ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. crushes it with Winter finale, but keeps the hater-ade flowing. Agents capped off the first half of its 3rd season with a surprising amount of house cleaning – the kind usually reserved for a season finale. I have been impressed with the show’s willingness to quickly resolve plots & character arcs, for the sake of a fast pace & keeping viewers guessing, but the events of – and leading into – this past break point seemed to turn a pretty sharp corner. With the rival agency, off-world rescue, and Neo-HYDRA head removal plots all decisively resolved, the briefly side-lined Lash (Matthew Willig), May’s (Ming-Na Wen) relationship with his alter ego (and whether he will even continue to exist), the new Fitz-Simmons (Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge), the Secret Warriors, and original recipe HYDRA seem to be the only obvious areas left to cover. One aspect in particular, however, caught my attention.
Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) managed to both receive the kind of comeuppance he deserved, and still make it to season 3.2 – a neat little feat of cross-purpose fan service. IMO, Ward has been the best villain on the series; earning his crushing end as much as Coulson (Clark Gregg) deserved to deliver it. As far as disgruntled employers go, I think Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury put it best:
“Yes, he deserved to die! I hope he burns in Hell!!”
…Okay, different Sam Jackson semi-quote; but I’m sure his Fury would agree. Many fans would also agree, as Grant Ward has become the most polarizing figure on the series since 1st season Skye (Chloe Bennet). At the shallowest end of the reason spectrum, his pretty-boy goody-goody routine was seen as bland, by some – to the point where his dark turn was viewed as an improvement. As a villain, however, his ability to survive attempts on both his life, and at reasoning with him, has grated on the nerves – if only because of the smugness that came with it. Fans of the show wanted him to pay a lasting price for his actions; but fans of the character – good or bad – just wouldn’t die either. Never mind SkyeWard shippers (apparently, Skye was the limit, and Daisy has moved on – deal with it), Ward has elicited as much admiration for his skill-set, as sympathy for his devilry. He has proven himself to be every bit as competent a villain, as he was a highly recommended Agent. This made him more than just Skye’s stalker – it made him a personal failing for both Coulson, and May; and anyone who gets on the wrong side of those two really needs some serious A game.
To the show’s credit, Ward had been given the better part of two seasons to evolve into just such a foil – a black mirror to the evolution of Daisy – and may have earned arch-villain status for it. So he won’t be going the watered down Taskmaster route; I still can’t think of source villain, that Marvel would be willing to toss Agents’ way, that could take the place that Ward has made for himself on the series. Well, if you can’t beat him….
I seem to recall once calling Ward the Gul Dukat of Agents – a villain with enough charm & complexity to keep hopes of redemption alive; but serves as the series nemesis, in the long run, nonetheless. It now seems that Agents may have something more comparable in mind than I had alluded to. Gul Dukat came out the other side of his redemption arc a little… possessed, and it seems a similar fate has befallen Ward. The key difference is that Dukat’s evolution took something like five seasons, giving us plenty of time to understand just what got into him, at the end. Ward hasn’t had nearly as much time, and his new lease on life has had about two episodes’ worth of exposition to it. So just what are we looking at, where Ward 2.0 will be concerned? If any credence has to be given to this notion of HYDRA as the legacy of some pre-historic Inhuman terror, then only one option comes to mind.
The comic character Hive fits the description, both as given by Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe), as recounted from Will’s (Dillon Casey) off-world experience, and as depicted by the circumstances of Ward’s… continuation. As much as I was underwhelmed by Malick’s revelations, about HYDRA’s origins, the prospect of the show reinventing the less reverent origins of the source character – while tying it to the Inhuman mythology – could pay off. Hive, as an Inhuman deity figure, would not only serve the series better than as lab constructed figure head, but would make up for Lash’s demotion (the source character was a natural born, high ranking Inhuman, with a clear purpose of judging the worthiness of other Inhumans). I’m already thinking Andrew (Blair Underwood) redemption, by way of Lash vs army of Hive re-animated Lash victims; but that horse hasn’t even been hitched behind the cart, yet.
The point is, Hive or no Hive, Ward will have at least one more half-season to impress/ antagonize viewers – whether of his own free will, or as an Inhuman’s wearable puppet. I’m rooting for re-animated original (Goa’uld, at least), rather than just a meat suit – and I’m hoping his Coulson keepsake was indicative of personal intentions, rather than the morbid curiosity of his new occupant.
Along with what I expect to be an expanded role for Lash & the Secret Warriors, seeing if/ how far Agents runs with Hive-Ward (and whether a potential Hive twist marked the beginning of the end for Ward, or just another out/new beginning) is certainly a reason to look forward to season 3.2. That, and posters. I really like the second half poster campaigns.
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