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

Sebastian Derek

Coulson, meanwhile, is hanging by the wrists in Thompson’s workshop, and Thompson has been tied up and his family locked in a closet.  Sebastian tells Coulson that he’s got bad news: the lunatics are running the asylum.  He asks if Coulson remembers him and what he did to Sebastian.  Coulson insists erasing the memories was the only way to save him, but Sebastian says that pain made him remember.  He starts to cut on Coulson’s arms, saying that he started to remember after he started cutting himself, and that he found the others Coulson erased.  Meanwhile Thompson secretly tries to cut through his ropes on an exposed screw.  Sebastian says he went after Coulson first, but he was already dead.  “Are you one of us now?” Sebastian asks.  “Why would you do that?”  Coulson insists that he didn’t, but Sebastian believes Coulson did it to find answers.  He holds his knife to Coulson’s throat in frustration, saying that he’s cut and cut but no one had the answers.  Coulson says that he doesn’t know either, but he’s trying to find out just like you.  Sebastian asks if they drive him crazy, and Coulson says he started carving on the walls.  Sebastian says that he can’t just scratch the surface, he has to dig deep, it has to be deep.  Coulson has an epiphany and realizes that the writing isn’t two dimensional, and Sebastian says that they can find it together.  He starts to carve on Coulson’s chest, asking what it all means, but Coulson doesn’t know.

Meanwhile, Thompson has broken free and goes to free his family.  Sebastian hears the door squeak, turns around, and throws his knife at Thompson’s head.  Thompson catches it between his palms, looking shocked at his deeply buried abilities.  He grabs the knife and throws it back.  Sebastian ducks it, but it was meant instead for the rope holding Coulson, who falls free.  Coulson tells Thompson to flee with his family and chases Sebastian into the workshop’s loft and proceeds to beat the crap out of him.  Skye and Mack are chasing after Coulson in one of their vehicles, with Mack asking what TAHITI was all about.  Skye tells him it was designed to revive a fallen Avenger, and Mack asks if she means Captain America or Iron Man.  She says that those are the ones, and tells him it used alien blood to revive Coulson.  “Can you imagine that?” Mack asks.  “SHIELD being run by a man who’s part alien.”  They meet Thompson and his family on the road, who warn them that two guys are trying to kill each other in his shop.

Inside, Coulson is offering up plenty of pain to help Sebastian remember.  He uses the knife to knock out the building’s lights, and then wraps a rope around his neck and forces him into the loft’s railing.  Sebastian says that they’re connected by blood, but Coulson insists that the answer is right here and all he has to do is look.  Skye and Mack burst in, guns drawn, and Mack gives Coulson to the count of three to let Sebastian go.  Coulson insists everything’s ok, but Skye points out that that’s what he said before he locked her in the vault.  “Fair enough,” Coulson replies.  As Mack counts, Coulson tells Sebastian to open his eyes and look below the surface, and as Sebastian looks down at the elaborate train set Thompson built for his son, he sees the last piece of the puzzle hidden in the pattern of the buildings.  Sebastian is overwhelmed at finally having the answer, and Coulson releases him as Mack gets to three.  Skye rushes over and Coulson says that they found what they were looking for.  He tells her that the writing isn’t exactly a map, as was her theory, it’s more of a blueprint.  It’s a city.

Back at the Playground, Coulson’s filled Thompson in on his past as a super spy.  He says Thompson was one of the best and that they could use him, telling him his name is really Cameron Kline.  “I know who I am,” Thompson says.  He says he has a wife he loves, a kid he adores, and he wakes up happy every morning.  He can’t imagine he was happy as a spy.  He thanks Coulson for giving him a second chance at life and for making him who he is.  Coulson apologizes for the blindfold they’ll force him to wear on the way home, but Thompson understands that it’s spy stuff.  He hands Coulson a card, telling them they know where to find him if they ever need any welding, and then he heads back to his life.  Coulson tells Skye that Sebastian was turned over to the authorities, and that he has things to atone for even if he finally found his answers.  He tells her the compulsion to scratch on the walls is gone, and when Skye asks how he can be sure he says he can feel it.  He says something was driving them to that city, but they were like homing pigeons who couldn’t find home.  What they don’t know is why the alien was so hell bent on getting there in the first place.  Meanwhile they have other things to deal with, including Coulson’s gift from Ward and dealing with the troops.

