Wed
May 7 2014 2:00pm

Don’t Shoot the Dog. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “Ragtag”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season one, episode 21: Ragtag

We are promised The Back Story of Ward in this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and “Ragtag” gets right to it, kicking off the episode by showing us a pouty Teen Ward in prison scrubs. He has every reason to be pouty, we learn. It’s 1997 and Ward has just learned that the Smashing Pumpkins’ follow-up to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness will be an electronica album*. On top of that, he’s in juvenile detention for arson and attempted murder and his parents are threatening to get him tried as an adult.

*I had to do a relatively ludicrous amount of research for that joke. I’m not proud of that, but I’m not not proud.

Agent John Garrett comes to visit this troubled lad and knows that he just needs a secretive paramilitary organization to mentor him and give him something to believe in. Actually, Garrett just straight up kidnaps him from prison under the pretense that Ward has any kind of choice in the matter. Garrett makes his recruitment speech, armed Hydra agents burst into the prison visitor room, Ward hastily agrees to join, and Garrett and Teen Ward walk out. The episode keeps this exchange punchy, and Bill Paxton is at his charmingly oozy best, but the show doesn’t dare linger on the darker issue presented here. Namely, that Garrett is targeting a vulnerable population—kids in prison—and forcibly recruiting them into Hydra. What are the odds that Teen Ward would have survived refusing Garrett’s offer?

We just watched Ward get trafficked into a terrorist organization.

Hydra, as we’ve learned over and over in this series, is about taking control of your life away from you. Fifteen years ago they did it to Ward, and currently they’re doing it to Mike Peterson, who we find out was just sent to hunt down and visibly kill a Columbian drug lord. Peterson is just a piece of the puzzle, though, and Coulson has a fun chart that explains the one entity that ties Deathlok, his resurrection, Garrett, and a whole bunch of other things together: Cybertek.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season one, episode 21: Ragtag

We also find out that Skye left a trojan horse on the hard drive that will map the system and files of anything it’s connected to, like Cybertek’s internal computer systems. Skye gets mad props from the team, but she demurs. She never got to finish the trojan horse completely, so the info it’s collected has to be physically re-obtained from Cybertek’s systems. (Later we find out she rigged it so it would transmit the info over a UHF signal which...eee! So nerdy!) Coulson and May have to infiltrate!

But they’re not S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore. They have no back-up, no plane, no guns, no gadgets. Well, actually, they have gadgets because remember how Tripp’s grandpa was a Howling Commando? Here’s a suitcase full of his old-timey atomic-era spy stuff. Coulson understandably GEEKS. OUT. and the over-sugared toy binge between him and Fitz is a joy to watch, although Fitz underestimates the potency of his laser cigarette and lights a window curtain on fire. “Watch out Hydra, here we come...,” May intones sadly. Earlier in the year I would have found such a remark very fitting, but now that the overarching plot has forced the characters to own that sentiment I find myself rooting for them like proper underdogs. Don’t worry, agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! You might be the Bad News Bears of the Marvel universe but you’ve got pluck! And determination! And a trail of dead bodies in your wa... okay, that comparison got away from me. Still. Now I want them to succeed instead of wanting them to leave me alone. These are the days, my friends!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season one, episode 21: Ragtag

Coulson and May’s plan to infiltrate Cybertek is the essence of the show’s appealing new scrappiness. As Dio Tiddle and Doctor Rome (THOSE OUTFITS) they interview for Cybertek’s R&D division and are roundly dismissed by two Silicon Valley twerps in lab coats who you just know would be wearing Google Glass if the show could afford thousands on a throwaway joke like that. Everything S.H.I.E.L.D. did was kiddy stuff, the twerps argue, their slackened gazes waiting for the day when their stock is fully vested and they can quit. Cybertek has found that Hydra agents make way better, and younger, private sector recruits. So, sorry Tiddle and Rome, but Cybertek has nothing to offer you. Except this security guy who will follow you into the elevator and maybe try to murder you.

I said maybe! Probably Coulson and May just need his security key to get to the fourth floor, and knocking him out does that nicely. Skye’s outside the building in a van, but her trojan horse hasn’t been able to find any files in Cybertek’s system. There’s a heavily secured area on the fourth floor, however, so the two of them make their way through the hallways...

...only to find themselves in a tense stand-off with a security guy in a blazer. A red security desk phone sits on the wall between him and May. Who will get there first?

Not May. She wastes times flipping and flipping and flipping down the hallway while the security breaks into a straight run, grabbing the phone first. But don’t worry. The flipping? It’s just May’s way of having a little fun. She gets there. She kicks the dude in mid-flip. She grabs the phone out of the air and hangs it back up. Coulson’s sweater is itchy. Her glasses are barely even askew. She’s got this.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season one, episode 21: Ragtag

Coulson and May break into the unmarked room and find out why Skye hasn’t been able to find any files: they’re all hard copies. Skye isn’t the only person to think of going low-tech. Begrudgingly, the two of them begin digging through the filing cabinets for info on Deathlok.

