Plot: With everything on the line, including the lives of two valued team members, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) leads a joint attack against John Garrett (Bill Paxton) and Cybertech. Can he stop these evils before it’s too late?
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had a long road. Despite premiering back in September and subsequently receiving a full season order of 22 episodes, the show lasted a daunting seven months. Some of those months weren’t exactly kind either. When the show was growing into its own, it suffered handily. A lot of people who turned in at the start quickly left as weeks rolled on. Yet as I’ve repeatedly said in my recent reviews, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. significantly improved. The humor was more on-point, the action was exciting, and our characters became much more engaging. Nearly every weakness was patched up and the season was running full-steam ahead for quite some time now. When “Beginning of the End” finally came around, S.H.I.E.L.D. couldn’t have been in a better position for one incredible finale. I’m proud to say that the show delivered handily, wrapping up this first season on a high note in what was one of the show’s best episodes.
Last week’s multiple cliffhangers were huge. Every single one of our protagonists were in immediate life threatening danger. Perhaps for the better, these moments were resolved right in the beginning. Coulson and his small group were able to overpower the Centipede soldiers thanks to Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) grabbing the staff from “The Well.” The fight scene was just incredible, and it showed how badass May is that she was able to wield an Asgardian staff without any residual effects. Before long our team was back on track with their mission. As for the other huge mystery, it’s quickly revealed that Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) did in fact survive their ejection from The Bus. Unfortunately that also meant they were stuck on the ocean floor with no means of escape.
Fitz and Simmons fighting to survive was easily the emotional core of this episode. The team as a whole knew they were missing, possibly dead, and they used their anger at the situation to fuel their mission. As May said, it’s not about saving the world. It’s about kicking ass. It’s tough to admit that they might actually be dead, but the team smartly moves forward as if it was the case. Similarly, Fitz and Simmons spent a lot of their time underwater contemplating death in the most scientific way possible, which was tragically perfect. The real shining moment though was Fitz finally coming clean to Simmons about his feelings. I’ve wanted these two together for so long and it was nice to take that big step. However, I am disappointed there wasn’t enough time to explore their new ground even further once they were rescued. Fitz doesn’t even appear on screen after that either, only getting a resigned “He’s…alive” from Simmons. What gives?
Coulson laying siege to Cybertech and Garrett was unbelievably fun to watch. It’s amazing what a group of four people can accomplish when split up into the right teams. While Coulson and Antoine Triplett (B.J. Britt) attacked Garrett’s location, Skye (Chloe Bennett) and May infiltrated Cybertech’s base to control the enemy soldiers. One complimented the other and they unfolded beautifully. What made the episode’s story work so well is that we didn’t learn until the very end why Coulson chose to attack in this manner. I personally never expected Skye to find Ace in Cybertech, which simply made Deathlok (J. August Richards) turning against Garrett that much sweeter. Deathlok has finally regained his humanity and is now poised to be an anti-hero instead of a straight up villain. I don’t think Deathlok will become a main character by any means, but keeping him in this recurring status as an asset and not a threat will be awesome.
Of course, I can’t let this review go by without discussing the big guest spot: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) himself. Within the Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity, this was the first time we’ve seen Fury since his departure in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Jackson’s mere presence alone elevated this show astronomically and the rapport between Fury and Coulson was just gold. It’s fitting that Fury picked Coulson to become S.H.I.E.L.D.’s new director and his motivations behind Project T.A.H.I.T.I. made sense. Coulson is one of Fury’s most trusted people, so losing him would ruin any best laid plans. Coulson was literally Fury’s safeguard in case S.H.I.E.L.D. fell after all. I am upset though that less information was given regarding GH-325. Coulson has been waiting for months to finally confront Fury about it, but once their heart-to-heart started everything flew out the window. You’d think that asking about a freaking blue alien corpse would be a top priority.
In terms of action, the show was in top form last night. Easily one of the many standout moments, the fist fight between May and Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) was sufficiently brutal. May is the first person since Ward’s Hydra reveal to really get physical revenge against him after all. It was a no-holds barred fight that wouldn’t end until one of them couldn’t stand anymore. Predictably May won, but I practically cheered when Ward was carried off in handcuffs. The same cheering happened when Fury gave Coulson the Destroyer Armor Prototype Gun from The Avengers to lay waste to a bunch of soldiers. That was just pure awesome. Don’t even get me started on the “Garrett’s alive” fake out either. Coulson just blowing him up with the particle beam from “0-8-4” was easily one of the funniest moments all season.
The big question now is where the show goes from here. Coulson has literally been given the keys to the kingdom and is tasked with bringing S.H.I.E.L.D. back from Hydra. First stop? Going to another secret based occupied by Billy Koenig (Patton Oswalt’s back!!!). We already have a whole bundle of mysteries ready for Season 2, giving the show a ton of momentum right from the start. There are some intriguing new twists, like Raina (Ruth Negga) actually working for Skye’s father and Coulson slowly changing mentally from GH-325. Those will definitely be at the forefront next season. However, there’s also the same old mysteries that didn’t receive their expected updates, specifically why Skye and Raina are so damn special. Raina is apparently only interested in “evolution” and it’s been hammered home all season that Skye has some latent untapped potential. Was it really so unreasonable to expect more answers on those fronts in a finale? I think not.