Outside he faces his team, saying, “To answer the question on everyone’s mind, no I’m not crazy.”  He says that chasing after carvings and symbols seemed like a fool’s errand, like chasing after windmills.  It’s been an unsolvable puzzle, that both he and HYDRA have been trying to solve.  HYDRA may have more pieces, but now SHIELD has a piece that HYDRA doesn’t.  He turns on the holoprojector, which displays the complete set of alien figures.  “Everything we’ve been doing, it all leads here,” he says.  “Our job is to find it before anyone else.”  He flips the projection horizontal to reveal the layout of a complex city, their new mission.

After the credits we see Ward listening to a record and making himself more presentable.  He shaves off his beard and takes clippers to his hair, and he looks like a new man (I’d almost forgotten what he looked like without the beard).  Skye, meanwhile, is going through Bakshi’s phone looking for clues (hopefully it’s not full of selfies, she says to herself), listening to the same record as Ward.  The phone rings with an unknown number, and she hesitates before answering it with a cheery, “Hail HYDRA!”  “Hey, Skye,” Ward says on the other line.  He says he wanted to make sure that they got his presents.  He says he promised Bakshi a face-to-face with Coulson, but this probably isn’t what Bakshi had in mind.  He says he’ll be sending them new gifts from time to time, which Skye says is “like a cat bringing dead birds.  No thanks.”  Ward insists he’s just trying to be helpful.  He says he met Coulson’s new recruits, but says that they don’t need to hang around much longer.  Skye asks if that’s a threat but he says it’s just a suggestion.  “Coulson can do better,” he says.  “But then again, I’m hard to replace.”  As he puts on a suit he tells her that he has personal matters to attend to, but he’ll see her soon.  “I promise,” he adds, hanging up.  He sets down the newspaper he’s been reading and we see that on the front is a picture of his brother Christian, telling the world that he’s going to make Grant pay.

This was a dynamite episode, packed with revelations and big steps.  It might not have been the most dramatic or the funniest, but it gave us the most progress yet this season on the Coulson mystery, while also giving Ward a chance to cut loose for the first time this year.  Coming off a week break, it was definitely a good episode to kick the energy and the momentum of the show up a notch.  It also gave fans lots of new things to talk about and theories to examine.  With only a few episodes left before the midseason finale (and the start of Agent Carter) things are definitely moving fast.  There’s lot to think about until next week, so read on for my thoughts and check out my instant reaction from yesterday for more.

 S.H.I.E.L.D. Thoughts

So what’s your theory about the city blueprint?  The most common (and most likely) is that the city they’re searching for is Attilan, the home of the Inhumans (a theory regular commenter Lindsay supports).  it seems to fit perfectly.  It has a Kree connection (the Kree being responsible for the creation of the Inhumans), as well as tying into the theory that Skye is an Inhuman.  It also fits the “thousands of years old” timeline, as the city was created by the Inhumans around 7,000 years ago in order to give them a safe haven away from normal humans.  And of course it would tie in to the recently announced Inhumans film due in 2018.  Another theory is that it’s Atlantis, which also has a role in the Marvel universe.  And if you want a crazy, no chance in hell theory, here’s one for you:  The city is Tomorrowland, the idealistic, parallel universe location from the upcoming Disney film (Disney owns Marvel and ABC, of course), and this season is designed to build up to the film’s May 22 release.  It’s the ultimate example of corporate synergy!  And this, of course, means there’s a possibility that George Clooney might appear this season!