Can we talk about Teen Ward for a second here? Because he got abandoned in the woods by Garrett almost immediately after being sprung from prison, with nothing but his clothes and Garrett’s dog Buddy to help him fend for himself. “You want a warm place to sleep, you make it. You want to eat, you kill it,” Garrett explains. “I’ll be back in a couple of months, either you’ll be here or you won’t. It’s up to you.”

Teen Ward is righteously pissed about this “character building” exercise, and it shows when Garrett shows back up not two months but six months later. Ward greets him down the barrel of a gun. Six months of wilderness living has forced him to start raiding people’s homes for resources. Although, we suspect that at this point Teen Ward has some decency to him and only takes what he needs, as evidenced by the space he’s started clearing to build his own cabin. “Give me one reason not to blow your head off,“ he tells Garrett.

Garrett: “I brought tacos?”

But Garrett is lying, even about this, which somehow feels like more of an indignity than abandoning Teen Ward in the woods was. Tacos = caring. Garrett doesn’t care about Ward. The only reason he’s even come back is to teach Ward the skills he’ll need to become a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. It’s a weird mix of qualities that Garrett is grooming within young Ward. The boy is thankful for the opportunity to build his own life (i.e. cabin), and Garrett has given him time to grow into someone who is resourceful and self-reliant. But at the same time, Garrett is careful not to let Ward stray too far out of his influence. Garrett offers a mockery of freedom to Ward, leaving him to make personal accomplishments, then returning to gaslight him about those very accomplishments. Now we see. This is how Ward became dependent on Garrett’s approval. This is how it became more important to Ward than anything else.

Back at Cybertek, Coulson makes a discovery. The Deathlok program stretches back to the 1990s—only a few years before Garrett recruited Ward—and it all began with a single patient: Garrett himself. “I got fragged by an IED outside of Sarajevo,” we’ll hear him explain later in the episode. He was compromised, so S.H.I.E.L.D. refused to pick him up. We know firsthand that this is something S.H.I.E.L.D. likes to do from time to time. Ward and Fitz themselves would be dead if May hadn’t defied orders and extracted them during the events of “The Hub.”

For Garrett, Sarajevo was the turning point, and he vowed to treat S.H.I.E.L.D. like it had treated him: disposable. “So I stuffed my intestines back inside, duct taped myself shut and humped out of there.” It escapes Garrett’s notice that his grooming of Ward parallels his abandonment by S.H.I.E.L.D., but that’s how abuse perpetuates itself. Ward has yet to experience the same turning point, the same moment of clarity, that Garrett had in Sarajevo. What happens when he does?

Finding out that Garrett is being kept alive by Deathlok-tech is the final puzzle piece that Coulson’s team needs. Time to go. He radios Skye to “Get ready for a large file transfer.”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season one, episode 21: Ragtag

Then he and May zipline out like bosses. The entire Cybertek infiltration is one of the best sequences the show has ever put together, an almost-comedy that makes virtues of the character’s flaws and lets the writing team and the actors have fun with the world they inhabit. I didn’t point it out above, but even before the “large file transfer” I totally lost it during the interview scene when Coulson and May awkwardly tried to repeat the technobabble that Fitz and Simmons were earpiecing to them. They lose control of the terms so quickly that they start imitating their accents just to keep up and it sounds so strange, like suddenly Coulson and May are having a psychotic break. I wonder if that was an improv by the actors? They must make fun of each other’s accents all the time in between filming.

Coulson’s team pieces everything together. Garrett’s missing some torso and he must want the GH-325 to regenerate with since the Deathlok tech is old and probably can’t sustain Garrett for much longer. Thankfully, they’ve managed to track The Bus to Cuba and the second half of our packed episode begins! Coulson wants revenge! And his plane back!

Skye wants revenge, too. And May. Skye asks May how she manages to stay so Zen all the time, especially after May and Ward had a sort-of relationship. Skye’s been regretting that she didn’t let Ward die last episode, even though Coulson is proud of her. Fitz’s continuing insistence that Ward is not evil is really pissing her off, as well. May explains: “What [Fitz] said, it’s what he needs to believe.” She admits to Skye that she IS furious at Ward, but doesn’t want to waste her anger on a tantrum. “I’m going to mine it, save it, and when I find Ward I’m going to use it all to take him down.”

Skye wishes to learn this Hate-Fu. Lessons are at 5 every morning, May offers.

While we’ve been talking about our feelings and learning Ward’s past and infiltrating places, we’ve also been finding out more about Raina and the THX-1138 or whatever it’s called. Despite Raina’s brilliance at isolating the regenerative properties, Garrett doesn’t trust her. He can’t bully her into loyalty like he did for Ward. She’s there, she tells Deathlok, because she wants to know what makes super people like him tick, she suspects that she and Skye have something in common in that regard. Something internal.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season one, episode 21: Ragtag

Coulson’s team splits into two. Fitz and Simmons track down The Bus while Coulson and the rest search the Hydra base under the Havana barber shop. The latter turn up nothing, as Garrett, Ward, Raina, and Deathlok have already transferred to The Bus. Garrett is closer to death than he’s let on. The Deathlok tech will give him a month, maybe more, tops, and that’s with the Extremis in his bloodstream already giving him a boost. Ward does what he can to keep Garrett going, charging and rebooting the hardware as needed, but Garrett is already ailing, he needs a Cybertek facility and a safe place to administer the TK427WhyAren’tYouAtYourPost serum.

