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.