Wow – going out with a bang. The mid-season finale of Agents of SHIELD didn’t pull any punches – and considering this is the last “Secrets of SHIELD” post on the Observation Deck, what a way to go!
For those who don’t know, I’m discontinuing the Secrets of SHIELD series of recap/connection posts that I’ve done for every live-action Marvel outing since AoS season 1 (except Fantastic Four). As a freelance writer currently between freelance gigs, I need to reevaluate my work and focus more on other things. I am continuing to blog, however, occasionally here on the Observation Deck and more often on my own blog, Monomythic.com – check it out if you get the chance (or keep up with it on Facebook).
Spoiler-Light Recap: Ward is teaming up with old (re: ancient) school Hydra to find a millennia-old evil Inhuman. Meanwhile, Fitz love Simmons, so he promised to save Will, whom Simmons loves, from an alien planet. Oh, and May thought she loved Garner, but now he may be a (completely different) evil Inhuman! Also, Coulson has found romance with fellow spy, Rosalind Price. Hope nothing bad happens.
Sharing burgers from their favorite fast food joint, DJ’s Burgers, Phil and Roz seem to be enjoying domestic bliss. She playfully calls him a luddite and Lancelot when he first complains about technology, then talks about keeping her safe. Almost as if on cue, Ward snipes Roz from several blocks away, killing Phil’s lady love just as Ward blame’s Phil for the death of Kara. Dang, and here everyone thought Roz might be Abigail Brand in disguise. Guess not. Real quick incidental connections: “luddites” refers to people who are anti-technology, and the coolest luddite in Marvel is Armless Tiger Man. Yes, you read that right. Lancelot is also a character in Marvel in three different ways: Historically in that he worked with the original King Arthur, he may or may not exist as an immortal called the Bowman, and in the modern day, as his spirit grants powers to heroes defending Britain.
Phil returns to SHIELD’s Playground base, which seems stocked with 90s arcade games like Crossfire – Shredder would be proud. He reviews evidence in Roz’s murder (including matchsticks from some place called the Moon Pub), and interviews each original team member for any insight on Ward. May recalls her brief relationship with Ward, Jemma remembers when Ward saved her life, Fitz remembers feeling like a brother to Ward, and Daisy remembers when Ward killed Koenig. It’s like a clip show without clips. Not sure why Moon Pub is important, but I’m sure it will be later.
So what’s Ward doing all this time? Teaming up with Mallick, who we learn was a Washington DC power player and sponsor of the Pathfinder program that sent Will to the forbidden planet. Mallick questions why Ward bothered sending his “bones brigade” after Coulson, encouraging him to focus on the big picture. Mallick says he doesn’t want power for himself, but to share it with Hydra’s leaders – possibly including Ward (since Ward and Coulson killed all the others). Mallick said he previously considered Pierce or Garrett, but neither was quite right (and now both are dead). In the comics, Hydra is very much about having a central leadership. Although Baron Strucker usually takes the lead, he seems to treat his fellow Hydra leaders (a handful of them anyway) as near-equals. Ruling the world would be lonely without friends.
Meanwhile, Fitz-Simmons accompany Roz’s number one, Banks, to investigate a closed Distant Star Pathfinder location, but Mallick’s evil telekinetic Inhuman, Mr. Giyera, kills Banks (how little we knew ye) and kidnaps Fitz-Simmons. Now in Ward’s deadly hands, Simmons (called “Furiosa” by Ward) is physically tortured by Giyera’s for information on the distant planet while Fitz is psychologically tortured by Ward to get him to capitulate. Then the phone rings. Before we move on, telekinesis is a common power among superheroes. Although the X-Men’s Jean Grey is most famous for it, the Avenger called Justice also has it. Justice is known for two things: looking generic and killing his dad. After serving time in prison for the (somewhat justified) murder, Justice joined the Avengers.
Stepping back a bit, Coulson had left Mack in charge as interim director while he, Hunter and Bobbi went “off books.” In a faux bank robbery, they kidnap Ward’s long lost brother Thomas, who was tortured by Ward when they were kids. In a twisted way, Grant Ward always saw himself as protecting Thomas, but Thomas knows Grant killed their brother Christian and their parents (who were admittedly crappy parents). With Thomas’ help, Coulson tracks Grant to the south of England – the same castle the team used to bring back Simmons. Mack quickly forms Daisy’s Inhuman team, though not yet the Secret Warriors that she’d been hoping for as it just includes the sparkplug Lincoln and the melter Joey so far. Frustrated, Ward talks Fitz into going through the portal, and Mallick talks Ward into leading the mission, and just as both (along with their Hydra redshirts) jump in the portal, quickly followed by Coulson.
