“If I come out, are you gonna shoot me? Because then I won’t come out.”
Cobie Smulders returns as Maria Hill, and things continue to get worse for the former Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Question’s get answered, loyalties are tested, and massive secrets are revealed… but does the show maintain its run of excellence as we head into the finale?
“Nothing Personal” features the return of Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, and her meeting with Coulson again. Last we saw (the former) Agent Hill, was at her interview at Stark Towers—and it looks like she got the job, considering she’s on the phone with Pepper Potts at the start of the episode. After meeting with May, she takes Col. Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) to the hidden S.H.I.E.L.D. base where Coulson and what’s left of his team are hiding. Seeing Smulders on the show is always a treat, and her character, unlike some guest stars, did a whole lot for the shows plot at this point in the story. Being one of the last surviving members of the disbanded organization, she’s tied closely to Coulson, Ward, and May, and we got a chance to explore two of those relationships for the first, and possibly the last, time.
Furthering the theme of not being able to trust anyone, Coulson (Clark Gregg) is betrayed once more by a friend, this time Agent Hill. She manages to redeem herself slightly, but Coulson is being pushed closer and closer to the notion that he can’t trust anyone but his core team, and the shattered world of S.H.I.E.L.D. is never coming back. The final scene between Phil and Maria is a powerful one, and we really get a view of how Coulson’s mind works; he thrives on order, and so badly wants to believe that S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t over. Despite the constant lies and friends turning their backs on him, Coulson believes deep down that the spirit of S.H.I.E.L.D. will live on through the few faithful agents they have left. When Maria is forced to tell Coulson how things really are, and that they should all go their separate ways, you start to realize how much faith he still has in the system.
Agent Tripplet (B.J. Britt) has been sort of bumping heads with everyone but Simmons since S.H.I.E.L.D. fell apart. Being that John Garrett was his mentor, and Fitz jealousy of his relationship with Simmons, he doesn’t have anyone else to really rely on. However, with S.H.I.E.L.D. being gone, he seems to be quickly earning his spot on the team. His character is definitely growing on me, and is a welcomed change from Ward’s similar role, and I think he’s more connected to the characters that need it, namely Fitz (Iain De Caestecker)and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge). Although he hasn’t been given a very prominent role just yet, he definitely has a spot on the team that’s worth exploring.
One of the big questions going into this week’s episode is just how Skye (Chloe Bennet)would get away from Ward (Brett Dalton), with whom she was trapped in a plane, and I think the answer was just as exciting as the question. After establishing the location as a safe zone, Skye and Ward make their way to the diner in which she first meets Mike Peterson. This was a cleverly written bit, as you take it as Skye trying to suck up, so as to not give away that she knows the truth about her SO, but she’s actually asking for his advice, rather with disguised motives. Ward is hopping that Skye will decrypt the information that he needs, but Skye uses this opportunity to confront the traitorous Ward, as they are in a safe environment with a ton of people. This was a very well put together portion of the story, and it had an extremely rewarding payoff for both characters. Unfortunately for Skye, safety gets thrown out the window once she tries to escape, triggering Deathlok (J. August Richards) to make an appearance.
Deathlok, who we see for the first time since Hydra’s unveiling, is now shown in the full extent of his role. As something of the cleanup crew for Garrett and the rest of Hydra, he’s been shadowing Agent Ward the whole time, ensuring his cover is not blown. But when he turns on Ward to get Skye to do what Garrett wants, we get a more fleshed out idea of what kind of psycho Garrett is, and the ruthlessness that he’s forcing the former Mike Peterson to live in. All of that aside, Deathlok actually gets to be kind of a cool, badass character in this episode. Up to this point, he’s been sort of boring and bland, but I enjoyed him in his scene with Ward and Skye. Once Ward finally squares off with Deathlok over almost killing him, there’s a nice reversal in which Deathlok assures Ward that what he did “wasn’t personal.”
Very much in the background this week, Melinda May’s (Ming-Na Wen) mission in this episode is to find out who was behind the Tahiti Project. After running into Maria Hill and doing some digging, she finds a flash drive with info about the project, but a Level 10 S.H.I.E.L.D. clearance is required, which is yet another example of the obstacles that the team has to face in this new world where they are agents of nothing. Clearly, May’s actions in this episode were out of the guilt she felt for keeping so many secrets from Coulson, whether it was for his own safety or not. The thing with May is, how long will it be until she destroys the trust that she’s worked so hard to earn back here, if she even manages to regain it? She lives her life in the shadows, and she’ll be keeping another secret from her close friend sooner or later.
The show ends on a much more somber note than we’ve seen in the series yet, as the team is, now more than ever, homeless. They don’t have S.H.I.E.L.D., they don’t have a plane, and they don’t have a secret base anymore. They’re misfits, lost in the world, with no real purpose at the moment. They only have each other. There’s very much a sense of “where do we go from here?” that I think the show needed to acknowledge, and did a wonderful job of showing in the wrap up scene. In the post-credit scene, May returns, hiding in Phil’s hotel room (apparently, even at this point in the game, it’s just easier to break into someone’s personal space, hide in the shadows and wait if you have to tell them something) with the flash drive she dug up from his grave. On said drive, we are shown that the person in charge of the Tahiti Project was, in fact, Phil Coulson himself. We see that, after much testing, Coulson gives his recommendation to shut the project down, due to the adverse side effects. Why is this project used on Phil, one might ask? It seems like just about the opposite of what logic would suggest, given his outright protest of it, but I’m betting we’ll learn more soon.