Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Finale Review: Mission Accomplished

By Kaitlin Thomas

May 14, 2014

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S01E22: "Beginning of the End"


The season finale of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. answered very few questions, choosing instead to continue to build toward the greater mysteries its been carefully mapping out since the show's premiere. Some fans might take offense to this sort of open-ended storytelling, wishing instead that the series would wrap everything up with a neat little bow every season. That might be how television used to work in the days before every network was in the original scripted programming business, or before the DVR and binge watching, but the world of television has evolved beyond that simple premise. 

A satisfying finale should conclude its main storylines, yes, but there's nothing wrong with carrying a plot thread through from one season to the next. From one standpoint, it's the show's way of making sure viewers return for Season 2. It works similar to a cliffhanger in that its a narrative decision that writers and producers hope will entice you enough to return. If they've done their job correctly, viewers will have invested enough of their time in the show to want to see it through to its inevitable conclusion. It also gives the show something to build toward. 

When new series are pitched to networks, the producers have to show they have enough material to make it worth their while, and seasons-long story arcs are often a means of making that point. It proves there's a long-term goal in place and the writers won't be throwing ideas at the wall hoping one of them sticks. Of course, the story needs to be compelling, too, and I think "Beginning of the End" was probably one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most exciting and best episodes to date after "Turn, Turn, Turn." It was able to wrap up Garrett's arc, conclude Mike Peterson's storyline, and find time for a rather sizable guest appearance from Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Add to that the ongoing storylines regarding the consequences of Coulson's resurrection, Skye's origin story, Raina and Ian Quinn's lofty dreams, and Ward's betrayal, and I feel pretty safe heading in to Season 2. 


After Garrett was injected with GH325 last week, there were a lot of questions about how it would affect him. Well it turned him into a philosophical whackjob, for starters. He spent an awful lot of time saying things like "I can see everything now!" and talking about the big bang, which just made everyone around him want to know where he bought his weed. It also turned him into the world's weirdest graffiti artist with a bad habit of ripping out people's ribs and then stabbing them with said ribs. Maybe I spend too much time watching vampire shows on The CW, but I thought he'd just ripped out his heart and was kind of like, really, the amateur heart grab? Ugh, that is so last week's Vampire Diaries! But I was pleasantly surprised to see the rib. In fact, my reaction to that scene was the equivalent of this scene from Tommy Boy a.k.a. the best film ever made. Perhaps more important than the rib-ripping, however, was that this new development finally allowed Ward to see Garrett for the selfish bastard he's always been. 

Garrett finally had everything he wanted, which meant he honestly didn't care much about what Ward was doing. Like the good little soldier that he is, though, Ward kept asking for his next set of orders. If I were Garrett, I'd have been like, "You want orders? Here's what I like at Chipotle! And don't forget the guacamole!" I don't get why villains don't ever think about the little things, always thinking about, like, world domination or whatever. Villains gotta eat, too! 


Anyway, Ward was finally able to catch a glimpse of what we all knew already, which is that Garrett used him and abused him for his own agenda, but because it would have been ridiculous for him to immediately start pumping Ace of Base and singing about seeing the sign and opening up his eyes, Garrett sent him on his next mission, which was to collect Skye. There was a lot of talk about monsters this week as Raina claimed Skye was one and again when she asked if Ward's true nature was as a monster or if he was just a product of Garrett's selfishness. It's clear Ward doesn't rightfully know who he is without Garrett, because Garrett manipulated him in to being a perfect right hand who obeyed orders and never asked any questions. Which is why he walked right in to a trap when he went to capture Skye. The gods of justice finally let May get her revenge by kicking his ass. If I had one item on my checklist for the season finale, it wasn't to see Garrett meet his end, or for Deathlok's storyline to come full circle, it was to see May finally get to kick the shit out of Ward for what he did to her. He betrayed every single member of the team, but he slept with May, which definitely gave her first dibs at him. There wasn't a direct hit to the crotch that I could see, which was too bad, but she did nail his foot to the floor and damage his larynx rendering him unable to speak. May: 1. Ward: 0.


So Ward ended the season captured as a villain with Coulson promising torture (personally, I think his threat could have been infused with a little bit of Crowley from last week's Supernatural to really sell it) to but according to executive producers Jeffey Bell and Jeph Loeb, Brett Dalton will be back next season. In an interview about the finale, Bell said they loved Dark Ward and the way Dalton brought him to life. (I'd argue Dark Ward is actually what brought Dalton to life.) They also believe, as I do, that there's a lot of story left in Ward and that he's worth more to the show alive than dead. Loeb even compared him to Bucky Barnes, which is what many of you have been doing since it was revealed Ward was Hydra. "The Winter Soldier has done things that are far more heinous than anything Grant Ward has ever done as far as we know," said Loeb. "And yet, at the end of the movie, you're rooting for him to come back on the side of the angels." 

