Why is Coulson the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.? This is why Coulson is the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.!
This action-packed, Coulson-heavy episode starts with Coulson at Rosalind’s place. After their tension last episode, the Coulsalind relationship is finally starting – truly starting, without spy vs. spy undertones or ulterior motives. They sit down for some burgers and chat until Ros is suddenly shot in the throat through the window, like that scene in Buffy season 6. Yeah, you know what scene I’m talking about.
That’s one way to start an episode.
As Coulson futily begs Rosalind to stay with him, the camera zooms out the window to a distant building to show Ward with a sniper rifle. Grant Ward, you absolute bastard!
Ward then calls Coulson to rub it in, comparing Ros’ death to Kara’s (I guess they were both caused by Ward and neither had anything to do with Coulson, but Ward doesn’t see the world that way). As Coulson texts for extraction on a different phone, Ward sends a group of men to take out Coulson too, in what feels like an homage to Fury’s ‘assassination’ scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier – the first of a handful of Coulson/Cap parallels in this episode. Coulson fights off the men in spectacular fashion using a gun, a candle and some hairspray, and eventually crashes to the street below, where he is picked up by Mack.
At the Playground, the team stands by helplessly as Coulson walks to his office, a mixture of storming angrily and stumbling disorientedly. He asks Mack to prep the interrogation room. In his office, he takes his blood-covered shirt and drops something – Rosalind’s book of matches from the bar they had their first date, now stained with her blood. A nice callback to Coulson’s own blood-stained Captain America trading cards in The Avengers. Like the Avengers, he uses this symbol to build his own resolve, but not before taking out his anger on his office.
In the interrogation room, a determined Coulson interviews all the original team members to try and get some information on Ward – something they may have missed, something to use against him. May talks about their uneventful times sleeping together, Daisy talks about falling for him and their similar childhoods, Simmons talks about her small crush on him after he saved her life, and Fitz talked about how Ward was just using him as a little-brother type to replace something that was missing…
A pissed Agent Banks shows up at the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, determined to work with the team to help avenge his boss. He gives Fitzsimmons some more information on the HYDRA-funded NASA program Rosalind, Will and he worked for, and they decide to go pay the facility a visit to see if there is more information they can uncover.
Meanwhile, Gideon scolds Ward for acting rashly and trying to kill Coulson – his actions are threatening to sabotage HYDRA’s plans. Does he have an ace up his sleeve? He’s Gideon Malick, of course he does.
Back at the Playground, a still-angry Coulson grabs Hunter by the throat and slams him against the wall. He blames him for Ros’ death, because he didn’t kill Ward when he had the chance. He angrily punches a chunk of brick out of the wall with his robot hand. He is not messing around! As Bobbi calls Coulson out for being out of line, Hunter agrees with his sentiment and expresses regret that he didn’t take Ward out when he had the chance.
Well, now’s his chance. Coulson is planning another shot at Ward, with just him, Hunter and Bobbi, leaving Mack in charge as acting director while Coulson is gone. How could this end badly?
As Simmons, Fitz and Banks explore the old NASA/HYDRA facility with some S.H.I.E.L.D. and/or A.T.C.U. agents, talking about bringing Will back, Banks suddenly shoots the stock redshirt agents before turning his gun on Fitz and Simmons. He barely has time to explain “It isn’t me!” before the gun flies out of his hands, points at him and shoots him in the forehead. Our resident Magneto rip-off Giyera steps out of the shadows.
Lets take a moment to mourn our fallen A.T.C.U. subplot. With Luther Banks and Rosalind Price dead, that storyline has effectively come to a close. It’s a shame we didn’t get to know them better – I feel both could have become powerful and interesting allies in episodes to come.
On a Quinjet, Bobbi, Coulson and Hunter are doing their own “off the books” mission – they decide to kidnap the baby of the family, Thomas Ward, to use as bait – he is the only thing Grant Ward still cares about. Warning, I will probably call them “Grant” and “Thomas” for the next little bit, because just saying “Ward” could get confusing.
Sidenote, whatever happened to the Ward sister? She was mentioned during Koenig’s control questions as part of his interrogations in season one, but since then we have only heard mention of Christian and Thomas. An interesting theory is that there never was a Ward sister, and that Grant’s S.H.I.E.L.D. files were falsified from the start. This means when he lies about having a sister during the Koenig interrogation and this information matches the control question, it sets a heart-rate precedent which makes lying about future information easier.
Garrett and/or the writer are really smart cookies – or is that just me?
After Giyera brings Fitz and Simmons to Malick, Malick reveals his plan – he wants to open the portal, and more importanly, he wants help bringing someone back. Fitz achieved this by literally just tying a rope to himself when jumping through the portal – I think it’s pretty ridiculous that in their thousands of years of existence, HYDRA never once considered this option.
Intelligence, not their strong suit.
On Grant’s suggestion, he sends Fitz and Simmons to separate rooms to be tortured until one of them agrees to help. Simmons is being tortured by Giyera, while Fitz is being tortured by…simply having to listen to Simmons being tortured by Giyera. At one point Grant asks him what the worst part is – when she screams or the long pauses in between. Damn, that’s messed up.
