Saturday, December 5, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 3x09 "Closure" (A Long, Dark Road) [Contributor: Alice Walker]

Original Airdate: December 1, 2015

Well, after taking a week off for Thanksgiving, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was back this week with a bang. Multiple bangs, in fact. There was a LOT going on this week, and I’ve got a lot of feelings to unpack so let’s take a deep breath and break this thing down.


Anyone who has ever seen any sort of action/drama had to know that as soon as Rosalind and Coulson settled down to “finally have those burgers,” something bad was about to happen. There was happiness, flirting, a casual reveal that Rosalind and Banks are bosom buddies –– it was all too good. The gunfire was expected; Rosalind’s quick death after Ward shot her in the neck was not. I had (incorrectly) assumed that Rosalind Pike would be around for most of the season, and certainly did not think she’d be bumped off before the midseason finale.

I was surprised that the writers went through with the death without having any sort of medical intervention or dream revelation. Now, I know I was just complaining about Marvel not having the guts to make death permanent –– and we even got another fake-out death in the form of Andrew Garner. While this one seems like it will stick, this was not the answer I was looking for. First: this is not a real solution. Rosalind Pike, while an excellent character, has only been around for nine episodes. That’s less than Agent Trip (remember that guy?) got in season two, and she was in no way an integrated or crucial a part of the cast or show.

Second and more problematic is that by violently killing Rosalind in front of Coulson, the show fell back on one of the oldest and most outdated tropes in comic book history: they stuffed her in the fridge. This sharp powerful woman, who was not only a spy extraordinaire but also an all-around amazing character, is reduced to a simple stereotype by her murder. Her death served only to further Coulson’s storyline, driving his actions and newfound bloodthirst. I don’t mind killing characters off; I can even handle excess violence, but when it is done at a woman’s expense for the sole purpose of driving a man’s journey, it bugs me. It’s lazy storytelling, and it is not cute.

After Rosalind’s death, Coulson goes into full vigilante mode, launching an all our assault on Ward. But to do so effectively, he has to get inside his head. This leads us right into the next problematic area.


I have watched S.H.I.E.L.D. loyally ever since it aired its first episode, I’ve been a fan of every iteration of the team, and sometimes I even long for the easy, simplistic days of mid-season one. So when Coulson barked at May to prep the interrogation room and gather up “the original team,” I was all about it. Would we have flashbacks to a lighter time when FitzSimmons were the adorkable duo with burgeoning crushes on Skye and Ward? Would we gain insight to their background, examining the bonds that drew us to these characters in the first place? Maybe we’d even get some long-lost SkyeWard action!

... Nope.

Instead we got awkwardly-paced exposition that revealed nothing we haven’t already been beaten over the head with. May and Ward didn’t do much talking when they boned down? I’m shocked. Jemma liked Ward and was flustered by him? Okay, sure. Skye/Daisy and Ward bonded over their rough childhoods? Yeah, that’s basically the most boring aspect of their relationship. Fitz’s interview was the most jarring, with a brand new memory of Ward sitting in his bunk looking at a picture of his family.

Now, while that is clearly Psychopath 101, Grant Ward was no amateur; he was so deep undercover that I have a very hard time picturing this. This changed narrative also feels like a cheat, and cheapens what actually happened on the show. The one compelling moment came when Skye alluded to their parallel paths, and understood how easily Ward was taken in by a strong male presence. The two of them always did feel too much. Flip Ward and Garrett with Daisy and Coulson and you could tell that same story.


Coulson leaves Mack in charge (Director Tank? Yes please!) and jets off with Bobbi, Hunter, and a master plan to hit Ward in his soft underbelly. Now, this is where the show should have taken Daisy along, and used her to manipulate Ward into coming out of hiding/combat –– there is plenty of unfinished business and emotional payoff there. But instead of using Daisy as bait, Coulson digs up... Ward’s brother, Thomas, whom Ward once trapped in a well at the insistence of his sadistic older brother.

Thomas helps them get a trace on Ward, who is busy torturing Simmons to find out how they made it through the portal and back again. Fitz breaks, and Ward sets out to lead a HYDRA mission to the alien planet to get that evil alien back to Earth. Fitz is hoping to bring back Will, and Daisy’s team of Secret Warriors are getting their start backing up Coulson. They’ve got a tough job ahead since Coulson jumped from a plane straight into the portal before it closed. Impeccable aim, that Coulson.

This coming week will be the midseason finale, which always tends to be some of the strongest episodes this show offers. It’s also taking place on the alien planet that served us so well before. I am holding out hope that this episode was moving all of the pieces into position, and that this episode will be the grand payoff. Regardless of what else happens, this should mark a change in the Ward story. He either needs to die by Coulson’s hand or reveal a whole other hidden agenda. I cannot imagine them stretching out this game of cat and mouse much longer.

Highlights and low lights: 
  • Agent Banks, we hardly knew ye. I would have loved to see you and Rosalind drinking wine and dishing secrets. 
  • Mack and Daisy fist-bumping before a mission. It’s the little things. 
  • Really, is Ward once again blindly following a father-figure into a new mission? Whatever happened to working for himself? 
  • Fingers crossed for a Will/Jemma reunion. I need it. 
  • Hunter’s idea of really going off-book is faking a robbery? Come on man, you’re supposed to be the bad boy around here! 


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