|Image Courtesy www.comicbook.com|
Last night’s explosive Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season finale was easily one of my favorite episodes yet. All of the plot threads we’ve been following for this season—and especially this half-season—received fair treatment. All of the regular characters had a satisfying arc and a satisfying lead-in for next season. As far as the action is concerned, they did not hold onto any of their effects budget; I felt like they left it all on the table. The reveal of the “big bad” of the season was shocking and unexpected, and really made the conflict personal. Ultimately, it was a reminder that you never really know a character: some characters we considered villains turned out to be misguided heroes, while some characters we considered to be heroes turned out to be villains. All in all, I think I enjoyed this season finale more than the season 1 finale for two reasons: there were more unexpected plot twists and we got to see more of a huge super-powered fight.
This episode is amazing, and you should definitely watch it for yourself. So don't read the rest of my review until you are finished watching it. SPOILERS ahead!
So first off, it didn’t take long to discover that I had completely misjudged Jiaying. I do still think that she really was acting out of fear [http://mcureviewer.blogspot.com/2015/05/whats-going-on-with-shield-and-inhumans.html], but she allowed that fear to drive her to ridiculous lengths in inciting a war against S.H.I.E.L.D., deceiving her people into joining the war, and trying to destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. entirely. I get the feeling that Jiaying was going to do this even if Gonzales had walked into the room, genuflected in front of her, and offered all of S.H.I.E.L.D. to her as her personal slaves! So there wasn’t much S.H.I.E.L.D. could have done to avoid the conflict [http://mcureviewer.blogspot.com/2015/05/new-feature-guest-post.html]. That being said, I still think S.H.I.E.L.D. pushed her a little too much.
Jiaying’s revelation as the “big bad” of the season would not have been complete without the discovery of exactly how her powers work: she can drain people’s life force to heal and extend her lifespan. That is terrifying—she’s essentially a vampire. And yet, before being vivisected by Whitehall, Jiaying lived many life spans (we never find out exactly how old she is) as a kind, caring, and wise leader for the Inhumans. Cal tells us that Jiaying never wanted to drain the life from anyone, but every couple decades one of the Elders would insist on it so that she could continue to live and guide them. Then Whitehall cut her apart, and Cal had to supply her an entire village of people whose life force she could drain so she could heal. And since then she has not been the same: human life is meaningless in her eyes; Inhuman life is not that much better. Ultimately, I think we can trace her “origin story” as a villain back to Whitehall and Hydra: Whitehall may have acquired her longevity (did he drain people’s life force, too?), but she acquired his brutality and callous disregard for human life. That may have been the most tragic aspect of the character: a wise and caring leader and mother comes into contact with the worst of humanity and as a result descends into the absolute depths of evil. Dichen Lachman’s performance made Jiaying’s eventual dark turn all the more shocking and all the sadder, especially when Cal had to kill her to keep her from killing their daughter.
|Image Courtesy www.comicbook.com|
By contrast with Jiaying, Cal and Raina—the erstwhile “villains” for much of the series’ run (Cal just since the tail end of last season’s finale)—come across as incredibly sympathetic characters. Cal is a lot of things, but above all he cares deeply for his wife and daughter. Everything he has ever done has been for his family. He did not want to kill—especially not “harvesting” a village to put his wife back together—but he did what he had to do because of his love for Jiaying and Skye. Ultimately, he turns out to have been manipulated by Jiaying all along. Either he did not feel worthy of her after Whitehall captured her, or Jiaying did not think him worthy of her, and consequently he began experimenting with his serum until it made him into Mr. Hyde. Regardless, we now know that Jiaying manipulated Cal into taking his serum and transforming into Hyde so that he could take out as many S.H.I.E.L.D. agents as possible, creating the distraction needed for her Inhuman team to raid the aircraft carrier. Cal almost died before Simmons gave him adrenaline to restart his heart—setting off his transformation in the process. Though he fought S.H.I.E.L.D., his love for his daughter (along with perhaps a little manipulation on Coulson’s part) convinced him to join S.H.I.E.L.D. in saving Skye and stopping Jiaying’s plan. Of the four “villains” (Jiaying, Cal, Raina, and Ward), his might be the most tragic arc, and yet he is the only one who receives anything resembling a happy ending, as Coulson uses the T.A.H.I.T.I. mindwipe device on him and sets him up as a pet veterinarian. Part of me hopes that he gets his happy ending, but another part of me is wondering if his memories are going to return sometime down the road and drive him to do something rash. I kind of want to see the latter just to get more of the character. Kyle MacLachlan made an incredible Calvin Zabo/Mr. Hyde, playing both sides of the character extremely well. Hyde in particular was a creepy mix of manic, psychotic, and loving family man.
