ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Writing on the Wall TV Show Review. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 2, episode 7, ‘The Writing on the Wall,’ may have provided the biggest question of the series, by way of a titular answer; but that’s all speculation based on what comes of the episode’s climax. In order to get there, however, Director Coulson (Clark Gregg), left under Skye’s (Chloe Bennet) supervision, had to make sense of how a series of murders tied into his condition.
Anyone missing the paternal relationship, between Coulson & Skye, this episode was your refresher. There was something of a role reversal to it, however, as Skye was meant to look over Coulson – keeping him out of trouble, and insulating the rest of the team from his condition. I suppose aggressive jazz music would some up that condition, given the level of frustration Coulson must have felt.
Not nearly as frustrated, however, as Sebastian (Brian Van Holt), a fellow obsessive, who has taken that obsession to a new level. That entailed the gruesomely symbolic (literally) killings of other obsessives, over what they could reveal to each other – not just about the code, but about a shared hidden past. What Sebastian, his victims, and Coulson all had in common should ring a bell: Project Tahiti.
While Coulson & Skye focused on making the connections (at one point resorting to a de-neuralyzer, in order to discern Sebastian’s identity), Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) was honchoing the recovery of evil beard Grant Ward (Brett Dalton). Last seen making short work of some of Talbot’s boys, meant to deliver him to a very bad family reunion, Ward was going through the motions of a compromised shadow operative. This brought him into Tripp’s (B.J. Britt) sights; but the carelessness of Tripp’s shadowing only underscored the subtlety of Ward’s reaction.
Dammit. I might actually like Ward as a rogue on the run.
As much as I found myself admiring Rogue Ward’s style, it was the spycraft on display that really impressed. Tripp was wide open, but Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) did better. I’d say it was to Ward’s credit, that ‘better’ wasn’t good enough, but she made a rookie mistake. Someone that eye-catching shouldn’t be caught in a holding pattern. Heck, a simple “I like re-reading my favorite passages” might’ve done, but to Team Coulson’s credit, a less eye-catching Hunter (Nick Blood) was in the cut, for the spill-over. It could have been the subsequent tail, by car, or just Hunter’s ridiculous Cowboy-headed-for-New England get-up, but Hunter making Ward’s rendezvous point worked out better for Ward than May’s retrieval party.
Didn’t Hunter part ways with Bobbi & the team, last episode, or did I stroke out, there, for a bit? I knew he’d be back, but the “don’t make me come back there” bickering, on Team May, didn’t seem to have missed a beat.
The double-blind cloak & dagger work was satisfying enough to make Ward’s single-handed take down of his welcoming – but suitably prepared – contacts, offscreen, no great loss. We’ve seen enough of Ward the field agent; this was more about what Ward the shadow operative can do.
The Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) thing hasn’t been sidelined by larger events; if anything, Coulson’s condition may have provided a window into what Fitz has in mind for himself. At the very least, his sense of humor was still in evidence (“Corpse Diem.” Morbid counts). Mack (Henry Simmons) may have picked up a clue, or two, on his possible direction, and remains the new hyphen in Fitz’s circle; but Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) seems to be staking out a new place of her own, on the reshuffling Team Coulson. Either Simmons still has some lingering issues, regarding Fitz, or she is settling into something of a prickly coroner role. All in all, it’s still kind of odd just how far removed from cutesy the two have become – along with Skye. Not a bad thing, just odd.
Speaking of “I’m not here to be cute, anymore” Skye, she gets the biggest rookie mistake award of the episode. Never precede a holding subject while entering a cell – especially when your ‘guest’ is closer to the controls. No shame in being outwitted by a spy master, but super rookiness, all the same.
Spy master or not, Coulson was still unhinged, and Sebastian got the better of both him, and the last surviving subject of Project Tahiti, Hank Thompson (Joel Gretsch). Unhinged or not, Director Coulson still managed to see beyond the writing’s second dimension, get the better of Sebastian, and diffuse May’s take down protocol. Not bad for a semi-crazed semi-codger.
Props also go to Hank, for his own little A History of Violence re-awakening. At first sight, I thought it a shame that a such a familiar face would be reduced to a throw away bit part. By the climax, the odds seemed good that we may be seeing more of Hank Thompson – formerly, Agent Cameron Klein.
As it has now been established that the ‘condition,’ brought through the infusion of GH-325, is actually the genetic memory of the mysterious blue skinned source of the substance, I guess it wouldn’t be completely unreasonable to start speculating on future ramifications. Aw, heck – geek flags are bound to be flying; so I’m entitled to a hopeful rant.
“A funny thing happened to a Kree, on his way to Attilan, and all we got was this lousy… wait time until Agents brings us Inhumans, baby! Inhumans!!” End of rant.
There was also a mention of one Baron Von Strucker; but that’s a geek-out rant for another day.
All through the Winter Soldier arc, at the tail end of last season, and the Silence of the Lambs dynamic, to the start of this one, there has been an ongoing debate around the future of Grant Ward. Haters on one side, waiting for that one crime too many, that gets him put down for good; supporters on the other, looking for any/ all signs of the redemption trail (because writing love letters to actual murderers would be sick).
The hair clippings in the tea say… neither; Ward’s going freelance, people. No more evil beard, no more boyscout haircut. Not as dramatic as, say, the Chonmage removal ceremony, but just as significant. His parting gift to Coulson was one heckuva way to buy himself out of both contracts; but there was still the matter of signing off to Agent
Starling Skye. One quick farewell call, and he was off to have an older relative for dinner.
Coulson kicking his habit made for the third straight resolution, to plot threads that could have gone on all season (the Coulson Code, the Skye-father roll out, and the undercover perils of Bobbi & Simmons), within season two’s first half. All that clearance leaves a lot of room for the main arc (presumably, the Obelisk & the Axis of Ego, meets the how & why of Skye), while still allowing for more loose chunks of red meat, thrown our way. There’s the Ward war, a possible reverse Humpty Dumpty, for Fitz, and (if we’re good) maybe even an answer to the Agent Koenig question, that some of us might have forgotten asking. That’s not even counting the next tie in to the MCU.
Even if we don’t get half of those things, Agents‘ second season has been a tremendous improvement over the first. We will be needing to get at least half of those things, though….
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