In that same interview—which I highly recommend, by the way, because it gives great insight about Season 1 and what we can expect in Season 2—Bell also compares Ward to Jaime Lannister of Game of Thrones because the world loves me:

I really do believe that no one is too pious to fall or too far gone to be redeemed in some way. Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones did terrible things and now I feel so bad for him because his sister won't kiss him. Isn't that weird? Does she not love him? He lost a hand! It kills me that I care. We want to do that with Ward; we want him to kiss his sister, metaphorically speaking.


So there you have it, guys! Ward is totally making out with Cersei next season. Somewhere someone is already writing that crossover fan fiction. Anyway, knowing Dalton will be back in some capacity next season actually makes me glad we've spent so much time discussing his arc and whether or not his character can be redeemed, because it means it wasn't all for naught. If the show had killed him off or just locked him up alongside nameless villains, it could have given off the appearance that these last six episodes carried no weight, when in actuality, they changed everything we knew about the show and transformed it from a fun show with potential to a much more interesting drama. It would have also meant Fitz and Simmons' storyline this week was just an inconvenience created by a storyline involving a non-essential character, and that is not the case.




FitzSimmons have been the beating heart of S.H.I.E.L.D. since the series premiere, and were often the emotional tether that kept it grounded. "F.Z.Z.T." remains a series highpoint and it's because it was the first time the stakes felt real, but it was also the first time the relationship between Fitz and Simmons took center stage. So if you didn't cry or at least tear up during their scenes this week, you might want to go to the ER and have your heart checked because there is a very good chance you are dead inside. Iain De Caestecker turned in what was probably his finest performance of the season as the episode gave Fitz a chance to play the hero and tell Simmons the truth about how deep his feelings for her truly are. 

For her part, Elizabeth Henstridge's performance was equally moving, first as the realization of what Fitz was telling her played across her face, and again when she refused to accept the plan as it was. "I never had the courage to tell you, so, please, let me show you," Fitz begged, and it was the saddest thing the series has ever done. Simmons may have saved Fitz, but he was pointedly never seen again after Fury rescued the two of them. And Coulson mentioned he might never be the same again, which raises the question of what kind of man he'll be when the series returns next season. Did they have to go to great lengths to save him—like Coulson and Skye-like lengths? I'm not sure how I feel about this development, but I'm not sure I would change a thing about how we got to this point.


Which brings us, finally, to Coulson. We thought he was the first person to survive Project T.A.H.I.T.I. and not show any side effects, but the episode tag, which showed him carving up a wall with a knife (what do these guys have against paper?!), hints that there's still more to come. He's been made aware of the truth, and being aware of the truth about the truth (think about it, it'll make sense in a minute) means he might have just had a delayed reaction. Is he smoking the same weed as Garrett now? Or was he a special brand of crazy? Because I'm pretty sure having a looney toon as the director of a baby S.H.I.E.L.D. operation is a bad idea. 

Rebuilding the organization, however, is not a bad idea. It gives the series a chance to once again have a name that makes sense, and it also gives Coulson a sense of purpose again. He's honest, and he truly believes in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s mission of protecting people, and I can't wait to see what a S.H.I.E.L.D. under Coulson looks like. Will he lead like Fury, doing what needs to be done no matter the cost? Or will he be a more honorable man? We know he's not afraid to use the big guns, like the very special gun that made an appearance tonight, or the alien technology he used to blow Garrett away for good in what felt like the most Whedonesque moment the series has ever had, but can he stay true to himself? I'm excited to see where all of these ongoing plot threads take us next season, but I also think the season successfully accomplished what it set out to do, which was introduce us to this world and make us care about these new Marvel characters just as much as we care about the big named superheroes. It started off bumpy, and there were some pitfalls along the way, but I give this season a passing grade. Until next season!


DECLASSIFIED CASE FILES


– Skye's father is alive! Who is he? What is he? Start throwing out your suggestions in the comments.

– I don't want to let this go without mentioning Raina. She's still mostly a mystery, and the series cannot use the word mutant, but it's pretty obvious that's the territory we're headed in regards to her character. And Ruth Negga continues to rock that role. Her performance gives the character a very weird vibe, but it works so well for what the story requires. I love it and I love her.

