The first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. came to a stunning end this week. With beautiful writing and a very special guest star, this was by far the most satisfying of the season. This show might have begun a little slow, but what it turned into was nothing short of fantastic, which is exactly what we’d expect from Marvel Studios. So let’s dig deeper into this episodes hidden points and get a look at next season’s set up.
The Incentives Program:
As the episode opens, we had to check the TV Guide to make sure we were actually watching the right show. Despite looking like the set up to a new workplace comedy sitcom, this episode begins with a look at what it’s like to work at Cybertech. As the scene continues we learn that this room is filled with people controlling Centipede soldiers, and they just found Coulson and his group. Beyond seeing this room full of people treating life like a video game, you also have to wonder what in the world this ‘Incentives’ program is.
The ‘Incentives’ program isn’t commission bonuses or even a free trip to Tahiti, but is actually more of a leverage program. The majority of people who come to work for Cybertech do so because a loved one has been kidnapped and are being held hostage. This ‘program’ doesn’t only explain this scene, but also explains the main flaw with most villain movies – where do the workers come from.
Have you ever found yourself watching a movie and wondering ‘Wow, how did the villain get so many henchmen?”. The last time I checked the classified, I don’t remember seeing an ad for ‘evil henchmen’ – or maybe that’s more of something you’d advertise on CraigsList. With the majority of Cybertech’s – and possibly Hydra’s – workforce being there out of blackmail, thing start to make sense; but it doesn’t stop there.
Later on we hear Raina speak about how some of the people in the Incentives Program can be used for more – work or even become centipede soldiers themselves. So in case you haven’t figured it out by now, Cybertech and Hydra aren’t the kind of jobs you work at for a few months to make a quick buck. You – and anyone you care about – basically becomes their property to do or become whatever they wish.
The Poseidon Adventure 2: Fitz Simmons
Despite Ward’s best efforts, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons are alive … but not well. After being locked in a storage container and dropped out of a flying aircraft, they miraculously survived. Now in case anyone has any last minute ideas of ‘I think Ward is still just pretending to be evil’ – yes, they still exist despite all the evidence to the contrary – Ward didn’t drop them into the water safely to save them from Garrett.
Fitz and Simmons go into detail about how miraculous their survival was and how Fitz’s quick thinking to strap in before they hit the water saved their lives – but still resulted in broken bones. Though even with surviving their initial fall, the odds of their survival are slim to none. With little food, air and supplies they can’t stay in the container long; and if they escaped and survived the 90-foot swim, they’d still be all alone in the middle of the nowhere.
After some debate and contemplation about what death might be like, Simmons realizes that they can easily blow the window out with a simple charge mixed with the outside water pressure. In the end, Fitz knows only one of them will be able to make it up thanks to the force of the incoming water. He uses this moment to tell Simmons how he feels about her – well, strongly hints – before he presses the button to ignite the charge and let the water in.
Simmons swims to the surface along with an unconscious Fitz and is quickly picked up by the man himself – and guest star of this episode – Nick Fury. Now his arrival might seem very well timed, but remember, he was already out looking for Coulson and when he heard the feint S.H.I.E.L.D. distress beacon that Fitz tried to set up, he assumed that was Coulson. With Fitz being treated extensively by Fury’s doctors since his brain was without oxygen for too long and Simmons in recovery, Fury traces the bug Simmons placed on the Bus and continues on to rendezvous in New Mexico.
What’s The Plan?:
“Trip and I will crest the ridge, use a noise maker to grab a 3-wheel – maybe something with more fire works – and open a window for you two. You crawl in, grab the dealer, and force his hand. He’ll get us our ace in the hole, and then bobs your uncle.” – Coulson
Pretty self-explanatory right? No? Okay, I’ll admit that last part might seem a little confusing if you don’t understand Black Jack/Poker terms, so I’ll break this theory down so you can see just how flawlessly Coulson’s plan was executed.
After Trip and Coulson survey the area from the top (crest) of the ridge, they’ll use one of Trip’s grandfathers WWII Noise-Maker gadgets to create a distraction so they can secure a vehicle with some speed and firepower. After obtaining this vehicle, they crash through the gates and blow a hole in the side of the Cybertech building – thus creating a ‘window’ for Skye and May to crawl in through.
