Thursday, December 10, 2015

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 10: Maveth

It's the fall finale of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., as the series hurriedly wraps up all the dangling plotlines before the holidays, including the death of a major character!

Overall it was a pretty intense episode. A few of the plot points felt a bit rushed, and a couple were practically ignored altogether. This is why I'm not a fan of these split seasons. The writers are forced to fit the plots to the schedule, rather than giving them the time they need to flow organically.

Will in particular got shorted in the story department. This week we find out he's been dead for months, and even worse, he died offscreen! After all the heartache and trouble he's caused Fitz & Simmons this season, he deserved a better sendoff.

The biggest shock this week was Coulson and his turn to the dark side, as he kills in revenge. I'm not sure setting him on such a dark path is a good idea. He's supposed to be one of the good guys. Killing to avenge Rosalind only drags him down to Ward's level.

I'm actually kind of sorry to see Evil Ward go, as he made a really good villain. I suppose his death was inevitable though, as he could easily wear out his welcome if he stuck around for several more seasons. If nothing else, I'm glad the show stuck to its guns and never gave us a lame Ward redemption plot.

And hey, no one's ever really dead on this show, right? Even though Ward's dead, he's still up and walking at the end of the episode. Well, something that looks like him at least.

Welp, that's it until March! Never mind all the story momentum the show's built up over the past weeks, it's time to go on hiatus for three goddamned months, and let the audience forget what the hell happened and run the risk of them finding something better to watch!

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
Evil Ward, Fitz and several redshirt HYDRA soldiers explore the hostile surface of the planet Maveth. They have six hours to find the portal leading back to Earth. Fitz tries to escape, but Ward stops him, saying if he doesn't make it back, Malick will kill Simmons. As they continue exploring, they see the ruins of an ancient shrine shaped like the HYDRA logo.

Mockingbird and Hunter return to Zephyr One and tell Mack that Coulson dove into HYDRA's portal to Maveth. Daisy is monitoring HYDRA's castle via satellite, and sees them bringing in containment units full of dormant Inhumans from the ATCU. May believes Andrew is probably in one of those units. Mack forms a plan to rescue FitzSimmons, Coulson and the innocent Inhumans.

On Maveth, Fitz sees the hatch leading to Will's cave. He dives in before Ward can stop him, and finds the injured Will inside. Will recognizes Fitz from Simmons' phone. He says he was attacked by "It" seconds after Simmons was rescued, and has been trying to recover since. Ward enters the cave and wants to kill Will, but Fitz convinces him they can use him as a guide.

Meanwhile, Coulson wakes up in bed next to Rosalind. She tells him he needs to move now. Coulson wakes up for real and realizes he's on Maveth. He begins searching for Evil Ward.

S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives at the HYDRA castle. Mack goes with Mockingbird and Hunter, while Daisy, Joey, Lincoln and May search for FitzSimmons. Lincoln uses his power to knock out the lights, which allows Simmons to sneak out of the portal room. She wanders into the staging area where the dormant Inhumans are being held. Andrew is indeed in one of the containment units and sees her. He begs her to free him. She's reluctant to help, afraid he'll turn into Lash and murder everyone (including her). A pair of HYDRA soldiers spot her, so she opens Andrew's container. The soldiers enter Andrew's container and he transforms into Lash and kills them. Simmons runs.

On Maveth, Will realizes he and Fitz need to get away from Ward. He leads them into the "no-fly zone" where "It" dwells, hoping it'll take out Ward. As they enter the zone, a huge sandstorm blows up. In the confusion, Will kills two of Ward's men, and he and Fitz escape. Ward finds his dead soldiers, as gunshots take out the remaining two. It's Coulson, who's miraculously found Ward. He tells Ward to lead him to the portal.

The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents reunite in the portal room. May finds Simmons, who tells her Andrew's on the loose. May sneaks away to look for him. Simmons explains to everyone that an evil presence lives on Maveth and destroyed the planet, and it wants to come through the portal and do the same to Earth. May returns to the portal room and says Lash killed all the dormant Inhumans.

Malick sees what Lash did to his Inhumans and orders HYDRA to retake the portal room. As the HYDRA soldiers try to break in, Mack sends all the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents back to Zephyr One. He says he'll stay behind and keep the portal open as long as possible to give Coulson and Fitz a chance to come back, and to also prevent It from coming through. He tells May to bomb the castle if she doesn't hear from him. Everyone leaves except Daisy, who stays behind with Mack.


