Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. "Ragtag" Review: It's All Connected

By Kaitlin Thomas

May 07, 2014

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S01E21: "Ragtag"


If "Ragtag" were anything but the penultimate episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s freshman season, I think it would have worked better than it ultimately did. Don't get me wrong, the episode was fun, it had its moments, and it nicely set us up for an action-packed season finale by leaving every single one of our heroes' lives in the balance, but after a string of exciting, adrenaline-pumping episodes like the ones we've had since "Turn, Turn, Turn," I can't help but feel a bit let down by "Ragtag." The discovery that Garrett was Patient 0 for the Deathlok program was a cool surprise because it connected two different storylines, and the flashbacks to various points throughout Ward's relationship with Garrett were necessary for us to understand Ward's current motivations, but the result of the flashbacks was a slowdown of the action in the present. They also didn't offer us any real insight; they just confirmed what we already suspected/knew. On a certain level it's forgivable to meter the show's momentum a bit—this is the calm before the storm—but holy sh*t, Ward's backstory was stupid, guys.

Ward has held the title of "S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most interesting character" for the last four episodes, and that's why the flashbacks were so frustrating to me. They didn't enhance this new side of the character, they simply masqueraded as an explanation for his loyalty to Garrett. Flashbacks are supposed to help us understand what's happening in the present, but I didn't see a single thing that I couldn't have figured out on my own, or that made me better comprehend his motivations. The way Ward was talking a few episodes ago, it sounded like there was a specific incident that made him feel indebted to Garrett—so much so that he'd become a ruthless killer. And there was an incident, but it didn't feel all that life-or-death, to be honest.


Fifteen years ago, Ward attempted to burn down his childhood home while his jerk of a brother was still inside it, and Garrett broke him out of juvie with the promise of a new life. And then Garrett pretended to bond with Ward before dropping him off in the middle of nowhere to fend for himself for six months. This was Garrett's misguided attempt to teach Ward survival skills, but at some point you have to look at the situation logically. If a relative stranger promised to show you the world and then abandoned you in the middle of nowhere and told you they'd be back in a few months to check on you, would you actually stay there? No, you would not. You would curse the heavens and hike back to civilization because you're a sane human being.

We're asked to suspend disbelief quite often on TV, but I draw the line at characters acting like idiots. It's true, plenty of people do stupid things in real life, but Ward has proven that he's not stupid. And he wasn't stupid when Garrett found him, either. His troubled and complicated upbringing didn't necessarily give him the luxury of viewing the world the same way many of us do, but knowing that he lived in the woods for six months because some random guy in a turtleneck told him to makes me want to slap him in the face. He was desperate for a father figure, but someone who abandons you, mocks you, and treats you like crap should not be that father figure, even if he seems better than your real father. Garrett is the reason Ward joined S.H.I.E.L.D., but by that point Garrett was already affiliated with Hydra. The only thing Garrett did for Ward was take a troubled kid and warp his mind into an even more jumbled mess. Ward doesn't understand what it's like to be a normal human being. His time in the woods taught him how to survive—he stole from nearby cabins and taught himself how to hunt and fish—but when Garrett returned after six months with the promise of tacos, Ward was like, "I am still mad at you, but I also love tacos." Guys, there were no tacos. Garrett lied about having brought tacos, and not only is lying about tacos punishable by death in at least 36 countries, it's basically a metaphor for their entire relationship. 


Garrett promised to make Ward's life better, but the last time I checked, being a murderer is a step down from being an almost murderer. He didn't care if Ward lived or died out there in those woods, and he didn't care if Ward died last week when he ordered Deathlok to stop Ward's heart to persuade Skye to decrypt the hard drive. Ward was pissed off about that this week, but he still rushed to Garrett's side to fix his mechanical bits—which were necessary because S.H.I.E.L.D. didn't rescue him a bunch of years ago after he was injured on a mission. Garrett basically joined Hydra because S.H.I.E.L.D. left him to die. I get that, but it also feels like a flimsy excuse. 

However, it does explain why Garrett doesn't really give a damn about Hydra or its mission. His priority has always been himself, and he'll lie and cheat and do whatever he has to do to get what he wants, and Ward can't seem to see that. Ward still thinks showing emotions and having friends is a sign of weakness, because it's what Garrett told him 15 years ago. He was hesitant when Garrett gave the order to kill Fitz and Simmons this week, and he admitted he cared for them, but he still dropped their airtight container into the ocean because he didn't want to appear weak. But the fact that he can't see having friends as a good thing—especially a friend like Fitz, who's so trusting and willing to believe Ward can be saved—means he is weak, just not for the reasons he thinks. He's got a weakness for Garrett and for Skye and I'd bet all the tacos in the world that both of those are going to come into play next week in the finale.