Fitz and Simmons are dragged before Garrett and Ward as The Bus takes off. They’re almost certainly going to be killed, so Fitz goes for broke, pleading with Ward to see that he still has a choice as to what he can do. Then he activates an EMP, critically damaging Garrett’s systems. If Hydra is going to kill them, then Garrett’s coming, too.

Fitz and Simmons manage to escape briefly and lock themselves in a chamber on the plane where Hydra can’t get to them. Garrett orders Ward to personally kill the two of them. Ward seems to hesitate and Garrett pounces. Is that weakness?

Ten years ago Garrett taught Ward about weakness. Five years of survival and training in the woods had done Ward well and made him a talented killer. Talented enough to be accepted into S.H.I.E.L.D. as a sleeper Hydra agent. But being Hydra means not having any attachments or affections...any weakness in you. Ward has to fight the weakness within him at every opportunity, Garrett urges. Then he orders Ward to shoot Buddy the dog, the only companion he’s had for the last five years.

A shot rings out in the woods. The bullet sails upward. Ward can’t do it. Buddy runs off.

On The Bus, Fitz continues to plead with Ward. They’re safe, but they’re trapped. Ward is blocking the only exit. “You can choose right now to be good. It’s a choice.”

Ward’s rifle scope tracks Buddy the dog as he runs. A second shot rings out in the woods.

Fitz and Simmons scream as the chamber they’re trapped in slides out of The Bus and drops into the ocean.

Underneath a barber shop in Havana, Coulson and his team find themselves surrounded by multiple Deathloks.

Garrett writhes as the GH-325 repairs his body and sends the Extremis surging through him. “What are you feeling?”“ Ward asks. “THE UNIVERSE.”

There is no weakness left to save any of them.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season one, episode 21: Ragtag

 

Tidbits:

  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has gotten WAY better at cliffhangers. I seriously have no idea how any of these characters are going to get out of this and that is fantastic.
  • Garrett not only sports his usual turtleneck in this episode, but multiple turtlenecks. He obviously stole the idea from Archer.

  • Stupid Ward! Everyone knows that you set the dog free so that it will help you in the fight against the El Gigante later on!
  • Wait, so if Ward’s dog helped him survive in the woods by hunting...then basically Garrett put Ward through a real-life version of Duck Hunt. Which means that whenever we play Duck Hunt...we are Ward. OH GOD.
  • Raina has a weird reveal in regards to Skye’s parents. Apparently her real parents were the ones who killed everyone in the Hunan Province village that Skye was found in? So...their daughter’s blood made them insane? Or does Skye have some other quality that made her immune to the crazy? I suppose this mystery will have to wait until season 2.
  • Speaking of...ABC has yet to announce a renewal for the show, although I would consider it guaranteed. Network upfronts are this week and an announcement will most likely be made then.
  • I’ve read that season 2 might get split into two chapters, with a Peggy Carter mini-series running in between those chapters. I wonder if that’s another reason why ABC has delayed announcing the next step for this show. If a Peggy Carter mini doesn’t get greenlit then that would change Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s plans a bit.
  • Roxann Dawson directed this episode and wow is she good at putting the spy in this spy show. Her previous outing “Eye Spy” was one of the show’s better episodes in this regard, as well.
  • Dawson really loves framing her subjects, too. The shot of Raina in the post above is far more memorable than the scene itself. She visualizes Ward the same way as he sends Fitz and Simmons to their doom.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season one, episode 21: Ragtag

  • The whole drug lord in Columbia detail was to set up the post-credits scene, where Hydra Quinn pitches an army of efficient Deathloks to the U.S. military. In the light of the other cliffhangers in the episode, this one comes off a bit toothless. Maybe it’s just setting up cannon fodder for Avengers: Age of Ultron? We sure could use some Deathloks around when Tony’s robots start going nuts!
  • We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Duct tape has SO many uses.

Chris Lough is the resident Tor.com Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recapper and promises never to fool you with tacos.

53 comments
C. A. Bridges
1. C. A. Bridges
For the "large file transfer" alone, I forgive them the first three episodes. Maybe the first four.
Chris Nelly
2. Aeryl
They zipline out like bosses, with their anchor nothing more than flimsy gypsum board ceiling tile.

TRY HARDER SHOW!

Ward did not kill Buddy. Garrett did. That's why Ward saved FitzSimmons by ejecting them into the ocean, he knows if he's caught, Garrett will have them killed anyway. So they'll end up on a deserted island, where Fitz has his Simmons, and Simmons will find a teleportation device. Oh, and they still have the walkie talkie disguised as a quarter that has a homing device.