Once inside they’ll head to the Centipede soldier control room and find the guy in charge (the dealer). Fearing that May and Skye would try to ‘persuade’ the operators individually to change their soldier’s mission – since unauthorized users can’t do this on their own –, the lead handler sets all the Centipede Soldiers to their default setting so no one has control over them and they must revert to their prime directive to ‘protect Garrett at all costs’.
With this job done, they must locate Mike Peterson’s – aka Deathlock’s – son Ace who is being held with the other prisoners of the Incentives Program. With their ‘Ace in the hole’ free, Skye sends Deathlock a message that could only come from his son to show he is safe and sound. With Deathlock now free to do as he wishes, Coulson and his team’s ‘victory is assured’, which is what ‘bobs your uncle’ stands for.
As for how they knew all about the base layout, default programming, incentives program, etc, remember that Skye’s Trojan horse virus is active and has given her access to everything her drive was uploaded to, which means she has access to all of Cybertech and Garrett’s resources. They might be out manned, but they know everything they need to take Garrett down.
One final question is: thing to note is that Deathlock had two ‘incentives’, the first was his son, and the second was his ocular implant that could explode if he deviated from his directive. Well remember that all the soldiers are set to their default settings. With no one allowed to control them until ‘default setting’ is turned off, there is no one to blow up Deathlock should he be let off his leash. Also Deathlock had no default to protect Garrett, he is merely staying there because he knows what’s coming.
Skye hacked Deathlock from early on and waited until ‘Default Settings’ were enacted so that she could send Deathlock word of what she was planning without any handlers looking in on what was about to happen. Once Deathlock heard something that only his son would say, he knew Skye had succeeded and got to finally unleash all of his fury on Garrett. Speaking of fury, or rather Fury . . .
The Man, The Myth, The Legend Arrives:
So how did Nick get to Fitz and Simmons; and later to Coulson – in the nick of time – pun intended. Simple, thanks to the distress beacon. It was a S.H.I.E.L.D. frequency and he’s the only person looking for S.H.I.E.L.D. frequencies since he was hunting for Coulson. As for how he got to Cybertech so fast, Fitz Simmons were dropped in the water on the way to New Mexico.
So Fury picked them up and continued en route after learning of the old-fashion tracking beacon on the plane. Though if that’s not enough to explain how he got deep into Cybertech’s base 5 seconds after Coulson did, he’s Nick F#@king Fury! – or Samuel L Jackson, they’re basically the same person.
Ward – The Weak and Pathetic Rapist:
As I mentioned earlier, some people STILL felt Ward might be a triple Agent and be working with Fury. Considering Fury’s intense trust issues – so that he can count the people he trust on one hand and not be afraid to cut off fingers – and how many good people Ward has killed, to think is not only deluded, but also insults Fury. He’s a weak and pathetic coward who has never learned to take responsibility for his actions; and if his trying to kill Fitz and Simmons last episode wasn’t enough, this episode saw Ward hit all time lows.
He might not have any allegiance to S.H.I.E.L.D., Cybertech, or even Hydra for that matter. The only thing he knows how to do is follow Garrett like a puppy – even though Garrett has stressed that Ward doesn’t owe him anything. We constantly see him freak out this episode when he doesn’t have orders, but when Garrett tells him to get Skye, he has multiple reasons to be happy – but also awful.
At first he tries to psych Skye out with the details of her possibly monstrous past that he learns from Raina. Skye amazingly doesn’t even flinch or deny a possible dark past because she knows it’s your deeds that define you. Further more, even if she does turn into an evil monster, her and Ward still won’t be the same. As she points out, Garrett is the monster, not Ward. Ward is just weak.
“You’re right Skye, you woke up a weakness inside me. And for the first time in a while I wanted something for myself. Maybe I’ll just take what I want, wake up something inside you.” – Ward
As if he needed to prove Skye’s point – and make us hate him – even further, Ward goes on to threaten Skye with rape. As we learned in the past when Ward took ‘drinks’ to mean ‘sex’, Ward is only after one thing. He’s not interested in a deeper loving relationship, he honestly wouldn’t even know how to act in such a relationship. Instead, he not only blames Skye for this “weakness” in him – that isn’t even love – but then threatens to take what he wants from her. He then adds that maybe this will ‘awaken’ something inside her.
