Season 1, Episode 21
Date of airing: May 6, 2014 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 5.372 million viewers, 3.3/6 in Households, 1.94/6 with Adults 18-49
If it wouldn’t have been for the flashbacks, it might have been a pretty good episode. But the flashbacks were useless for me, because I didn’t care at all about how Ward and Garrett met, and how they were teaming it up in the wilderness, without ever going deep into the beginning of Ward’s S.H.I.E.L.D. career, or even his HYDRA career for that matter. It was all about Ward’s origin story and Ward is unfortunately not that much of an interesting character to deserve such an origin story. It does make me wonder though what would have been better for this episode’s origin story flashbacks: Ward’s wilderness adventures with weaknesses, or Garrett’s Sarajevo accident, which was essentially his first step towards becoming a villain? The writers chose Ward for this episode, but considering Garrett’s back story, it would have been equally interesting to see his origin story as well. In addition, the way Garrett and Ward joined HYDRA seemed a little random, let alone not at all developed in this episode. I would assume that Garrett was training Ward for HYDRA all these years, before Ward got the spot at S.H.I.E.L.D., making him a true HYDRA plant, but how did Garrett, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, discover HYDRA within it and how did he join it, considering its secretive nature among secret agents?
The only thing the flashbacks did good was giving some humanity back to Ward, even though that was a bit of a cliché, as well as the potential beginning of Ward’s redemption arc which I don’t know how to feel about. Said redemption arc could be a huge problem for the second season, because who is really interested in seeing Ward redeem himself after he turned into a villain like this? The guy was a villain for ten years, he is not just going to change into a good guy because of a girl or because of the weaknesses he still discovers within himself. I guess at this point a redemption arc is almost predictable, but please explain to me how a long-time villain, who started his career at S.H.I.E.L.D. by already having been with HYDRA, turns into a good guy in the next season.
The turn of Coulson and his team from agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to vigilantes without backup was great though. That could actually be the premise for the entire second season, but I’m almost sure that rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. will be a bigger issue than having Coulson and his guys be vigilantes who do some good in the world (and to be honest, NO ORDINARY FAMILY did the vigilante thing not in a good way before, so I’m hoping AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. will stay far away from that). Anyway, tech from forgotten times, and AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. going for indirect flashbacks in the minds of the viewers was a good thing. It was funny and it gave everybody something to do. Hell, even Fitz was able to press a button and do some harm, even when it bit him (and Simmons) in the ass just a few minutes later. But with the vigilante status and the mid 20th century tech, scientists like FitzSimmons are suddenly agents who have to deal with the pressure of fighting for their lives. And that’s the fun part of the show right now — or at least it was during the final two acts of the episode. By the way: Their drop into the ocean reminded me of the midseason cliffhanger of SURFACE. When I watched that show for the first time, my mind was blown by the drop to the surface of the ocean (I was young and didn’t know any better) with two of the central characters in it, making me almost pray that the two will get back to safety somehow, let alone getting interested in how the writers were doing it. It makes FitzSimmons’s cliffhanger in this episode a little lame, because I saw it once before, but it could still turn into a very nice plot for them. They are on their own, without an exit strategy, and pretty much left for dead. If that isn’t drama, like in the aforementioned SURFACE episode, then I don’t know what is. Also, Coulson’s team does not need an exit strategy, as depicted in “The Hub.” There is probably a way for FitzSimmons to find a way up to the water surface.
In the meantime, the back story of the Deathlok program was not really my thing. Granted, the program is allowed to have existed way before Mike Peterson (I’m waiting for a couple of older Black Widows, just for fun – AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. could actually bring those in guest starring capacities), but that Garrett was Deathlok 1.0 was a bit of a lazy twist, especially since it was biting with Garrett’s other origin story from the flashbacks. The way Garrett’s involvement in the Deathlok program seemed a bit lame as well – Coulson learned about Garrett’s 1990s trouble, and a couple of seconds later Garrett suddenly has tech problems and almost dies. Twice. It’s like the government agency mole plot device: As soon as the mole is revealed to the audience, the character who is the mole acts like the mole the entire time, even though he hasn’t acted like the mole at all before the reveal. 24 can produce half a dozen albums about that topic. And now AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. brought that device in the form of Deathlok. Yeah, I yawned a little and was thinking about eating my dinner early while watching this story unfold.
And the rest of the episode? It was barely worth remembering. Seeing Coulson and May with nerd glasses delivered the comedy of the episode, but it was a forgettable scene, as it only took care of the comic relief of the show. And it was even annoying me for a few seconds when it comes to the narrative, because the conflict between May and Coulson is now entirely forgotten. Sure, they buried their hatches between the previous and this episode, but it would have been nice if there was a little bit of friction left between the two, just to make the character arcs a little more realistic, just to not forget that Coulson had a serious issue with May betraying him like that. Furthermore, when Garrett left young Ward in the wilderness for the first time, together with his dog, I actually thought that the first thing Ward would do was kill the dog and eat it. Color me surprised when the dog was still alive after six months and it became a plot device for Ward’s weakness depiction five years later.