I should be concerned for Fitz and Simmson' safety—and I guess I am—but I'm also fairly certain Tripplet will use his grandfather's quarter walkie-talkie whatever to find them. It was flashed about in the scene when Fitz used the EMP that fried Garrett's mechanical bits, so you better believe it's coming back. Do we think either of them will actually die? Because my money is on no. (Am I in denial?) 

On that same note, I should be concerned about Coulson, May, Skye, and Tripplet facing off against some super soldiers, but I'm... not? I guess I'm not a fan of these types of cliffhangers because they don't really pack a punch. It's just a "sit on your hands a wait" kind of situation.


I'm much more interested in the fact that Garrett now has the same miracle goo inside him that saved both Coulson and Skye. To be honest, I thought Raina was a sneaky liar and the serum was going to kill him—that woman is not trustworthy (and I love it)—but I suppose that would have been the wimpiest ending to a villain ever. "I was slowly dying but now I'm dying much faster." So it should be exciting to see what this will do to him and what kind of Garrett we will see in the finale. I'm also fond of the growing threat of super soldiers, though without the serum, I worry the writers are going to pull a "Skye's blood is the answer!" storyline—though I might just be watching too much of The Vampire Diaries

And speaking of Skye, what, if anything, will we'll learn about her monstrous parents next week? S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn't done much with the mystery of Skye's origins since she was shot, which was probably for the best, but the finale feels like the perfect time to bring that storyline back.

I know it might sound like I disliked "Ragtag," but I didn't. At least not as a whole. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit for what it was, which was a set-up episode for the season finale. I just feel like S.H.I.E.L.D. could have A) come up with a better backstory for Ward and his actions, or B) left it out all together. The penultimate episode feels like the perfect time to explain the villain's reasons for being bad, but only when they're, you know, interesting.



DECLASSIFIED CASE FILES


– Everything is connected to Cybertek and I understand the show had a reason for the mission that took up a bit of the episode, but it still felt a bit out of place for some reason. It's not because it wasn't fun—it totally was—but it just felt... disconnected? 

– Ward may or may not have killed a dog. I'm very concerned about this, because ANIMAL LOVER AND ALL, but during that entire scene, all I could think about was this week's Veep, where Dan told Selina he killed a dog. And now in my head Dan and Ward are the same person. Actually, Reid Scott would make a good brother for Brett Dalton. ABC casting, please send my check to kaitlindidyourjobforyou@brilliant.com.

– I kind of hope May kicks Ward in the balls in the finale. She's earned it, right? (That was a nice scene between May and Skye, too.)

–  I work for a secret organization inside a secret organization. By the way, have you heard of it? IT WOULDN'T BE A VERY GOOD SECRET ORGANIZATION IF HE HAD, GARRETT.

– "Looks like the joke's on you!" Good one, Fitz. 

– "I'm waiting for what's inside to be revealed." 

hekaitling:list:agents-of-shield-what-did-you-think-of-ragtag/

 

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  • lt_catscratch May 14, 2014

    Now if Tripplet starts calling Coulson, "Cheese", it's gonna be perfect.

  • kcee May 11, 2014

    so didn't anyone think wtf when they were looking at granddads howling commando stuff after Skye uses the EMP and immediately after Fitz uses the laser smokes? how the hell did he set the curtain on fire after the EMP??? They must've got the EMP from the pound shop lol

  • LukeTaylor0 May 13, 2014

    I was under the impression that EMPs won't necessarily affect battery powered items when they are turned off as a battery that is not producing electricity is simply a battery acid storage unit. Also, it had a range of ten feet, so it probably wasn't all that powerful anyway.

  • kcee May 16, 2014

    lol..not necessarily unless shielded an unpowered device could still be affected due to having circuitry.. makes sense that the laser must've been shielded!

  • ILoveTVandDDsBB May 11, 2014

    Nooo not Buddy!!!! It was nice to finally see some of Ward's backstory

  • pichikin May 10, 2014

    This made me laugh! Thanks, Kaitlin! :D &&& I work for a secret organization inside a secret organization. By the way, have you heard of it? IT WOULDN'T BE A VERY GOOD SECRET ORGANIZATION IF HE HAD, GARRETT.

  • JasonMelvil May 10, 2014

    he still dropped their airtight container into the ocean because he didn't want to appear weak.

    I actually assumed the other way around. If he keeps them around, then they will die cause Garret gets someone else to kill them. If he pushes them out, they have a chance.



    Either way, another snoozefest.
    Beyond the terrible technobabble this week, I totally agree that Ward's background was so stupid.

    I do have to point out that Garret just told Ward his parents didn't want him. Are we supposed to actually buy that? Or are we assuming he flat out lied?

    And what the bloody heck? He was a kid in prison, he may have gotten some survival skills in the woods (terrible way to learn them BTW) all by himself and maybe practiced some shots. That might be enough of a basis to put him in Shield but it's not enough to put him as a DOUBLE AGENT in Shield.

