Television

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3, Episode 9 - "Closure"

Daniel Rasmus

Breathtaking action and heartbreaking turns lead to numerous confrontations as the show goes into its fall finale.


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm
Cast: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennett, Brett Dalton, Iain de Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Henry Simmons, Nick Blood, Adrianne Palicki, Luke Mitchell
Subtitle: Season 3, Episode 9 - "Closure"
Network: ABC
Air date: 2015-12-01
Amazon

"Closure isn’t something I’ve put much stock in. What I believe in, is moving forward. Never looking back". Gideon Malik (Powers Boothe).

Marvel has gone for broke. Those who aren’t watching are missing one of the most graphic and energized action/adventure shows on television.

Over burgers, red wine, and flirting with Coulson (Clark Gregg), Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer) asserts her ability to infiltrate her own organization, the ATCU, after the revelation that it is a Hydra front. Just as the two get cozy, Price is shot in the neck, through a window, precisely and for good. The camera zooms forward, seemingly miles, to Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) looking through a scope. He calls Coulson, says the death of Price was personal. Coulson challenges Ward to a personal battle right there, right now. Ward informs Coulson he now has people who take take of that for him. A gunfight and hand-to-hand battle ensues. Coulson requests extraction. Mack (Henry Simmons) swings into the alley, lays down cover and extracts Coulson.

This is the most breathtaking opening in a television show this season. Viewers haven’t been treated to this combination of emotion and intensity, violence and retribution, since the likes of Alias.

His heart broken and his conviction set, Coulson harshly interrogates his own team to learn as much about Ward as possible, in order to draw him out by putting someone he cares about in jeopardy. We meet new pawn, as least for now, Thomas Ward (Tyler Ritter), the only surviving member of Ward’s family following the arson Ward committed on his childhood home last season that killed his parents and his older brother Christian.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has carved itself sharp edges as the mid-season finale draws close. And these sharp edges all lead to Gideon Malick and Hydra.

The connection between Distant Star and Hydra, revealed in "Chaos Theory", becomes a real threat in "Closure", as Malick prepares to re-open the portal to Planet X, also known as Maveth, and bring the marooned Inhuman back to Earth.

Ward hints at the portal in his conversation with Coulson, which results in a team arriving at Distant Star labs, where an ambush has been set. Mr. Giyera (Mark Dacascos), an Inhuman who can control metal, forces Banks to shoot his team and then himself, offering a dark closure for the ATCU storyline. Giyera abducts Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) to the castle where the team first opened the portal after the sleuth work in support of saving Simmons. Malick is there, and needs Fitz or Simmons to share how they came back through the portal (I’m not sure he knows they both went through, or the role played by orbital mechanics). What he does know is that Fitz will do anything for Simmons. Malick aborts the torture of Simmons as Fitz acquiesces to join the away team on Planet X so the Inhuman can be unleashed, though Fitz promises Simmons to return only with astronaut Will Daniels (Dillon Casey).

Just after the team enters the portal, as it is being shut down, Coulson dives through the portal from the jump jet. He tumbles down a Planet X hill and hits his head on a rock. Dead? Don’t think so, but he's certainly knocked out by the time the ending credits appear.

With the exception of the end of the Coulson/Price relationship, there's no actual closure in this episode, just the desire for it. Malick wants closure on the Hydra grand plan or prophecy, but his closure isn’t assured. Ward wants closure against S.H.I.E.L.D. -- the details of which, besides Coulson’s death, seem a bit vague. Fitz and Simmons find no closure, nor does May (Melinda May) and Garner (Blair Underwood). And Coulson wants all kinds of closure, which he doesn’t get.

My guess is we will see Coulson pitted against Ward on Planet X. That battle may prove insignificant to both as the Inhuman arrives on Earth through the portal. That’s probably a good way to create a mid-season cliffhanger. Let chaos manifest and leave the results of the manifestation until the second half of the season.

As for Daisy (Chloe Bennet), she faces anything but closure as she embarks on a trip to the portal castle with, what may likely be the first recruits to the Secret Warriors of the comic books, Inhuman’s Joey Gutierrez (Juan Pablo Raba) and Lincoln Campbell (Luke Mitchell). Agent McKenzie’s (Henry Simmons) decision, as acting Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (left in charge as Coulson mounts an "off book" mission,) to assemble Inhumans and put them in the field, isn’t all that different from Nick Fury’s bet on the Avengers. While AoS changes many of the details about the Marvel comic book universe, it still represents the series' inspiration, so Daisy leading a ragtag band of Inhumans isn’t a surprise. What designation her team gets is yet unknown.

For those looking to humanize Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Coulson/Price relationship was a very human touchpoint in the literarily Inhuman world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Perhaps too human. While Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a relationship show, it isn’t that kind of relationship show. The Coulson/Price romance created perhaps a new entry point for non-Marvel aficionados, but, at least for this viewer, it didn’t ring true. Sure, there’s the “only a spy can know a spy” thing, but that didn’t need to take a real romantic twist for the two to gain mutual respect and admiration (note how well spy affairs go by watching Saul Berenson and Allison Carr on Homeland). The Coulson/Price affair always seemed fast and overly contrived: Coulson was playing her, and Price was playing him. That made sense, but when it unwound and Price turned out to be played, and then played some more, Coulson’s compassion should not have led him to continue the romance. These relationship faults, however, take nothing away from opening moments of this episode.

But, as we see in the Jessica Jones series on Netflix, Marvel’s direction is for broken characters to engage in broken relationships. Yes, that happens in the real world, and it may be the center of the MCU. Daisy and her father and mother were as broken as any relationship could be. The on-again/off-again relationship between Hunter (Nick Blood) and Morse (Adrianne Palicki) is broken along multiple fault lines. Even Fitz and Simmons are broken, now that Simmons has lived on another planet with another man.

Perhaps, then, it all came down to the writers thinking Coulson deserved his own broken love. But if that was true, then why not let it play out? A love quenched, the writer’s may reason, at the early stages is the most painful kind of aborted love. Get Coulson in the infatuation phase so that Ward’s assassination pushes Coulson over the edge to drive him deeper into the revenge plot, to create the hard edges that may hurt the relationships with his team.

Coulson, however, pulls back. He does go off book, but he doesn’t disengage. He knows he needs his team, all of them, to succeed when the odds aren’t in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s favor. Coulson already has important, binding relationships that keep him whole in a world that has sought to tear him apart. Like Ward, perhaps the problem is he feels too much -- and that's the shared source of tension between their characters, rather than their ruthlessness. Ward is right, when he says he and Coulson are different sides of the same coin. They, and the viewers, however, remain uncertain about just which coin will ultimately prove important.

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