As another aside, one thing I really like about this scene is the moment Grant enters Fitz’s torture chamber room. Fitz tries to ask what he has done with Simmons but stumbles and stutters and can’t get the words out. A brilliant bit of acting on Iain’s part to show that when faced with his abuser, Fitz’s trauma isn’t entirely eradicated.
Coulson decides to play his hand by giving Grant a call and revealing that they have Thomas. As he warns them not to hurt him, Coulson simply hangs up. Ballsy. They decide to have a little chat with Thomas, and he reveals that he is actually, for a Ward, a pretty good guy. He wants Grant dead but sure, who doesn’t? We get a bit of Ward family backstory and Thomas reveals that basically everything they were told about their abusive parents were true. He also reveals that it was, in fact, Grant who threw him down the well – not Christian – which paints a messed up portrait of Grant if you think back to season two. He made Christian confess to it and then killed him for it. Poor Grant always needs someone else to blame.
Grant calls back as expected, and they decide to put Thomas on the phone while they trace the call. They argue and get some good healing going on (the episode is called Closure, after all) before Coulson says “times up” and hangs up. Grant realizes they played him to track the call and gets furious, deciding to go and torture Simmons himself, while Fitz listens, horrified. Bobbi questions Coulson’s current emotional stability, and S.H.I.E.L.D. drops off Thomas at an undisclosed location and promises him security detail. Now back to calling Grant “Ward”.
Back at the Playground, our new director Alphonso Mackenzie is stressed. Coulson did not leave him a battle-plan, and now he won’t answer his calls. He tries to get May’s professional opinion, and she isn’t much help either – she simply says “You’re the director now, make the call.” So he does. Calling Daisy into his office, he clears Lincoln Campbell and Joey Gutierrez for combat to assist Coulson and team. It’s not perfect, but we have the Secret Warriors.
I repeat, we have THE SECRET WARRIORS! A NEW MARVEL SUPERHERO TEAM!
At the HYDRA base, they stop torturing Simmons as Fitz has agreed to help them. Ward will lead a small group of men on the other side to build the ancient Inhuman “It”’s army, while Fitz will help them bring it back – or so he told them. He reassures Jemma that the only thing he’s bringing back is Will. He says that he agreed to go to the other planet so they would stop torturing Jemma, saying the cutest line in S.H.I.E.L.D. history: “I lost you once. I’m not going to lose you again. I’m just not strong enough to live in a world that doesn’t have you in it.”
FITZ, STOP, MY HEART.
They open the portal using minilith chunks of monolith, which open in a sinister pentagram formation. Paired with HYDRA’s old ram’s head symbol, what are they trying to tell us here? As Coulson, Bobbi and Hunter watch the heat signatures on the monitor, they start going through the portal – and they’re taking either Fitz or Simmons with them. Coulson’s done with wasting time. He gears up to jump, and Hunter apologies to Bobbi, kisses her and gets ready to jump too – when they are hit with HYDRA’s anti-air missile.
Down below, Fitz, Ward and his men make their way through the portal. Hunter is still off balance from the explosion, but Coulson STRAIGHT UP NO-PARACHUTE CAPTAIN AMERICA DIVES OUT OF THE PLANE AND FREEFALLS 300 FEET STRAIGHT INTO THE 3×3 FOOT PORTAL.
IF THAT’S NOT THE COOLEST THING YOU’VE EVER SEEN, GET OUTTA MY HOUSE.
In the post-credits stinger, the HYDRA crew and Fitz arrive on the planet during a duststorm. (We all know what that means). Coulson, not taking into account momentum apparently, launches out of the portal and tumbles down a cliff before knocking himself out on a rock. That could have ended better. Until next week!
This episode was the last one before the mid-season finale and it was a rollercoaster ride. We got some deaths, a new Marvel superhero team, and there’s so much going on that “Closure” is a terrible misnomer. I give this episode an easy 9/10.
CRACKPOT THEORIES AND SPECULATION
In interviews, Brett Dalton has strongly hinted that Ward will be a character from the comics, and that this will be revealed in the mid-season finale. Will he gain powers? Become possessed by “It”? Could Ward’s affinity to fire be a hint towards Hellfire, the S.H.I.E.L.D./HYDRA member of the Secret Warriors who also happens to be Daisy’s former love interest in the comics?
Wouldn’t it be great if Gideon lied about HYDRA’s history, and simply sent Ward through the portal because he knew there was no coming back? Maybe he just wants HYDRA for himself.
Lincoln’s Secret Warriors codename was revealed to be Sparkplug before season 3 started. Based on a line he said earlier, could Joey take the name “Meltdown” from a different existing Marvel character?
Mid-season finales don’t usually end well. Who could die? Ward basically signed his own death warrant this episode – could this be curtains for him? Will he die trying to redeem himself saving Fitz and Coulson? Will Fitz make the ultimate sacrifice to save Will, or vice-versa? I’m digging this “Director Mack” vibe – has Coulson overstayed his welcome?