Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “Beginning of the End”

 

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: I’ve never seen a more exciting, emotional, badass, hilarious, sweet and special finale to a show’s first season.  Not only that, but tonight’s episode of Agents of SHIELD is already up there on my list of top season finales of any show ever.  I have to give full credit not only to the writers and showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, but the cast, crew and everyone involved in the show for doing a truly spectacular job.  In an hour they managed to wrap up the dangling storylines left from last week and the entire season, not only as far as plot but also with the characters, set things in motion for next season by completely changing the direction of the show, work in the show’s best guest appearance thus far, while managing to surprise and send a fist straight into the chest of my emotions, pulling out one of my ribs in the process.  I could go on and on (and I will), but I might as well just jump right into tonight’s season finale, “Beginning of the End,” written by Jed and Maurissa and directed by David Straiton.

Tonight’s episode opens with some faces in a corporate environment, with a cocky, long term employee explaining things to a new hire.  He talks about how he’s been there since the start, when all he had was one computer in his basement, and now they’re at 20 systems and growing fast, with plans for another 100 systems by the end of the month.  He then asks the new guy if his enthusiasm for the work brought him to the company, but the new guy says he was lured by “the incentives program,” earning a knowing nod from the veteran.  “No one’s turned that down yet,” he says.

The old hand goes on to explain that everyone is in charge of one unit, and that he’ll receive an email 24 hours before his unit goes online.  He explains that “some are volunteers but some are here for the same reason you are.”  He’s interrupted by another worker who informs him that everything is in position, which will provide a good learning opportunity to a new guy.  They run over to a monitor, which shows Coulson, Trip, Skye and May cornered in a barbershop basement in Cuba.  “These guys,” the veteran says, “we don’t like these guys.”  As he informs the room full of employees to “let them have it,” the camera pans and we see the Cybertek logo behind him.

Down in Cuba, Trip lights up the room, revealing a whole host of Centipede soldiers, one of whom is holding the Berserker Staff.  “So who do we talk to about getting a haircut?” Coulson asks the room, as Trip opens fire, taking out several before he’s knocked into the wall.  Skye rushes to trigger her Trojan Horse at the computer terminal while May rushes into the fray.  “If it isn’t the Cavalry,” the guy with the staff remarks, only to be immediately knocked out and disarmed by May.  “Don’t ever call me that,” she says

as she masters the staff’s power.  She sends the soldiers flying in all directions, including through a support column for the building, prompting Coulson to tell her to “bring the house down.”  She takes out the building’s supports and the rest of the soldiers as Coulson, Trip and Skye retreat, and May tosses the staff into the room as the building collapses on top of it.

Onboard the Bus, the newly invigorated Garrett gets a call from the head Cybertek guy, who tells him that Coulson and his team escaped.  He doesn’t seem particularly concerned, however, as he hangs up on the guy and tosses the phone away, before ripping the glass door off of the Bus’s lab.  Ward’s more than a little concerned about his mentor, but Garrett insists that he’s never been better as he calls for someone to bring him a big nail.

Quinn and Raina stand a distance away, discussing the sudden change in Garrett now that he has the entire sum of HYDRA’s research coursing through his veins.  Quinn’s a little worried, because Garrett took all of their miracle drug, leaving Quinn without a suitable demonstration for the military brass that’s coming to meet with him.  Raina reassures him that HYDRA will always have plenty of volunteers, and if they run out there’s always the “incentives program” to attract new ones.

Garrett, meanwhile, is using the nail to scratch something into the glass, looking almost giddy as he does so, telling Ward that he’s just writing some of his ideas down.  Ward thinks he’s losing it, however.  Garrett couldn’t be more thrilled, though, as he’s really alive for the first time.  “We did it,” he tells Ward, who can’t believe that they’ve finally achieved the goal they’ve been working towards for so long: finding a way to save Garrett.  Garrett reassures Ward that their alliance with HYDRA was just a symbiotic means to that end.  Ward says that they’re not true believers, but is confused that they’re part of a coup, but Garrett says that it’s more of an uprising, something bigger than HYDRA.  Now that Garrett has been saved, it’s time for Ward to decide what he wants and Garrett will give it to him.  As they talk, we see what Garrett has been scratching into the glass, and it looks like some kind of alien writing, mathematics or schematics.

