Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1 finale review: Beginning Of The End

Review James Hunt 14 May 2014 - 12:52

After a faltering start, Agents Of SHIELD delivered a satisfying season finale that's sure to have viewers coming back for more...

This review contains spoilers.

1.22 Beginning Of The End

A breakneck finale stuffed with plot and character moments that actually make sense. If you'd told me that's how Agents Of SHIELD would be concluding after the series nadir that was the mid-season cliffhanger, The Bridge, I'd scarcely have believed you. But here we are. There was a lot to get through and virtually all of the series' ongoing plots got touched on in some form or another.

Whether he was involved in the writing or not, one could sense Whedon's influence on this script in a way that hasn't been seen since the pilot. The way everyone undercut Garrett's supervillain rants was sublime, and the opening scene introduced Cybertek's headquarters and set up the stakes for the conclusion with low-key brilliance. Even Garrett's final exit was, tonally, more like something from Buffy than Agents Of SHIELD, which is no bad thing.

Not everything worked, of course. It was disappointing to see the backpedalling of Ward start even before the series had ended, although to be fair they've kept his evil somewhat ambiguous. "We were never true believers," he says, as if laying the groundwork for an inevitable return to the SHIELD fold. Because he and Garrett were never proper Nazis, they were just in it for the "symbiosis" of saving ward.

That does beg the question of whether it's better to be ideologically evil or so amoral you'll get into bed with literal Nazis to achieve your goals, but that's beside the point. Let's be clear: the last thing I want to see is a rehabilitated Ward. Of course he'll be back next series, but let it be as a villain, not as a repentant prodigal son.

At least Ward followed through for the remainder of the episode, giving Skye and May the moments they needed to resolve their issues with him. Both had been tricked into caring for him, and both felt the sting of his betrayal, so it's fitting that they got to orchestrate his downfall. As predicted, we got a big moment for Mike Peterson too. It's as happy an ending as we could've hoped for, and there's finally a superhero out there that Agents Of SHIELD can use on their own terms.

Not everyone got a happy ending, though. Fitz and Simmons had their moment, and while his unrequited love didn't quite get requited, at least Fitz got his moment to be a hero. One does wonder what actually happened to Fitz, though. Hopefully it's not one of a genre TV's staples, a coma of convenience, but on the other hand given the show's earlier form I'm not entirely sure I want to see AoS grappling with anything more nuanced.

Even I can't complain about Nick Fury's staggeringly convenient appearance, if only because it finally made Agents Of SHIELD feel like it was taking place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe instead of some offshoot cul-de-sac. His interactions with Coulson were note-perfect, and his appearance was definitely not a gratuitous cameo – only he's got the authority (at least in Coulson's eyes) to hand Coulson his new task and title. And that, at least, will make an interesting arc if they run with it in any serious way.

And there's still so much to think about. The return of Agent Koenig (sort of) was hugely welcome, though I find myself hoping he's not a twin brother so much as a standard-issue Life Model Decoy. In terms of plot threads left dangling, we got a good few: Raina's future, Skye's parentage, and what's inside Coulson's brain. The next series of SHIELD is largely (if not entirely) going to take place between Guardians Of The Galaxy and Avengers: Age Of Ultron, so it'll be a surprise if some or all of these mysteries aren't connected to the big releases. Indeed, there are aliens in the former and Hydra in the latter. It'll be difficult not to tie in.

Anyway, it's fair to say that the series delivered a satisfying conclusion after a faltering start. Once it broke out of the restrictive anomaly-of-the-week formula things took a dramatic uptick, so hopefully season two stays well away from that territory. At the very least, this finale has ensures that when I watch the next season it won't be because I feel obligated as a Marvel fan, but because I'm genuinely interested in what happens next. In that, it's achieved something.

Read James' review of the previous episode, Ragtag, here.

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Lanyards will be distributed on a case-by-case basis.

I'm hoping there's a Koenig in every remaining Shield secret base.

I enjoyed the last 5 episodes of AOS as much as I have anything on TV over the last 12 months.
And If you had told me that about 6 episodes in when I was on the verge of dropping it I would never have believed you.

I was literally just about to post that.

Brilliant finale, with a good mix of everything you'd want in a finale thrown in with good measure. For me, the wait till the next season will be a long one.

On a side-note, May kicking the crap out of Ward was one of the most satisfying things I've watched in a long time.

with the announcement season 2 being moved to 9pm i'm hoping for a more grown up show and the fight scene between May and Ward definitely indicated that. I always thought it could be a marvel version of CTU and if in the next season I hear May go 'Dammit Simmons' i'll be delighted

"Because he and Garrett were never proper Nazis, they were just in it for the "symbiosis" of saving ward."

