Synopsis of 3×10: A battle between Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. will change Coulson’s world; Fitz and Coulson take a huge risk.
With the hype around this show growing every day preceeding the episode, “Maveth” still ended up leaving me feeling rather empty. As far as the episode goes, the first half was essentially exposition for a story that would have benefitted from more driving overall narrative. It was semantics, with Mack stepping in as Director of SHIELD and bringing in the whole team to get Coulson, Fitz, and Simmons back.
The team storms the castle fairly easily, with few obstacles. It doesn’t feel like it’s a dire situation, Bobbi and May easily take down any opposition. It’s a little disappointing that since season 3 premiered, we haven’t really gotten a good Inhumans showdown or a real show of strength. It’s been peppered here and there, with Daisy using her abilities or Lincoln setting off some sparks. To date, Lash’s episodes are the only time we’ve even seen an Inhuman with a physical change and manifestation of powers.
Agents of SHIELD continuously plays on the Inhuman angle of their story, but they never seem to fully deliver. Even in “Maveth”, the only two really important scenes involve Joey melting some bullets and saving Daisy (which was, admittedly, precious; I need the show to keep Juan Pablo Raba on for the rest of the season) and Lash being released.
The former shows off the developing abilities of a new Inhuman which should serve as a building block going forward, if they ever choose to actually do anything with the Secret Warriors storyline that they’ve hinted at. The latter is a more immediate threat, since Jemma saved herself by releasing Andrew, but in turn he became Lash and slaughtered all of the Inhumans that Malik had in containment.
It doesn’t really take much effort for the team to meet up in the room with the portal and essentially wait out the return of Fitz and Coulson. Despite the procedural way the mission went, it was nice to see Mack take up the position as Director. He made the hard calls and was willing to sacrifice himself to save his team. With Hydra breaking down the door, the team is forced to evacuate the castle before the portal opens, leaving Mack and Daisy behind to retrieve them or die trying.
On the alien planet, the story does quick work of tying together some of the plots, which is one of the best things to come out of this episode. From Hydra to Inhumans to SHIELD, it wraps it all up in a pretty bow, unfortunately they manage to do it in the most utterly predictable of ways. Fitz manages to outsmart Ward and his team, dropping into the shelter where Will and Jemma were living to find Will injured but alive. They manage to convince Will to take him along with them to the second portal since he understands the navigation better.
Will guides them through the no-fly zone, quickly forming an alliance with Fitz along the way as they plot to escape from Ward. Although Will appears to be the person we know, it should be blatantly obvious to the audience in no time that this is no longer Will. His nonchalant attitude about entering the no-fly zone, his curiosity about Hydra, his knowledge of the civilization of the planet; they should all be blaring warning signs.
Before Fitz realizes any of this, he and Will successfully separate themselves from Ward and his team when another sand storm hits. It’s not long after that that Coulson sneaks up on Ward and kills the rest of his team and shoots him. But since he’s Ward, and this is Agents of SHIELD, Coulson keeps him alive. Shooting him one more time for good measure, he ties him up and uses him as a guide to find Fitz before they miss the portal rendezvous.
If you can’t tell from my previous recaps or this one, Ward is easily my favorite character of the show. In fact, this show only got interesting for me during the Hydra reveal in season one. They managed to create one of the most interesting characters on the show. But around half way through season two, after Ward was shot by Skye, the character took a drastic change, transforming him from an anti-hero into a villain.
It’s unfortunate, since the narrative continued to undo some of the key things that made Ward a morally grey character rather than an outright evil one. Instead of leaving it up to the audience to decide where he stood, the show made the choice for us with every torture scene, every manipulation, and every bullet. His past became murky, his motives became simple, and it was all accented with some nice creepy music. That’s when you know they’re really trying to send you in a certain direction. So really, for me, this character was suffering from a slow death of personality for the past year.