– Someone I don't love quite as much is BJ Britt who plays Agent Tripplet. He'll also be back next season, and he's turned out to be a nice addition to Coulson's team, even if I still haven't warmed up to him. Is he the new Agent Handsome? Only time will tell. 

– Mike Petereson is free of Garrett's grip and his son is safe. I do like how the entire first season brought his story full circle, as he was our jumping off point into this world in the pilot. I hope we'll see more of J. August Richards in the future, too. 

– OMG, PATTON OSWALT IS BACK! I took Ward's murder of Eric Koenig personally, and I've chosen to believe the writers brought him back just for me. No power on Earth can convince me otherwise. However, is Agent Billy Koenig the first introduction of the Life Model Decoys? Or were they just two really weird twins with a lanyard fetish? DISCUSS.

– I'm probably forgetting a ton of stuff but this is already longer than a Tolstoy novel and also it is late so BYE. 

thekaitling:list:agents-of-shield-what-did-you-think-of-the-season-finale/

 

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  • gzeigler3 Jun 21, 2014

    I am surprised that I have not seen this already mentioned here, but Coulson's and Garrett's scribblings were featured in a previous episode. In Eye Spy, the former SHIELD agent, Akela Amador was sent on a mission to gain entry to a room in a building in Russia(?). Ward went in her place, and after some tech trickery, he made it into the room, to only find some scientists and equations written everywhere. On the wall in the room were scribblings just like the ones that Coulson and Garrett were drawing.

  • Katerine_M Jun 03, 2014

    I don't necessarily think that the scribbling is a sign of madness. It's too specific for that. What Garrett (and now Coulson) are scribbling is too much like writing... and clearly in the same language... for me to pin it down to "madness."

    I think it's one of two things, both stemming from the fact that GH-325 comes from an alien:
    1) The blood carries certain pieces of knowledge, and the compulsive writing is due to that knowledge coming to the forefront. Or
    2) The alien is trying to communicate, through them.

    Nothing we haven't seen before. Pretty sure there have been a couple of Star Trek episodes with this plot, as well as at least one Stargate SG-1 episode.

  • vanessa_aline Jun 26, 2014

    Yeah, and don't forget Transformers 2!

  • PatriciaSnche May 21, 2014

    Since this week we won’t have any new episode to talk about, I decided to make a funny recap with my reactions to each episode of this first season. Hope you like it! :)

    1) Pilot: I’m so excited! This is going to be amazing!





    2) 084: First mission of Coulson’s team




    3) The Asset: Skye’s first undercover mission (plus Ian Quinn and Gravition’s birth)




    4) Eye Spy: Coulson’s ex-disciple is being controlled and used as a killing machine




    5) Girl in the Flower Dress: Raina and her Centapide’s soldiers




    6) F.Z.Z.T.: *no sypnosis needed*





    7) The Hub: Fitz’s first undercover mission




    8) The Well: Berserker’s staff, Ward’s traumatic childhood and Ward/May’s affair




    9) Repairs: Pranks and hints of May’s past




    10) The Bridge: Coulson’s kidnapped by Cybertech




    11) The Magical Place: Coulson finds out that Tahiti is not so magical




    12) Seeds: Fitzsimmons at the Academy and Blizzard’s birth




    13) T.R.A.C.K.S.: Skye is shot (twice) by Ian Quinn and Mike Peterson officially becomes Deathlok




    14) Yes Men: Well… Lorelei happens. Her M.O.:




    15) T.A.H.I.T.I.: Blue guy at the Guest House



    16) End of the Beginning: Coulson's team and allies follow some leads on the Clairvoyant and we find out May's little secret (meanwhile, CA:TWS is happening)




    17) Turn, Turn, Turn: Garret’s the Clairvoyant?? Ward’s Hydra???




    18) Providence: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s down and Ward comes back to get Skye



    Bonus track: Skyeward's shippers reaction towards JW




    19) The Only Light in the Darkness:
    Coulson’s true love (and Fitz’s awakening)





    20) Nothing Personal:
    Maria Hill joins Team Coulson and they rescue Skye



    21) Ragtag: Ward’s flashbacks, Garret being injected with the GH325 and Fitzsimmons’s sinking



    22) Beginning of the End: Garret’s dead and Fitz’s barely alive (one gif to represent them all and in the fandom bind them)




    Fin.



    And for you my dears (especially @csinner, @FringeFanatic and @Mey)...

