Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “The Writing on the wall”

Jemma Simmons

Simmons informs Coulson that Stevens died from shock due to pain rather than from the cuts themselves, which is typical in a ritualistic murder of this sort.  Coulson asks what makes her think it was ritualistic, and she points out that the murderer continued to carve after she died, as if he needed to complete his work.  She says it’s not the first time he’s killed someone, as the work is too precise, and that she recognizes the carvings from the ones they saw Garrett making.  Her assistant comes over with an analysis of samples both from Stevens and from her attacker (taken from skin and blood under Stevens’ fingernails).  Stevens had GH-325 in her blood, as did her attacker.  “Don’t look at me, I didn’t do it,” says Skye, and Simmons quickly assures her that she never suspected that she did.  However, it does seem like both subjects suffered from hypergraphia (the compulsion to write), and that in Stevens case they tried to solve it with memory replacement.  She looks at Skye and Coulson and asks if either of them have had a compulsion to carve, but Coulson tells her that they’re fine and they need to find the others.  He leads them down the hall as they pepper him with questions.  How could someone locate them?  “I don’t know,” he replies.  How many TAHITI patients were there?  “I don’t know.”  Does he think the killer will come after them?  “I don’t know.”  How are they going to find these people?  “You’re going to have to torture it out of me,” he says, removing a false brick to reveal a keypad underneath, typing in a code, and revealing a hidden compartment containing the memory device Raina used to help uncover the mystery of Coulson’s resurrection.

After the break, we see Simmons prepping Coulson to go in the device, making sure they can monitor him and shut things down if things get to bad.  She says it took she and Fitz six weeks to figure the machine out, and Coulson says that he never thought they’d have to use it.  “In the history of bad ideas,” Skye says, “this one is light years ahead of everything.”  “No,” Coulson replies,” trying to bring dead agents back to life using alien blood blows everything else away.”  Skye points out that maybe his memories were buried for a reason, especially since they seem to be driving people insane.  She says that May wouldn’t go for this, but Coulson says that he’s in charge, not May.  “I was in charge of TAHITI,” he adds.  “These people are my responsibility.”

Mack, meanwhile, is standing nearby watching and questioning what’s going on.  “Stealing bodies, talking about aliens and bringing the dead back to life?  What kind of creature feature did I sign up for?” he asks Fitz.  Fitz points out that the machine helps people find memories, and then Simmons asks Mack to join them just in case Coulson starts screaming and they need someone strong to hold him down.  Simmons tells Coulson to try to stay relaxed, while Skye says they’re going to pull him out at the first sign of duress, but Coulson objects.  He puts his head back into the device as Skye tells him to concentrate on Stevens as the access point to his memories.  Simmons activates the machine and after a few flashes of tubes, blood, alien corpses and carvings Coulson finds himself sitting in the Guest House in an interview room alone.  He narrates to the group as he notices Steven’s file on his desk which he picks up and flips through.  As he lowers it he sees that Stevens has appeared in the chair opposite him.

He asks her how she’s feeling today, and she says she’s terrific and has never felt better.  She says that she volunteered for this, that she was dying but when she woke up everything was ok.  Other people flash through the chair.  One man says that he’s ready to get back in the field, another says that he can’t believe it worked.  We then see the tattooed man, who asks how long they’re going to be keeping him here.  In all, he says, there are six patients, all of whom are well adjusted and for whom he recommends immediate release.  Suddenly, one patient steals the pen from his hand and starts to feverishly draw alien markings all over the desk.  With a start, Coulson tells them that it’s the first time he ever saw the writing, and we’re treated to flashes of the patients’ deteriorating states, which range from screaming and pulling out their hair to catatonic drooling.  The tattooed man asks how long they’re going to keep him there with “these lunatics,” seemingly unaffected.  Coulson, in another room, talks to a doctor, to whom he recommends that they shut down the program as things are getting worse and more unstable day by day.  She objects, saying it’s not a failure but just a first step, and that they successfully regenerated life in the patients.  She reminds him that the alien is thousands of years old, predating the pyramids, and that his blood might have implanted genetic memories into the patients, causing a psychic schism.  She suggests that if their memories are wiped then it will stop.  We see the patients strapped to a table with their brains exposed for a machine to manipulate, just as was done to Coulson, as they scream and plead for them to make it stop.  Coulson asks what he’s done, but Skye tells him he did the right thing, helping to give them new lives and new identities.  She asks him to find their names, and with great effort he manages to remember the first.

Ward has arrived in Boston where he heads into a tavern, tailed by Hunter who waits outside.  Inside, Ward is greeted by the bartender, who offers him a choice between a Columbian necktie or a bullet in the head.  Ward chooses the bullet in the head, on the rocks, and as he pours the drink the bartender welcomes Ward back.  A Mercedes pulls up to the bar, and out climbs Bakshi with a couple of HYDRA agents, who all head inside.  Hunter calls May to say that they have a problem, while getting his gun ready.  Back inside, Bakshi greets Ward by name, seemingly happy to have him back with the team.  He says that Garrett spoke quite highly of him, and the two shake hands.  Bakshi says he was surprised to receive Ward’s call, as he didn’t know that the phone was active and he thought Ward was dead.  Ward says he wasn’t dead, just waiting locked in a cage, and before that he was “trapped behind a badge,” but now he’s finally free.  Bakshi asks what they can do for Ward, and Ward asks for a meeting with whoever is giving the orders.  He knows it’s not Strucker (see the mid-credits scene from The Winter Soldier) so it must be someone local, but Bakshi insists that Whitehall is a very busy man.  In exchange, Ward offers to get Bakshi face to face with Coulson, “close enough to put a bullet in his head.”

