Getting killed and brought back to life didn’t break him. Even losing a hand couldn’t wipe the glib smirk from his face. This week on ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, however, Coulson finally gets pushed too far.
The episodes starts quietly – too quietly. Now officially out as a couple, Coulson and Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer) prepare for dinner at her home. They’re finally going to have those burgers she promised him. In an adorable detail, Coulson has trouble opening the ketchup packet with his robotic hand and Rosalind does it for him. They talk about her plans to return to the ATCU as if she never found out that Gideon Malick is evil in order to dig up some dirt on him. Coulson isn’t sure that’s a great idea.
The sound of glass breaking draws Coulson’s attention to the window, where he sees a bullet hole. As if barely comprehending what happened, Coulson looks back to Rosalind. She’s been shot in the neck and collapses to the floor. Coulson tries to save her but she dies in his arms.
It was Ward, making an impossible shot with a sniper rifle from a mile away. He calls Coulson’s phone to gloat. “This is personal,” he says. S.H.I.E.L.D. took his girlfriend (Agent 33) away from him, so he’s taking Coulson’s girlfriend away in return. Coulson texts a distress message back to S.H.I.E.L.D. requesting extraction. Ward sends some assassin goons into the house to finish him off, but Coulson manages to fight them off enough to get out of the house just as Mack pulls up in an armored SUV to get him.
When they get to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, Coulson marches right to an interrogation room and orders all of the remaining members of the original team to see him. He interviews them individually, demanding to know every last detail they remember about Ward. Coulson needs to know if he has any weaknesses. The only one anyone can think of, of course, is Daisy. He had a thing for her from the beginning, and never lied to her (though he obviously did withhold information from her). She also claims to understand him best.
Ward returns to Malick, who reminds him that he needs Coulson alive for now and chastises him for putting their plans in jeopardy over a petty personal grudge. He also reveals that he has not one, but five stone pieces of the alien monolith. (I swear they look exactly like the stones from ‘The Fifth Element’, as if the show’s propmaster picked up some replicas off eBay and called them good enough.) Gideon plans to use them to open another portal to the alien planet, but first needs to find out how S.H.I.E.L.D. managed to bring a person back to Earth.
Rosalind’s lieutenant Banks arrives at S.H.I.E.L.D. offering to help. Coulson lashes out at Lance for failing to take out Ward, but offers him another chance. He puts both Lance and Bobbi back in play for an off-book mission with him. He then appoints Mack as acting S.H.I.E.L.D. Director while he goes out to cross some lines he’s not supposed to cross. Yup, Coulson is going rogue.
Fitz, Jemma and Banks (along with some ATCU redshirts) are sent to investigate the old NASA facility that launched Will’s mission to the alien planet, in order to see if they can dig up any more info on how to get back there. Shortly after they arrive, Banks shoots the redshirts. Jemma and Fitz assume that he must be evil, but he actually doesn’t have control over his actions. The evil telekinetic guy from the ATCU (credited as “Mr. Giyera” though I don’t believe that name has actually been uttered on the show) forces Banks to turn his gun to his own head and kill himself. Giyera swoops in to grab Fitz and Jemma, and tells them that he’s bringing them to Malick.
(At this point, I suddenly realize that, holy crap, that Giyera guy is Mark Dacascos from ‘Brotherhood of the Wolf’! Then I’m left perplexed at why the show’s producers would hire a martial arts action star to play a character who never uses his body to do anything except stand around.)
When Mack learns that Fitz and Jemma have been taken, he turns indecisive and hesitates about what to do next. He calls Coulson for guidance, but Coulson is busy robbing a bank with Lance and Bobbi. If this may seem like a strange time to turn to a life of crime, it’s actually a feint to kidnap one of the bank’s employees, who turns out to be Ward’s younger brother Thomas – the one Ward trapped in a well when they were kids.
Coulson calls Ward and threatens to kill Thomas. Thomas is actually afraid of his brother and offers to help. Coulson puts him on the phone to keep Ward talking long enough to trace the call. When Ward realizes what’s happening, Coulson tells him that he’s coming for him. That may seem like a really badass thing to do, but it’s also pretty stupid because now he’s lost the element of surprise. Since he’s not actually that heartless, Coulson then lets Thomas go before heading toward the British castle where they’d previously opened the portal.
Ward splits Fitz and Jemma up into separate rooms. Fitz insists that he won’t tell him anything about the space portal even if he’s tortured. As such, Ward has Giyera torture Jemma in order to torment Fitz until Fitz finally gives in.
In exchange for not hurting Jemma anymore, Malick will send Fitz through the portal to the alien planet along with a small squad of HYDRA soldiers. Their job will be to bring back the Inhuman master as soon as the return portal opens. Fitz tells Jemma that the only thing he’s bringing back is her boyfriend Will.
Mack finally stops hemming and hawing, and sends a backup team to assist Coulson. Because pretty much everyone else is preoccupied, what he’s left with are Daisy, Lincoln, Joey and a bunch of inexperienced new recruits. You go to war with the army you have, right?
Malick asks Ward to lead the team on the alien planet. Ward is perplexed as to why he would ever do such a thing when he’s so close to getting his revenge on Coulson. Malick assures him that he’ll take care of Coulson, and gives him a pep talk about fighting for bigger things than personal vendettas. Ward is ultimately convinced. He drops Fitz and the soldiers through the portal and follows after them.
Coulson, Lance and Bobbi arrive in the quinjet in time to see Fitz and Ward go into the portal. The jet takes heavy fire from HYDRA artillery. Coulson dives out of the plane straight into the castle and through the portal after Ward. (Good thing that castle has no roof, eh?)
The episode ends on the alien planet. Ward, Fitz and the soldiers are enveloped in a sandstorm. Coulson comes through the portal, hits his head on a rock, and is knocked unconscious. We leave off on that cliffhanger.
I mentioned in last week’s recap that I’m growing sick of the Ward character. Of course, the show then goes and delivers a very Ward-heavy episode next. Fortunately, it’s a pretty good one. Coulson’s drive for revenge and “closure” (reflected in the episode title) brings some real urgency to the plotting.
I have some issues to quibble about, especially how unlikely it seems that Ward would ever buy into Malick’s pep talk. (I half expected him to toss Malick himself into the portal at the last second.) Coulson making empty threats against Ward’s brother when he of course never had any intention of following through on them also felt like a pointless waste of time. As a whole, however, this is a pretty strong episode.