Last time on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson and the crew barely managed to thwart a H.Y.D.R.A. plan to ruin their already not-so-good name. By impersonating S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, the bad guys starting murdering important people and brought down the wrath of politics upon their rivals. Luckily, S.H.I.E.L.D. figured out what was going on and stopped H.Y.D.R.A. before things got too out of hand. In the process, (former) Agent Grant Ward was bartered off to his older brother as a show of good faith. Unfortunately, Ward the Younger managed to escape en route and is now on the loose. But what are his true motives? This week, ‘The Writing on the Wall’ not only unravels some of the mystery surrounding Ward, but it takes us to the next level as far as Coulson’s strange alien symbols are concerned.
We begin with two unknown people, hanging out and having drinks while an ominous soundtrack carries on in the background. Naturally, it isn’t too long before one of them murders the other. The end result – he carves the poor girl up with those crazy drawings that Coulson likes to etch into the wall. When Team S.H.I.E.L.D. hears about the event, Coulson and Skye set out after the killer, trying to figure out who he is and how he knows about the symbols. As it turns out, the one murdered has also been recreating the symbols, though with paintings. She also happens to have been a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. So they start putting the pieces together and discover that there are more folks with the alien serum in them than they first thought.
Unfortunately, with no leads to go on, they are forced to stick Coulson back in the crazy memory machine so they can strip his mind for clues. Off he goes to la-la land, but his journey isn’t a pleasant one. The team discovers that Coulson’s missing memories are hiding something much larger and that the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D. may have had a lot more to do with the alien serum than even he knew. So, with the new information, they go on the hunt for any surviving patients that were subjected to experimentation with the alien creepy-juice.
Meanwhile, the other half of Team S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the hunt for the escaped Ward. They track him here and there, but Ward always seems to be a step ahead of them. He makes contact with some old friends in H.Y.D.R.A. and offers them a chance to get to Coulson, but when S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives to bust up their little meeting and take Ward back into custody, they find something more than unexpected waiting for them.
Now’s the part when I usually take a look at the good points and the bad point of the episode, but tonight’s installment is a bit unusual. There really were no bad points this week. The show progressed steadily along, presenting us with a good mix of plot development, action and consistent characterization. They resolved some important issues while introducing new elements that will allow the show to progress in future episodes. All-in-all, ‘The Writing on the Wall’ may be the most expertly written episode of the series to-date.
We got a chance to see how much of a badass Coulson really is and, despite having a deep dislike of the character in the first season of S.H.I.E.L.D., I’ve grown rather fond of him. Ward’s little game of chess with S.H.I.E.L.D. and H.Y.D.R.A. is also an interesting development, though we’ll have to wait and see where this one goes. This episode also had a profound lack of cheap laughs and seems to have gotten darker overall. Coulson’s story went right into crazytown and there’s more tension in the series than ever before. Whereas I was ready to abandon Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all the way up until about two-thirds of the way through season 1, I am now firmly hooked. I’m guessing there are plenty of others out there that feel the same way. I applaud thee, writers. You have done some good things with what at first appeared to be a lackluster knock-off of the Marvel movie success.
Oh, and that city? Fans of Marvel comics will no doubt speculate as to what it might be. Possibly being a build up to a particular slated Marvel film featuring some not so outward humans? I’ll leave it to you readers to form your own theories and discuss amongst yourselves.
Next week, ‘The Things We Bury’ promises a return to the story arc of the mysterious obelisk and the team’s hunt for it. Check out the trailer below: