AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.22 ‘Beginning of the End’
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 Episode 22
Episode Title: “Beginning of the End”
Writers: Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon
Director: David Straiton
Looking back at the first season of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” it’s clear that the real turning point for this show was the Captain America: The Winter Soldier tie-in episode that finally brought in Hydra and made Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) interesting by turning him bad. Prior to that, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” just didn’t have a sense of urgency or any compelling stakes.
This is also a show that has struggled to find its tone. Sometimes, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” veers so far towards comedy that its dramatic moments aren’t able to land. “Beginning of the End” has several of the best scenes of the season that are treated with the appropriate gravitas. The only real misstep comes in the final battle as Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Nick Fury start trading quips about John Garrett (Bill Paxton). They were funny, but it completely undercut the tension of this season’s showdown with the big bad.
Jackson has a much bigger role in this episode than I would have guessed. It was extremely refreshing to see Nick Fury play such a large part in this finale, but it was very distracting to see the shots lined up in a way that attempted to hide the fact that Jackson wasn’t on set at the same time as most of the other actors. This is why we only see scenes with Jackson and Clark Gregg interacting until the last scene adds Ming-Na Wen’s Melinda May to the mix.
Getting Jackson back on this show for any kind of recurring role seems like an uphill battle, but his presence here elevated this episode. There were also plenty of good moments for the regular cast of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” as season one came to an end.
From this point on, there are full spoilers ahead for “Beginning of The End,” so if you missed last night’s season finale of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” then you may want to skip this review or else May will come up with new ways to use a nail gun.
One of the things that surprised me was that I actually cared when Leo Fitz (Ian De Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) were facing their doom at the bottom of the ocean. Fitz and Simmons were so likable throughout the season that I found myself invested in their well being as Fitz finally managed to voice his feelings for Simmons before attempting to sacrifice his life for hers. De Caestecker and Henstridge have a strong chemistry with each other and it lent that moment an emotional heft that it wouldn’t have had without that build up throughout the season.
Of course, Nick Fury showed up to save Simmons and possibly revive Fitz. That was a great entrance for Fury, and one of the bigger shocks of the night. I was expecting Jackson to only appear in the tag scene at the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Garrett was much noticeably crazier following the injection of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s miracle drug last week. Even Ward was taken aback by the way that Garrett and sanity have finally parted ways. Last week’s penultimate episode was a good showcase for Ward’s character that almost made him sympathetic again. That said, I was relieved that “Beginning of The End” never tried to redeem Ward. It would have been an incredible cop-out for Ward to be back on Coulson’s team.
I misinterpreted Ward’s actions last week. I thought that ejecting Fitz and Simmons from the Bus was his way of saving them. But it appears that it was simply an easier way to get rid of them without actually pulling the trigger himself. The only person that Ward is fixated on is Skye (Chloe Bennet). But rather than drag out that dead horse, the episode delivered a climactic fight between Ward and May that was very satisfying. Naturally, she won.
It was extremely odd for May to steal the Berserker staff at the beginning of the episode and then almost immediately discard it. Since May was the only one who really had a handle on that staff, it would have come in handy for the final battle. That said, May’s role in this episode was pretty pivotal. May had the fight with Ward and she got to be present as Fury shared his final scene with Coulson.
Even Skye managed to contribute to the finale by finding a way to reach Deathlok (J. August Richards) by rescuing his kidnapped son. I’m not sold on the continuing plotline of Skye as the offspring of two monsters, but we catch a brief glimpse of Skye’s father near the end of the episode, courtesy of Raina (Ruth Negga). Speaking of Raina, I don’t understand why the show’s creative team seems to find Negga’s performance so fascinating. She’s really unconvincing in the part and it was the wrong choice to keep her around as a recurring villain for next season.
On the other hand, Bill Paxton was the MVP among the recurring players this season. I liked Garrett when he was an ally of Coulson’s and he was still engaging as the Clairvoyant. The final battle with Garrett had a lot of crowd pleasing moments including Coulson’s use of the gun from The Avengers and Deathlok turning on Garrett. I do think that the writers went overboard with the comedy before Garrett was dealt with. Once Fury and Coulson stopped taking Garrett seriously as a threat, it was impossible to feel any tension.
That said, I laughed my ass off when Garrett came back to life and rebuilt himself almost completely into an unstoppable cyborg right before Coulson nonchalantly atomized him. It was easily one of the funniest moments of the entire season, worthy of Joss Whedon himself. The downside is that it pretty much closes the door on Garrett for good. And I’ll miss Bill Paxton’s presence on this show.
To counter that disappointment, the creative team brought back Patton Oswalt as Bill Koenig… who is apparently the twin brother of the late Eric Koening… or he’s a Life Model Decoy. It’s a bit contrived, but I don’t care. It’s as if the writers realized that it was a mistake to write out Oswalt’s character and his secret S.H.I.E.L.D. base, so they simply introduced replacements for both.
Coulson finally gets his long awaited conversation with Fury and it does a good job of explaining why Fury went through so much trouble to save Coulson’s life. Fury even passes the torch to Coulson and names him the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and tells him to rebuild the organization as he sees fit.
On a more troubling note, the tag scene finds Coulson compelled to write strange alien diagrams on the wall much like Garrett did before he died. So, this plotline is far from over.
For next season, the creative team should immediately promote B.J. Britt to series regular so he can remain on the show as Antoine Triplett. As a replacement for Ward, Triplett seems like the obvious choice. The next order of business should be to sign Oswalt to as many episodes as he can appear in. If this show is going to have comic relief, it might as well be genuinely funny. Oswalt’s continued presence would go a long way towards making that happen.
I also feel that both Ward and Fitz should remain on the shelf. Ward is still alive at the end of the episode, but there’s really no reason to bring him back anytime soon. As for Fitz, I think his sacrifice would have had more weight if he had actually died. We never see Fitz after Fury rescued him, but Simmons and Coulson indicate that he may have been seriously injured or brain damaged. Rather than bringing Fitz back in a diminished capacity, I think that his complete absence would be a greater reminder of what was lost.
“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was an occasionally frustrating show to watch as it struggled to find itself. I had almost written off this series entirely before it managed to breathe some life into it post Captain America. It still isn’t everything that I hoped it would be, but I still believe that it could be in the future.
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