Agents of SHIELD season finale recap

© 2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. Credit: Bob D'Amico

After witnessing tonight’s thrilling Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD season finale, I can safely sum it (as well as the full 22-episode journey) up with three words: 

What a ride.

Kelsey McNeal/ABC

Go back and watch them all back – in order. Read the early reviews, mainly filled with complaints about how slow the show was moving. Notice how they gradually change as the storylines picked up the pace, inevitably sprinting towards tonights finish line. Finally, let it sink in: Marvel knew what they were doing all along.

Tonight’s Agents of SHIELD season finale drew upon the most memorable plot points in recent episodes, along with a few that went back as far as episode one. Questions were answered, scores were settled, and new mysteries were served up for what we now know to be a second season (and hopefully many more) of action.

Take Mike Peterson, the tragic super-soldier known as Deathlok. Blackmailed into virtual slavery to ensure his son’s safety, he’s been relegated to the role of sympathetic baddie for most of the season. Tonight, thanks to Skye (whom, in a nice nod to continuity, has always been Mike’s biggest supporter), Peterson’s little boy was not only saved … his quote from episode one that he and his daddy were “a team” gave Mike the motivation to finally break free, destroying John Garrett in the process.

Speaking of Garrett, his “evolution” to – well, whatever he’d become after taking that serum that saved his life last week – was tons of fun, with Bill Paxton playing his character as gleefully over-the-top as he did for his heroic introduction and slimy swerve after revealing himself to be the ultimate traitor.  The fact that he was equally dangerous and ridiculous was not lost on the writers, who made sure our heroes registered exactly how cuckoo Garrett had become. The tease of a quick resurrection, only for Coulson to calmly blast him into oblivion, was pure Marvel.

But even with comedy sprinkled throughout, this show certainly had its drama. While Fitz and Simmons’ ability to think their way out from the bottom of the ocean was typical, the revelation that only one would be likely to survive was heart-wrenching, especially when Fitz revealed his feelings for the girl he simply refused to live without. Yes, Fitz ended up surviving (and how cool was the arrival of Nick Fury to save the day?), but with extreme oxygen deprivation,  it remains to be seen what condition he’ll be in when the show returns in the fall.

Speaking of Fitzsimmons, It was never made clear if everyone’s other favorite agent-turned-traitor, Grant Ward, dropped them in the ocean last week in order to kill them or save them. With father figure John Garrett leaping off the deep end, Ward found himself desperate for some sort of logic or directive to follow. Instead, he finally faced the wrath of his revenge-minded teammates. Last week, he and Skye had their emotional face-off, leaving room for the showdown we really wanted to see between he and former friend-with benefits, Agent May. Fueled by the anger she’d mentioned she was saving up last week, this was Ming-Na Wen at her butt-kicking finest. I almost wanted to yell “You go Girl!”, but, for some reason, I actually found myself scared that she would hear me.

Ward’s eventual capture means that we’ll likely see more of him next season, but in what capacity, we don’t know. What we do know is that S.H.I.E.L.D. will live on … not only as a series, but as an organization, thanks to Nick Fury. Now incognito (since most of the world thinks he’s dead), Fury stuck around long enough to face Coulson’s season-long wrath about bringing him back to life using alien DNA against his will. Fury’s explanation that Coulson was worth saving because he was trustworthy and valuable to the world was not only fitting, but it set in motion what will surely be next season’s driving story: the rebuilding of S.H.I.E.L.D. under Coulson’s leadership. It will be a long, hard road ahead, but for now, the team was given their day (albeit in a much different form than we witnessed last fall).

Of course, many questions remain. Will Fitz return to normal, and will he and Simmons ever have a chance at love? Will Agent Tripp remain with the team? Is Patton Oswalt’s Billy Koening really the recently-murdered Eric’s twin brother, or is something more mysterious at work? With one of Skye’s parents still alive, will we ever find out exactly what she (and presumable, Raina) is?  If Coulson is functioning normally, why is he finding himself compelled to draw intricate (potentially alien) formulas on his walls in the middle of the night (just like we saw John Garrett do earlier in the episode)?

As the old saying goes … tune in next fall, true believers. However, if you lost patience and stopped watching this show months ago, I suggest you go back, catch up (a viewing of Captain America: The Winter Soldier couldn’t hurt, either), watch this finale for yourself, and – most of all – enjoy the ride.