I totally thought Raina would try to poison him. And Raina knows more than she's letting on, obviously she knows about Skye's past because she's either a parent, or an abandoned child too.
C. A. Bridges
3. Sophist
I'm not buying the woobification of Ward, though ejecting the pod with Fitzsimmons seems very Star Wars and perhaps giving them a chance.

If I were Garrett, I wouldn't trust Raina either.
C. A. Bridges
4. Sophist
Coke to Aeryl.
Henry Loose
5. schrodinger
This show is getting a lot better. I could see it being a lot like Star Trek TNG in terms of season quality. The first season had some really bad episodes in it and some of the sylistic stuff just didn't work, but from the second season on some adjustments were made and the show got so much better. I could see that happening with AoS over the past couple of episodes, and that bodes well for the next few seasons (if it gets picked up by the network).

What has also become pretty clear over these past few episodes is just how much Winter Soldier hurt this show just from a timing standpoint. The effort to line up the release dates for the movie and "Turn, Turn, Turn" made the show seem a lot clunkier than it actually is with all the delays in releases and episodes that seemed to go nowhere (although that could just be the fault of bad writing).

But, in the end, I do have to say that the payoff was worth it. With Ward and Garrett establishing themselves as the looming nemeses of the team, and the bad guy of the week format being pushed to the sidelines, the show has really come into its own.

Now I want to go push a file cabinet out a window just so I can say to my neighbors: “Get ready for a large file transfer.”

Edit: @2 Aeryl
"They zipline out like bosses, with their anchor nothing more than flimsy gypsum board ceiling tile."

That bothered me as well. I just had to mentally adjust the show so that it went through the board and attached to some structural member behind it.
Chris Nelly
6. Aeryl
My headwank was that they shot it into the side of the building.
Kimani Rogers
7. KiManiak
Thanks Chris,

Love the “TK427…” Star Wars reference. If only Hydra had a Death Star and Coulson and May infiltrated wearing Storm Trooper suits...

I’m gonna guess that Skye’s 084ness is somehow related to the Asgardian-affiliated portion of the Marvel Universe. The “monsters” that Raina was referring to are really some type of alien. That’s why Skye and Sif never interacted way back when Sif had her guest appearance; maybe Sif would somehow be able to recognize the difference?

Anyway, fun episode and fun post.
Mark Jones
8. entrophy
@2 I interpreted the Buddy thing as Ward not being able to pull the trigger up close, so he made the dog run and could finish the job at a distance.

Which would be very similar to FitzSimmons as, without any means of communication, dropping them in the ocean is as good as condemning them. Of course, WE know they have a superspy homing beacon. Then again, Ward doesn't know that they DON'T.

@5: I think the show's "holding pattern" was less of an issue of having to wait for Winter Soldier than it was a combination of "first season" ramp up and a imperfectly executed stage setting.

I get the impression that these last few episodes were the story the showrunners were excited to tell. But first, you have to establish the world that exists before the walls come down. Show S.H.I.E.L.D. doing the good work, getting things done. Establish who the characters are. Set expectations for how things are *supposed* to work.

The problem was that the initial episodes felt very... wishy washy. They tried doing too much and accomplished only some of it. How many mysteries did they set up for every character? How many paid off? I was relieved that they answered the "Is Skye a Spy?" question so quickly... but then they immediately replaced it with the mystery of her parantage which continued to evolve. May had a Tramatic Backstory that we... kinda?... got some information on. Coulson, of course, had his resurrection to deal with, each answer being replaced with new questions.

Things kept moving, but it never felt like it was moving FORWARD. Since the Reveal, the show's been running on a heavy arc, episodes pretty much indivisible from each other (aside from a B story here or there). Before hand, it was trying to be more episodic, but was intent on saying, "look! There are deeper mysteries here, aren't you interested?" Unfortunately, the reveals they did have were disappointing or vague, and then instantly supplanted.
C. A. Bridges
9. Synchronicity
Poor commentary. I really like this series of posts, but this one lacks depth and makes a number of factual errors.

Garrett makes his recruitment speech, armed Hydra agents burst into the prison visitor room, Ward hastily agrees to join, and Garrett and Teen Ward walk out.
No, Garret makes his speech, Ward accepts and THEN the Hydra agents burst in.

(Later we find out she rigged it so it would transmit the info over a UHF signal which...eee! So nerdy!) Coulson and May have to infiltrate!
No, the Howling Commando pin picks up on computers by scanning using UHF. Finding computers would give her an opportunity to stick in the USB stick that'll activate the Trojan horse.

She gets there. She kicks the dude in mid-flip. She grabs the phone out of the air and hangs it back up.
She gets there, picks up the phone, kicks dude in mid-flip, grabs the phone out of the air and hangs it back up.

The above and the misplaced apostrophes made me sad.
Chris Nelly
10. Aeryl
@8,
dropping them in the ocean is as good as condemning them.

Not in ComicLogic,In ComicLogic dropping them a short drop in the shallow Carribbean Sea is practically ensuring their survival.