Back on Maveth, Ward has an epiphany and says he realizes that joining HYDRA and seeing the galaxy are all part of a grand plan. Coulson has no idea what the hell he's talking about. Coulson spots Fitz and Will up ahead. Fitz sees the ruins of a vast city, and asks Will about it. Will displays a suspicious amount of knowledge about Maveth, saying there used to be nine advanced cities on the planet, but they were easily divided, and eventually destroyed one another. He says the cities could have become part of something great. Fitz wonders how he knows all this, and realizes Will is actually "It." Will was killed shortly after Simmons escaped, and "It" took over his body. Fitz attacks "It."

Coulson sees Will about to smash Fitz's head with a rock, and realizes he's actually "It." He shoots "It", knocking it over. Ward then attacks Coulson. Just then the portal opens. "It" moves toward the portal, as Fitz shoots it. He empties his gun into "It," with little or no effect. In desperation he fires a flare gun at "It," causing it to burst into flame. A small, slug-like creature slithers out of It's/Will's ear.

Coulson manages to pin down Ward. He could easily maroon him here on an alien planet, but Ward begins taunting him about Rosalind's death. This drives Coulson over the edge and he uses his bionic hand to crush Ward's chest, killing him. For some reason Coulson then pulls off his hand and tosses it beside Ward's lifeless body. He and Fitz run toward the portal.

Back on Earth, May reluctantly orders Zephyr One to fire on the castle. As it explodes and collapses, Andrew's containment unit flies into the sky and docks with the ship. Daisy and Mack exit the unit, followed by Fitz and Coulson. Simmons realizes Will didn't make it and hugs Fitz. He stares coldly at Coulson.

Meanwhile, Malick is in his limo, heading for the airport. The limo stops, and he sees Ward standing in the middle of the road, holding Coulson's bionic hand. Something appears to be slithering under his skin.

Thoughts:
• Last week I noted that Mack made a very poor Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. In fact he was so indecisive he actually called Coulson— who was in the middle of a covert mission— for advice!

I'm happy to report that this week he finally got his act together and was quite an effective Director, barking orders and making the tough choices without hesitation. What a difference a week makes!

• The big news this week is that Will was apparently real! When Simmons was stranded on Maveth and first met Will, I was a bit suspicious of him. I wondered if he was an actual flesh and blood person, or if he was a projection placed in Simmons' mind by the mysterious "It." Or maybe he was really "It" disguised as Will.

Turns out Will was real after all. Unfortunately for him, he was killed seconds after Simmons escaped. Bummer. I guess that neatly solves the little love triangle, eh?

As I said earlier, his offscreen death was very disappointing. Even though he was only in one episode, we've been hearing about him for weeks as Simmons mooned over him. He deserved a better sendoff.

• When Fitz and Ward are exploring Maveth, they see a ruined shrine in the shape of the modern HYDRA logo. Hmm. A couple weeks ago we were shown that the logo's evolved quite a bit over the centuries, starting as a chevron, then mutating into a goat's head before finally morphing into the present "octopus" look.

So how did this happen? The ruins of the shrine look pretty ancient. How could the octopus logo appear on Maveth thousands of years before it was developed on Earth?

Even if the logo started out as an octopus thousands of years ago, HYDRA agents couldn't have known about it. Nothing's ever come back through the portal, remember?

• After finding Will, Ward forces him to come along as a guide. Will and Fitz then walk a good distance ahead of Ward, whispering and conspiring. Why the heck would Ward let them do that? Surely he knew they'd be planning some sort of escape?

• I'm still fuzzy as to how these portals work. Even though a portal is repeatedly opened in the exact same place on Earth, the other end opens in seemingly random spots on Maveth. I can't think of any reason why that should be, other than for plot complication reasons.

I'm also not sure why HYDRA's been able to open portals on Maveth for thousands of years, but has never been able to figure out how to bring "It" back through one. It takes FitzSimmons to finally show them how. And even then, their solution seems to involve, "activating the portal again at a specific time." 

I honestly don't think the writers have an answer for this either, as the matter is hand-waved away and never talked about in much detail.