May tries to radio Coulson or Skye, but no one answers.  At the Playground, Skye’s found that one of the patients died in a fire, three others have passed away of unnatural causes, and two are still alive.  In Coulson’s memory he talks to the tattooed man, who insists there’s nothing wrong with him.  Coulson asks him to roll up his sleeves, but instead he just insists that he doesn’t need to be erased.  Two guards force the man’s sleeve up to reveal that he’s carved an alien symbol into his arm, and he fights them as they drag him away, insisting that there’s nothing wrong with him.  Coulson says that it’s only going to get worse but that he’s trying to help.  The may shouts for Coulson not to do it, that he needs to know, that Coulson can’t erase him because “it wants me to know.”  Coulson then flashes to his own experience of having his memories wiped, and Skye tells Simmons to shut the machine down.  She calls May who tells her that they have a “Ward situation” that’s about to get really bad.  Skye confesses that Coulson went into the memory machine, earning a reproachful “And you let him?” from May.  Skye insists that it wasn’t her call, and May orders her to lock Coulson up until they get back.  Coulson, meanwhile, is screaming that he needs to know, and as he struggles to break free of Mack’s grip Skye pulls out her gun and shouts for Coulson not to make her use it.  He calms down a bit and apologizes, and when Skye tells him May’s orders he agrees that that’s a good idea.  As she leads him down into the vault he tells her that the tattooed man was Sebastian Derek, an “assassin from the dark side of SHIELD.”  She tells him there’s just Hank Thompson left, and says she’ll send agents to protect him.  “That won’t be necessary,” he says, pushing her past the barrier and activating it, sealing her inside.  “I need to take care of him personally.”  As she calls out he mutes the field, silencing her and walking away.

Meanwhile at Thompson Welding and Electric, the last survivor is spending some time with his son, who is sending model trains flying around an elaborate city.  Thompson tells him to slow the trains down, and when he doesn’t he correctly guesses that his son just wants to see them crash.  He says he fears for the world when his son gets his driver’s license, but he’s interrupted by his wife, who tells him that an old friend is waiting for him up at the house.

At the Playground, Mack is playing videogames as Fitz watches.  Mack admits that they’ve seen some messed up stuff (calling Fitz “turbo” in the process), but is bothered by people’s memories being jumbled and replaced.  He offers for Fitz to take a turn playing, and when he refuses Mack insists that it’s a good way to help his brain and hands.  Mack worries that Coulson will forget what team he’s on, and says that he likes his bosses unjumbled.  “Brains never delete files,” Fitz says, “they just lose connections.”  He says there’s always a backup, it’s just a matter of digging and finding them.  “So you’ve got backups too?” Mack asks, but before Fitz can explain any further Simmons interrupts asking if anyone’s seen Skye.  She looks at the monitors and spots Skye waving at the camera in the vault, and they rush to let her out.

Thompson answers the door finding Coulson waiting for him.  Coulson insists that Thompson doesn’t remember him but that they’ve met before.  Thompson doesn’t have any idea what Coulson’s talking about and insists that he leave.  Coulson pleads for him to wait, saying that he has every reason to believe that Thompson’s life is in danger.  He asks if his family is home, and when Thompson says no he’s happy because he wants to pick his brain.  Meanwhile May, Hunter and Bobbi have reunited, and Hunter tells them that no one’s gone in or out since Bakshi arrived.  Hunter gives Bobbi crap for Ward blowing her cover, telling her that subtlety is the key.  “You were dressed as a cowboy!” she replies indignantly.  May tells them that they don’t have much in the way of resources, and that when they go in they’ll need to get a fast, clean shot on ward or he’ll blow the building.

Coulson insists that Thompson listen to him, and holds up a picture of the alien writing.  Thomson says he doesn’t recognize them and has never seen them in his life.  Coulson says that he needs to know what it means, and that Thompson has pieces he needs.  Thompson says that he “told you both you’ve got the wrong guy.”  Coulson asks if someone got here before him, but before he can do any more he’s knocked out from behind by Sebastian.  May and company burst into the bar to find the bartender and the HYDRA agents dead, killed with bullets to the head.  In the back room they find someone strapped to a chair with a bag over his head.  Removing it they find Bakshi with his mouth taped shut, but still very much alive.  Beside him is an open door to the basement, through which Ward must have escaped, and written on the tape over Bakshi’s mouth are the words “For Coulson.”

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4 thoughts on “Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “The Writing on the wall”

  1. Pingback: Instant Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “The Writing on the Wall” | Love Pirate's Ship's Log

  2. Pingback: Instant Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “The Things We Bury” | Love Pirate's Ship's Log

  3. Pingback: Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “The Things We Bury” | Love Pirate's Ship's Log

  4. I too love character driven stories (and get utterly lost in complicated plots), but this seems to be delivering both.

    Again, really glad you’re blogging this, because it clarifies many details I miss.

    Great show, great blog. Carry on, and carry a SHIELD.

    Liked by 1 person

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