Official synopsis for Maveth:
“S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra go head-to-head in a battle that will change Coulson’s world forever. While Daisy and her team of Inhumans fight to keep Hydra at bay, Coulson and Fitz take the ultimate risk.”
The game changing moment that Agents of SHIELD set up for us was uninspiring, resulting in a somewhat lackluster winter midseason finale for me.
After last weeks shocking opening with Rosalind’s death, the revenge seeking Coulson went after Ward full throttle. We last saw him following Grant, his team of Hydra agents and Fitz to the desolate alien planet. Given the build up of last week, I was excited to see a mock up of the Secret Warriors team, made up from the few Inhuman’s who survived Lash’s attacks. I was looking forward to the showdown between Hydra and SHIELD and I was waiting for the game changing events the show promised viewers. Instead, none of that actually happened. Not only did the show under deliver on the excitement, in my opinion they killed off one of the most dynamic characters in the series to try and make up for it.
Rest in peace Grant Ward, one of the most underutilised characters in the series. Although we will see Brett Dalton again when the season returns from its hiatus, it won’t be as Ward. Grant Ward’s death had been predicted among viewers, especially given the direction the show had been taking the character in. I think it’s important to note that people who come from an abusive past can become damaged later in life. For me, this is what we saw with Ward. As the character developed there were clear opportunities for the writers to create an arc for redemption, but that never took place. To my mind, Agents of SHIELD ignored a chance to make an impact with viewers who related to Ward and his past. I am not satisfied with the direction they took Ward in, and the failed opportunity to utilize Brett Dalton’s talent to sell a change in direction for the character.
How did we get to Ward’s death? After going through the portal, Ward and Fitz are searching for Hydra’s secret weapon: the Inhuman who wiped out any civilization that had previously lived on the planet. They even stumble upon a monument for the creature, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Hydra symbol, slowly decaying in the sand. Ward and Fitz bicker, heartbreakingly reminiscent of their similar dynamic back in Season 1. It’s clearly not that same however, which is understandable. Fitz managed to quickly sneak through a rabbit hole and find Will. Ward determined that he now had two people to help him find “it”, but as they traveled through the wasteland, Fitz and Will got away in a sandstorm.
We’d barely seen Coulson for much of Maveth, until he finds Ward and gets the drop on him. I was surprised when Coulson didn’t immediately kill Ward, a change from Coulson’s rather hypocritical actions in recent episodes, but it was short-lived. The grand scene at the end of the episode, where the portal was opening, contained a couple of surprises. Will had actually died saving Simmons, and the Will we saw throughout Maveth turned out to be the Hydra creature they’d been looking for. There was a brief battle between Fitz and “evil” Will, but Fitz did finally killed the Inhuman… again?
The second surprise was Coulson and Ward managing to get to the portal right as Fitz and Will did. Ward and Coulson had fought earlier, with Coulson getting the upper hand and shooting Ward. It’s unclear if the shots were meant to kill, but in the end Ward suffers little more than flesh wounds. Coulson then binds Ward’s hands, before following Fitz. As the portal opens, with Fitz in sight, Coulson has a vision of Ros and then uses his robotic hand to crush Ward’s chest in. He then throws this hand to the side, and continues with Fitz through the portal.
Did the writers want Coulson throwing away his robotic hand to relate in some way to Ward’s death? If so, then I’m confused. Perhaps it was an indication that Coulson, having had a taste of killing someone, was done with it. Perhaps it was more symbolic, representative of a change in Coulson’s character that’s coming in 3b. I couldn’t help but feel as though I’d seen a similar moment for the character before, as this was an almost direct callback to the initial loss of his hand. One might argue however, that his actions then were entirely selfless, whereas this moment seemed driven by little more than his own desire for revenge.
Coulson used to be a great Director, but guess who’s doing a better job now? Mack. Acting Director Mack was handling things back on Earth far better than Coulson. Mack actually pulled the Director card on the disobedient SHIELD team once in the episode. It was a refreshing change, and showcase of real leadership in a team that has become progressively less accountable for their actions.
The team works out how to enter the castle containing the portal and a considerable number of Hydra guards. They also figure out a way to save Simmons from Hydra’s clutches. It seemed absurdly easy for the SHIELD team to overcome a Hydra stronghold and complete their mission. Simmons, as it turned out, didn’t need saving, having escaped from her bindings. Whilst hiding, she finds unfamiliar Inhumans in ATCU containers, but also Hydra’s other captive, Andrew Garner.
For a split second I wanted to believe that Garner was truly changed and able to control his Lash other half, but I was mistaken, and so was Simmons. She set Garner free, accepting his assurances that he’d protect her. Unfortunately he also took the opportunity to kill the other captured Inhumans. Shame on you Dr. Garner, shame on you.
And shame on us for believing the show was going to deliver during this winter finale. There was no Hydra vs SHIELD moment, and no real use for Joey or Lincoln. One of the most uninspiring romantic relationships of the season, Lincoln and Daisy, shared a brief moment, presumably to demonstrate to viewers that this is still a “thing”, but is it really? I’m still struggling to enjoy this underdeveloped relationship. There was no real fight with Hydra and SHIELD – you’d think that Malick’s forces would have packed more of punch, right? But that didn’t happen either.
What I did love about the episode was the return to the planet. My highlight of this season was 4,722 Hours; one of the best episodes in the entire series, containing an incredible performance from Elizabeth Henstridge. Once again, we got a fantastic moment between Fitz and Simmons when he arrived back on Earth without Will. Fitz didn’t even have to say anything, Jemma simply seeing from his face that Will didn’t make it.
I’m obviously expecting that we’ll find out more about Hydra’s, presumably Inhuman, secret weapon is when the show returns. As it turns out, Fitz didn’t kill it, a small alien worm instead crawling out of Will and into Grant Ward. So we shall see Brett Dalton return next season, not as Ward, but as Malick’s secret weapon, who may bring death to all humans if Jiaying is to be believed.
Ultimately, the show started out rather formulaic and slow, but then brought in twists that I truly didn’t see coming, both surprising and excited me. Now the twists are somehow predictable, even with the newer fast paced episodes. Maveth was the most disappointing winter finale yet in its three season run. I hope that they’ll come back stronger next March.
What did you think of Maveth? Are you surprised by the death of Grant Ward? Hit me up on Twitter and let’s chat about Agents of SHIELD!