Tuesday, December 1, 2015

REVIEW: 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' - Ward Forces Coulson into Action as the Alien Portal Reopens in 'Closure'

ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Episode 3.09 "Closure" 

Ward's campaign for revenge brings the S.H.I.E.L.D. team to their knees, and Coulson proves he will do anything to settle the score.

For a show about spies, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really is comfortable a lot of time in letting the emotions of the characters get in the way of their spycraft. This is an episode that lives on emotions dictating actions. That's the way the show knows how to establish drama between the characters. Some times that does work magnificently well. Fitz doing a daring rescue to save Simmons from the other planet was a thrilling sequence. Simmons' connection to Fitz is the only thing that helped her survive during those six months away from Earth. But now, personal emotions are making the two sides of this war between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra very vindictive. The two men that are the heads of these organizations had the women that they loved taken away from them. That leads them into action that is very dangerous and could carry some major consequences. And yet, it's not that exciting to watch because it limits the characters to some very broad characteristics.

All of the events of this episode happen because Ward kills Rosalind while she is having dinner with Coulson. The bond between Coulson and Rosalind this season has been very awkward. It was never abundantly clear what the season was trying to do with that pairing. Was it actually a genuine romantic relationship? Or was it simply the two of them trying to work the other in order to get information about their organization? The mystery was never all that interesting. And in the end, Rosalind was just a character only defined through her relationship with Coulson. Her death forces him on this warpath against Ward. And yet, their relationship was never important enough for him to reasonably make this transition now. Sure, they had gotten close. But was it enough to understand him throwing the rule book out the window and do whatever was necessary to stop Ward and Gideon's plan to bring destruction to Earth? Not really.

Ward only kills Rosalind because he has a mission to make Coulson suffer the same way he suffered. That's his one rationalization right now. He wants to bring suffering to Coulson and his team. And yet, it never comes across as a grand plan. It mainly just feels like a petty squabble. Yes, it's one that includes two major deaths. But it never feels like he has stepped into the role of the big villain that the show desperately wants him to be. He has certainly brought about chaos and destruction to a number of the team this season. But it's just so hard to care about Ward because he's not doing anything interesting. Even his dynamic with Gideon isn't that compelling. Gideon basically calls him out for not being the villain he claims himself to be. But that's not interesting because the show has to keep Ward as a main focus.

This episode also digs deep into its own past in order to help Coulson better understand Ward. It's a truly horrible sequence where Coulson questions everyone from the original team about their relationship with Ward. It's a sequence that largely just kills time as it rehashes what all of those horrendous relationships were like back at the start of the first season. Bringing up all of that story again served no real purpose. The answer Coulson gets in order to track Ward is a previously unknown younger brother he apparently has. That twist only provides value because it seems like Coulson may finally cross a line and do something bad in order to stop Ward and Hydra. But the evilness Ward is doing right now isn't bad enough to justify such a turn for Coulson. If Coulson would have harmed Ward's brother, it would have rang false. And yet, by him doing nothing, it felt like a very extraneous plot in an episode that really only had a beginning and an end to it.

It's because of Coulson that Fitz and Simmons fall into the trap set by Ward. He was too blinded by the loss of Rosalind to realize he was also being played by Ward. Fitz and Simmons will have to deal with those consequences. And yet, that presented itself in some rather awkward ways. Simmons was tortured in order for Hydra to learn how to return to Earth from the other planet. And yet, that torture was never seen onscreen. Only her screams were heard. When she finally turned up again, all she had was a scratch on her cheek. It felt very weird and unrewarding to the overall effect that moment was suppose to have. Fitz choose to tell the truth and to go on the mission with Hydra in order to save Simmons from any more pain. That is a heroic moment. But it also just creates a chaotic final moment where Hydra opens a portal and Ward and Fitz jump through it.

It is thrilling as Coulson manages to find a way into the portal as well. Those final moments of the episode are filled with action as Coulson has to jump and make the perfect landing in the portal in the hopes of saving Fitz. But it only sets up next week's midseason finale as the final face off between Coulson and Ward - with the minor bit of Fitz hopefully bringing Will back instead of Hydra's monster. And yet, it's hard to feel excited knowing that Coulson promptly gets knocked out the moment he arrives on the other planet. He came in too hot and paid the consequences once he landed in the other world. But that's not an exciting or precarious moment. It's simply a contrivance in order to ramp up the tension next week. All this episode does is move the pieces together towards that final confrontation in a really lame way. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Closure" was written by Brent Fletcher and directed by Kate Woods.
  • Coulson makes Mack the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. as he goes off to avenge Rosalind's death. That's an intriguing prospect that unfortunately goes nowhere. It basically amounts to the ending where he assembles the Secret Warriors - which are basically just Daisy, Joey and Lincoln - to do battle with Hydra and save Coulson.
  • Gideon could be a much more compelling villain than Ward. And yet, the framework of the story also has to make Ward the priority. It's such a bad decision. It basically means Gideon does nothing but explain things to other characters. His manipulations could be delightfully evil. Instead, they are just exposition in order to force conflicts.
  • Hunter and Bobbi are in the sky being attacked by Hydra. That's a precarious situation. They got Coulson where he needed to go. Now, they need to stay alive somehow.
  • Rosalind's right-hand man is also killed by Gideon's Inhuman assassin. Neither of those two characters are important at all. Their death and sudden presence mean absolutely nothing.
  • I really hope Ward dies next week so that the show can finally just move forward and perhaps find a significantly better villain. The rest of the Marvel shows have had great villains. So why can't Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?