• Tolkien tribute: As Coulson lay unconscious on Maveth, he dreams he's in bed with Rosalind. She gives him a pep talk, telling him he's got to get up and keep going. This was all very reminiscent of Galadriel entering Frodo's thoughts and telling him the same thing in The Return Of The King.

It was also very similar to Logan dreaming of being in bed with his deceased old flame Jean Grey in The Wolverine.

• So "It" can apparently move freely anywhere on Maveth. Maybe I'm misremembering, but I thought Will said "It" was confined to the "no fly zone." That's why he was able to survive on the planet by himself for fourteen years, because he always avoided the zone.

• When Simmons escapes from the portal room, she stumbles onto Andrew's containment pod. He talks her into opening it, and she reluctantly does so. For some reason two HYDRA agents draw their weapons and walk all the way inside the unit, as Andrew morphs into Lash and kills them.

Um... Lash and the two guards were all well inside the containment unit during the scuffle. Simmons could have easily closed it up while they were all inside.

By the way, you can apparently open one of these containers with a single push of a button. Since they're designed to hold dangerous metahumans, er, I mean mutants, er, Inhumans, one would think they'd be a little harder to open. At the very least give 'em an access code to punch in!

• Once Simmons releases Andrew/Lash, he kills all the dormant Inhumans shipped in from the ATCU. Their blood is now on her hands, as she knew that could potentially happen. Hopefully they'll deal with the fallout of this in the second half of the season, and not just sweep it under the rug, hoping we'll all forget about it.

• I really like Joey and his wide-eyed enthusiasm about being a superhero. That said, I honestly didn't expect him to survive his first mission. Especially after he boasted he was bulletproof! Saying something like that is usually guarantees a character's about to bite the dust.

• Fun lines this week:

When Coulson wakes up on Maveth and sees the two moons in the sky he says, "I'll be damned. Tattooine." Close, Coulson, but no cigar. Tattooine had two suns.

At the HYDRA castle, Mack tells Daisy to "take the Power Rangers (meaning Lincoln and Joey) and go find Fitz and Simmons."

• When Coulson gets tired of listening to Evil Ward's bullsh*t, he shoots him in the shoulder to get him to shut up (twice!). Ward barely flinches. Doesn't it seem like a near point-blank shot like that would have caused a lot more pain than it did, and a LOT more damage? Was Ward wearing a Kevlar vest under his shirt?

• When everyone returns from the castle at the end of the episode, Daisy and Lincoln embrace. That surprised me! I guess I forgot they were supposed to be a couple. The writers haven't done a very good job of emphasizing their budding romance.

• Let's talk about "It." According to Malick, thousands of years ago a powerful Inhuman was born on Earth, destined to rule it. Because humanity was terrified of this Inhuman, they banished it through the portal to another planet. HYDRA was founded with the sole purpose of engineering the Inhuman's return. 

So what is this mighty, terrifying Inhuman that HYDRA's been worshiping and trying to bring back for thousands of years? Is it a powerful and massive humanoid like Galactus? A horrifying, tentacled nightmare like Cthulhu? A ball of sentient, glowing energy, ala Star Trek? Nope, it's apparently a banana slug.

Yep, unless there's more to it than we saw, this incredibly dangerous entity is nothing more than large, intelligent slug that's helpless without a host body to inhabit.

How does "It" operate? Obviously it needs a host body to drive around. Presumably a dead host body, since it didn't try crawling in Fitz's ear. It can also apparently access its recently-dead hosts thoughts, since it knew pretty much everything Will knew, allowing it to impersonate him perfectly.

I'm not well-versed enough in modern Marvel Comics to know if "It" is based on any existing character, but the whole slug thing was a bit of a letdown. Surely there was a more impressive looking character design they could have gone with here? I guess brain slugs that inhabit the bodies of existing characters are cheap to film.

• So Evil Ward has now become a goa'uld from Stargate. This also all seems very similar to LOST, when Locke died and was replaced by the Smoke Monster. I guess at this point in the world there are no new stories left to tell.

• After Coulson killed Evil Ward, why'd he pull off his bionic hand and toss it next to him? Could he not stand to look at his "murder weapon" anymore? Hopefully he'll get a new hand soon, so we don't have to watch Clark Gregg trying to hide his hand inside a jacket with a left sleeve that's six inches longer than the right.

See you again in March, 2016!

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