Plot: Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) was ousted as a member of Hydra by Skye (Chloe Bennet). With Maria Hill’s (Cobie Smulders) help, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team must track their former friend down before their secrets are revealed.
The past several episodes have not been kind to this team. Everything came crumbling down once Hydra revealed itself, but our heroes were still kept afloat by their immediate resources. A strong bond with a well-armed plane and a secret base is nothing to shrug off. Yet last night the team officially lost whatever meager supplies they still had available. Ward has stolen everything, including their own feelings of trust within their ranks. It’s really hard to imagine how these characters can get even more disheveled about their situation and “Nothing Personal” showed them at their absolute lowest. It also happens to be one of the best episodes all season.
It’s amazing how easily the writers have turned Ward into the most detestable human being. Before he was revealed as a dirty rotten turn cloak, he was someone the viewer could actually root for. He was the man who protected our team from danger. He saved Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), he helped Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) grow more confident, and he even somewhat developed a relationship with both Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) and Skye. While he may not have changed physically, everything about him is different now. He’s no longer that hero we wanted to succeed. He’s a conniving monster who played every single person he’s ever worked with. His conversations with Skye were once moments of happiness but are now scenes of nail-biting pressure. Skye playing Ward into a battle of both brain and brawn was great, though you know it could have only lasted so long before Skye cracked. All things considered, she did well for a Level 1 Agent.
The truth of Ward’s affiliation naturally throws the team for a loop. This is a man who they considered one of their closest friends and allies. None of them would have thought twice to lay down their life for him. Simmons almost did that herself. Finding out that Ward is a member of their greatest enemy is appropriately devastating for everyone. The most honest reaction came from the always shy Fitz, who went into a mini rampage once Simmons deduced how Eric Koenig (Patton Oswalt) was killed. The rest of the episode saw the team question their future and how Ward could have done something like this. It was heartbreaking, to say the least.
Amid all that emotional distress was Maria Hill, making her second appearance on this show. We last saw Hill having an interview with Stark Industries in The Winter Soldier. “Nothing Personal” followed up on that with Hill being questioned by Congress on her affiliation with S.H.I.E.L.D. This really was the first time we’ve seen Hill outside of her job as Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) partner and it did wonders for her character. Even she feels the impact of Ward’s betrayal as she’s the one who made him Level 7 back in the premiere. The stand-off at the airport was cool because you know Hill has a duty to take Ward down, but it hurts her that she even has to. I absolutely cannot wait (and hope) for Hill to become a recurring character. Side-note: Hill name dropping Man-Thing after her Congressional hearing was amazing. “Who or what is a Man-Thing” indeed!
True to form, “Nothing Personal” was appropriately action packed. Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) made a brief reappearance but that primarily served to give us a cool fist fight between Coulson/Hill and US Special Forces. The real bulk of the thrills came from Skye’s story which brought Deathlok (J. August Richards) back for some more awesomeness. Bringing Deathlok on this show was an absolutely brilliant decision as his name alone strikes fear. When Coulson snuck on the Bus, his plan was to take it back by force. Coulson can easily best Ward in a fight. Deathlok is an entirely different story. What this allowed, outside of another great action sequence, was some more use of Coulson’s precious convertible named Lola. While budget limitations left something to be desired in the Lola skydiving scene, it was still a ton of fun to watch. At least Coulson still has her!
The very end contained one of the biggest twists this show has ever seen. Even though we’ve learned a lot about Project T.A.H.I.T.I., there’s still so much we don’t know, most importantly who was behind it all. Last night answered that question in the final minutes, and it’s none other than…Coulson?! That’s right! Coulson himself was the director of Project T.A.H.I.T.I. and advised Fury to shut it down. Apparently the alien blood used to save both Coulson and Skye causes severe brain tissue degradation, so memories of both their death and rebirth must be replaced. This is why all Coulson remembered was a magical sandy beach. What does this mean for Skye? Well, she might not have died completely, but she still has alien blood in her veins. You get bet the show will cover this mystery very soon. Also, the revelation of Project TA.H.I.T.I.’s purpose was a nice piece of possible foreshadowing. Will we see an Avenger fall in Age of Ultron and T.A.H.I.T.I. brought to the big screen? Something tells me it’s not over yet.
“Nothing Personal” excellently set up the final two episodes of this season. Coulson’s team is completely homeless and broken, and Hill confirms that S.H.I.E.L.D. has entirely fallen apart. Coulson finally takes this to heart and accepts that everything he does from now is a personal mission. While Ward is a danger to everyone around him, Coulson wants to defeat him as a vendetta. It’s not about fighting for a greater good anymore. The team has been slighted by one of their own and their only mission now is revenge. Whether or not they succeed is up in the air, but you can bet they will do everything possible to come out on top.