By: Casey Johnston (@DarthHockey)
WARNING: There are spoilers ahead for the latest episode of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.
After having a fairly understated role this season, Phil Coulson was front and center with the most personal storyline he’s had in this series. We haven’t really delved into Coulson’s life outside of SHIELD. There was the cellist in Portland that we’ve heard references to and got to see once, and one episode took us to his hometown, but that’s about it. We mostly know him as an agent of SHIELD and little else. This episode saw Clark Gregg act in a way that was a treat to watch, but unfamiliar. Gregg has always seemed easy-going to me, the kind of guy you want to hang out with an have a beer. That personality transfers over to Coulson. He’s a calm and collected guy who always has an answer or a quip ready, and, like many of the fans who watch Marvel films, he collects Captain America memorabilia. Basically he’s one of us. His reaction to Rosalind Price getting shot brought out a Coulson that we just haven’t seen yet. He was still Coulson, but he was an angry and vindictive Coulson. That’s something I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of in the future.
I backtracked a little on this after the last episode, but I think we still may be seeing the last days of Grant Ward. Through all the changes this show has gone through, Ward remained a useful character until Kara/Agent 33 was killed in the season two finale. He came back this season closer to a cliched comic villain than a fully fleshed out character that we’ve spent two seasons getting to know. His motives became a little more logical to the show when he expressed his desire to kill Coulson. He ceased his path of becoming the mustache-twirling super-villain and got back on track to being the old Grant Ward that had a score to settle with everyone. Much like Coulson, this episode got personal for Ward. We didn’t learn anything new about him, aside from the final confirmation that he did indeed push Thomas down the well, but hearing his life and feelings laid out in the interrogation scene intensified the emotional impact of what he’s become. It’s easy to forget that Ward was once playing a good guy. Before Coulson continued on his vendetta journey against Ward, it was good to be reminded that Ward once jumped out of a plane to save Simmons, acted as a brother-figure to Fitz, and was in love with Skye/Daisy. It’s almost as if the writers were reminding us before Ward dies that he was once a good guy.
Lastly, I want to point out the similarities between Coulson and Ward tonight. This was personal for both of them, and to see each lose their tempers and lash out in similar ways really smacked me in the face (I love that we got back-to-back scenes of Coulson and Ward each throwing their phones in anger). As Ward pointed out, he and Coulson really are two sides of the same coin. Ward is to Hydra what Coulson is to SHIELD, and seeing that brought to light tonight really heightened the emotional impact of this episode.
This was a late twist in the episode, and it almost got lost in everything else, but the Secret Warriors have been officially activated. While there are only three of them right now, this arc has been an extremely slow burn that will hopefully finally blow up in the next episode. If you’re like me, you got excited when this was briefly teased in the season two finale and then you got overly anxious when Marvel Television officially announced the team would be part of the series in season three. As I pointed out before, Agents of SHIELD has become a superhero show, not just a show that merely exists in a world with superheroes. Having a powered team come together is the next step to this show becoming truly great.
The scenes with Coulson, Ward, and Thomas were pretty gripping. I can’t express enough how personal this episode was for the characters, and seeing Coulson use the only person left in the world that Ward really cares about showed us just how desperate he is.
Thanks for reading!