The penultimate episode of Agents of SHIELD was preceded by the excitement of Avengers: Age of Ultron and followed this week by the news that both SHIELD and Agent Carter have been renewed for a second season. In between all of that, however, was an episode filled with surprises, setting the stakes for the two-hour season finale on Tuesday. Last week we watched our heroes (plus Ward) launch an attack/rescue mission on HYDRA, reuniting the original team for the first time in what felt like ages. This week showed us some of the aftermath of that mission, as well as the events of Age of Ultron, as the power dynamic at SHIELD was shaken up once again and the conflict with the Inhumans finally came to a head. So let’s take a look at “Scars,” written by Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc and directed by Bobby Roth.
- One of the biggest questions from Age of Ultron and one of the recent mysteries of SHIELD is answered in the very first sequence of the episode. One of the Koenigs gets a phone call in bed (complete with Star Wars sheets), and answers it to find Billy asking why he ragequit Call of Duty the previous evening. Sam is due to meet someone arriving by plane soon, so he goes through his morning routine, picking out the right pair of colorful robot socks, choosing from a variety of lanyards, and checking the sticky note on his mirror that says “Call your sister” (what?!? there are female Koenigs too?). It turns out he’s meeting Coulson, who complains about having a middle seat and who brought the skymall catalog for Koenig to read. We’re seeing events from a year ago. Coulson asks if there’s been any update on Gonzales, but Koenig says he’s still missing. He asks about Fitz and the fact that Coulson lied to May about being on a recruiting trip. But Coulson’s real reason for visiting is what Sam is calling “Theta Protocol,” which Coulson admits he might need Sam to write down for him so he can remember, and Koenig opens a door with his lanyard to reveal the helicarrier Fury used at the end of Age of Ultron.
- I kind of want to start at the end of the episode, and this is my blog so I will! I wasn’t sure what to expect of the faceoff between Gonzales and Jiaying, but it definitely wasn’t that! I thought for sure Gonzales’ box was going to contain some kind of weapon he was going to use on Jiaying in order to start the attack, but it turned out to be her Chinese coins that were a gift for Skye in order to keep evil spirits away. Jiaying was the one with a weapon, pulling out a manufactured Terrigen crystal, at which point I knew Gonzales was toast. I thought for a moment that he might be an Inhuman, but it didn’t seem very likely, and now he’s a crumbly pile of dust. I was caught off guard by how willing Jiaying is to go to war, with seemingly no interest in listening to Gonzales or Coulson, and ready to shoot herself in the shoulder in order to frame Gonzales and spark a confrontation. We’ll see how it all plays out in the season finale, but despite my sympathy for the character and my appreciation for Dichen Lachman, I think at this point we have to start calling Jiaying a villain.
- Raina always keeps you on your toes. I always find myself constantly reevaluating where she stands and what are her motivations. Every vision she’s had so far seems to have come true, but that doesn’t mean that Cal is wrong about how manipulative she is. She could easily have been lying about SHIELD raining fire down on the village, in an attempt to play SHIELD and the Inhumans against each other in order to accomplish her own ends. I was inclined to take her at her word given what had happened to her with her transformation and perhaps an eagerness to belong with the Inhumans, but it’s just too convenient that she saw a vision of SHIELD attacking when it seemed so unlikely, despite Gonzales’ presence. Either she’s angling for control of the Inhumans or she has something else she’s after.
- Maybe she’s after the mysterious rock thing that’s in the cargo hold of Gonzales’ ship? She had a vision of it that seemed to match 100%, of a rock with markings on it that turned to liquid and then back again, and it was exactly where she predicted. Supposedly it’s a Kree creation designed to destroy the Inhumans, but that could mean all kinds of things. Perhaps it undoes Terrigenesis? That’s my current theory, and that Raina wants it so she can go back to looking like normal. If it is an anti-inhuman weapon, is there a possibility Coulson might use it against them if/when things turn ugly? That sort of nuclear option seems unlikely for Coulson, but he’s clearly in a place where his confidence is a little broken, and anything is possible. All he seems to know about it is that it was found in a 100 year old dig site, and that HYDRA was very interested in it.
- Speaking of Coulson, I was a bit surprised he agreed to let Gonzales go in his place, especially since Skye would be counting on him to arrive. Of course, if it means that Coulson still lives while Gonzales is dead, I’m ok with that. But it did seem a little out of character. On the other hand, given everything that’s happened, and his most trusted advisor telling him that he’s been compromised, I can see how he might be more eager to listen to the others than before. I don’t know if at this point things can ever return to normal between Coulson and May. She feels so betrayed by the fact that Coulson was meeting with Andrew behind her back, and his secrets in general, and she’s using Gonzales’ questions about Coulson’s judgment as an excuse or a convenient way to drive a wedge between them. She might just be trying to regain some of the professional distance between them, but it also feels like her way of punishing Coulson.
- The big question for this week is probably where Skye will end up in this conflict. We saw her squaring off against May in the preview for the finale, but I could definitely see her eventually choosing either side. Her instinct right now is probably to back the Inhumans, given the way she keeps using “we” and “us” when she talks to Coulson about them. Obviously, her parents are a huge pull for her, and she’s never had a true family before, but on the other hand SHIELD and Coulson was the first time she ever felt like a part of a family, and I have no doubt that when it comes down to it she trusts Coulson completely, even more than her mother. If I were a betting man, I’d bet she’s back with Coulson by the end of the finale, having learned how ruthless Jiaying can be. But I fully admit that I might be completely wrong about this one.