Back at Coulson’s hideout, Skye informs them that their plan worked and the Trojan Horse is up and running, giving her eyes into their operation in the palm of her hand (or more accurately on her cell phone).  Coulson informs the team that the tracker FitzSimmons placed on the Bus has crossed the ocean and stopped in New Mexico.  However, they’re not answering his communications, but he tells them that they can’t think about what might have happened to FitzSimmons right now.  Regardless of what happened to them, finding Garrett is the team’s only chance of discovering FitzSimmons’ fate.

Speaking of which, we see that the med bay in which FitzSimmons were ejected from the Bus has settled on the ocean floor.  It’s a mess inside, but the power is still working, as Fitz sits among their supplies with his arm in a sling as Simmons wakes up.  He tells her where they are, and launches into an explanation of why they sank, which has something to do with the adaptive nature of the pod.  He’s also done the math and thinks they’re at least 90 feet underwater.  Fitz strapped them down before they hit the water, saving their lives but breaking his arm in the process in the exact same places that he did in the 2nd grade.

Despite their apparently horrible predicament, Simmons is actually overjoyed at how lucky they were, as she thought they’d be dead for sure.  All they need to do is find a way out.  Fitz doesn’t have her hope, however, because if they escape they’ll still be stranded in the middle of the ocean.  He already spent an hour rigging up a distress call using an EKG, only to realize that the call is on a SHIELD frequency that no one will be listening for anymore.  They don’t have any supplies anymore and according to the math, things aren’t good.  “Enough with the math,” Simmons tells him, and as she realizes that there’s no way out and they’re going to die down there, tears start to roll down her cheeks.

Coulson wants to go over their plan one more time, as they’ll only have one shot to pull it off.  Trip and Coulson will grab a vehicle, preferably something with some “fireworks”, and open a window for May and Skye to break in.  They’ll grab the “dealer” and force his hand, taking care of everything.  Coulson reminds them of the odds and that backup isn’t coming.  “But Fury always said a man can accomplish anything when he realizes he’s a part of something bigger.  A team of people who share that conviction can change the world.  So what do you say?  You ready to change the world?”  “No,” May replies, “but I’m ready to kick some ass.”  “That works too,” Coulson agrees, as they share a smile and a nod.

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16 thoughts on “Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “Beginning of the End”

  1. WOW.
    Just wow.

    I’m guessing someone did their research, but 90 feet down is still recreational dive zone (I’ve been at 100)(and surfaced from 80 on a teeny pony bottle after my regular tank pretty much redlined)… if the doohickey pod thingie was like a submarine, its interior should have been 1 atmosphere (so… you only spent a minute in deep water, so why are you in a hyberbaric chamber????… 99 feet is 4 atmospheres,66 is 3, 33 is two). If you’ve spent longer than about 15 minutes in four atmospheres, yeah, then you’d need some actual decompression. Depends on whether the pod was the same as the exterior pressure, or was at one atmosphere, like a sub. I’m betting on the sub. Either way, it’s certainly plausible to surface from 90 feet on one breath (if breathing compressed air, you need to keep breathing OUT because that air in your lungs expands as you surface). However, Fitz and Simmons were quite believable and marvelous as geeks caught in a life and death situation, and figuring out a solution.

    best…….line……….ever……. “I know what it does”……..

    Also: nailed him.

    And the Villain Rises One Last Time (or The Monster Isn’t Dead Yet trope)… Coulson finally gets to shine in a huge way, understated, badass, and hilarious.

    And I have to agree with you about Ward’s arc. This could be the dark grey sort of character that adds complexity to the series.

    And Samuel L Jackson (there should be a Sir in there somewhere) was perfect.

    This series has grown so much from the beginning. All the characters are coming into their own.

    And I cheer every time Coulson gets to do some serious baddassery.

    And May. “Nuff said.

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    • I know, right? “Wow, just wow,” was exactly my reaction.