There are so many disgusting and awful connotations inside this one sentence; I don’t even know where to begin. He’s killed good people, manipulated and tried to kill his friends, and now at the end he threatens to rape Skye so forcibly that it’ll actually have psychological repercussions. We didn’t need a reason to hate Ward anymore, but it’s nice to know we have one. There’s no way around it. By threatening an act that is the epitome of weakness, Ward deserves everything he gets – and he’s about to get it from May.
Mixing of Words:
As I mentioned last time, Coulson and Garrett are polar opposites who see kindness very differently – and these ideas are continued in their ‘adopted children’ Skye and Ward. Early in the episode we find Coulson spurring on his team on by quoting Fury’s ‘one man’ speech: “A Man can accomplish anything when he realizes he’s a part of something bigger”.
Later in the episode, Garrett says the same line but changes the end to say that ‘he can be something bigger’. Aside from being a misquote, Garrett perverts these lines to justify his twisted ideals and narcissistic goals. This is the final direct juxtaposition we will see of Coulson and Garrett – since Garrett’s about to get his skull crushed. Everything Coulson does is for the good of his team, whereas Garrett’s plans are only for himself and himself alone.
Deserved Beat Downs – Tag-Team Style:
It has been said that the deepest circle of Hell is reserved for betrayers. With Ward and Garrett leaving piles of bodies in their wake – and manipulating those they didn’t get to kill – everyone was hoping for some major beat downs to give these traitorous villains what they deserved. And they got it!
Despite Ward threatening Skye with rape, our heroine stood strong, but she wasn’t the only one. As if seeing May wield the Berserker staff earlier wasn’t enough, we see May cut loose and give Ward the beating of his life. With every attempt to belittle May’s feelings and brush off his betrayal of their team as ‘no strings attached’, Ward only enrages May further.
I’d say these two fought toe to toe, but – as May joked – Ward was never on top. Mae recovered after every hit and came back stronger until she stapled Wards foot to the ground – another reason I can’t say ‘toe to toe’ – fractured his larynx, and tornado kicked his head in. Seeing Skye beat Ward down mentally while May broke him down physically was the perfect tag team as these two were hurt the most by Ward. Though they weren’t the only ones in a tag team grudge match.
After being used, manipulated, exploited and turned into a monster, Deathlock has been waiting half a season to destroy Garrett. With Ace free and no one able to activate the bomb in his eyepiece, Deathlock wasted no time blasting Garrett and crushing his skull – but that wouldn’t be the end of it.
Between torture, betrayals, and shooting the girl who was like a daughter to him, Coulson had a score to settle with Garrett as well. After his beating at the hands of Deathlock, Garrett amazingly had just enough life in him to suit up and become the full cyborg his comic book counterpart was – but not for long. Without even a second thought, Coulson disintegrated him with the 0-8-4 plasma beam the team had found in Peru. If Garrett’s brief resurrection was just to make him look like his comic book self and allow Coulson to deliver the final blow, then that was a scene well planed.
To Save A Fallen Avenger:
Ever since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. began, we wondered how Coulson was alive again. Even once we found out, we still had questions – as did Coulson – and these questions could only be answered by one man, Nick Fury. After a lot of yelling, Coulson finally asks why the procedure was even used on him since it was meant only as a last resort on a fallen Avenger. What Coulson doesn’t realize is that he was that Fallen Avenger – and what Avenger is complete without his iconic weapon.
When Fury arrives to give Coulson back up, he brings with him something that bring everything full circle, The Destroyer Gun. The last time we saw Coulson wield this weapon was when he was killed by Loki in The Avengers. In his final breaths, Coulson blasted Loki with the charged particle beam and remarked ‘huh, so that’s what it does.’ Coulson wasn’t just the man who brought the Avengers together. He was one of the Avengers as well; and now he can bring together a new team.
“The principle S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded on was pure, protection, one word. Sometimes to protect one man against himself, other times to protect the planet from an alien invasion from another universe. It’s a broad job description. But the belief that drives us all is the same, whether its one man or all man kind. That truth lives inside you Coulson. Before it was torn apart, S.H.I.E.L.D. was a lot of moving parts, but guys like you were the heart. Now you will be the head. “ – Fury
Fury tasks Coulson with rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. and tells him to proceed however he likes, as long as he builds it right. He must only recruit the best and the most trustworthy so that what happened last time may never happen again. With no base or funds that might be difficult, but Coulson has some good resources at his disposal. Between the brand new secret base and another Koenig, Fury has furnished Coulson with a good start, but who knows what else is in that box. Funds perhaps?