- The other big question might be just what in the hell is going on with Bobbi, Kara, and Ward. Kara pretended to be May and flew Bobbi to the middle of nowhere in order to attack her. And even though Bobbi won the fight, Ward was there to ice Bobbi and kidnap her. Ward mentioned a few episodes ago that they needed one more thing from SHIELD before they could be free, and perhaps this is it. We know that Kara was cleared of having any residual HYDRA brainwashing inside her, but this seemed personal. She said that she remembered what Bobbi did to her before HYDRA got ahold of her, and that this is some kind of payback. Is Ward going to help Kara reconcile her past in the same way that he “worked things out” with his brother? Because that doesn’t sound very good for Bobbi. What happened between Kara and Bobbi, and was this always a part of the plan? (As a side note, I know a lot of people, particularly on Tumblr, have convinced themselves that Bobbi and Kara were a romantic item back in the day, and that whatever’s going on between them is related to that, but I don’t think that’s particularly likely as far as the story goes.)
- FitzSimmons had a brief scene where they discussed her failed attempt on Ward. Fitz started by trying to get her to forgive herself for not trying to kill Ward, saying that he wanted to kill him as well but couldn’t have done it. But things got a lot darker when she admitted she did try and that she failed, and she’s going to blame whatever Ward does next on herself. Might we see her and Fitz mounting a rescue mission to save Bobbi from Ward and Kara? I feel like Fitz and Simmons are so close to finally being on the same page once again, and a mission together, especially if it’s an unauthorized mission perhaps, might be just the final push they need.
- We also learned in this episode that Mack is leaving. I’m not sure if this was included as part of the potential Bobbi/Hunter spinoff that is now not happening, or if this is its own development. On the one hand, I like Mack (and Henry Simmons) and I’ll be sorry to see him go if this translates into the character leaving the show. He brought a different vibe and definitely helped the diversity of the show, and he’s had some great moments and connections with the other characters. But on the other hand, his constant refrain that he doesn’t trust Coulson and thinks he’s been compromised and they’re messing with things they don’t understand has become a little grating. SHIELD has a big cast, though obviously not as big as some other shows, and I think as a character Mack has suffered a bit in the last quarter of the season as things ballooned to the point where there simply wasn’t room for him. I still hope he sticks around for next season, but I could definitely see him making some kind of noble sacrifice next week and not surviving. But maybe he’ll join FitzSimmons on their unauthorized mission to rescue Bobbi that I totally made up and am now convinced is going to happen.
- Speaking of next year, we found out this past week that Agents of SHIELD was renewed for a third season!!! SHIELD is my favorite show currently on TV, and I’m thrilled that it’s going to be back for more. (And according to some industry folks, getting three seasons automatically earns you a fourth due to syndication numbers that I don’t really understand, but The Mindy Show’s cancellation seems to prove that theory wrong.) After the finale I’ll talk more about what I want to see from our show next season, but right now what I really want is a focus on our core characters. We got a lot of new faces this season, and many of them have been great, but I feel like at times we lost sight of our main heroes, so I’d like things to get a little simpler next year. SHIELD’s presence on TV also serves to make the Marvel Cinematic Universe feel richer and more interesting by connection, which definitely felt true with Age of Ultron. Some people write off the tie-ins to the movies as cheap marketing gags, but I love the feeling of a shared destiny between the show and the big-screen superhero adventures, and that shared universe makes each piece more enjoyable as a result. Now if only they could find a way to get Coulson and company a cameo in Captain America: Civil War I could die happy. That and if Mike Peterson becomes a regular next season.
- Agent Carter is back, too! In a surprising but awesome move, Agent Carter was also renewed and will presumably fill a similar role next year as it did this past year. I think an 8 episode run is perfect for the show, and it provides a great change of pace for SHIELD without the show losing momentum from endless reruns. Carter was a lot of fun, and Hayley Atwell is perfect and completely deserving of a show focused on her, but I hope they come up with a better plotline for season two. The time period, the cast, and the characters are so interesting and different from what we’re used to, and I want to see what they can do with something better than “Howard Stark has lost his stuff.” The final episodes were great and things definitely picked up by the end, but I felt like some of the middle of their first season dragged a bit. But I’d happily watch Agent Carter read the phone book for an hour… and then use it to beat the hell out of bad guys, so no matter what they come up with I can’t wait to watch!
What do you think? Did you enjoy “Scars”? Were you surprised by how the Jiaying/Gonzales confrontation went down? What side do you think Skye will end up on? What is Raina’s real goal? Can things ever be worked out between Coulson and May? What happened between Bobbi and Kara, and what is Ward planning to do with her? Will Mack really leave (the show or the team), or will he find a reason to stay? What is the crazy Kree rock thing? Will FitzSimmons ever just admit that they’re still in love with each other? Who is the Koenig sister? Will everyone survive the finale? Are you thrilled that SHIELD and Carter will be back next season? Let me know in the comments!