TV REVIEW: Agents of SHIELD 2.7 “The Writing on the Wall”

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William: The Coulson mystery finally came to a close this week as Agents of SHIELD sets up an interesting and expansive plan for the show’s future. We’ve been waiting so long for the full reveal of Coulson’s mysterious history that it seems like the show has even forgotten about it – making Skye an info dump on everything that’s happened before when it comes to our dear director. Justin, what did you think of the big reveal?

Justin: I hate to be the guy that says I told you so about things, but this is one thing that I am absolutely giddy about.

It’s Attilan, right? I mean, it’s GOTTA be Attilan.

But I’m sure we will get to that. Overall, this episode kept me very engaged with both the A and B story. May and our heavy hitters caught in a deadly cat and mouse game with Mirror Universe Ward and Coulson and Skye involved in their own Inhuman X-Files.

Honestly, I’m just trying to not spent 400 words on Hunter’s 11th Doctor Stetson and ridiculous accent. Let’s get into the real meat of the episode. Reveal aside, did you dig this splitting up the team as they dealt with all family business? I finally feel like this is a real team that I can enjoy watching through dual story lines.

William: So I think I might be a bit less sold on the Coulson stuff than it sounds like you are. Sure, we finally get the resolution, but it’s taken 29 episodes for us to reach this point and there’s a lot of exposition here to remind the viewers just what happened with Coulson and Project TAHITI. However, I am glad that we’ve finally put that dog to rest and can move into what seems to be the next major plot for the season and/or series: the hunt for Attilan.

When we first saw the Kree specimen last year, I knew it would end up leading somewhere, but I wasn’t quite sure it would be Inhumans (in fact, I thought it was sort of a stealth Guardians of the Galaxy tie-in), but Attilan makes so much more sense. I’d venture to say that Inhumans will be a bit of a hard sell, so the earlier those concepts can be introduced, the better I think we’ll be in the long run.

Introducing the city now also gives Marvel Studios a potentially good chance to start casting those lesser Inhumans and working show appearances into their contracts. I’m dreaming of the possibility of Jessica Chastain showing up as Medusa on an ABC network show – and I’m pretty much loosing my mind at how neat that could be. I doubt something of that scale would actually happen, but at least the possibility of it happening is an aspect that could exist on the show now. We couldn’t say that last year and that’s really exciting.

The Ward plotlines over the past few weeks have turned into one of my favorite aspects of the show. Ward’s motivation are so ambiguous and that makes him so much more interesting. The role of Ward as a Boy Scout seems so incredibly lame now that we’ve seen who he really is and it helps that you can tell that Brett Dalton loves digging into this darker side of the character.

We’ve talked in weeks past about the show developing a style and I think we’re slowly starting to see elements of that creep in. I particularly dug the way that the record was used as a transition at the start of the show. It’s the little touches that really matter. Speaking of those touches, the dynamic between Hunter and Bobbi is fantastic and I feel like the two could almost sustain their own show. I talked last time about their Mr. & Ms. Smith-esque dynamic and how strong I think it is – it continues to shine in “The Writing on the Wall.”

How did the Coulson story land for you? And we might as well hear about half of those 400 words on Hunter and his absurdity.

Justin: I will agree with you on two points; 1. The Inhumans will be a tough sell, just like the Guardians were, and even speaking as a fan, stories involving them tend to lean toward the portentous. I’ve described them to people as a Game of Thrones-esque set of characters in space. Secondly, there is absolutely no reason for that reveal to have taken 29 episodes, which honestly, I hadn’t even realized until you brought it up. Yowza, that is a lot of mostly garbage TV.

