This post contains spoilers for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. Consider yourself warned.
Boy, am I glad to stuck with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The show, which spun off from the wildly successful Marvel films, follows a ragtag bunch of secret agent misfit types as they travel the globe battling super-powered foes, nefarious covert organizations bent on world domination… you know, as you do. The show started off with a lot of buzz and good will since it was following in the wake of The Avengers’ massive success, and more importantly, because it featured fan favorite Phil Coulson, the no-nonsense S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who had apparently been killed at the end of The Avengers.
However, the show went through a pretty rough patch in the middle of the season, due in large part to the focus on Skye’s attempts to become a real S.H.I.E.L.D. agent while trying to learn more about her origins. Put simply, Skye was the least interesting character, and her arc’s emphasis often detracted from the other arcs, such as the group’s search for the Clairvoyant, a criminal mastermind behind bizarre experiments, conspiracies, attacks on S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, etc.
And then Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier happened, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. got a much-needed shot in the arm. The fallout from that film — e.g., the existence of Hydra, the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. — put our motley crew on the run, and led to betrayal, loss, and sacrifice. And it all led to a wonderfully enjoyable finale with “Beginning of the End.” There was much to like about the finale, including a heartbreaking scene between Fitz-Simmons at the bottom of the ocean, the glorious return of Nick Fury, and an awesome Melinda May/Grant Ward battle royale.
I especially enjoyed how unapologetically comic book-y the episode was, from the monologuing to the gadgets, from the melodrama to the big reveals, and a constant stream of winks to the audience. Producers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, who wrote the episode, knew exactly what fans wanted, and gave it to us in spades. But what’s next? The show was recently renewed for a second season, so where do Coulson and crew go from here?
Coulson’s Promotion and Problem
At the finale’s end, the decidedly not-dead Nick Fury placed the stalwart Coulson in charge of rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D., effectively making him the new director. Which is only fitting: Coulson never lost his faith in the organization’s mission and values, even after S.H.I.E.L.D. had been compromised by Hydra and even after it was revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. had done unspeakable experiments on him. So we’ll be treated to plenty more of his charming idealism. However, the very last scene of the episode revealed that all might not be well with Coulson.
Earlier in the series, we learn that Coulson was brought back from the dead with a serum of extraterrestrial (Kree, most likely) origin. If this serum is affecting Coulson, then it stands to reason that his attempts to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D. may very well be compromised. After all, the first season’s primary antagonist was injected with the same serum and ended up insane. The appeal of Coulson is his devotion to the cause, and much of the series’ (good) drama came from him struggling with his loss and betrayal by said cause; no doubt it’ll be an interesting arc if he begins to believe that he may be the one betraying S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ideals due to some sort of alien influence.
Oh, and will we see the cellist again?
I won’t even try to deny it: the duo of Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons, aka Fitz-Simmons, is my favorite part of the show. They’re blatant nerd-bait and their banter is almost disgustingly cute at times, but they’re the show’s emotional core and bring with them a lightness and humor. Fitz, in particular, played the bumbling egghead role perfectly. Suffice to say, the scene of them trapped at the bottom of the ocean, when Fitz finally reveals his feelings for Simmons and she tearfully recognizes his sacrifice, was my favorite scene in the episode. Thankfully, though, Fitz survived… but the clear implication is that he survived only just barely.
Shortly after rescuing Fitz-Simmons, Nick Fury remarks that Fitz was without oxygen for a long time. Which almost certainly means that we’ll be seeing a brain damaged Fitz when season two begins. And since his contribution to the team was intellectual and technical in nature, that’s plenty of drama just waiting to happen. Of course, there’s also the question of his newly altered relationship with Simmons, who’s now aware of his feelings. But will he remember her? Will he still be able to express those feelings? To what lengths will Simmons and the team go to fix him? To what lengths will he go, if he realizes what happens? Which brings me to my next point.
Near the end of season one, it’s revealed that Ward has been a sleeper agent working for Hydra. One thing I appreciated about the finale was that it didn’t try to redeem Ward; he’s pretty despicable to the end, whether sending Fitz-Simmons to the bottom of the ocean, trying to coerce Skye, or attempting to take down Melinda May, and at the finale’s end, he receives a blistering condemnation from Coulson and is sent away in chains.
I’m not convinced, however, that this is the last we’ve seen of Ward. Even after everything he’d done, the one person who didn’t give up on Ward was Fitz. How interesting would it be if Fitz, if he does suffer from brain damage that limits his intellectual contributions to the team, reaches out to Ward for help to make him stronger — out of necessity, perhaps, or some potentially misguided desire to redeem him. Something like this would take a very fine balance by the show’s cast and crew, considering how evil Ward got, but show creator Joss Whedon has always had a thing for redemptive story arcs, and we do see glimmers of Ward’s conscience even as he’s trying to kill my beloved Fitz-Simmons.
Another reveal in the season finale’s end was of one of Skye’s parents. Her origins have always been one of the show’s big mysteries, especially after it’s revealed that she’s an “object of unknown origin,” that S.H.I.E.L.D. moved her around her entire childhood to keep her safe and hidden, and that her parents were apparently some sort of monster (though the veracity of this claim is questionable). And so, at the finale’s end, we see some sort human-looking thing covered in blood being given a photo of Skye and told she’s their daughter.
As I mentioned before, I always found Skye’s arc underwhelming, but guess what… I’m ready to learn more about her in season two. Maybe it’s because the last few episodes found her finally gelling with the team and becoming a true comrade-in-arms. The revelation of Hydra and Ward’s betrayal — those trials have given her some grit and edge as a character. In any case, it was inevitable that her story would come back around. So how much will Coulson devote the newly formed S.H.I.E.L.D. to discovering the truth about her? And what is that truth? Is she an Inhuman? And if she is of unknown origin, what will happen to her as a result of being injected with the same alien serum that Coulson received?
The Next Big Bad?
Garrett and Ward may have been dispatched, but Ian Quinn (the ruthless billionaire who shot Skye) and Raina (a mad scientist obsessed with human evolution) are still at-large. I’m sure they’ve got payback on their minds. And don’t forget that Ian Quinn still has that ball of gravitonium which (unbeknownst to anyone) contains Franklin Hall. Who will no doubt be driven mad by his imprisonment and emerge at some point with fearsome powers — perhaps even under a new name.
There are also a bunch of former — and deadly — S.H.I.E.L.D. prisoners running amok, and Skye’s parents will probably be tearing apart the world to find their daughter. So really, the world is still a very dangerous place at the end of season one, and it’s bound to get a lot more dangerous for Coulson and crew (and Patton Oswalt).
I can’t wait to see how they take it on when season two rolls around next fall. Not to mention how the show ties in with upcoming Marvel titles like Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the recently announced Marvel’s Agent Carter series.