I think you meant "saving Garrett."

Yes, that's correct. My brain never quite managed to make the distinction between "Grant" and "Garrett". It's a miracle I made it this far into the series without conflating the two.

Fury seemed off somehow. And I don't mean because he looked like Flava Flav as a California raisin... Well okay I do. Man stick with the eyepatch! I know he threw it out with the trash but Sam ain't gettin any younger, and when he covers both eyes all you see is neck wrinkles like Eddie Murphys face in a Vampire in Brooklyn!

I literally just realized it's because he was neither smiley Sam nor angry Sam. He was Sam the Eagle.

Some say past few eps, or since winter soldier, or since the train episode, but I say the show looked up when mike Peterson reappeared. The midseason finale. I'll admit Hand dropping by a few episodes previous to that had me prematurely excited, but seeing her die later made one thing clear: MCU does kill characters all the way dead after all.

I don't think they can have Ward properly join the SHIELD fold at this point anymore (especially if Fitz's condition takes a turn for the worst.)
At best I'd see him being a morally grey associate they might turn too for assistance at some point, but never let back on the bus permanently.
More likely he'd probably join up with Reina, if he somehow gets out of prison, and will attempt to turn Skye.

i would rather have billy as a twin … LMD sound too disposable

It all just felt a little too neat as almost everything is wrapped up with a nice bow.

What would be nice is if the guys running the show could get a proper sit down and planning session with the movie guys for season 2 so the show doesn't have to wait until a new Marvel film is released to actually become interesting.

That being said, I did love the return of the soliloquy interuption trope. It's one of my favourite things from Whedon's other shows.

Bets on who Skye's father is then? I couldn't help but think of Iron Fist when I saw him, but I'd be surprised if he's the one given that he'll be on Netflix soon.

And this was a great finale overall. I particularly enjoyed Garrett's death scene at the hands of Coulson.

I thought it was a good finale but one thing that has made this show is Whedons writing, i think maybe in the beginning people were expecting more super heroes but when there werent that many a lot of people lost interest, but since the whole Hydra reveal i think the show has really picked up and that Ward twist was great, i really didnt see that one coming!
Overall im glad i stuck with it and look forward to the developments in season 2

I think they're standard issue.

Mostly agree with this review - the only thing I don't agree with is Ward's fate! They've set it up so he could have an amazing "redemption" character arc in season two and I hope that happens! I'm thinking something along the lines of Romanoff, since they've enjoyed dropping comparisons with her left, right and centre all season.

Great finale, really delivered the goods. Looking forward to another, later season. All in, I think Marvel have a series with some legs here, rebuilding SHIELD has a lot of potential and I hope they pull it off.

They buried his character so much I don't see how they can ever redeem him. He murdered people. You don't get to come back from that in my book. The same is true of Bill in True Blood after what what they did to his character last season.

Jed Whedon's writing? I thought it was ok but not that special. He's not his brother. I'm sure Joss had a hand in the last few episodes, particularly the finale which positively screamed Joss Whedon Wrote This.

My guess is something linked to Guardians of the Galaxy.

The show always gave me the impression that it was a totally planned and integrated 22 episode arc from the outset so that 'proper sit down' stands out as something that obviously did happen to me.

I think they played the ending perfectly. Assuming they didn't know about cancellation ahead of time, this could easily have been a series ending finale with a few tweaks.

They are disposable. It also sets up their existence in the MU for future use.

I hope this show generates the attention is deserves. It's been a very good season IMO, and much better than I expected. With them rebuilding SHIELD, they have great potential, and I hope they integrate it into the films to an extent.

I don't want to see a "good" Ward anymore. That said, Angel and Spike come to mind... It is, in part, a Whedon show and he's done it before for drama's sake. (And it's usually kind of awesome when he does.)

So I agree that I don't want to see it, but I don't think it's off the table at all in context of the show.

I hope they don't. It would have been way too predictable and ... cheesy to me if they made him redeem himself in the finale, and that continues for me into S2 as well. I could see them releasing him for a while to help them under strict supervision though. He tried to kill 3 of the team personally in the last 2 episodes alone.

I think her father pretty well has to be an Inhuman. Maximus the Mad possibly? I didn't get a good look at the scene, but I'm assuming the bloody looking fist has to be a clue. It's just not one that rings immediate bells.

Genuinely never seen anything get this many upvotes on DoG before!

I'd say they're posted on a case-to-case basis.

I hope we get a better reviewer for the next series. Always seemed as if he could never get over the initial let down of the series.