And he saw the quarter. He may not know what it is, but knowing the Joy Buzzer wasn't what it appeared to be, he had to suspect the quarter was questionable too, but didn't demand they take it away.

Last week, I linked to the comic book cover for this episode, that juxtaposed Simmons face with Ward's on it, hinting she would get some backstory development as well, perhaps letting us in on that secret she's hiding so poorly. We didn't get that, and I'm sad.
Chris Nelly
11. Aeryl
@9, No, CybertekSecurityDude got to the phone first.
Sky Thibedeau
12. SkylarkThibedeau
I too thought that it was Garrett who shot Buddy with the sniper scope since Ward failed. It was based on urban legends of Nazi, Japanese youth groups or US or Soviet Special Forces having to raise and kill an animal to test their will to follow orders so it fits Hydra well.
C. A. Bridges
13. littlebit_liz
@ Aeryl, I think I remember reading in the little article with that cover that that was Skye's face, not Simmons. If I'm remembering correctly.
C. A. Bridges
14. jere7my
I've seen people on other fora thinking that Garrett shot the dog, and I deleted the episode from my DVR, so I won't say Aeryl and Skylark are wrong...but it fits the emotional narrative of the episode better for Ward to have done it. The audience is meant to see Ward sparing the dog, think "Aw, he's not so bad; maybe he'll spare FitzSimmons!" and then go "OH CRAP HE DID IN FACT KILL THE DOG" to ratchet up the tension just before he drops them in the Atlantic. Since Garrett wasn't involved in the FitzSimmons scene, showing him killing the dog at that particular moment would just muddy the message: "Ward spares dogs, but still kills his friends, but Garrett is more evil than Ward, but he's not there right now."
C. A. Bridges
15. Logan Tom
Great deconstruction of a complicated episode, but the Archer/turtlenecks reference was so out of left field and literally Laugh Out Loud funny. Well played.
C. A. Bridges
16. KAsiki
I think it was forgotten that there was one non deathlock in the cliff hanger. He was holding the staff. Prediction- May takes it and goes to town.
Chris Meadows
17. Robotech_Master
@16: I'll agree with you that the staff is there as a Chekhov's Gun, or else they wouldn't have made sure to show it so clearly.

But I predict Skye gets her hands on the staff, and it unlocks whatever alien powers her 084 nature grants her. Then she goes one-on-one with the similarly-powered-up Garrett at the end.

After all, Skye's nature is another Chekhov's Gun, and they took extra special care to position it lovingly on the mantlepiece and dust a few specks of dust off in this episode with Raina's little revelation about her parents, the "monsters." (Was Raina, in fact, one of those parents? Is that the thing that she thinks she and Skye share?)
Chris Nelly
18. Aeryl
@14, Garrett was completely involved in the scene. The ghost of what he did to Buddy because Ward wouldn't hung over that whole scene.

He has to kill them

He doesn't want to

But if he doesn't Garrett will make sure it's done anyways, so it's pointless not to

But what if Garrett won't know

What if they are off the plane

They can make it, they're smart, they'll escape the pod, and get help.

We're not too far from land.

*sploosh*

That's the thought process of a man looking for a loophole. This way, he can tell Garrett that he threw them off the plane, and not be lying, and he doesn't have to kill his friends, who are the only people he's shown any hesitation in killing.

In re the staff. IF she's Asgardian, sure. But the other possibility is Inhuman, who were made by the Kree I guess? And they have to be exposed to something to activate their powers.

I think Raina would be a sister/cousin more than her mother, but we will see.
C. A. Bridges
19. Bytowner
About Quinn's sales pitch to the Pentagon: how many people with multi-star shoulder-boards do you suppose hold a grudge against Stark and Potts over what happened to Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2?
Chris Nelly
20. Aeryl
@19, Absolutely, they are setting up Avengers 2 pretty well. The idea of privatizing national security that Hill talked about in Nothing Personal was first brought up in that Senate Committee meeting in Iron Man 2.
C. A. Bridges
21. jere7my
I just re-watched Buddy's death scene. It's clear to me that we were watching Ward remember his view through the sniper scope as he made the decision to dump FitzSimmons. Nothing else in the flashback was from any non-Ward POV. If they wanted to suggest Garrett had killed Buddy, we'd've seen Ward remembering Garrett dumping the dead body of Buddy at his feet or something; adding a Garrett POV for a single shot seems odd to me.

This also makes sense of the otherwise unnecessary exposition about the kilometer-plus range of the sniper rifle — it tells us Ward had time to get back to camp and pick up the rifle. The character we last saw peering through the scope is the character peering through the scope at the end; I don't think anything else is supported by the evidence, and I think it makes a stronger character choice for Ward.
Nathan Martin
22. lerris
While watching, I just kind of assumed that the anchoring of the zipline to the truck was being duplicated in the office. Or at the very least that May and Coulson were checking to make sure it was secure.
Chris Meadows
23. Robotech_Master
Scenes we'd like to see from the season finale:

Coulson: You know what, Fury? Screw you, I'm totally putting in that fish tank now.
John C. Bunnell
24. JohnCBunnell
A pet peeve: the South American country is Colombia. "Columbia" is a major river in the Pacific Northwest, which flows directly past the city where Coulson's cellist and I happen to live.