On the alien planet – Maveth, presumably– Fitz gripes that Ward brought them on a “snark hunt” for an alien “hellbeast,” but then they see proof of their mission: a giant Hydra symbol carved from nearby rocks. Clearly, their people have been there. Following Simmons’ story, Fitz locates Will’s base and convinces Ward to let Will guide them, and Will is strangely okay with all this, considering he previously thought Simmons was an hallucination. Will and Fitz plot their escape even as Fitz fails to notice Wills interest in Hydra as an “old name” and the fact that both Will and he are bleeding, but the “It” that smells blood hasn’t attacked them yet. As one of the planet’s sandstorms pick up, Will murders a few Hydra agents and leaves with Fitz to where the portal should lead them to Earth. Ward, however, gets shot by someone else. Okay, back to the comic book stuff – the term “snark” was first coined by Alice in Wonderland creator Lewis Carroll, and the term “snark hunt” has come to mean “hunting something that isn’t there,” but of course, Marvel being what it is, Snarks do exist in the Marvel U. Specifically, Snarks are the reptilian invaders constantly fought off by the pre-teen superhero group, Power Pack. When you can get beat up by a five-year-old on a regular basis, it’s time to reevaluate your position as an invader.
Anyway, Coulson woke up on the planet (after a concussion-dream about Roz) and, after looking up at the multiple orbs in the sky, declares he is on “Tatooine.” Tracking Ward’s team, Coulson shoots the remaining Hydra members dead, then leaves Ward alive – for reasons. Not sure what those were since he was willing to break every rule in the book to kill him earlier and he chastised Hunter for not succeeding in killing him before that. Oh yeah, you know Marvel published a Star Wars comic way before the movie came out? Yeah, Luke and the gang first appeared in comics before they appeared on film. This led to some confusion though, as Marvel wasn’t given all the info on the film at the time they were making the comics, so some strange things did slip through.
While they bicker (and Coulson non-fatally shoots Ward again, for fun), Fitz and Will walk passed a ruined city, one of nine cities that Will says existed on this planet before the ancient civilization, easily divided and afraid of chained, destroyed themselves. At this point, Fitz finally discovers this isn’t “Will,” but “It.” The creature battles Fitz for a bit (apparently not much of a fighter when not surrounded by a sandstorm), giving Coulson and Ward a chance to catch up. Hijinks ensue, after which Fitz kills “Will” with his trusty flare gun and Coulson kills Ward, crushing his chest with a mechanical hand before escaping with Fitz to Earth. Dang – is it weird to be sorry to see Ward go after he seemed so bland when this series started? First things first though, let’s address those nine cities. The Inhumans have often been obsessed with lost cities. In the ancient past, Inhuman culture broke up into a variety of different cities ruled by multiple kings and one queen, all hidden or lost. Also, four Inhuman cities were founded on other planets, each of whom travelled to Earth to join Earth’s Inhumans as the “Universal Inhumans.”
The slime-being leaves Will’s corpse, and as we see later, enters Ward’s corpse before secretly following Coulson and Fitz. (Ward is dead. Long live Zombie Ward.) So who is this mysterious several-thousand-year-old Inhuman that steals bodies, leads an evil organization, and is feared by other Inhumans? It seems such a figure does exist in Marvel: the Capo of the Ennilux. The Capo, whose real name is as yet unrevealed, is the leader of one of those Inhuman cities I mentioned, but where Attilan is run like a kingdom, he runs Ennilux like the mafia. He has survived for thousands of years by stealing bodies and seemed to finally die recently until one of his descendants, the also recently deceased Karnak, found a loophole in the Inhuman underworld and escaped death. Could the leader of Ennilux be inside Zombie Ward?
It’s also possible this doesn’t tie to the comic book Inhumans, but the comic book Hydra. Not ancient by any means, Hydra recently created a parasite hive mind that survives by overwhelming the body of a host – alive or dead – and slowly converting the body to suit its needs. Usually, possession involves the presence of strange mollusk-like appendages and body parts. The gestalt creature, called the Hive, has been accepted into the highest ranks of Hydra.
Stepping back a bit though, while Coulson and Fitz were fighting for their lives, Mack was leading the assault on Castle Hydra, and to his credit, while he takes several redshirt SHIELD agents with him, Mack has all the non-main characters stay behind and has only his elite team take the base. Simultaneously, Simmons engineers her own escape, and (unaware SHIELD is coming to her rescue) releases Garner/Lash to help fight Hydra. He does that, but he also kills the dozen or so (or more?) Inhumans the ATCU had collected, including V. Ramirez and R. Gray. Lash escapes, Hydra scatters, and the SHIELD team reunites. Whoever Ramirez and Gray are, Gray is not a reference to Rachel Grey, who is the alternate future daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey. Though the names are similar.
The team by the way, includes Joey, who’s ever evolving amazing melting superpowers now allow him to be “bulletproof.” Coincidentally, that is how the original Human Torch achieved bulletproof status in Marvel Comics #1 way back in 1939. Pretty nice callback.
Mallick sends Hydra agents to re-take the castle while he begrudgingly escapes (to meet up with Ward), but the good guys defend the fortress, rescue their men, and blow the castle (and mini-Monoliths) to smithereens.