Project Deathlok goes back as far as 1990 and that John Garrett was actually the first version of the human/mechanical hybrid. The team realizes that Garrett wants the GH-325 both to heal himself and to build HYDRA soldiers. Fitz still holds out hope Ward is not evil while Skye professes her desire to have let him die.
Deathlok confronts Reina about giving Garrett his son. Reina says she was following orders but stays aligned with Garrett to discover the power of what people with gifts have inside. Her research into the GH-325 formula also has yielded some new knowledge about Skye. Ward confronts Garrett again and the two begin to argue. Garrett doubles over in pain and Ward quickly takes him to the medical bay and begins to assist him with his mechanical enhancements, showing Ward knows full well about his mentor's involvement with Project Deathlok. Garrett then reveals to Ward that his organs are failing and CyberTek predicts he has a month or two left to live.
Coulson and the team discover that Garrett's base may be an old S.H.I.E.L.D. location in Havana. There, Ward and Garrett encounter Ian Quinn who is preparing for a meeting in Washington. Reina calls Ward to tell him what she has discovered about Skye.and her DNA. Reina reiterates the story May related earlier in the season about a village in China destroyed by those looking for a baby girl. Reina refers to "the monsters" that tried to find the baby and then reveals that those monsters were the baby's parents. Reina then provides Garrett with a prototype of GH-325 distilled from all the samples they could find. In flashback, six months after the last, Garrett returns to find a surviving Ward who has fended for himself. Garrett brandishes a gun, telling Ward it is time for their next lesson.
Coulson and the team prepare to confront Garrett and the Havana base. While Fitz and Simmons find The Bus ready to take off, the rest of the team find the Barber Shop abandoned. Skye deduces there may be a computer inside and says if they can plug in her USB they will not need to find Garrett and will have access to all of his HYDRA files. Fitz and Simmons plot to try and stop the plane but are discovered by Ward. In another flashback, Garrett explains to Ward his hatred of S.H.I.E.L.D. came as the result of an injury sustained during battle and the agency did not come to save him. Saving himself, Garrett swore allegiance to HYDRA in order to undermine the agency that didn't save him. Back on the plane, Fitz manages to set of a small EMP from Triplett's Howling Commandos case. It disables The Bus and also shocks Garrett's Deathlok enhancements.
As Garrett lays dying, he tells Ward to kill Fitz and Simmons. A flashback shows Ward told to kill Buddy, the dog that had been his companion during his wilderness training as Garrett tells Ward that he cannot become attached to anything or anyone. Showing a glimmer of humanity, Ward cannot kill Buddy and lets him go. Ward is hesitant to kill Fitz and Simmons but tells Garrett he will do it. As the pair plead for Ward to save them, he prepares to jettison the storage container they have locked themselves in. Fitz says he knows Ward cares about them because they are friends. Ward agrees that he does, but it is a weakness, and he drops them from the plane, into the ocean. Alone, Garrett shows Reina that her Centipede serum has been keeping him alive but has not given him super-strength due to his state of deterioration. He asks Reina to give him the synthetic GH-325 to try and save him. She injects the serum, sending Garrett into convulsions. He glows red, like the Extremis soldiers from IRON MAN 3, before settling back to normal. Ward asks him what he is feeling to which Garrett replies "the universe".
Beneath the barber shop, Coulson and the team find a hidden room containing a HYDRA computer but are ambushed by a Centipede soldier and Deathlok. The episode ends with Ian Quinn meeting with American military brass to sell them super soldiers to protect America from S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA through his CyberTek facilities.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES:
The Howling Commandos from CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER are referenced.
"So if you're with me, I'm gonna finish what I started. I'll be damned if I am going to let Garrett and Ward get away with murder. And I want my plane back." - Coulson
A very tense episode, it is hard to call out one particular scene as being cool, but the flashback reveals about Ward and Garrett were very well handled, as well as the reveal that Garrett was actually the first Deathlok.
DO WE (REALLY) KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO COULSON YET? OR WHAT SKYE'S POWER IS?
OR WHO THE CLAIRVOYANT IS?
There were a lot of little tidbits through this revealing episode including seeing GH-325 in action, learning more teases about how important and powerful Skye may be, as well as the "origins" of Ward and Garrett.
EPISODE CLEARANCE LEVEL: 9/10
An episode that could have easily been a filler leading to the finale, this was a strong story that balanced flashbacks, new reveals, and propelled the story into the season finale. We haven't gotten mcuh explanation about Coulson or Skye over the last few episodes but with all of the other big reveals it hasn't been detrimental to the enjoyment of the show. I do think the softening of Ward was to be expected and I would have liked him to remain a villain for a longer stretch, but I also don't want to lose Bill Paxton on the show. Whatever happens, I would beg to make Garrett a regular in the second season of the show.
NEXT ON MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.:
Episode 22 "Beginning of the End" - Dark secrets are revealed as Coulson and his team put everything on the line to stop Garrett and the forces of Hydra, on the explosive season finale of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
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