I did and do love the Howling Commando spy tech, which made me think fondly of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (hey, another agency with a thing about the periods in its acronym!) and the Adam West Batman. Also, clearly, "Get ready for a large file transfer" is going to start showing up on T-shirts....

I think Aeryl's analysis of Ward's moment with FitzSimmons in #18 is spot-on...but so is Jere7my's logic about the sniperscope moment in #21. Which is -- interesting, and argues for Ward starting to emerge from Garrett's brainwashing just a bit.

The interesting question from here is not only how Our Heroes are going to get themselves back together in the wake of the present cliffhanger. We also have the question of whether Garrett's going to survive his injection of GH-325 (I have my doubts), who's going to end up with the Bus, and how -- in the wake of Winter Soldier and its aftermath -- the show is going to continue to justify calling itself Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. next season.
C. A. Bridges
25. Nothorse
how -- in the wake of Winter Soldier and its aftermath -- the show is going to continue to justify calling itself Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. next season.
Maybe they won't. "Secret Avengers" has a ring to it, hasn't it?
Chris Nelly
26. Aeryl
I've decided that the person looking through the scope, is Clint Barton, and Buddy becomes Pizza Dog.
C. A. Bridges
27. KAsiki
@19- Remeber what Hammer actually was producing in Iron Man 2 on his own? Ex-Wife. How any at the pentagon thank tony for getting hammer away from their men?
Chris Nelly
28. Aeryl
@27, But Hammer was at least selling other standard weapons, look at all the other stuff he put on Rhodey. Tony's not selling them anything.
Timmothy Frink
29. twiff
@18: inhumans popped into my mind too...i don't know, but i am assuming marvel still has the film rights to them? it would tie in the kree and allow for non-mutant mutants (kind of). the deviant inhumans could be "monsters". but then, monsters can mean so much. anyway, inhumans is my bet (for now).
Luis Milan
30. LuisMilan
So... if the floating box makes it to a deserted island, Fitz will have his "what's in the box?" wish come true?
C. A. Bridges
31. rconnell
Simmons is going to discover that the container they are in is really the T.A.R.D.I.S.
Christopher Bohn
32. engrbohn
What to call the show next season?
Phil Coulson, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
has a nice ring to it. (But let's be honest, that's not his niche.)
Chris Meadows
33. Robotech_Master
Is the cargo container going to float or sink, I wonder? You'd think that if it's just a metal shell with a bunch of air in it, it should float like a boat. Assuming it's airtight, anyway.
C. A. Bridges
34. Sophist
So... if the floating box makes it to a deserted island, Fitz will have his "what's in the box?" wish come true?

Only in a "be careful what you wish for" sense, I suspect.
Chris Nelly
35. Aeryl
Having reviewed the comic book cover, I still say it's Gemma. All the "memories" behind her face are of her and Fitz.
Liz J
36. Ellisande
@26 Pizza Dog! Pressing that invisible "like" button so hard. :)
C. A. Bridges
37. Porphyrogenitus
When I first saw the episode, the dog sniper scene felt like Garrett demonstrating a point to Ward, teaching him the lesson that weakness doesn't help anyone because the actions you take because you are weak are ultimately futile. The various arguments and explanations posted here, however, make me think that maybe it was Ward who finally shot Buddy and my first impression was wrong.

Flowers is probably of the same or similar nature as Skye. She seemed somehow off after managing to synthesize the dose of GH-whatever, as if she recognized it and realized what it was. She also seemed disillusioned with Garrett, which could well have consequences going forward.

Regarding Skye's parents, I took Flowers literally. When she called them monsters she didn't mean in a moral sense, she meant it in a physical one. I think they were aliens of some kind who, in their panic over the loss of their child, dropped whatever disguise or illusion made them seem human and revealed their true forms to the locals even as they massacred them. I suspect Skye looks the way she does because she unconsciously adopted that form based on the people around her as she grew up. When she has whatever instinctive power-use moment that seems like it might be pending, she may prove to be a shapeshifter, potentially with some other powers as well.
Alan Brown
38. AlanBrown
A good episode. I thought the Ward backstory would be a sidetrack, but they juxtaposed it quite nicely with his dilemma regarding killing Fitz and Simmons. The plane was flying low and slow, with the jets pivoting to hover. So it was pretty clear he wanted them to live. I know Garrett was occupied at the time, and wouldn't notice that, but I just wonder how Garrett's minions didn't notice what was going on. And I don't know who killed Buddy--but I have a feeling we will find out next week.
The Cybertek scenes were great--a nice touch of humor here and there is what this show needs. I loved the 'large file transfer' gag--that was fun.
I liked all the "Howling Commando" 1960's era gadgets. But the Howling Commandoes of the comics were not gadget toting spies. They were a down to earth WWII commando unit. But then again, the comic Howling Commandoes weren't Captain America's sidekicks, like they were portrayed in the movies. Sometimes I wish the shows and movies would be a little truer to the source material. Not just giving names from the comics to people who bear no resemblence to the original characters.
Speaking of that, Agent Garrett in the comics was almost entirely mechanical--so having him be a Deathlok-type cyborg actually was pretty true to the comic world.
I find myself really looking forward to next week's show, and also hearing an announcement that the show will be renewed for next season. I am glad the show is finally finding its legs--I really wanted it to succeed, and it is finally looking like everything is heading in the right direction.
Bryan Price
39. bytehead
And the news is, AoS is renewed for next year.
Chris Nelly
40. Aeryl
And we're getting Agent Carter!!!!!!