This is highlighted in his monologue with Coulson, in which he goes from talking about not feeling like he was worth anything and needing father figures in his life and needing to find closure, all parts of the Grant Ward we’ve come to know, and then finishing that up with some heavy Hydra dogma that turns him from self-realized villain to kook in a matter of seconds. The real tragedy isn’t a fall from grace, it’s the entire erasure of that fall.
This change was supposed to have happened sometime during his talk with Malik last episode, in which he was ordered to go with Fitz to this planet and acquiesced after some persuasion and empty promises of a grand future. Apparently that was also the moment he decided to completely drink the Hydra kool-aid.
In a way, this final monologue almost paralleled Garrett’s descent into madness after being injected with the alien DNA, going from power hungry narcissist to Hydra mystic in about the same frame of time. This change started in the season two finale, with Bobbi stating outright to Agent 33 that she was being manipulated by him just like he was being manipulated by Garrett, and in a way this is just the completion of that change.
And as much as the show enjoyed turning Ward into Garrett, it also seems to enjoy turning Coulson into a variation of Ward. Going after his own closure, he’s got a one track mind during the entire episode. If you weren’t sure about his intentions in jumping through the portal last minute last episode, he makes it clear to Ward that he isn’t here for Fitz. We know what he’s here for, he’s here for Rosalind.
Ward made Coulson feel the same kind of pain that he felt holding Agent 33 in his arms while she died, and in return set off the same chain of events that had Coulson bloodthirsty for revenge. Two sides of the same coin indeed.
When they finally come upon Fitz and Will, it happens to be the moment that Fitz realizes that Will has been dead and it is IT that is inhabiting Will’s body. A fight ensues between the two of them, which Coulson puts a stop to by shooting Will. It takes more than the rest of the clip to kill him and stop him from entering the portal, Fitz deals the final blow with a flare gun that sets Will on fire, finally stopping him in his tracks.
Taking the opportunity presented to him, Ward turns on Coulson, and the two of them fight with Coulson ultimately getting the upper hand (no pun intended). Instead of leaving Ward to die on the planet and making his getaway with Fitz, he decides not to leave anything to chance, and takes those extra precious moments that they have to get through the portal to crush Ward’s chest with his robot hand before leaving the hand and Ward’s body on the planet and booking it to the portal.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this scene is meant to show a darker side of Coulson, with Fitz witnessing it and telling him to leave Ward and get out while they can. In fact, Fitz is really the only gauge we have as the audience to tell us whether or not we should approve of Coulson’s actions. After all, this is the guy who killed Garrett without a second thought and topped it off with a joke. Objectively, you might say that that was ruthless.
But after they make it through the portal and have their reunion with the team, the two share a look where they both seem to be affected by what just happened. They say there is not real justice in revenge, and I’d say we’re in for a good handful of episodes of Coulson and Fitz wrestling with the events that transpired.
Of course, in true comic book fashion, Ward manages to make it back through the portal as well, somehow slipping by Coulson, Fitz, Daisy, and Mack. Or rather, IT makes it through, wearing Ward as a proverbial meat suit and having achieved its goal of escaping the prison planet.
As far as midseason finales go for this show, season two still remains my favorite. The episodes had similar storylines, both involved storming the Hydra castle, a showdown between Coulson and a villain, a metamorphosis of a character, and a major character death. But in terms of quality, Coulson killing a twice-shot, bound and beaten Ward did little for me compared to watching Skye’s emotional terrigenesis.
My hope for the rest of the season is that they actually make good on their promise of Inhumans and Secret Warriors, despite their budget with special effects. It’s hard to see them keeping Brett Dalton around past the end of the season, since it looks like he’s going to be the big bad of the rest of the season, which is seriously unfortunate since he does do such a great job playing any role. I’m sure we’ll get some scenes of IT using Ward’s past with the team against them that should lead to some compelling scenes.
Regardless of the future, to the agent, the turncoat, the anti-hero, the villain, I could write another couple thousand words on you, but I’ll spare my readers and say, rest in peace, Grant Ward.