  • msbritt1210 May 27, 2014

    Pure genius. This summer will be long indeed. And yes JW is gonna suffer for hurting the shippers. I plan on being a big part of that.

  • PatriciaSnche May 28, 2014

    I can't imagine how Skyeward shippers must feel... right now it's very complicated to see those two ending up together :/

  • csinner May 30, 2014

    Yeaa. I can't seem them going that way, unless it's a seasons from now endgame.

  • Mey May 22, 2014

    O Patricia... :'-)

    (I should really stop with 'we' totally meaning 'I' , going to come back and bite me in the tushy at some point, I fear :p)

    Such an amazing photo recap, twas vibrant, witty, spot on, intuitive... absolutely lovely and I cannot believe all the beauteous references there (all the Wilfred love, somehow he stuck more than the rest for me today *insert hugging vibes*).
    I didn't enjoy it, I LOVED it, pure fun with a lot of feelings and relevant points: classic good stuff!

    Honouring us with the iconic historical image of keeping the tune playing while the ship is sinking... I may have had an imagery-gasm ^^
    So much emotions, so much water, my dear Shakespeare and astrological symbols never leaving my side...
    So, to celebrate the joy, th'honour, and once again the man who has always guided my heart to the fuzziest moments, only one thing:

    (I believe some men are above hate tweets ;-p)

    You're a gem, it may not be much, but for as long as I comment on this site, mi comment thread es su comment thread :-D

    Ok seriously now, you watch Teen Wolf or something, right? This isn't the last I see of you? ^^

    xoxo
    Mey

  • PatriciaSnche May 22, 2014

    That was Buffy?? Because it has Monthy Phython written all over it xD

    Yes, I watch Teen Wolf so this summer (it returns June 23th) I'll have my mind and heart occupied by my other babies, but I assure you I won't leave my Fitzsimmons feelings aside (I can't). I just wanted to thank all of you for these great months of shared feelings and opinions :)

  • Mey May 22, 2014

    Angel , not Buffy ;)
    Very Monty Python indeed :-)

  • csinner May 23, 2014

    @Patricia, I can't believe you read them all. I haven't started, but I know a ton of people that just couldn't make it through the fourth one.

    I'm not sure I'm ready for what Joss wants me to need! I don't like to be told what to do haha.

    As for Joss, I think I've more avoided him before...

  • PatriciaSnche May 23, 2014

    @Mey

    After having read the 5 books of "A Song of Ice and Fire", no reason could ever seem ill to me anymore. Man, that saga hardened my character...

  • Mey May 23, 2014

    Joss will do things to your heart, your brain, your soul... but never for an ill or easy reason.
    In 7 years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and 5 years of Angel, there is only one plot and one arc, and subsequent character removal, I am not contented with and it wasn't a heart break, just a disappointment.

    Joss says he doesn't give his audience what they want but what they need and I think it's true, so if you're ready to get what you need (which includes a lot of things that you want!) don't hesitate :-)
    (though maybe save Dollhouse for later, it's darker, but I personally find it perfect in every particle of its brilliant self, I LOVE it :)

    also... how old young are you all? (or did you just not have the occasion to run into Joss before? :)

  • csinner May 23, 2014

    Confession: I haven't watched either of those shows either. If I can finagle a way though, I'll see about catching up this summer!

    This is the first Whedon-ish thing I've gotten myself into, but idk if I'm emotionally prepared to handle the apparently rampant heartbreak he likes to cause. That's so not what I want out of TV.

  • Mey May 23, 2014

    Not a sacrilege in my eyes, sometimes life just doesn't put the shows in our way :) It's sad because you haven't had the emotional build up fo that beauteous brand of telly yet but it's also amazing because you get to discover it now, if you want to review your experience, don't hesitate ;) In the meantime, i've opened the summer support group and sent the link via PM.

  • PatriciaSnche May 23, 2014

    I know it's a sacrilege for somebody so in love with a JW's creation (i.e. Fitzsimmons) as me to not having watched Buffy or Angel, so maybe this summer I'll do it! :)

  • csinner May 21, 2014

    It's been an honor commenting with you! This was AMAZING.

    That last one... "Ohh, look at that. I've been impaled." SO true. Straight through the heart.

    Also, props for having Castle, Harry Potter, HIMYM and Arrow GIFs! That one of Robyn ( that was Robin right?!) in the purple suit is great. That's as much as I'm going to discuss HIMYM though. Still not okay with that finale.