All I care about at the moment is what the hell is Skye and who's her father? Inhuman? Atlantean? Kree? all that weird talk from Garrett about evolution and the (likely) Kree blood serum does all connect to the Inhuman's, they were after all initially created by the Kree and have Kree DNA, if it is the Inhuman's that's a massive introduction for a TV show and not one of the Movies.
Side note Garrett also mentioned humans evolving from the swamps and mist, this could be a clue because Inhuman's evolve when exposed to the Terrigen Mist.

Time of the Doctor Review, but yeah, usually the vote up numbers are a bit smaller.

I'm beginning to wonder if the anomaly of the week thing was a trick. I was worried that was how it was going to run for the whole season.
I think the arc of Simmons trying to rehab a brain damaged Fitz may be interesting.
A more old school Shield will be more interesting as well. I never liked that having every toy they need kind of thing.
Yay, Littlest Hobo, Deathlock needs a dog...

They exist, Stark mentioned them in Avengers (I think, he has mentioned them, anyway). However Eric Koenig did mention that he has a brother, and looking back that small sentence implies that Billy is the brother. Either way, it's nice to have him back.
Overall, this has to be my favourite episode. I'm glad it got better, and I'm actually looking forward to series 2. Also glad of being able to watch a good series, and not watching in the hopes that it would get better like I was in the first half of the series.

Oompa loompa doompety doo. I got another Koenig for you.

Billy was way too chirpy for someone who had lost a twin, or even a non-twin, brother.

The father doesn't have to be an existing comic character, although I've seen lists elsewhere that identified 15 or 20 possibilities. I can't recall any characters with bleeding hands, but I haven't bothered much with Marvel titles in recent years.

I just loved the episode; at had great action, humour, Fury, Ward not getting redeemed and some tantalising hints about the direction of future stories.

I especially loved Garrett's big soliloquy getting interrupted, though I will miss the fun the character brought with him. He may have been going 'crazy', but he still had his charm with that "I love you too". The quip-filled interaction between Coulson and Fury was also great, especially Fury's explanation of why he resurrected Coulson. Fury himself was quite fun, especially his "If this whole HYDRA thing is because you misheard my damn one man speech ...". Oh, and seeing Coulson handle the Destroyer gun and saying "I know what it does" was a great call-back to his scene in 'The Avengers'. It all brought things full circle and finally brought back the Coulson we fell in love with in the films in full force.

I've always liked the series, but now I'm definitely looking forward to Season 2 with a more keen and genuine interest.

Does anybody else think that Ward is following a similar arc to Angel in Buffy

Well, we saw a lot of people felt that way, they were almost unanimously advised to stick with it and many did not believe it, but there ya go! :)

We saw he gut shot, but do we know she is dead?

LMD's are a S.H.I.E.L.D staple.

He did indeed, in trying to avoid taking Coulsons call ironically...

I can't help but have something in the back of my mind that there was a story around the time of the mid-season break where someone at Marvel indicated that AoS was already renewed back then, but damned if I can find reference to it now. Maybe just my wishful thinking at the time?

To be fair to James, he seems to be on the same page as the rest of us now, just took him a couple of episodes longer

When Garrett started talking about evolution, I wondered if he was going to become the High Evolutionary

absolutely. that's what my wife said too.

Poor Fitz. Relegated to the friend zone!!

I hope I get better commenters for next series. Always seemed as if they could never get over the initial let down of the reviewer.

Can we just stop for a minute and talk about Garrett ripping a guys rib out and then stabbing him with it?!

Yeah, obviously he couldn't find a heart inside the General, so he took the rib and stabbed him.

Not 100%, no.

Coulson, Fury, Peterson and Garrett all stood around for an eternity exchanging wisecracks.

Some deep down spite making it to the surface right here lol.

he was trying to be original.

and probably bound to a wheelchair and crippled.

I think we also heard him shoot several more bullets into her as well.

Re: Wards (possible) redemption arc, I actually thought that by sending Fitz & Simmons out on that pod he was attempting to save them, I might be remembering it wrong but doesn't Fitz make a comment about how it should have floated but due to some pressurisation issue it sank instead? I hypothesise that by getting them off the Bus on that pod Ward was attempting to save them rather than kill them (where Garrett would need to see the bodies) and the sinking was an unfortunate consequence. Maybe I'm wrong though, but there's a Tom Hiddleston quote where he talks about how good Marvel are at making their heroes flawed and their villains heroic. I also think Wards story is mirrored in Romanovs, she like Ward just takes orders, she talks in TWS about how she simply thought she was taking orders from the right side for once and she left at the end of TWS to 'find herself' just like Coulson said Ward now needed to do.

wouldn't surprise me.

