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Thursday, May 14, 2015

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Send An "SOS"

Article originally written for Seat42F.



MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. ends its sophomore run on ABC last night with “S.O.S.,” a two-hour finale that is as surprising as it is intense. Lots of characters die, dynamics shift, a war is only narrowly avoided, and there are plenty of pathos and cliffhangers to go around. I don’t think I’ll be able to cover it all here, but I’ll try to focus on the most important things.

No sooner does Coulson (Clark Gregg) agree to an advisory council than those on that council begin dropping like flies. Gonzales (Edward James Olmos) is murdered last week, soon followed by Agent Oliver (Mark Allan Stewart) in “S.O.S.” Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) is kidnapped by Ward (Brett Dalton), while Weaver (Christine Adams) is held hostage by Jiaying (Dichen Lachman). By the end of the finale, a couple are left, but will Coulson replace those who perished? I hope so, because it still seems like a good idea to have his judgment balanced by others, and not just those on his team.

Coulson does earn back some lost respect, though. Mack (Henry Simmons) hasn’t quite left the agency when the battle begins, and decides to stick around and help Coulson prevent a war. Last week, it looked like Mack would be resigning for good, but he is too noble to walk away when he’s needed. Let’s hope MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t really have to say goodbye to him, signs being positive he will re-enlist at the end of the episode.

The battle Mack and Coulson are working to end is the one between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans. Jiaying, hardened and turned dark by the traumas she suffers through, doesn’t trust S.H.I.E.L.D., and so tries to force a war to wipe them out. This makes sense, given what we’ve seen of her character, but she brings along a lot of Inhumans who don’t realize what’s happening. As Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) says after learning the truth, they aren’t bad, just misled.

The struggle to stop Jiaying is not an easy one. While her plan isn’t perfect, she does have the element of surprise at first, and starts fighting before S.H.I.E.L.D. knows there’s anything to fight about, Coulson being the cool head that keeps the council for escalating things early. Jiaying also has Gordon (Jamie Harris), who believes in her scheme, and Cal (Kyle MacLachlan), who is set loose in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s base with super strength.

But Jiaying doesn’t have everything. Raina (Ruth Negga) sacrifices herself to expose the truth to Skye (Chloe Bennet), who turns on her mother and teams up with Mack, and Coulson talks Cal into switching sides to protect his daughter, appealing to the good man long buried deep inside of Skye’s father. What this means is that the war in “S.O.S.” really features a single villain and henchman (Jiaying and Gordon), with everyone else being essentially good, one may assume, manipulated by this leader. It should make for a more peaceful relationship between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans next season, with Jiaying and Gordon dead and Lincoln supporting Skye.

The casualties are rough, though. Besides the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that Jiaying kills, Coulson loses a hand. He would lose more if not for Mack’s quick thinking, and surely S.H.I.E.L.D. has the technology to give Coulson a really cool bionic replacement. Still, there’s a lot of destruction left to recover from.

Overcome it they must, though, as Ward is now heading up Hydra. After some disturbing scenes of torture, Ward making Bobbi suffer, Hunter (Nick Blood) and May (Ming-Na Wen) swing in to the rescue. In the chaos, Bobbi is badly wounded and Agent 33 (Maya Stojan) is killed, the latter sparking Ward’s embrace of the evil group, which he plans to use to take his revenge. Still, even with Ward remaining out there as a Big Bad, the outcome is as positive as one could hope for from such an encounter.

All of the above stuff makes for some really intense action and suspenseful moments. Emotion is served, too, especially in the relationship between Skye and Cal and the outcome of that, Cal’s memory being wiped and he being given a chance at a good life. The episode runs the gamut, being both big and small, and ending the season on an anticipatory note that should have fans on edge waiting for MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. return next fall.

There are also two huge cliffhangers, exemplifying the two arenas S.H.I.E.L.D. participates in. The personal has Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) finally planning a first date, something viewers have been waiting for at least a year, and then Simmons is sucked in by an alien artifact. The larger plot sees Jiaying’s crystals infect fish, whose oil is bottled and sold, thus potentially affecting a huge chunk of the population and activating more Inhumans.

And that’s why I love “S.O.S.” It really does have it all, presenting two hours that frequently shocked and constantly entertained.

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. will return for a third go ‘round next fall, and this pick-up pretty much guarantees them a fourth year because of syndication patterns. I look forward to seeing what they do with it.

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