      I don’t have an answer for the 90 feet thing. I guess you could get by it by saying that he said “at least” 90, but still, I imagine they didn’t do too much research. It doesn’t diminish the drama of their scenes, however.

      I’m still geeking out over “I know what it does.” It was such a great line and moment, and I imagine it went over the heads of some of the more casual viewers, but it was perfect to me.

      Ugh, May’s fight was absolutely epic, and the nails to the foot made me cringe and cheer at the same time. She’s rapidly becoming my favorite character on the show.

      So many things to love, and it’s just going to make the summer seem like it’s taking forever!

      I still haven’t written my season ending recap/wrap-up (maybe over the holiday weekend), but is there anything in particular you think I should touch on or talk about?

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      • Character arcs.

        While I immediately had great hopes for the show and great enthusiasm, (and have even more now) I also had two small reservations:

        …everybody is just too pretty. I mean, look at your typical BritTV… not everyone looks like a Hollywood icon, there are dorky, derpy, ordinary, slightly oddball, average looking, and older people. In SHIELD, Coulson is about the only one who qualifies as “ordinary” and he’s pretty classically handsome. (I am impressed with May, who is nearly as old as me, and is just amazing). Not that I want to change anyone now, but it’s just an observation of American TV.

        …at first, the characters appeared to be rather stereotypical: Suit Guy, Geek Twins, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Square Jawed Pretty Boy, and Computer Hacker Girl. Then things started to get interesting, as we peeled back layers of history, mystery and actual character. What might have been stereotypes in a lesser show became fully fledged people we care about. Ward may have had one of the more interesting character arcs ever… oddly, it may be easier to relate to the charismatic Loki, but Ward’s journey from apparent Hero to Villain to… what now? is something you don’t often see on TV.

        I’m not sure if another TV series has ever had the problem of tying itself into a film series, interweaving ideas, characters and storylines, not just as a spinoff, but continually for what might be years. I wonder how much conversation there is between TV writers and filmmakers. I quite like what they’ve done so far.

        I missed one or two episodes surrounding the blue alien thing that is now affecting Skye and Coulson… and there’s that end scene in the final episode with Coulson writing on the wall… I don’t think he’s going to go down Crazy Road (Nick Fury touched on that in their confrontation with Garrett, that Coulson got it right), but What Does It Mean???

        Did SHIELD really flounder around trying to find its feet, its vibe? Or are we all afflicted with Short Attention Span Theater Syndrome? Did we just need to wait while the storylines played out? (well, they certainly have…)

        Trip appears to be our replacement for Ward, and is to me, more interesting. He projects a solid air of Guy You Can Trust And Want By Your Side In A Fight, and being the grandson of a Howling Commando is way too cool (hope we see more of his retro WW2 stuff)(gives us a bit of that Cap air). Coulson working with a guy whose grandad fought beside Cap before he was a Capsicle is great.

        Is the move to a later time slot better? Despite the plethora of small kids wearing Avengers T-shirts and playing with action figures, the actual films are not little kid stuff, and I think, neither is the TV show. PG 13 yes. Not really suitable for little kids still awake at 8. Are the films grittier? Wittier? Or is the flavor about the same from film to TV series? I feel like the effects work well in the series (clearly they don’t have the time or budget of an epic motion picture), and don’t seem to be shortchanged much.

        That’s all I can think of now, may think of more…

        blog on!

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        • All good points. As for the actors being too pretty, I’m afraid that’s the way it works with American TV. You could say the same thing about the cast of The Winter Soldier. The characters definitely started out as stereotypes, but grew over the season into well rounded and interesting characters. I think the writers were just operating on a different pacing than what people were expecting, especially considering they had to wait to tie in to the events of the movie.
          I wish I knew what the alien writing meant, but I imagine that will be one of the big questions for next season. I like Trip a lot, much more than I thought I would after his first few episodes. I think he fits in with the group really well, especially considering everything with Ward.
          Not sure what will happen with the timeslot move, other than I hope ratings improve. You’re right that the films are not kid stuff, but that doesn’t mean that the theaters aren’t full of kids. It’s a tough balance to find. I would imagine the show won’t change much.