What I've heard is that they are going to split the SHIELD season in two, and put Agent Carter in the hiatus, so they can continue the Marvel stuff in the same time slot!
C. A. Bridges
41. Chollatech
"You're worthless and weak!" How could you miss the Animal House variation?
jen howell
42. jencat
I really wanted Garrett to have been Buddy's executioner (because gunning down adorable chocolate labs is pretty much an unredeemable character black mark in my book for life, and we're apparently still dithering about Ward), but... have to agree, it looked pretty clear to me it wasn't him.

I'm probably just repeating everyone else's observations, but they do kind of set Ward up as a sniper from the get-go - the first thing he says in this ep was how he could have taken out the Colombian drug lord himself from a distance rather than sending in Mike. Then they repeatedly mentioned him being a sniper and his hand/eye co-ordination, so every time we see a scope shot, it's going to be him.

It also works so much better as a character beat - Garrett doing it would have had to have been more obvious, as the point of shooting the dog was to affect Ward. We were missing Ward's reaction shot of seeing Garrett kill the dog if that had been the case - because the point of that would have been to affect his relationship with Garrett. Instead, we see him doing it, because the killing in itself is the reaction shot to Garrett's ultimatum. I think.

I take all of that back if it turns out to be an intentional misdirect next week of course, but are they really going to have time to dwell on significantly sacrificed canines with everything else going down?
Chris Nelly
43. Aeryl
We were missing Ward's reaction shot

Unless, doing the best he can to save FitzSimmons, while appearing to kill them, is the reaction shot.
Brian Haughwout
44. bhaughwout
I'm torn on the "shoot the dog issue" myself, as I can see both resolutions from how the evidence is shown (in the flashback scene and in the present scenes around it), and I think that's on purpose. I feel that they did that on purpose due to a limitation of Standards & Practices, though: remember that it's a family show on 8pm on ABC. You can mow though a battalion of soldiers, but the network won't let you even obliquely depict certain violence against a dog, especially by a quasi-sympathetic character. It's like how folks keep arguing about whether Victoria Hand is dead when the show keeps saying she is because of the angle the shot was shown: S&P is still different on how you show gun violence versus men & women in that sort of time slot: hence why the kill shots were done from an off-angle but the camera lingered on blood flow to "show" that she was dead -- an Agent "Victor" Hand would have just likely gotten one through the forehead on camera and fallen backwards with no later arguments online.

(@26 I also assumed that any unseen sniper shot only winged Buddy, who was picked up by a young & hip Agent Clint Barton (before later foreign missions made him the gruff snark seen in The Avengers). Feeding the injured dog pizza to keep him alive, Barton took him to the vet to get him stitched up and adopted him to solve crimes...)

I've been reticent to accept the Inhumans theory until Raina brought up the idea that she was like Skye ('Rain' and 'Sky'? Heh), which makes me wonder if both indeed are inactivated Inhumans and their DNA reads as human+ in similar ways (with the same "slot" for where Terrigenesis would go). If so, it both makes sense that Raina's been going around looking at other powered individuals to see if they match her DNA (to see if they're the same people as she is -- Centipede/Hydra being the best way to find them & bulk-study Special DNA for matches), and it makes sense that the "monsters" who were Skye's parents were activated Inhumans (not necessarily Deviants -- look at how monsterous most of even the Royal Inhumans look); possibly freshly changed and not knowing what they were? With the link with Skye, this gives Raina not only another of her "people," but a connection to what those people are about via the "monsters" story: I have to wonder if the two might be forced in Season 2 to put aside differences to use their combined skills and processing data to track down the rest of their people and find out answers to what they are?

The most telling moment for Fitz this episode, maybe all season, was when they kept flashing between him and Buddy to offer the choice to Ward over what to do. In terms of his perfect loyalty and innocence, comparing him to the team's dog isn't actually wrong or insulting (mark me down as the "dogs are better than people" type). Watching him neglected, betrayed, and whipped, until he's cornered and finally bites was interesting. You ended up with tiny Fitz willing to risk himself to take out Garrett, then interposing himself in the attempt at "escape" (with the sense that he would have tried -- and failed -- to fight if he had to give Simmons a chance to get away, while still trying to save Ward. Meanwhile, big bad Garrett was finally proven to be full enough of WEAKNESS that he used up the entirety that his project had spent fifteen years on, not on an army of immortal supersoldiers, but on saving himself while crying from being taken out like a punk by a scrawny nerd.

