ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2 finale TV Show Review. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 2, episodes 21 & 22, ‘S.O.S.,’ was a near perfect way to end this season. More so, when you consider that this season, in & of itself, did a much better job of selling the series as a singular, laser focused work of evolution, at the heart of the Marvel Joint Universe.
If age & experience brings wisdom, then immortality should afford encyclopedic measures of recourse. Of course, much of this hinges on the nature of the immortal; and in the case of Jaiying (Dichen Lachman), there was a history of bad behavior to choose from. Consider, for instance, the fact that no aggressor, in popular history (except for maybe the Mongols), has ever admitted to be being the aggressor – instead, addressing the aggression as some form of defensive action. Between the traumatic nature of her gift, the transformative experience of her post-Whitehall restoration, and the likelihood that she may have witnessed quite a few of these ‘best defense’ moments, herself, I suppose her master plan did have a certain wisdom to it.
Unfortunately, such measures often rely on the willingness of others to do what may be in their best interest, by way of the worst methods; and for Jaiying, this meant getting a handle on Raina (Ruth Negga), and keeping Skye (Chloe Bennet) at her side.
The second task was easy enough, thanks to the time honored False Flag gambit. I suppose the Afterliving could be forgiven, for not noticing how controlled the supposed S.H.I.E.L.D. attack was, and Gonzales chose his men specifically for having hair-trigger mind-sets; but more effort should have gone into backup Gordon (Jamie Harris) trackers. On the other hand, ‘S.O.S.’ had specific plans for Gordon; so, bygones.
Such bygones came easy, when the False Flag plan pit Skye against mentor, May (Ming-Na Wen). I have to admit: for a match-up I shouldn’t want to happen, it was a pleasure to see both women own their respective elements. Sure, the outcome was fan-service; but it also served the plot. A Pyrrhic victory prompted one combatant to seek answers; a blindside loss prompted the other to not just get mad, but get even (in a deliciously devious way), with a more deserving target.
To that end, the Hunny Bunny Homicidal Roadshow had pulled into a drive-in movie. Now playing: Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) grants Ward’s (Brett Dalton) new ward closure. I won’t go into the mind-set of either Ward (his WayWard fans can keep doing that, themselves), or Kara (Maya Stojan); but the pretext to Bobbi’s predicament – being responsible (even if indirectly) for Kara’s HYDRA ordeal, in order to maintain cover – provided an opportunity for all three to explore the extent of the HBHR relationship.
It also provided another opportunity to pit two of the spy game’s best against each other; culminating in a brief, but very satisfying physical confrontation. Too satisfying, it turns out, as that action stood-in for a much anticipated rematch that did not go the way Ward (or most viewers, I imagine) expected. As expedient as the Kara resolution was, the Hunter (Nick Blood)-Bobbi resolution required some suspension of disbelief. Granted, a body could alter the trajectory of a rifle round, but it was still kind of a careless moment. May taking Ward back to his formative ‘boy & his dog’ moment, however, more than carried the whole thread. May didn’t become The Calvary because of how she fights, but because she aims to win – whether that means fighting, fighting dirty, or not fighting at all.
WayWards & SkyeWards can suck it; Ward deserves to be the biggest bad of the series, and this latest run-in was a good step in that direction.
As for Agents’ other long-running foil: Raina managed to put herself out there, in ways that would be considered fatalistically reckless, save for her gift. Typically, clairvoyants are depicted as having a blind-spot for their own demise. Raina wouldn’t be Raina without finding a grasp on her own destiny – something she has since been perfectly (and ironically) equipped to do. Maybe I’ve developed an ear for her particular brand of riddle-speak; but her conversation with Skye really gave the game away. Not necessarily a bad thing, since seeing her final act of smug defiance coming didn’t detract from the satisfaction of the reveal.
Flowers and thorns. I’m not sure there was any other way for rumination on the subject to bear out. Not everyone gets to be redeemed, and serve their own egos, in service to the greater good; so however integral Raina might have become to the series, her evolution at least seemed complete.
Agents has been going out of its way to put as many layered twists to its characters, as it has its spy game elements; so it only seemed fitting that we got one more reveal, regarding the nature of Jaiying – physically & mentally – and her relationship with Cal (Kyle MacLachlan). Co-dependency comes in many twisted ways, but in this case, one monster begat another, which begat the first. Which was which has since become debatable; but they were both S.H.I.E.L.D. problems, now. One for Team Gonzales, one for Team Coulson (Clark Gregg).
John Carpenter’s The Thing could still be considered the ultimate paranoia movie; and one thing it has always made me paranoid about (besides watchful, opportunistic Huskys): things that seem to suddenly drop dead, under stressful conditions – which is when I consider a very long stick/ projectiles/ fire, for confirmation purposes. I don’t know if it was meant to be a tribute, or not, but the episode’s first monster sign-in moment came via a resuscitation effort.