The Inhumans have always just made sense to me for the MCU mainly because they can’t use mutants, so the Inhumans are the next best thing. Like you said above, they have a deep bench of minor characters and power players that can easily be slotted into AoS, while the movie stars sail through space in the movies. Hell, this even may be the way to seed Coulson back into the Avengers orbit. Surely they could take the news about a race of regal intergalactic refugees a bit easier if it came from Coulson. Plus, this episode’s reveal further supports my theory that Kyle McLaughan is Maximus the Mad, which would blow the doors of the place about like Chastain would as Medusa. John Hawkes as Karnak! Mads Miikelson as Black Bolt! Haliee Stenfeld as Crystal. Let’s get nuts people, it’s Phase Three!

The Ward stuff was what I had a hard time really going along with until this episode. I liked the hard choice that Coulson and Skye had made to keep him around, but I didn’t want that to limit an already kinda limited character, but Mirror Universe Ward is a Ward I can get behind. I also love that he was toppling my new favorite super spy team like dominoes. One of thing major strenghts of the show now, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, is how this cast of characters is finally pinging off of one another, and Ward out in the wild is outfoxing them at every turn and its amazing and dreadful to watch.

Hunter and Bobbi are my favorite charcters on the show. Hands down. I love everyone, in some form or fashion, of course, but Hunter and Bobbi are just the absolute ginchiest. Bobbi is a character that I fell in love with during Brian Michael Bendis‘ first run of New Avengers, another comic that surely has informed Agents of SHEILD’s new ragtag tone, and her MCU counterpart has charmed me just as much. Coupling her with the stand out of the S2 stringers, Nick Hunter, is just the icing on the cake because Hunter has become this show’s Xander to a lesser extent. He’s there to look cool (or at least attempt), crack wise, and headbutt someone occasionally. That whip pan to him hunched in a bus seat wearing a stupid hat and then laying on a thick and horrible accent made me snort. I feel like him and Clint would get along just fine. I finally like hanging out with this team week after week. I care about who lives and who dies.

Is that where you are at too, this deep into season two? This episode felt like the end of this current arc of the episodes so is the show finally on a ground where the audience will follow it anywhere, like some of the stranger areas it will surely be exploring?

William:  I’ll be curious as to just how much (if at all) the Inhumans are introduced in Agents of SHIELD. It’s an interesting concept, but with the Inhumans movie still so far away, I’m left to wonder we’re being given a bit of a bait and switch. However, there’s been plenty of rumors and speculation that Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch will be the first real Inhumans we see in the MCU, a theory that’s potentially given some more weight with the direct reference to Baron von Strucker by Ward. So perhaps we will be getting Inhumans sooner rather than later.

So I think we all anticipated Ward escaping at some point, but I’m glad they didn’t waste anytime in dragging that storyline out. I’m sure we’ll get Ward on the lam for a little while as he goes after his brother. I am very curious to see the show’s long term plans for the character.

I totally agree about the team dynamic, I still think lesser characters like Triplett and Mac need a bit more work to them, but everyone else has found their place in a nice way that works and works well and I do care about them all now.

As far as the audience following the show wherever, I think we’re (sadly) at the point where I doubt the show is going to add many more viewers. So I think the people watching the show are ready to follow it wherever, especially given the uptick in quality this season. As previously mentioned, I’m not sure how quickly we’ll head to those stranger places, but I’m glad and excited the possibility exists and that the show seems eager to embrace that aspect.

Quick Thoughts:

-I was not into the sweaty, babbling Coulson we got at the start of this episode. It makes me sad when bad things happen to Coulson which I think makes him a full fledged Avenger in my book. – J

– “Hail Hydra?” – W

-Mac’s indignation to his team’s weirdness was a delight. As was his video game therapy with Fitz. I’m really enjoying their scenes together. – J

– “Subtly is key.” “You were dressed like a cowboy!” – W

-As William said above, we got a straight out Strucker name drop which was huge for me. – J

– I’m a big Cougar Town fan and was very glad to see Brian Van Holt appear in this episode. Can we get the agents playing Penny Can next?

-Working theory: the Obelisk is some sort of key to Attilan. Like a literal key. I want them to go whole hog on this. – J

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