Skye is also still hacked into Cybertech and helped the US Government take it down so they’ll not only have access to their files, but also get some contract work from the government as well. Just remember Coulson, if Senator Stern is Hydra, there may be more government officials lying in hiding as well. As for Fury, I’m willing to bet we won’t see him again until Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron.
There’s a good chance Ward will be back for an episode or two. With Garrett gone, there might be some soul searching, but after everything he’s done the team will never welcome him back. In fact, I think he might go in the opposite direction and want revenge for them killing Garrett – being the ever faithful lapdog he is. Some even speculate he might become the villain known as Taskmaster, which would be an awesome twist.
‘You devoted your entire life to a deranged narcissist who never gave a damn about anyone; and now he’s dead. You’ve got the rest of your life to wrestle with the question ‘who are you without him’. – Coulson to Ward
In the end, Ward’s redemption wasn’t the writers’ focus. Pray and think all you want, but Deathlock was the one to be redeemed from Day 1. Manipulated and mutilated, he did some horrible things but it wasn’t because he chose to follow a maniac. He did it to protect his son. Even under Garrett’s control, Deathlock showed signs of regret and hatred for his handlers.
I’m sure Deathlock will return from time to time as well. Skye still has access to his visual feed, but she knows that he’ll be off trying to right the wrongs he’s caused and become the hero his son wanted him to be. He might have looked like a monster more than any of the other villains, but on the inside he still had a heart of gold. But what about actual monsters inside and out.
Raina and Quinn are still at large since they fled with the Gravitonium once Garrett when loco and beat a US General to death with his own fractured rib – over kill? The Gravitonium will definitely become a source of trouble – especially if that mad doctor is still trapped and conscious in there – but the larger threat is Raina who finally revealed that he personally knows Skye’s father. Raina has been hinting for a while now that she and Skye are similar and she even asked Garrett if he could see what she will become.
Whether this means Raina – and Skye – will undergo a physical transformation remains to be seen, but we can get an idea from the reveal of Skye’s father. Though we only see a quick glimpse of his back and hand, he seems fairly human – if anything he’s a little pinkish – but the truly monstrous thing about him is his habits. When Raina is talking to him, it seems as though he just finished a meal as his entire arm is dripping with blood.
I don’t know what ‘evolution’ Raina is speaking of – or if she’s also part monster like Skye – but if the Marvel story formula still stands, Skye’s father will be the main villain for Season 2. But will Skye and Raina be the only ones to evolve, or is someone else already changing?
Scribble, Scribble, Scribble:
In the final moments of this episode, we find Coulson wandering the halls of the new base until he finally stops at a wall and begins writing strange symbols similar to the ones Garrett was writing earlier on in this episode. In order to understand what’s going on here, we have to backtrack to two episodes ago when Coulson discovered he was in charge of project Tahiti.
In his final report on Tahiti, Coulson listed a bunch of psychological disorders that GH test subjects eventually displayed. These might seem like a lot of big words, but if you paid close attention to them you’ll remember one was Hypographia, which is the need to write. Sound familiar?
Now this brings up many questions. Was the Hypographia other patients displayed the same as Garrett and Coulson’s – drawing these strange ‘ideas’/plans? Also, does this mean Coulson is on the quick path of deterioration as all the other patients? There is no doubt that Coulson’s mental state will come into play in Season 2, but in the end his fate will be much different than the others.
In Nicks final words to Coulson, he said Coulson was the ideal person to bring back because he embodied not only the notions of S.H.I.E.L.D. but also was ‘pure’. This reminds me of the last person that was shown to be ‘pure’ – and it just so happens he also had creep blue serum inside him: Captain America
We saw in Captain America how the super soldier serum – also conveniently blue – magnified what was in a person. In the case of Red Skull, it made bad worse. Though for Steve Rogers, it made good great. Coulson might have a bit of a break down, but I’m sure he will turn it around and become something great. As for whether or not he’ll start wearing a star spangled uniform, let’s save that for his fan-boy dreams.