Ward is dead!..
Sorry to open with such a massive spoiler but we’ve been desperate to type those words all season, so allow us a moment or two to savor it. After juggling half a dozen story strands for most of the season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally narrows its focus and creates a strong mid-season climax now that the extraneous fat has been trimmed and everything has coalesced (more or less) smoothly into the most interesting story thread of the show’s third year – the alien planet of Maveth.
We pick up immediately where “Closure” left off: with Coulson laying unconscious amid the sand and boulders of Maveth’s desolate landscape, having pulled off a daring skydive into the portal. After a quick, melancholic hallucination of Rosalind – Coulson awakens and remembers why he’s here. After a charming but incorrect Tattooine reference (Tattooine has two suns whereas Maveth has two moons), Coulson is up and running to locate his foil, rescue Fitz, and prevent the return of Maveth’s ancient Inhuman.
Elsewhere Ward and his team are already making headway through the dunes, with no idea where to locate “It” they can only wander among the dust until they stumble upon a huge statue dedicated to HYDRA, confirming everything Malick said to be true about their involvement with the entity. They also find the ruins of an ancient city, one that was apparently thriving before the entity wiped out its inhabitants. At this point we have to assume that Malick hasn’t actually thought out the consequences of bringing such a creature to Earth as his assumption that he can control it is clearly hilariously misguided; but he is a villain after all so being foolishly misguided comes as part of the package.
Fitz manages to escape his captors and miraculously locates Will Daniels hideout, finally coming face to with his rival suitor for Simmons affections. Unfortunately, Ward and his team are not far behind and Fitz manages to talk Ward out of executing the astronaut by claiming that without him, the team cannot locate the portals return location. Ward agrees, and drags Will along on the search when the team split up.
Back on Earth, Mack and S.H.I.E.L.D. plot an attack on the HYDRA castle directly, just as Giyera arrives with two truckloads of Inhumans in stasis containers, including one Andrew Garner. The first steps to assembling the Inhuman army for the entity’s return has already started. After lengthy discussion Mack believes that S.H.I.E.L.D. can free the Inhumans, rescue Simmons and safely return Coulson and Fitz – an ambitious plan for a man who’s been director of S.H.I.E.L.D. for less than a day.
Nevertheless, the team launch a full on assault, in the chaos Simmons is able to escape but runs straight into Garner. He convinces her to open his containment chamber so he can help them take out the HYDRA goons, she agrees and Garner transforms into Lash and starts the inevitable slaughtering. However, the plan eventually backfires when Lash also kills the dormant Inhumans before fleeing the scene – it’s what he does after all! Fighting through HYDRA the team barricade themselves in the monolith chamber wherein Mack orders them to return to the quinjet without him and destroy the castle should Coulson and Fitz not make it back safely.
Back on Maveth, Fitz and Will’s plan to escape their captors is easier than expected when Will suddenly kills the soldiers and the two make a break for the exit point. Coulson, having caught up with Wards group, takes out the soldiers until only Ward remains. He shoots Ward and orders him to lead him to Fitz. As Fitz examines Will he discovers a gaping hole in the astronaut’s leg and realizes that Will died on the day of Simmons rescue and that “It” has somehow possessed him.
“It” attacks Fitz just as the portal opens and Coulson arrives in time to shoot the creature and rescue his comrade. Ward uses this opportunity to attack, and Coulson finally does what should have been done in season two – kills Ward, albeit by crushing Ward’s chest with his prosthetic hand. As the entity crawls towards the portal, Fitz is forced to burn it using a flare gun. With Ward and the Inhuman dead, Coulson and Fitz make a dash for the portal, leaving behind Coulson’s hand – a symbol of his exacted revenge.
As the castle is destroyed around them, Coulson, Fitz, Mack and Daisy impossibly manage to escape in the containment module, bruised, bent, but not broken. They’ve succeeded in foiling Malicks plans and preventing the Inhuman from returning to Earth – metaphorical cheers all around! Not quite… in the end credits tag Malick, having escaped the castle, is on route to the airport. However, he runs afoul of none other Grant Wards corpse, now possessed by the entity, which used the former agent’s body to survive and make it’s way through the closing portal to Earth. Oh, dear.
After a somewhat convoluted and frustrating first half to the season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. builds to a satisfying if not slightly contrived mid-season showdown, only let down by an ending that just stretches the realms of narrative plausibility.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is currently airing on E4, Sundays at 9pm