    Taking a person out of civilization is the absolute worst thing you need to do for a double agent who has to learn above all human interaction.
    It was beyond all measures of stupid.

    And let me see if I got this straight, Garret was the first deathlock and didn't want to die so he jumped on the Hydra band? Why on earth not just ask Shield to fix him? This is so freaking stupid. He didn't have to steal info, he could just look into it already.

    I'm not even asking to contact Tony Stark and tell him it's a secret Shield project (would he really double check him?)

    As usual, nothing on this show makes sense.
    At least only one more episode to go and we're done with it.

    Yeah, it got renewed, but hopefully they'll fix their act by next season.
    Though I highly doubt it.

  • powtulod May 10, 2014

    Eventhough Skye doesn't want to admit it, she maintained the illusion as if she had no feelings for Ward anymore & wished that she should have let Deathlok finished him when she had the chance, (to her fellow agents) but we know she definitely still have feelings for Ward as it was evident when she stared at Wards picture in her laptop when May came into the motel to have a heart-to-heart talk with her... (in which she quickly switched the laptop screen).

    So excited for next week to see how this ends.. I'm guessing that Ward will try to redeem himself & in the process of doing so, he will somehow get shot, injured or whatever & die in Skye's arms with Skye weeping over him.

  • Lily77 May 11, 2014

    I am hoping rather than believing that Ward didn't shoot the dog (and yes, I'm one of those who thinks shooting the dog would show worse character than shooting people on a 'mission') and that he was giving FitzSimmons the best chance of surviving (is there a beacon he could have activated on that cube?). I want him redeemed - hope they're not teasing redemption just to have him double down on evil again because that would make me switch off the show. Unfortunately I'm afriad they are going to redeem and then kill him - they are those sort of writers. I'm hoping that all the references to Romanov, who famously changed sides, means that Ward will be like her and change sides successfully as well.

    If they do kill him then I hope Skye's powers have something to do with resurrection. Everyone keeps saying she must be a Kree - what powers do Kree's have???

    I am more worried about the constant teases that there is someone else on the team who may be a traitor.

    Worrying how this show is going to go is taking up a ridiculous amount of my time!

  • chrelle66 May 10, 2014

    Being left alone and unprepared in the wilderness for six months, and then forced to kill ones only companion, engenders loyalty? That is definately a novel approach.

  • JasonMelvil May 10, 2014

    Not to mention teaches you enough about human behavior so you know how to be a DOUBLE agent perfectly. Seriously, he had no interactions with humans let alone having some basic acting skills - How on earth wasn't his cover blown in an organization whose sole purpose is dealing with spies?

  • helyanwe89 May 10, 2014

    I finally watched the episode.

    I was actually more upset about Ward shooing the dog than I was that he ejected FitzSimmons into the ocean. I watch of action shows when people die - but I just don't like seeing animals hurt even on TV.

    Ward was already a psychological mess before Garrett me him. I really wish we gotten a bit more insight into how he got there.

  • MichelleHood24 May 10, 2014

    I was the same I was abit of a mess when garret told Ward to shot buddy but when he ejected fitzsimmons I was ok. I don't think Ward actually shot buddy when he fired the shot to scare him away I think it was garret who was hiding in the woods knowing Ward wouldn't do it.

  • MajLorne May 11, 2014

    i 3rd this sentiment. I hope the dog wasn't killed. I have a feeling the finale will probably show him letting the dog go and that he ejected fitz and simmons so they can be retrieved than killed on board. It is still possible he is deep undercover or there's some hints of him turning away from the 'dark side'.

  • MichelleHood24 May 11, 2014

    I think his faith in garret is unraveling and he's realising that when the time comes he can't actually kill the team, he says he can but his emotions are stopping him which is why he dumped them in that completely airtight container probably knowing that those two would be without some sort of tracking devise on them.

  • JasonMelvil May 10, 2014

    Or that he figured it was actually the best thing to do to protect sitzsimmons since if he lets them live, Garret will just order Mike to kill them.

    It was literally their only chance to escape.

  • PatriciaSnche May 09, 2014

    If Fitz and Simmons make it to the next season, I'll send a formal request to JW asking for Fitzsimmons to be inmune to the writers's sickle. That or I'll wrap them up on bubble wrap (specially Fitz, double-layer for him, just in case). Anyone else is willing to sign it? xD

  • csinner May 09, 2014

    I'm in.

  • PatriciaSnche May 10, 2014

    I know you are :)

  • Ratisbona May 09, 2014

    What the dog was to Ward, Ward is to Garrett. Someone he took care of and in return helped him to survive. But in the end really caring for the dog/Ward would be a "weakness", so after it/he (the dog/Ward) served its/his purpose, he can die. And neither the dog nor Ward can believe, that its/his master (Ward/Garrett) would be willing to kill it/him (dog/Ward).

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