How does the Kree (I’m just assuming he’s a Kree until I learn otherwise) GH-325 source fit into this?  What was his purpose, and how has his body survived relatively intact for thousands of years?  Was he frozen in ice, a Kreecicle?  Was he mummified, or did he just die recently?  Regardless, the more interesting question is why he has this blueprint for a city encoded in his DNA.  Perhaps he was a scout sent to search for the city (if it is Attilan, it moved around a lot in the comics, including to the Kree homeworld).  Or maybe he was tasked with protecting it.  And what purpose does the Diviner serve in relation to the city?  Diving rods are used to find water, so was the Diviner created to serve as some sort of compass to the city?  Will it work on its own, or do they need Coulson’s blueprints to help find it.  Or does the Diviner only serve its purpose once the city has been found, maybe like the Staff of Ra?  What does the city contain that makes it so valuable to SHIELD, HYDRA and the Kree?

I‘m only mildly concerned about next week’s episode.  The preview suggested that one of the SHIELD agents might die, but I feel like that’s not particularly likely at this stage.  Of course, this is a Joss Whedon show, so no one is safe.  Still, next week looks to take some more big steps forward, giving us a Grant/Christian showdown on top of some major developments with Skye’s father.  It looks like he is teaching HYDRA (and us too, presumably) the purpose of the Diviner, which does more than just kill people.  The question is how interested HYDRA will be in its other properties.

Everyone else freaked out a little at Fitz’s remark about all memories having a backup, right?  It wasn’t just me?  As much drama as Fitz’s condition has brought this season, I’m still eager for them to find a solution to his problem.  Perhaps it lies in “rebooting” his brain and restoring it from the backup.  Maybe he’ll use Raina’s memory machine to do it.  It all seems familiar, and maybe we’re finally heading for the SHIELD/Dollhouse crossover that was hinted at last season.  Hopefully he can fix his brain and then he and Simmons can have a nice long chat, possibly locked in a closet together, about their feelings.  A little bit of honesty and openness would go a long way with these too, and might save Mack from being murdered by Simmons.

Let’s all take a moment and be very thankful that everything is now out in the open for Coulson and his crew.  Everyone now knows that he was influenced by GH-325, that he was compulsively carving into the walls, and that the carvings formed a city blueprint.  They can all work together to solve the problem and to beat HYDRA, now that the secrets are out in the open.  As much as I like some extra drama, I like seeing the team work together against an enemy rather than mistrusting each other.  You need to have both internal strife and external foes for a good show, and SHIELD has had both, but I think we’re due for a little unity for a while.

Does that mean there are no more secrets?  No, of course not.  My biggest question at the moment is whether Skye is going to tell anyone else that Ward contacted her via Bakshi’s phone.  The whole Ward situation is still my greatest unknown, and the one I spend the most time debating.  (As much as I love mysteries and theories, I like character much more, which is why I loved the end of Lost and wasn’t bothered by the many loose ends left hanging.)  At first glance it seems like he killed the HYDRA agents and captured Bakshi as a gift to Coulson, but it’s entirely possible that he and Bakshi worked out that plan and that Bakshi is exactly where he wants to be.  (We know HYDRA will sacrifice its own if need be.)  Ward obviously has an agenda with his brother, but beyond that what are his goals?  Does he want to curry favor with Coulson and Skye, or is he just playing them.  I know people probably get tired of me talking about it, but every new development with Ward just makes the situation more interesting.  I’ll be very curious to see how Skye reacts next week to this week’s final scene (if she does at all).

What do you think?  Did you enjoy “The Writing on the Wall”?  Do you think the city is Attilan?  Is Skye an Inhuman?  (I’m still writing up my thoughts on the newly announced Marvel films, but feel free to tell me yours in the comments.)  How does the alien/Kree fit into the equation?  What was his mission/purpose?  Have we seen the last of Sebastian?  Are you happy about the return of Skye’s father and Raina next week?  Do you think one of our heroes will die?  If so, who?  Whose side is Ward on?  Will Skye keep his phone call a secret?  And is Fitz going to call in Topher from Dollhouse to fix his brain?  Let me know in the comments!

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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