  • PatriciaSnche May 22, 2014

    Yes! That was Aunt Robin a.k.a. Maria Hill on her regular SHIELD training (because otherwise I can't explain that scene, it made not sense at all).

    Impaled Snowman gif is my favourite. It can be applied perfectly to every and each tv show I currently watch xD

  • csinner May 23, 2014

    Yea, I remember finding that weird. I laughed though, since HIMYM was funny (for the most part.) The Marshpillow got a bit annoying after awhile.

  • Laurpr2 May 18, 2014

    Best lines of the episode:
    Coulsen (to Ward): But your torture is going to be internal.
    May: And a little bit external.
    Coulsen: And a little bit of that too.

    They did a good job getting me to really hate Ward. I do hope he gets redeemed, but I'll need major convincing before I get back on his side. But hey, if it can happen with Jamie Lannister...

    I am most interested in Skye's origins. I've liked her from the beginning, and finding out her past is interesting because it's going to be based both on the show's mythology as well as Skye's emotions.

    Speaking of emotions, I was sobbing at the Fitz-Simmons scene. Beautiful performances. They've been my favorite characters on the show (like they have been to most people!), and I feel like the romance angle has been perfectly developed.

    I'm afraid Fitz is brain damaged, though, as the lack of oxygen was mentioned several times......I think in order for the TAHITI operation to work, your brain tissue has to be intact, correct? I don't think it will do much for him, and obviously brain damage is going to hurt Fitz the most, since he is a scientist.

  • ILoveTVandDDsBB May 18, 2014

    It was good seeing Patton Oswalt again! and Samuel L. Jackson!!!!!! May and Wards fight scene was amazing! Garret getting destroyed by Coulson at the end was priceless! looking forward to the next season.

  • johnmckenzie338658 May 17, 2014

    Great finale, this show has really grown on me hope more people give it a 2nd chance after the slow start. Glad the wrapped up most of the main arc with the demise of Garrett who died twice! Hope Dark Ward is around in season 2 I think the actor is finally warming to the task, btw does anyone know what Coulson and Garrett were writing/drawing in this episode i

  • AnoukvdZee May 16, 2014

    That was an amazing ep. I have never in my life loved Phil Coulson more than in this episode. The entire team, and Fury, but Phil mostly. Him shooting Garrett was triggering all sorts of memories of Buffy blasting The Judge to pieces. Another fine epic moment. I love how multi-layered this story has become in the second half of its season. I can't wait for season 2!

  • e313 May 16, 2014

    when the season started i found Skye annoying and Fitz and Simmons boring and Ward not that interesting and, frankly, i only took an instant liking to May, but by the end of the season, they all had a great character arc! Ward proved to be way more than he showed (thank God, for avoiding the cliche of having him be 'bad' but misunderstood and repenting in record time) and Fitz and Simmons grew on me, they proved to be inventive and resilient and loyal and they're totally adorable, and Skye had a really good arc, a rather believable one of finding a cause and a place to belong and turning into a 'realistic' active agent with the rare commodity of common sense = i LOVED the end: i loved how she cut off Ward, instead of going the cliche way of, yes, he is bad but we have feelings, and i loved how she didn't try to take him down by herself in a misguided attempt of righteous indignation (or go the cliche way of the training montage and the final confrontation and knowing the one perfect move to take down your opponent at the right moment) but worked with May and they had an actual plan instead. they worked as a team and it was great to watch.

  • Caviezelized May 16, 2014

    Here's what I don't get still about the Fitzsimmons scene: Is the idea that even if Fitz also took a breath before punching the window open, it wouldn't be enough for him to make it as well as Simmons without the extra oxygen boost? But since he punched it while she was mid-scream anyway, how did she also get enough air to not only save herself, but drag him out with her too?

  • WildPict May 16, 2014

    The force of the water coming in would've punched out any air either of them would've taken before the window was blown out. What Simmons did was then to take a breath of the oxygen afterwards. She then grabbed Fitz, who had all of his breath knocked out of him.

    I've been kicked in the stomach before (martial arts training) and take my word for it, you not only have no breath, you're gasping for air for a while. My guess is that Simmons had to take several breaths of oxygen before grabbing Fitz.

  • Caviezelized May 16, 2014

    Very well explained, thanks.

  • Tigerbob May 16, 2014

    Finally Fitz told Simmons he loved her!!!!! I'd do the same for her, lol. Wanted Ward bumped off but sure he will escape to cause Skye grief. Coulson's grafitti looks alien or a type of circuit or something.

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