Yeah Jed clearly doesn't have the the talent Joss has.

: P

I would enjoy a redemption arc for Ward. As long as it's not too sudden or obvious and we keep learning about his past and the bad & good choices he made. Maybe there is things in his past that would hint at a redemption ?
Someone mentionned a gray area when they have to colaborate but still nobody trust him. That's be a nice base.
And Fitz & Simmons are my favorite characters. Their actors deserve praise.

You're right, it won't necessarily be an existing character, but the fact that she is consistently implied as being very important in the larger scale of things does suggest that it is going to be a gamechanger, and the easiest/perhaps best way to do that would be to use a previously established character.

OK, well spotted but that doesn't mean they weren't just told they were brothers. They could still be Less.

I admit, it wasn't living up to its potential or hype, but there were some good eps you didn't like. So really it comes down to taste, but I clearly remember being one of the FEW that liked it in it's rough eps. Where did those other guys go? I think they're right here. Glad you could join us too, Jim. JimBO!

Yeah. She dead, bra

Don't know much about em so that would be cool.

That will be a good arc. Triplett will still like Simmons who will love Fitz who will feel guilty for keeping her from living a normal life. Man, that was exhausting! But I still wanna see it.

A little yeah. Just a bit eternal.

Raina and Skye are Eternals!

Conflaaaating. Reminds me of a kids down the hall sketch I ascertained years ago.

I immediately thought it was a reference to Adam's rib (the story, not the restaurant). Start of a new race, etc, etc. Anyone else think the same?

I've watched the whole season again recently with my kids and most of the anomalies of the week, or the settings they introduced, actually turn out to be building blocks for the Hydra twist.

Ouch! LOL
Thanks James for the reviews, I know I've been a critic but it's been great to see you slowly won over by the show. As a non-Marvel fan I had much lower expectations and mainly was interested in the show as something I could get into with my kids, so for me it's surpassed what I'd hoped for, even from quite early on. I thought the tie in with Cap2 was extraordinary and since then it's become must-watch TV in our household.
Upon rewatching from the beginning it's quite a different experience, you're constantly looking for clues of the Hydra and Ward reveals (of which there are quite a few) and it was actually much improved with the bigger context known. I do recommend people give that a go at some point, this might be a season I even buy a box set for.
Really looking forward to another season.

I'm wondering the same thing with Ward. People, myself included, complained that he was a generic, cookie cutter character who didn't ring true and lo and behold, it turns out that he's a made up cover. If it was big brother I wouldn't hesitate to assume that was deliberate but Jed and Maurissa haven't quite engendered that kind of faith yet.

Not sure where they're going to go with Fitz. If he's genuinely brain-damaged it's hard to see how they justify having him on the bus since his thing is brains, though it makes good drama for the same reason. Maybe needing some kind of add-on though, like a cybernetic interface ? I'm thinking of the same actor but played differently, like Fred -> Illyria from Angel.

Obligated? Obliged sir, obliged.

I though Fury's appearance was a tad OTT, 'Here he is to save the day!' but it was a cracking end to series which picked up quite spectacularly.

I'm here Cuban! I've always been here!

But ya know, priorities.

Heh what are the odds

Not the best episode of Agents of SHIELD I'll admit, but it was still brilliant! It packed a real emotional punch and was also freaking hilarious! I was so sad when I thought Fitz was going to stay behind, that scene was arguably the best acted scene in the whole series. Iain and Elizabeth's natural chemistry really showed and they played off each other brilliantly. It was so emotional but part of me thinks that, because it sounds like there's going to be something wrong with Fitz if he recovers, it would have been better to just have him die. And let him have his honourable death saving the girl he loves. If he ends up paralysed or brain damaged then the show is really robbing him of that. But then it would be cool if Simmons saves his life, I hope he's fine, I love those two together!

I love Triplett and Coulson's dynamic, they just fanboy over cool tech and are hilarious together! I think by bringing in Nick Fury the writer's really went for a more comedic finale as opposed to a dramatic one. If they wanted a more dramatic they would, and I feel should have, had Triplett facing Garrett with Coulson. It could have a really powerful scene to see Triplett's anger at his former mentor who betrayed him and killed his friends come to the forefront.

May and Ward's fight scene was freaking badass! I do think that for the first half of the episode they were angling towards a kind of redemption for Ward, but that implication of rape towards Skye just sealed him as a baddie. A messed up, conflicted baddie at that, but still a baddie. For me, there's no chance of redemption for Ward, he's done too much.

