Synopsis of 3×09: Ward’s revenge campaign cripples the team; Coulson makes it clear he will stop at nothing to settle the score.
I’ll admit that before entering this week’s episode, I severely lowered my standards. I always get kind of worried when they throw around words like ‘Closure’ and start making Ward the spotlight character again. Mostly because I’m tired of seeing a complex character continuously being pressed tighter and tighter into the “sole villain” category.
But “Closure” actually delivered some pretty great introspective scenes on Ward and Coulson, who were the main priorities of the episode. However, aside from the great comparisons between Ward and Coulson, the rest of the episode was a little uneven. While the pacing was great, the reveal of Daisy Johnson’s Secret Warriors, who weren’t really secret or even warriors, was severely underplayed. For a show banking on the introduction of this story arc, it sure took them a long time to reveal the characters.
Daisy’s team was more or less a blip on the radar compared to Coulson’s revenge against Ward for killing Rosalind before the title credits were even shown. Yep, another lady bites the dust for manpain. It worked out great for the story, now Coulson and Hunter can combine their manpain and use it against Ward.
But before they go after him, Coulson sits down with the original team for an interrogation. If anyone was hoping for a way for the original dirty half dozen to get together again, this scene is about as close as we can get for season 3A. Honestly, this scene was a highlight for the episode given that Ward is often the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, especially Fitz, Simmons, and Daisy.
It ends up giving a bit of metaphorical closure (ding ding ding, episode title!) for the characters in terms of Ward’s actions in season one. No one forgives Ward, but there is an acknowledgement that they weren’t all enemies from birth. It’s to remind us how painful Ward’s reveal as Hydra was; Fitz saw him as a brother, Jemma had a crush on him and was saved by him, Skye fell in love with him and even more, she began to understand him.
Daisy’s understanding of Ward is, perhaps, the most insightful opinion anyone’s had on Ward in a long time. She could understand that he didn’t kill because he felt nothing, but because he feels too much. She doesn’t forgive him, but she doesn’t ignore his past either. For a show that has avoided mixing Daisy and Ward together on any topic that concerns their romance, her admitting to Coulson that she could understand and relate to Ward like he once said that she would feels so gratifying for someone who has been a fan since season one.
If the word closure isn’t thrown around at least three times in an episode with Grant Ward, it isn’t really an Agents of SHIELD episode. Ward’s search for closure after Agent 33/Kara’s death has been focused in on killing Coulson. He’s let that determination consume him, so much so that his mission in avenging Kara rarely even refers to her. He’s been blinded by his own obsession for closure that he was never able to find anywhere else. Not with his family. Not with Skye. Not with Kara. He could never reconcile the things he’s done, and as Coulson says “every twisted thing he does is just a misguided attempt to justify his past.”
But it doesn’t seem like Coulson’s going to back down from the fight. Killing Rosalind set Coulson on a war path that pushes his character deeper and deeper into a dark side that I can’t imagine the Coulson pre-Loki ever could have turned to. Bringing Hunter and a reluctant Bobbi along on his mission against Ward, he hands the reins of director over to Mack, and it might just be the first smart thing he’s done all season.
And that’s where the smart choices begin and end.
In a particularly Ward-esque move, they kidnap Ward’s younger brother Thomas and we proceed to get a revisionist’s telling of Ward’s history with the well. You remember the well. We got an emotional flashback of a young Grant Ward remembering the first time he felt hate when he was forced to watch Thomas drown in a well while Christian prevented Grant from saving him. It was supposed to be one of those moments that made us sympathize with a character who was a stoic and made of stone.
Apparently it was all a lie.
Or kind of. Honestly the entire story of Ward’s past is about as murky as swamp water. We’ve gotten stories from Christian and Ward saying Thomas was mother’s favorite, while Thomas is saying they were all abused by their parents. Then we get a story that seems to blur Ward’s story even more from Thomas. Ward was his best friend, until one day he just decided not to be and pushed him into the well. He wasn’t really lying about his past, but he also was? If this was an attempt to turn Ward into someone who was “evil from an early age” it doesn’t really hold water too well.
We already know he does bad things. We already know he’s a murderer and he tortures people and he betrays them. Is this rewrite really necessary? It does the job to keeping Ward occupied while they trace the call, but it does little for the backstory. Regardless, Thomas pretty much wants nothing to do with SHIELD or Hydra or Grant Ward, but Coulson and Hunter seem ready to do whatever it takes to get a reaction from Ward. As much as Ward is ready to torture Jemma for an answer about the portal, it seems Coulson is read to use Thomas to get Hydra’s location.
And if you were unsure about how noble Coulson’s actions were, you could just look to Bobbi, who is repeatedly apologetic and apprehensive during the scenes. Coulson said he was ready to cross the line, and I’m pretty sure kidnapping and extortion fall past the line.
Getting riled up about Thomas and Coulson does the job in pushing Ward, and he doesn’t hold back any punches. After capturing Fitz and Simmons , he interrogates Jemma for answers on how to get back across the portal, separating the two of them to use their pain against one another. Except it’s really just to use Simmons’ pain against Fitz. Ah yes, remember that good old manpain? I do.
With Coulson holding Thomas against Ward, he takes the interrogation into his own hands and goes from “you know I’d never do anything to hurt you Jemma” to unspoken, unseen screams from Jemma while we zoom in on Fitz. This convinces Fitz to go with them into the portal, becoming an insurance policy for Hydra that Jemma and SHIELD will do anything to bring him back.
Coulson, Bobbi, and Hunter, having found out the location of Hydra through the trace, decide to storm the castle. Except they’ve told Hydra they’re coming, and the plan becomes useless since they’ll get blown out of the sky before they can get close to saving FitzSimmons. This doesn’t really stop Coulson. As they watch Ward and Fitz jump into the open portal, Bobbi and Hunter seems ready to give up, but Coulson BASE jumps into the portal right before it closes. Some people might call you bad ass, Phil, and I would have if you hadn’t swan dived into an unknown abyss and proceeded to give yourself a concussion on a rock. It does do a good job of throwing Coulson into the mix of who may or may not be affected by whatever is living on that planet.
Back at SHIELD, Mack already feels like a surer director as he seizes control of the forces and rallies the troops to go save the rest of the team. If anything Mack is the one leading the eventual Secret Warriors, not Daisy. Bringing along Lincoln and Joey might be a mistake, but it doesn’t seem like Mack is taking any chances here and he needs the extra fire power. Honestly, someone give this man an eyepatch, I’m on board for him to be our leader.
All in all, the episode put Coulson and Ward in the spotlight. Losing Rosalind was the best thing to happen to Coulson all season, as heartbreaking as it is to see Constance Zimmer leave the show, and it brings forward that theme that he and Ward being the two sides of the same coin.
I’m not sure what exactly will happen beyond the portal. Bringing Ward to the alien planet was a last minute move that shifts the dynamic of the group on the other side, but having him go from “Don’t talk to me about weakness, old man” to being called Private by Malik was a change of whiplash proportions. He remains the wildcard of the show and you can never really predict what he’ll do next, plus with rumors of Ward’s comic book identity being revealed, he had to get to the planet somehow, right?
This Tuesday marks the airing of the midseason finale before we are left with three months of questions. Does anyone have an idea on what we’re in for?