Cal’s worst side wasn’t quite the Hyde I had hoped for, but still suitable to scale. More encouraging was the fact that MacLachlan was still able to get the right mix, of ham-fisted glee & pathos, out of him. What came of this was a handing off of two genuinely touching moments, from Coulson appealing to Cal, to Cal then reaching out to Jaiying & Skye. Despite taking some precautions, I assumed that Coulson understood Cal’s ability to kill him with engine parts, when he made his appeal. That assumption made the effort more a reflection of Coulson’s genuine compassion, and overall optimism, than, say, Bobbi’s psy-ops 101 approach; and underscored why Gonzales was a necessary foil, towards Coulson earning his Directorship. Coulson’s Dove outlook is not an inherent liability, in the running of a covert security organization.
Speaking of liabilities, the evolution of Fitz-Simmons (Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge) took a tellingly subtle turn, with Simmons – after a half-season of hardening – taking the time to show her softer side to Fitz. Ordinarily a good thing; but she chose to do it just when Fitz needed to be at his hardest. Where double bluff spy dramas are concerned, foreshadowing counts.
The surviving Hawks, which Gonzales had brought with him, suffered further attrition; but there was little doubt as to which of his councilors was more expendable. The surviving member, however, seemed to miss the part where Jaiying’s ultimatum actually meant “expand the signal AND there will be more (executions).”
Beyond that, the carrier action made the most of the Inhumans as stand-ins for Mutants, with both Nightcrawler, and Multiple Man (it’s raining redheads, hallelujah!), in evidence. We even got to see something of what Jaiying’s silent Man-Friday (Brendan Wayne) can do; but still not much.
It also gave Mack (Henry Simmons) the best role (as Mack) of his time on the series. Besides getting the coveted Die Hard spoiler position, he also got the best collection of one-liners. In keeping with the mutually supportive enjoyment dynamic, Simmons, Gregg, Harris, and De Caestecker seemed to be egging each other on; bringing gallows humor to what could have only been a bad end. Speaking of which –
Holy horrific hand-jobs, Mack! It was nice of the showrunners to put the Coulson transfusion question to bed; but that’s gonna leave a mark….
Once Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) inevitably saw the writing on the wall (after a wild swing to the hawkish, at Skye’s expense), it was time for another triple S (Skye SFX Spotlight). I really have appreciated that this focus has been split between her powers, and her Close Quarters Battle skills – with the zoom-speed-perspective manipulation making a bit of that Zack Snyder cinematography magic (y’know – without the annoying everything else he does) something of a triple S signature. I also appreciated Lincoln’s reminder, about all but two of Jaiying’s band being dupes. I took that to mean that we may be seeing more of one-woman-rampaging-redhead, Alisha (Alicia Vela-Bailey). After proving a handful for Skye, May, and Lincoln, combined (full disclosure: she’s been Adrianne Palicki’s stunt double, this whole time, and will be Gal Gadot’s, for Batman v Superman), a little of her clearly goes a long way (seriously, you should check out her list of credits).
With all powers, strengths, and weaknesses on the table, the final family reunion was fittingly equal parts touching, thrilling, and poetically just. Frankly, I had expected greater damage to Skye’s family tree; but the outcome really worked. There was an oddly serene quality, to the whole undertaking, that brought appropriate closure
What really sets a grand finale apart is when the resolution packs as much of a punch as the climax, and ‘S.O.S.’ was almost as unrelenting in its prospective outcomes, as it was in coming to a head.
Cal couldn’t keep the happy place he thought he had found, but a magical place found him. Ward’s co-dependency now looks to expand, making him something of a master of tasks (fingers crossed). Both Bobbi & May were left reconsidering their line of work; with May finally taking time off (not necessarily for good behavior), while Hunter & Bobbi (is Hobbi a thing, yet?) talked like there might be a future for them (possibly on their own series, or something… <snarf>). Mack has certainly earned his place back on the team, and Coulson should have left no doubts, as to the merits of his custodianship of S.H.I.E.L.D. (though, how long he milks his Luke Skywalker handicap was left unclear). On top of all that, the final Terrigen crystal solution smells like fish. Altogether, a collectively satisfying place to leave Agents’ make-or-break season, while ramping up its place in the MJU; but ‘S.O.S.’ didn’t stop there.
The evolution of Skye may have been front-and-center, this past season, but other characters underwent evolutions of their own. Take Fitz & Simmons, for example. The fallout, from season one’s Winter Soldier wake, forced them into a Darwinist separation – with Fitz left reclaiming his communicative faculties, for the first half. The second, however, highlighted the hard-lining of Simmons; but her evolution was left up in the air – by way of a floor drop. Reconciliation may have been somewhat inevitable, but I’ve been on this ride before. A previous Whedon series had turned romantic fan service into pure WTF twist; so my hairs were already up, when the actual ending happened. Whether that cliff-hanger was a product of a careless Fitz, careless writing, or an unnoticed intelligence’s inside job….
Well, the showrunners not only gave themselves enough room to work that out; but gave us a reason to come back for the answer.
Sign me up.
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