“Have you had any more visions?”
Okay, it’s time for me to admit it: Agents of SHIELD has become compulsive viewing. Yes, it still isn’t a ‘great’ TV show, but it’s a very entertaining one! With a few poor episodes here and there, Season 2 has (up to now) been a triumph. And, along with Melinda, ‘Scars’ may be my favourite episode yet. The two worlds of SHIELD and Afterlife collide, but in many unexpected ways. It’s full of twists that shake our beliefs in characters we have come to trust or fear. It’s the perfect penultimate (if you count the finale two-parter as one) episode, one that leaves us with plenty of questions to be (hopefully) answered in the finale.
Afterlife and SHIELD were bound to meet, especially after last week’s antics. Skye and Lincoln were taken back to SHIELD, with Lincoln in critical condition. Lincoln wakes up and warns Skye that SHIELD will want to find Afterlife. On the other side of the fence, Raina has a vision of a stone that isn’t a stone. It’s a weapon that can kill enhanced people like those Afterlife. Gordon and Raina teleport to steal it, but it happens to be on board the SHIELD ship…they run into Bobbi and May, and escape without the stone. Their actions increase Gonzales’ desire to find Afterlife…
SHIELD, united with Coulson as Director under the aegis of the Council (including Gonzales and May), create a plan of action to enter Afterlife after locating it using Gordon’s post-teleportation radiation signature. Gonzales demands a plan of attack, to which Coulson counters that there is no need to start a war. But this episode takes place in the aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron. The world nearly ended due to the actions of The Avengers (well, Stark and Banner), a team created by Coulson. It highlights why Gonzales cannot trust Coulson. As proved in the previous episode, ‘The Dirty Half Dozen,’ Coulson is always involved in secrets (and, his location of Loki’s sceptre led directly to Stark’s use of the sceptre in creating Ultron!). It’s not just Gonzales who doesn’t trust Coulson.
“We don’t owe each other anything”
After admitting that she shot the little girl in Bahrain, May tells Coulson that Skye is living proof that he has lost control. Coulson’s culpability in Skye’s transformation has always been suspect, but May adds credence to his blame. Later on, May votes against Coulson going into Afterlife to meet with Jiaying, instead voting for Gonzales to go. Mack hands in his resignation to Coulson, saying that Coulson is untrustworthy. If Coulson is the Director of SHIELD, then it’s something that Mack cannot be included in. From Mack it is understandable, but May’s loss of faith in Coulson is a blow to Coulson and to the viewer. If May, a loyal associate of Coulson’s, has lost faith in him, then should anyone have faith in him? But, then again, Gonzales did not seem the right man to go to Afterlife. He’s a man quick to plan attacks against the enhanced (or, as Skye calls them as their rightful name, the ‘Inhumans’!), so why send him to Afterlife? He brings a ‘secret weapon’ to his meeting with Jiaying, something in a small box…
However, Gonzales’ motives are not what they seem, which is true for many of the characters in ‘Scars.’ Raina appears to relish her prophecy power. Cal warns Jiaying that Raina is manipulative and dangerous. Her warnings about the arrival of SHIELD and terrible things happening are ignored. Cal offers to give himself up to SHIELD as a gift. However, the first sign that things aren’t what they seem comes from Cal. Being taken by SHIELD, empty vials are found on his person. Has he consumed the liquid that gives him super-strength? And why? May persuades Bobbi to fly to Afterlife, but it isn’t May at all…it is Agent 33! Ward appears on the scene praising Agent 33 for her deception. What are their plans?
“I do understand the larger goal”
In a tense scene, Jiaying and Gonazale talk out their differences. Gonzales wants to index each and every member of Afterlife in case one of them goes rogue. As a peace offering, he brings out the box. It contains…a small Chinese necklace that Whitehall took from Jiaying. It’s an unexpected kind moment from Gonzales, who we’ve been accustomed to think is a cold, calculating man. However, it doesn’t soften Jiaying’s mind. She has a gift of her own for Gonzales…a recreated crystal diviner. She smashes it and Gonzales turns to stone. The idea of being indexed reminds her of what Hydra did to her, all those years ago. She will not let that happen to her people. “This is war,” she declares, after shooting herself in the arm (to make it look like Gonzales attacked her).
At the end of the episode, we are left gasping for more. It’s perhaps the finest closing moments we’ve seen in a SHIELD episode yet. It hurls all our beliefs in the air to be carried away by the wind. Gonzales didn’t want war, but Jiaying did. Her ‘scars’ are not just physical, but deeply psychological. She does not want her people subjected to the torture and experimentation she endured. Ward had a long game planned from long ago. And was Raina right all along? There’s plenty to whet our appetites for the finale…
VERDICT: 9/10. The perfect pre-finale episode. Gripping, revealing, shocking. What more can I say? I’m actually looking forward to the finale!
(Click here for my review of Agents of SHIELD, Season 2, Episode 19: The Dirty Half-Dozen)