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Raina was another character who received a full story arc. In season 1 she was the face of evil for most of the season, from her introduction until she walked away from Hydra and reported back to Cal on Skye’s whereabouts. In the first half of season 2 she appeared as more of a maverick playing both sides for her own goals. When she transformed with Skye in “What They Become” (2x10), she received what she had been looking for her entire life, and almost immediately regretted it in “Aftershocks” (2x11) before Gordon took her to Afterlife. In “Afterlife” (2x16), Skye nearly kills her, and she welcomes death because it is preferable to life. From that depth of despair, she begins to emerge through the discovery of her gift, until in “The Dirty Half Dozen” (2x19) she begins to make better use of her gift for the good of her people—going so far as to challenge Jiaying for leadership. In “Scars” (2x20) she is mistrusted and locked up, but in this episode, she finally recognizes and accepts her fate. She is not going to lead the Inhumans; she is going to pave the way for the eventual leader of the Inhumans. By her death at Jiaying’s hands, Raina shows Skye just how evil her mother is, leading Skye to rebel against Jiaying and fight to stop her plan. I love how much her character developed over the last few episodes—from scheming in the shadows to becoming the “angel” (“messenger”) her grandmother wanted her to become.
Ward’s character arc has been very intriguing. He’s been something of a maverick all season: He was helping S.H.I.E.L.D. toward his own goals. He was working with Hydra toward his own goals. Then he was working on his own with Kara this half-season. He captured and tortured Bobbi to force her to apologize to Kara, and eventually set it up where Bobbi would have to watch Hunter get shot. Finally, he accidentally shot Kara and had her die in his arms. That is easily the most tragic part of his character this season: clearly he had feelings for her based on his reaction to having shot her, but ultimately he is responsible for her death. We thought that Ward had hit rock bottom after Garrett’s death and his capture; he wasn’t even close. I think holding Kara while she died was rock bottom, and now his only goal is to bring everyone else down to his level. I suppose we shouldn’t be overly surprised that Ward is the new “Head” of Hydra after everything we’ve seen with his character. I don’t think he buys into the Hydra philosophy any more now than he did in season 1, but he’s willing to use the Hydra name to impose his view of order—and perhaps get revenge on May, Bobbi, and Hunter for their parts in Kara’s death. And this guy was the most boring character in season 1?
All of the heroes got extremely satisfying arcs through the season which led to solid conclusions at the end of the season. May and Coulson may be at a better place now than they were after the Theta Protocol secret was revealed (before anyone knew what it was). May and Andrew are even rekindling their relationship—thanks in no small part to Hunter and Bobbi. Bobbi sacrificed herself to save Hunter, and Hunter now wants to work at rebuilding his relationship with her. Thanks to that storyline, Simmons also went to talk to Fitz, and the two of them may explore their relationship next season (assuming Simmons is still alive, that is…). Coulson lost his arm after catching a Terrigen Crystal to keep it from shattering (I guess the Kree blood doesn’t make him Inhuman or give him powers), and is looking into replacement options. He is also back firmly in control of S.H.I.E.L.D. and working to rebuild. Among other things, we saw his blueprints for a new mobile command center which is billed as being faster and more mobile than anything they’ve had so far. He is also going to work with Skye to form a new team of superheroes to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. However, unlike the Avengers and all their publicity, this team will be more “anonymous” (yeah, I’m sure that’s the word you were going to use. Not going to call them a “secret,” as in “Secret Warriors”?).
