This Agents of SHIELD review contains spoilers.
As we head towards the end of one of the most polarizing genre shows on television, Hawaii Five-O and Lost vet Paul Zbyszewski joins forces with former Heroes scribe DJ Doyle to create an Agents of SHIELD that deals with trust and betrayal. “Nothing Personal” dares to ask the question, how does a soldier continue to fight when what he fights for is taken from him?
Before we answer that question, allow us to point out just how amazing it is that Maria Hill has become such a major character for Marvel. For a character that started out as just kind of a foil during Marvel’s Civil War, Maria sure has rocked both the film and TV screens since her debut in Avengers, mostly because Cobie Smulders rules the world. So, as the media evolution of Maria Hill continues, we start this episode with the woman in question.
Maria exits her new job at Stark Industries when HOLY SHITBALLS, BY THE ALL SEEING EYES OF STEVE GERBER, WE HAVE A MAN-THING REFERENCE! Do you understand the ramifications of this? First off, Man-Thing! If Man-Thing exists, so does Howard the Duck! And the Legion of Monsters! If the Legion exists, so does Manphibian.
Marvel just confirmed a Manphibian movie!
I may have just jumped the gun a bit. Ummmm…how about that Star Wars cast?
So, Hill is being shadowed by black ops sorts, until they are taken out by Agent May. We already have a Stark and Pierce reference early (and was Maria on the phone with Pepper Potts?), as May tries to get to the bottom of who ordered Fury to resurrect Coulson. This has been the underlying question of the season and one which will be a game changer for sure.
As for the man in question, Coulson and the Agents are trying to get to the bottom of the disappearance of the Bus and Agent Koenig when Simmons decides to make pancakes. With buttery, syrupy goodness on her mind, Simmons finds Koenig’s corpse, and Fitz finds Skye’s hidden message that Ward is HYDRA.
Now, one of their own’s betrayal is totally out in the open and Zbyszewski and Doyle get to play with some good character reactions. Fitz is in denial of Ward’s betrayal, which is a nice character beat from such a good man like Fitz who can’t understand how someone he trusted so deeply could be so false. Simmons on the other hand, turns all cold and scientific as she performs the autopsy on Patton Oswalt. Simmons’ sense of duty overrides her disgust at her friend’s betrayal and all of a sudden, the characters of Fitz and Simmons are deeper than ever. Coulson does what he does best of course; he leads and channels Fitz’s frustration into productivity.
We are pleased to see the return of one Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar), major Hulk supporting player for many a year. Talbot does what Glenn Talbot traditionally does and acts like an obtuse but well meaning douche. Maria Hill wants Coulson to abandon his team and join the SHIELD underground, but now, this new Phil Coulson is loyal to his SHIELD squad, not Fury’s legacy of secrets. Hill and Coulson take out Talbot and his troops, insuring Bruce Banner will send them pastries at Christmas.
May is playing some spy games of her own and digs up Coulson’s grave. She finds some kind of flash drive…and no corpse. May has an interesting role to play in these proceedings as she is now a warrior with no commander. She is a weapon that needs to be aimed, and since Coulson sent her away and with Fury off the grid, there is no one to pull her trigger.
Now, see what happens when we have an effective villain? Suddenly, with Ward to hate, we actually care about Skye. Skye is playing Ward the same way he played everyone by pretending to be on his side and buy into the bill of goods he’s selling, Skye is now a skilled spy not the snappy, snarky, quippy, empty character of the first half of the season. Now, there’s a whole new dynamic between Skye and Ward, as attraction has turned to loathing. Y’all have to admit, you never thought when you watched the pilot that this late in the series would feature Ward handcuffing a terrified Skye to a railing, but here we are, and I have to admit, now that most of the cards are on the table, I like what I see.
Like all great Marvel villains, Ward thinks with every fiber of his being that he is in the right. He shows his sickness by not being aware that he is pure evil, but Ward’s love for Skye seems to be disturbingly real. Her rejection seriously seems to wound him, and surprisingly, there seems to be a residual loyalty from Skye to Ward as revealed when Deathlok proves just how sick Garrett can be by forcing Skye to open the hard drive by forcing Ward into cardiac arrest. This little moment reveals the heroic nature of Skye, and the cold and efficient nature of Deathlok. It also shows Ward that he is nothing but a pawn in this game.
Skye bends and gives them the information HYDRA needs to decode the hard drive that contains all the information about the alien blood keeping her alive. Ward recovers just in time as Maria Hill arrives. Coulson begins the end game by sneaking aboard the Bus but sadly, he had no clue Deathlok was aboard. At least Deathlok doesn’t run away this time (finally). Coulson has all he needs, he has Lola, and like the Millennium Falcon, Lola has a few surprises in her. Coulson opens up on Deathlok with headlight machine guns and the coolest action sequence of the series occurs as Skye and Coulson escape in Lola for a mid-air rescue in a flying vintage SHIELD car!
As Coulson tries to figure out his next move, he takes a moment to share some chocolate with Skye, a quiet moment that reveals a great deal about our favorite agents, that they are able to enjoy each other’s company with so much uncertainty surrounding them, a calm between storms. The next storm comes pretty quickly as the sweeper reveals the man who developed Project: Tahiti. A man who deemed the resurrection process too dangerous and too cruel to put an Avenger or a SHIELD agent through…and that man was Phil Coulson himself. The newly revealed memory-wiped Coulson now realizes that he was the man who was responsible for his own resurrection, and we echo Phil’s words when we say “Huh!”
– The Giant Size revelation of Man Thing.
– Maria Hill’s many references to Stark Industries.
– The return of Glenn Talbot.
– The ever present specter of Alexander Pierce.