Welcome back, true believers! On our last episode, the Agents of N.O.T.H.I.N.G. continue to try to fight the dastardly deeds of Hydra while also struggling with the loss of funds, backup, and a place to rest their hats outside of a dingy motel swimming pool. Coulson, in a giant twist, discovered that he is in fact responsible for the T.A.H.I.T.I. project, which left him speechless. This week, we’ll delve into the past of Agent Ward, the once milquetoast agent, now much more interesting agent of Hydra. Twists! Turns! Explosions! Bill Paxton! All this and more can be found in this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, “Ragtag”…
Our episode begins fifteen years in the past in a juvenile detention center, as it’s revealed that Ward grew up going to school at a military academy…only to hightail it out of there to return home and burn it to the ground, with his younger brother still inside! He’s approached by Garrett, offering him the opportunity to train to join a “secret organization”, that we of course know to be Hydra, to avoid the wrath of his parents, remaining living brother, and years of jail time. Paxton, as I’ve mentioned in previous reviews is great here, managing to turn his performance from being your best friend to your worst nightmare at a moment’s notice. He’s really one of the best parts of the show and hopefully he won’t bite the bullet as our season is nearly at a close and it’s renewal still up in the air. Heck, I think Garrett could be brought into the Marvel movies proper by becoming a Captain America villain as he could work in that respect.
Meanwhile, back at the agents HQ (aka a seedy motel room), the gang regroups and begins strategizing the best possible route to take to bring down Garrett and his remaining Hydra forces. Coulson uses a flip chart to comically explain what has happened and what needs to be done (I feel like you never see these on tv shows anymore). A plan is made to break into Cybertek Industries in order to directly upload a computer program to stop Hydra from accessing Skye’s files, which leads into some of the funniest moments of the night. Agent Tripp manages to snag some of his grandfather’s Howling Commando gear, bringing out the full fledged fanboy in Coulson as he gleefully rattles off the contents inside (harkening back to his love of Captain America trading cards from Avengers, hopefully he doesn’t get any blood on these relics this time around.)
The show then transports us back in time to Agent Ward’s “training” as Garrett decides the best way to create a super spy is to drop him in the woods to fend for himself for six months. Lo and behold, Ward manages to cut the mustard and survive with his loyal chocolate lab Garrett was kind enough to leave him. As a reward, Garrett trains him even further to be the perfect agent, for Hydra of course, and also regales him with the story of how he was abandoned by S.H.I.E.L.D. on a mission and was forced to swear revenge…as he stuffed his own intestines back into his body. Again, can’t praise Paxton enough here for his performance, especially when he flippantly demands that Garrett kill his loyal companion, which we’ll touch upon in a little bit.
Within the bowels of Cybertek, Coulson and May pretend to be former agents looking for work once S.H.I.E.L.D. had been dissolved, having their lines fed to them by a feuding Fitz and Simmons via earpiece. Speaking of Fitz and Simmons, they were pretty great this episode! I usually find the dynamic duo to act as the weak link but the comedic timing of the duo, Fitz’s undying loyalty to the idea that Ward is misguided, and his eventual ruthlessness in setting off an electromagnetic pulse right next to Garrett, effectively killing him, all were some strong beats in the episode. The team manages to find the information that they need and Ward gets cross with Garrett over allowing Deathlok to nearly kill him in the previous episode. I will say that Garrett seeing Ward as an expendable asset works for the character, but still, it’s almost sad to not see the two as the chummy cohorts they once were, breaking into S.H.I.E.L.D. bases and shooting people.
The gang eventually manages to get a read on the location of the secret Hydra barbershop underground, as well as the location of the missing “Bus” and split up to cover both. I do find it extremely odd that when Tripp walks up to the barbershop in broad daylight, he wouldn’t have instantly been detected but that’s a minor quibble (Hydra couldn’t afford surveillance?). Fitz and Simmons are captured by Ward and brought to the “Bus”, after it is revealed that Garrett is a Deathlok himself, running on Extremis/Centipede juice, while searching for a magic elixir that may or may not be of alien origin. Comic book shows! From here, we swing from past to present as Ward is presented with the order of killing Fitz and Simmons in the here and now, while ten years ago, is presented with killing his trusty old chocolate yeller. Right when the show begins to make you believe that, yes, Ward may very well be redeemable, he snipes his dog and launches Fitz and Simmons out of the plane in a giant box.
Our cliffhanger ends with the remaining gang being surrounded by Centipede soldiers, Deathloks, and Asgardian weaponry as Quinn, the slimy businessman working with Hydra and antagonist throughout this first season, attempts to sell the US Government on the idea of buying a couple of his Deathloks. Overall, fantastic episode and one of the best of the season. Aside from a few very minor complaints, the story moved at a nice clip, gave us more on Ward’s backstory, and set up the makings of what could be a great season (series?) finale.
Agents of M.I.S.C.E.L.L.A.N.E.A
- Skye’s origin is delved into a bit more. Her parents being “monsters” is certainly interesting and leads me to two conclusions. Either they were aliens, potentially Kree, who were stranded on Earth, OR this could be Marvel’s first push into the world of the Inhumans, and it’s revealed that she was a byproduct of Mount Wundagore, one time home of the Inhumans and various other Marvel staples.
- Addressing those minor quibbles I referenced? Skye’s acting was pretty blaise and I felt that her line delivery was nearly the same for every read across the board. Also, unrelated, I thought that Coulson welcomed back Agent May with open arms a bit too cleanly. Would have liked to have seen some of the trust there have been shattered, but I suppose with all the subplots charging forward, some had to fall to the wayside.
- Considering Deathlok was a big staple of Marvel in the 90s, it made me chuckle that in the show the project originated in 1990.
- The “large file transfer” wins for best joke of the series I’d say.
- “I should have made another chart for this.”
- “We’re not S.H.I.E.L.D. agents anymore, we’re…”
“Well I was going to say we’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do, but yeah.”
- “I’ll be damned if I let Garrett and Ward get away with murder….and I want my plane back.”
- “Almost as cool as a transisterized blast gun!”
“Ok…the two of you can get a room later.”
- “Oh please she hardly looks…A YEAR OVER 30! YOU’RE GORGEOUS!”
- “Does your sweater itch?”