|Image Courtesy www.comicbook.com|
Skye’s character arc has been huge this entire series. She was a complete outsider for most of last season, and then this season she became a full-blown S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Then she was something of an outcast because of her powers, only to discover her place as an Inhuman. In this episode she had to choose between her S.H.I.E.L.D. family and her Inhuman family, and couldn’t decide until Raina showed her just how callous and evil Jiaying was. At that point Skye finally realized that Jiaying had the wrong idea and that she needed to stop her. Skye worked with Mack to stop Jiaying and Gordon’s plan, but now the Inhumans are in shambles with the loss of their leader. According to Raina, Skye is supposed to become the new leader, but she is with S.H.I.E.L.D. Are we going to see Skye simultaneously working to rebuild the Inhumans and to recruit her new “Secret Warriors” team next season? It seems like those two goals could run parallel and lead the two groups in new and interesting ways going forward. I’ve been really happy with her character development and with the writers’ use of Skye as essentially the “viewer” all along: Skye is new to all of this, so as she is learning about S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans, we are learning as well.
|Image Courtesy www.comicbook.com|
I liked all of the Inhumans stuff we got, but I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get more. I was expecting to see a lot of crazy powers being used, but we only saw 5 of the dozen or so Inhumans actually using their powers. Jiaying tried to kill Skye with her powers. Lincoln zapped a lot of people. Gordon teleported around and teleported a lot of people around. Skye used her powers to push a quinjet off the ship. And the “Ginger Ninjas” kept showing up all over the place. All of that was fun, but I was hoping for more. Considering where the episode left the Inhumans, I expect at least Lincoln and “Ginger Ninjas” (that is a seriously catchy name) to return, possibly as members of Skye’s “Secret Warriors.” I was a little disappointed that Gordon died (assuming he is dead), but considering how crucial he was to Jiaying’s plan, I didn’t really think there was going to be a place for him in Skye’s new Inhumans.
The episode set a lot of things in motion for next season. For one thing, the Kree WID is still in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s possession, but with Mack in charge it is highly unlikely that it will ever be opened. And that’s a real shame since Simmons got sucked into it. What on earth does that thing do? We’re all but guaranteed to find out, since Simmons was one of the returning main cast members announced when they released the Season 3 synopsis. The second key is the aforementioned “Secret Warriors” team Skye will be putting together with powered people—some of whom may be Inhumans. Third, Ward is rebuilding Hydra, so might he be the “big bad” going forward? Only time will tell. I wonder if one of the motivators for the Superhero Registration Act will be a massive fight between Ward’s Hydra and Skye’s “Secret Warriors.”
Of course, the biggest thing going forward will have to be the “Terrigen Bomb” which Skye unwittingly unleashed on the world by pushing a quinjet full of synthetic Terrigen Crystals off the carrier and into the ocean. The Crystals dissolved and were ingested by fish, which were then turned into fish oil tablets. Now I think everyone is wondering what is going to happen. My guess is that Inhumans will start cropping up all over the world as they did in the Inhumanity storyline in the comics and S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans will have to find them and help them deal with their powers. However, I do not think that the Diviner metal laced in with the Terrigen Crystals is also dissolving into the water, so I don’t think regular humans will be in danger. Instead, my guess is that the Diviner metal pieces are being left behind at the bottom of the ocean—crystals can dissolve in water; I’m pretty sure that most metals cannot, and this one probably can’t either because otherwise you couldn’t get a Diviner wet without risking it dissolving away. So I think the humans are safe. But no guarantees…
All in all, this was probably my favorite episode yet. All of the action sequences were awesome, the effects were very good, the story did a ton of stuff in 2 hours and still left me wanting more. I can’t wait for next season!
What did you think? What was your favorite moment of this episode? Which Inhumans or Inhuman powers do you want to see next season? If you had to put together a “Secret Warriors” team, who would be on it?
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