“Why would you let them do this to us?”
Channel 4 decided to show the two-parter finale of Agents of SHIELD separately, so we have to wait until next week for the final episode! And after the event of the first part, I am eager to see how Season 2 ends. Like I mentioned last week, Agents of SHIELD has become more than an entertaining televisual diversion. It has become must-watch TV. Episode 21 was not an exception. It delivered thrills and spills in equal measure, with action and dialogue at a season peak. My only worry is that the second part will not measure up…
Even in the first ten minutes of the episode, we were in for a treat. May and Skye came to blows! It was an excellent fight scene, as the pupil fought the master. We’ve seen how May taught Skye, and it felt fitting that they would fight out their differences rather than talk about them. Skye had just learned that her mother had been shot by Gonzales; May had learned that Gonzales had been murdered. When May demanded that Skye stand down, a little chill went down my spine. Of course, Skye could easily have blown May away with her power. But Skye wanted to prove herself against May. When it became clear that May was still the master, Skye resorted to using her power. The fight emphasised that all friendships and alliances are as fragile as human bodies.
More than anyone, the episode revolves around Skye. Raina foresees that Skye will become the leader of the Inhumans. Jiaying is misleading her people; Skye is the real leader. Coulson refuses to allow SHIELD to attack Afterlife, in case Skye is injured or killed in the proceedings. He states that his belief isn’t personal; Skye is useful to SHIELD. But we know Coulson cares deeply about Skye. Because of his refusal to attack Afterlife, the Inhumans attack SHIELD. Later on, Cal becomes the monster he’s been trying to become, and runs wild throughout the helicarrier. Coulson demands that no one kill him, because he is Skye’s father. Coulson is driven by his fatherly love for Skye.
“You want a war”
The old ethical philosophy of utilitarianism raises its head throughout the episode. Coulson seems to put the life of Skye over the lives of SHIELD agents through refusing to attack Afterlife. However, in the previous scene, Ward and Kara begin to torture Bobbi. Ward wants Bobbi to apologize. It was Bobbi who was responsible for Kara being taken by Hydra. When Bobbi was undercover, she faced a choice between revealing a SHIELD safe house or revealing the location and identity of a lot of SHIELD agents. She chose the former, where Kara was being hidden. Thus, Bobbi is the cause of Kara’s trauma. However, Bobbi says she will never apologise. The lives of many outweigh the lives of one, in her view. She would make the same call again if need be. It’s a striking parallel between her view and Coulson’s view. It also adds to the argument that Coulson is unfit as the Director of SHIELD.
It’s SHIELD that Jiaying sees as a threat to her Inhumans. Her transformation over this episode is shocking, and sometimes veers into the ‘obvious villain’ character. But her overall motivations make this lapse forgivable. For example, she sucks the lifeforce out of an innocent SHIELD agent presumably to speed up her healing process (the scene itself raises another question: Did Cal sacrifice countless lives so that Jiaying would heal fully from being blown up? Did her rebirth in death drive her crazy, or cause her to revel in death?). After Raina confronts her about planning to attack SHIELD, Jiaying murders her. One of the most tense moments of the episodes, it doesn’t come as much of a shock. But it’s all about the build. Raina, who we always believed was a bad guy, becomes a good guy (or an angel, in her own words) before being murdered. A bittersweet send-off for a character that we loved to hate. Conveniently, Skye arrives just as Jiaying stabs her, but maybe it was part of Raina’s plan…However, Jiaying states her motivation: to protect her people from SHIELD. It’s better to start the war rather than be wiped out without a fight. Jiaying even has Skye knocked out to prevent the truth about Gonzales being leaked.
“Now we began”
It all ends with our heroes in extreme danger. Hunter and May manage to locate Bobbi, but Ward and Kara leaves a deadly trap for them.. The Inhumans take over the ship with ease, utilising Gordon’s teleportation powers and the duplications powers of a lady (whose named I missed? Or was it mentioned?). Coulson, Fitz and Simmons are too busy handling monster Cal that they miss the urgent distress message from the other half of SHIELD. However, in a small homage to the action films of the 1980s, we see Mack suit up and grab an axe, ready to single-handedly take them down! Jiaying is teleported on board and reveals a bunch of diviner crystals…and the episode ends!
With an episode packed full of characters and plots, plenty of time is given to each one, which is commendable in itself. There’s no inconsequential flitting from each plot/scene to the next. It develops in a logical and satisfying manner. But from the small character moments to the big character moments, everything is top-notch. There are a few misfires, like Cal’s make-up when he turns full monster, and a few convenient plot devices (Skye seeing Raina’s murder, Mack being on board when the Inhumans attack), but they are easily ignored. The episode hurtles along with the thrill of a roller coaster ride (bad choice of phrase?) to the cliffhanger the leaves you hungry for the main course of the last episode. Of course, there’s a lot of set-up for the big finale, but there’s enough in the episode to make it a satisfying stand-alone episode. And there’s only six more days until Channel 4 airs it! Why didn’t Channel 4 do a double bill?!?!?
VERDICT: 9/10. An episode that did more than enough to cement Agents of SHIELD as must-watch TV.
(Click here for my review of Agents of SHIELD, Season 2, Episode 21: Scars)