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      • Found a blog post on tumblr in which someone compared Ward and Bucky, Villains Who Might (or Might Not) Be Redeemed. http://kelticgrl30.tumblr.com/post/86608284471/bucky-barnes-vs-grant-ward
        It’s pretty succinct and to the point, but brings up some interesting thoughts (especially in the Ward fan contingent) about Villains, redemption, character arcs, and perhaps flashes back to that thing of why women often find themselves attracted to dark characters. There was some discussion on another post of how Ward might have been redeemed if the rest of SHIELD had been nicer to him….

        … to which someone replied; ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! That is taking all responsibility for his actions away from him, and putting the responsibility on the rest of the world. Not… how… it…. works.

        I have an odd quirk here, in that I’m going to have difficulty watching earlier episodes again because I KNOW HE’S A CREEP AND I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO STAND IT! (where’s my nail gun…).

        Mike Peterson is another villain who might be redeemed, as we can guess from his exit speech in the last episode.

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        • There are some good points there, especially about having free will vs not free will. I do think that giving Bucky a free pass because he was brainwashed ignores the fact that Ward was brainwashed by Garrett, just in a different way. I think they both have some responsibility for their actions. And even if you accept that Ward is fully responsible, that doesn’t explain why people are so eager to let Loki off the hook.
          It will be really interesting to see how I react when I rewatch the season, knowing who Ward is. Supposedly, the writers threw in lots of clues that you would never have been able to pick up on unless you knew what was coming.
          I think Mike Peterson is much less of a villain than Ward or Bucky. It’s hard for me to blame the guy for what he did when they had his kid as a hostage. I can’t imagine that I’d act any differently if I were in his situation. Plus, the fact that he feels such guilt over his actions (however necessary they might have been) makes him a good guy in my book, just a good guy put in a horrible situation and used by the bad guys.

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      • aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand another brainfart…..

        Cruising tumblr for Agents of SHIELD (apparently I am not the only one who continually types it as Agnets of SHEILD) I found this…

        http://www.themarysue.com/agents-of-shield-first-season-wrap-up/

        MarySue says: “We were going to get invested in the lives of some regular human folks in the Marvel Universe, and be asked to think about the full impact of the existence of the Avengers on the world around them, and not just when they were saving it.”

        She notes that: “The prevailing opinion in many comics companies these days (and indeed in some comic book movie adaptations) is that superheroes are made more “adult” and “significant” by the inclusion of lots of realistic or extreme violence and a heavily pessimistic view of human nature.” and suggests a different view of what makes comics mature: “it’s when stories successfully acknowledge how superheroes impact normal every day life and the legal, political, and socioeconomic systems they exist within is when the genre really reaches a kind of maturity.”

        She notes that AOS is full of powerful female characters (hooray!), that it is working on more diversity in other areas (race etc.), that it presents “interpersonal drama in such a way that doesn’t perpetuate myths about attraction or glorify unhealthy relationships”.

        She also delves into some things she feels went wrong: misuse of theme, overdependence on payoff, and hamstrung by required continuity (best to read her actual blog there).

        Not sure if I agree with all that, but it raises some interesting questions (MarySue appears to be a fan).

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        • I love LOVE that half the cast is female, and that they’re so kickass but without being one dimensional. I appreciate that they’re working on upping the diversity factor. I’ll have to read the whole blog when I get a chance.

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  2. Yep, totally satisfying end to the series. I loved the fact that Ward didn’t get redemption but did get his arse kicked. I loved the scenes with Fitz and Simmons, I thought Fitz might actually die but am both glad he didn’t and glad that he didn’t come away totally unharmed. I loved the mundane office politics at Cybertec. I loved the simple but effective idea of the incentives program. I loved Nick Fury’s cool, unshakable nonchalance in the face of the pompousity and over confidence of the seemingly all powerful foe (very Buffy). I loved Mike turning on Garrett. I loved Coulson picking up that big gun again and knowing what it does this time and I loved the final rise and very sudden fall of Garrett, the original Deathlok.

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    • Yay, I’m glad you finally got to see the finale and loved it too! It’s hard for me to imagine a better conclusion to season 1, and it makes me excited to see what season 2 has in store.

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