I do love the confrontation scene between Garrett, Coulson, Fury and Mike (I refuse to call him Deathlok). I love how Coulson and Fury just didn't take Garret seriously at all and kept undercutting his supervillain rants. While it was funny to have Garret survive again, have some near Vader-like transformation, and then get blown up as he was saying he's unstoppable by Coulson, I would have preferred to have had Mike kill him, because to me it felt more poignant, and really proved to us that Mike was never a bad guy. There was a point where I thought maybe he'd turned evil just because he'd already been forced to do too much, and turned bad because he couldn't see any redemption for himself. But I love that he was only waiting for his son to be okay to turn the tables on Garrett. Garrett turned out to be a but of a let down for me, especially in the finale, where he was supposed to be the big villain, but nobody took him seriously at all. They just made him batcrap crazy and in the end, not a really scary villain at all. To be honest I'm a bit annoyed that they're keeping Raina around, I'm not a fan of her character, she's just annoying.

I liked how they left a couple of plots unresolved to keep us interested and make us come back for next season/series. If they'd tried to resolve the whole Skye parentage stuff it would have felt too rushed and cramped.

Overall I enjoyed the finale, while the confrontation with Garrett was amusing, I do feel they should have gone down a more dramatic route, but I enjoyed it the way it is. It produced some memorable quotes. I worry for Coulson at the end, he was doing the some doodles that Garrett did. They should stop messing with Coulson's mental state, and just the him be the charmismatic, heroic, lead character that he is. Just let Coulson be Coulson and I'll be happy.

As someone who has stuck with the whole series and enjoyed every minute of it (although I can admit that the second half was far and away better than the first, but the first will be better on a rewatch as it does in fact build everything up nicely. And knowing what we know now, with Ward's betrayal and Garret being the Calirvoyant and Hydra, it will come across better), I'm really excited for series 2 of Agents of SHIELD. I think it will be a much more consistent series, now that the show has found its feet and knows the direction it wants to go on, I'm excited for the future of the show. My favourite quotes from the finale would have to be:

Coulson: "Trip and I will crest the ridge, use a noisemaker to grab a three-wheel, maybe something with more fireworks, and open a window for you two. You crawl in, grab the dealer, force his hand. He'll get us our ace in the hole, and then bob's your uncle." I love how that's exactly what happened, and that their ace in the whole was Mike's kid Ace XD Top planning from Coulson, knew exactly what he was doing.

Garret: "You remember that speech you used to give us, Nick, about how one man can accomplish anything once he realizes he can be something bigger? Well, now I am."
Fury: "..A part ... 'a part' of something bigger."
Garrett: "Is that how it went?"
Coulson: "Not a great listener."
Fury: "If you tell me this whole Hydra path thing you took is because you misheard my damn "one man" speech"... ----- (To Coulson) "You got it, right?"


Fury: "You don't have to call me 'sir,' Coulson. Look at me. I'm dressed like I live under a bridge."

Coulson: "Did you bring a noisemaker?"
Trip: "Sir, I bring the noise and the funk wherever I go."

Simmons: "Thousands and thousands of other beautiful things that were just as terrified to die as we are. We gave them new life ... a good one, I hope."

I don't see a problem with Ward painted as grey. I was amused with the the scene with him and Deathlok. Neither of them really want to hurt Skye but the situation is otherwise. For me the motivation of the bad guys "I do it because I'm evil" is a bit weak and I like a more complicated character. For me Ward has gone too far to be forgiven and heroic sacrifice would be his only option to get anywhere near back.

"The last thing I want to see is a rehabilitated Ward back in Shield" feels like a negative review of something they haven't even done. (Interesting Deathlok gets let off killing people for his son but Ward is condemned for killing people to save the person he sees and loves as his father). "Even I can't complain about the appearance of Nick Fury". That reads to me like someone who doesn't like the series and begrudgingly gives it praise. In terms of better commenters next series comment - you're welcome James always a pleasure. :-)

I'm confused. Are you suggesting that I shouldn't have an opinion?

Also, Mike gets let off primarily because he understands he must atone for the deaths he was forced to cause. Ward never claimed to regret anything. This is because he chose to be evil and Mike was a good man put in a bad situation.

Just why not have the speculation focus on just the potential good paths? Previously you had said you want to like Marvel agents of shield but the material wasn't up to scratch so now it's better can the glass not be a bit more half full? It's your review so put what you like in it, but then it's posted online so people like me can read it, and then there is a comment section for me to post in and I'm like, any chance you could just lighten it up a notch without changing the critique ? Shield had Ward kill people and ask no questions and that suited them so he doesn't see the difference in killing people for hydra and asking no questions. Just a job as he put it. True, worse than Deathlok but a Ward is a product of Shield's training and methods. Shield was pretty amoral itself.

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