Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Closure and Maveth Review
My review of the midseason finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s third season has been delayed for far too long, but even now, it is hard to collect my thoughts about the episodes Closure and Maveth. In a broad sense, they share their problems with the rest of the episodes from the third season in that they feel rather disconnected and directionless. However, the flaws of these episodes extend further than that. Right from the opening scene of Closure, I had the sense that I was watching a dream sequence, and that sensation persisted through the majority of these two episodes. Characters acted in ways that didn’t quite feel appropriate, and it gave the episodes a slightly off quality that one often associates with dreams or hallucinations. This was most apparent in Coulson’s storyline as he goes on a poorly motivated story of revenge, but this sense of the uncanny was hardly limited to his actions. Even with months of hindsight, I still don’t know that I would call Closure and Maveth bad episodes, but I believe that they offer viewers an interesting example of what happens when a show knows where it wants its characters to end up, but doesn’t know how to get them there.
So, let’s start of with Coulson and Rosalind. Did we skip an episode between them? Last I checked, they had a slightly unsteady relationship that had recently been thrown into turmoil when Coulson accused Rosalind of being a Hydra traitor. However, by the time Closure starts they’re having the kind of idyllic candlelit romantic dinner that could only end in tragedy. It was this bizarre, slightly off quality that made me think that it might be a dream initially, and Rosalind’s abrupt death at the hands of Ward only added to that sense that things were off. This sense of cognitive dissonance actually persists even now, as those scenes still don’t feel like they fit the show. But no, Rosalind is apparently dead, and Coulson has apparently been driven to the very edge by the loss of his… recent acquaintance/soulmate? The death of Rosalind bothers me on multiple levels, as it feels like it comes far too early. She had some nice chemistry with Coulson, but their relationship still felt like it was in the early stages, and it felt like we were still in the process of learning who she was. So for the show to kill her off just to trigger this vendetta against Ward feels manipulative, like a waste of an interesting character, and a bit too much like a woman in a refrigerator scenario. It may seem odd to spend so much time focusing on an event that occurs within the first 5 minutes of the two episodes that I’m talking about, but Rosalind’s death serves as the motivating factor for Coulson throughout those two episodes, and, since I don’t really buy the motive, I don’t really buy any of his actions either. Plus, it sets the pace and tone for all that follows.
Clark Gregg tries his hardest to make these episodes work, but Coulson just does too many things that are either too out of character for Coulson or are just straight up stupid. Whether it is planning to torture Ward’s brother, or leaping out of a quinjet into small portal hundreds of feet below him with no contingency plan in place should the portal close or should he… you know… miss the target by a foot or two, Coulson just keeps making moves that seem completely disconnected from the character we’ve come to know. Of course, I know why he actually does these things. He does them because the plot demands it. He plans on torturing Ward’s brother because Agents needs him to locate Ward and Malick. He jumps out of the quinjet because the plot needs him to be on the alien planet for Maveth. Even his eventual killing of Ward feels like it is simply part of a plan to get various pieces into place so that Agents can be exactly where it wants to be for its return from the midseason break. It all feels telegraphed and calculated, like it is a poor mimicry of anger and loss which is used to cover up the narrative devices that are operating underneath.
Of course, Coulson doesn’t have a monopoly on inconsistent behavior. I had previously noted earlier in the season that Ward’s behavior seem to vary greatly depending on what the writers wanted to do with him, and as a result he has many of the same issues that Coulson does in these episodes. At any given point, he can be apathetic, jovial or even outright evangelical about Hydra’s cause. It’s a peculiar fluctuation that could have potentially felt more natural had this storyline been given a bit more time, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is on a schedule, and thus such nuances get thrust aside. It also doesn’t help that his capabilities seem to vary greatly to accommodate the plot. At one moment, he can be calm and collected as he snipes a target in the neck from extremely long range, but at another, he can be drawn into giving away his location or be completely dominated in a fist fight against Coulson. The way the episode ends leaves his role in the show slightly unclear, but nebulous and vague has been somewhat par for the course as of late.
For all my complaints, there are some aspects of these episodes that work. Daisy’s team of Secret Warriors finally gets off the ground, as she, Lincoln, and Joey join together in the field to fight Hydra. Honestly, I had hoped to see something in this vein sooner, but the group has a good sense of camaraderie, and watching them work together was quite rewarding. The kidnapping of Fitz and Simmons is predictable, but still well executed. And, finally, Fitz has some good moments when he’s on the alien planet. It’s not enough to make these episodes feel like good ones, but these elements ensure that they are not devoid of enjoyable elements.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Coulson’s decision to take his time to deal with Ward and follow it up with a slow dramatic walk would have been cool if it wasn’t for the fact that the portal was rapidly closing. When your ability to get back home depends on your ability to make haste, dragging your feet for the sake of drama seems like a monumentally idiotic thing to do.
- I won’t list it here for the sake of avoiding spoilers, but the show’s producers have since revealed the identity of the Inhuman creature that was trapped on the other side of the portal in what I can only assume is a mistaken attempt to assure people that they know where they’re going with this. I actually told Birdy who the creature actually was, yesterday, and Birdy, who has read Secret Warriors, initially responded with a simple, “Who?”
- So 10 episodes in and the Secret Warriors consists of Daisy, Joey, and Lincoln… They’ve really built up the team haven’t they?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. staggered to a halt with its midseason finale. With poor motivations, inconsistent characterization, and a poorly relayed vision of where the show is going, Agents needs to determine what it is trying to do with this season, and find a way to make it interesting. As it stands, Closure and Maveth are passable, but little more.