With the appearance of Nick Fury coming up next week, I expect some change in status quo for S.H.I.E.L.D. I don't see a "Whoops! You guys are cleared, here's your stuff back!" ending, as that would be anticlimactic. Rather, I expect that the Team will get some level of secret backing and that S.H.I.E.L.D. will be recreated as a secret organization, fighting its war againt Hydra wholly in the shadows from disconnected cells and still hunted by as 'legitimate' authorities as it's supported by. A number of the villains will be stopped (Garrett won't make it out alive, I imagine -- just Paxton payscale), while others reorganization or escape (I hope that Quinn's rehabilitated relationship with the military survives into Season 2 -- that's a cool juxtaposition for a discredited S.H.I.E.L.D. to fight).

I've mentioned that I think that Raina will probably stay on as a character at some (hopefully growing) level of involvement. Hopefully the same for Mike Peterson: if any character is going to pull a "sudden change of heart/switch sides," it'll be him. I still can't tell you what will happen with Grant Ward: will he turn on Garrett and make a sacrifice, will he turn and survive, will he stay evil and get his full comeuppance, will he end up in a cell at the end of the episode (cue visit from myserious figure)?

P.S. Agent Tripplett, your suitcase of SSR wonders makes me too realize that I'm no good at returning a fist pound. Can I just give you the bro hug you so richly deserve instead?
Robert Evans
45. bobsandiego
Okay unless I missed it here in the comments it loks to me like everyone is skipping right by the big unnamed thing in the episode 'Ragtag' and that is the character played by actor Glenn Morshower, unnamed army general. OPver at IMDB he isn't given that much of a character name, the character is simply left blank. Which I think means he's part of a reveal. Now the actor is of course familiar to us for having played Col. Hendry in X-Men: First Class, but that character is dead dead dead, this can't be Hendry, no matter how much it may look and sound like him.
Why play this army general with a character actor so easily identifiable with another army officer froma realted franchise? What is the deal here? QuickerSilver is showing up in both franchises, could the same also be true for Mystique?
(But Mystique never met Hendry, but presumably she has met Emma Frost.)
C. A. Bridges
46. mhan00
Ward killed the dog. If he didn't, then there is no way Garrett could afford to let him live. He already knew about Shield, he knew about Hydra, and he knew Hydra was embedded within Shield and that Garrett was one of the Hydra agents. Heck, he also got Garrett's origin story, the one where he was on a mission in Sarajevo or somewhere, got his ass blown up, and then was denied medical evac and got back on him own. All likely classified, and verifiable information to corroborate Ward's possible accusations.

The entire point of telling Ward to kill the dog, his constant companion of five years who offered him nothing but love and loyalty, was to see if he could do it. Hell, the entire point of giving Ward the dog the first place was that one test. If he couldn't do it, then how can Garrett trust Ward to detach from his emotions enough to betray friends, colleagues, and lovers? He needs to KNOW Ward kills the dog, otherwise he kills Ward because he can't afford not to. At the stakes he's playing at, he can't afford anything else.
C. A. Bridges
47. ducky
You know, regardless of whether Ward killed the dog and/or wanted to actually spare FitzSimmons, if that box sinks and they die, he's still a murderer. And he'll still say he was just following orders.
Alan Brown
48. AlanBrown
If a Fitz and a Simmons are in a box where no one can see them, are they dead or alive? Or both alive and dead at the same time, until the box can be opened?
Brian Haughwout
49. bhaughwout
"We're in a pickle here, Jemma. We have that communication device which I got from Tripplett and can call the Team for help on a UHF band where Hydra won't think to be tracking -- but if we do so, that will be an Observer Effect, and ruin the nature of the experiment. As scientists, do we dare ruin that perfectly good experiment we're tricked Ward to putting us in?"

"We are brilliant like that, aren't we? This is just like summer camp!"
Alan Brown
50. AlanBrown
@49. You see exactly what I was getting at! ;-)
Thomas Jeffries
51. thomstel
I very much want the show to turn on a dime in the Finale and we end up with "Agents of S.W.O.R.D." next season (or some future season). There's just too much good stuff going on with Fury, maybe-Ms. Marvel, no more S.H.I.E.L.D., alien (Kree even!) tech and beings, etc.

And we'll still get to abbreviate it AoS!
C. A. Bridges
52. Megs
@45:
Why play this army general with a character actor so easily identifiable with another army officer froma realted franchise? What is the dealhere? QuickerSilver is showing up in both franchises, could the same also be true for Mystique?
I suspect they cast the actor because he looks like what people think a general looks like and it's not the same character. Plus, I doubt that they'd be able to use Mystique given the rights situation (no mutants in the MCU). Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch make sense as exceptions who can be used in both franchises because of their longstanding association with the Avengers. Marvel has stated that there are a few other characters in this gray zone, but I would guess that Mystique is not one of them, especially given her prominant role in the movies.
Chris Nelly
53. Aeryl
If you look at Glenn Morshower's imdb page, he's played lots of military guys. For bit actors like that, you take what you can get.

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