Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Writing on the Wall (EPISODE REVIEW)

I’m really really proud of the maturation of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. For a long time throughout the first season I deluded myself into believing that just because every now and then we got a good episode, it had finally hit its stride. In truth it was a game of hit and miss. With season two the storyline is tight, streamlined, and far stronger than that which we had in the first season, forsaking unnecessary camp and adding a darker layer on top. Really, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t become the excellent program it is today until after the events with HYDRA in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The Writing on the Wall is one of the darkest episodes yet. Thematically and literally. And a lot of times that’s due simply to the fact that they don’t turn the lights on. There’s a scene where Coulson and Skye enter an apartment, knowing there is no longer anyone living there, and instead of turning the lights on? They bring flashlights – instantly making it far spookier. Why they chose not to turn those lights on is beyond me. But thematically we get a much darker episode as an ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. operative is on the hunt for clues as to what the strange markings mean, killing others involved with the secret project, and carving into their flesh those very markings. It’s a tad gruesome, but that’s ABC for you.

To catch this guy Coulson needs to force himself into remembrance. He gets put under a machine that opens up his mind, and he gets taken back to a time where it was actually himself that led the tests on other agents, implanting them with the blood of this ancient alien being. The memories come fiercely, and it soon becomes a cracked nightmare of 6 agents quickly going crazy, attempting to carve or draw the symbols in everywhere. Coulson realizes who the perpetrator is and they set out to catch him, by picking up his last victim.

Coulson and the team… Well, actually it’s more like half the team attempt to bring this guy down. Or actually, it was just Coulson trying to get answers, covering up that everything was alright and there was nothing to worry about (like an addict). But half his team followed him to the showdown in the barn, watching Coulson entangle himself with him. In the barn is a sculpture of some kind that when looked upon from above reveals what they’ve been searching for all along. The symbols weren’t two dimensional, but three – the blueprint to something bigger. It looks like some sort of city. And just like that, something clicks within Coulson’s mind releasing him of the urge to continue searching for answers.

The rest of the episode is, I’m afraid, massively disjointed. Yes, we needed some resolution to what the heck Ward is up to now that he escaped his prisoner transfer from S.H.I.E.L.D. to his brother, but we don’t really get any of that. Just more questions and an uninteresting game of cat and mouse. Bobbi and Lance are tailing him. Ward clearly notices Bobbi, not buying into her alibi. And Lance, although never explicitly getting caught (despite having worn a cowboy hat), is assumed by Ward to be following him. And later Ward does make mention that he knew he was being followed. I wonder if he’ll continue dropping little goodies for the S.H.I.E.L.D. team to prove his allegiance. He just makes it so hard to believe. It’ll come down to him saving Skye from a precarious situation at some point, Coulson realizing he’s a changed man, etc. Until then.

And what were May and Triplett doing on the jet the entire episode long? That was just really random. Overall, the episode introduced us to some excellent revelations with Coulson and his carving fits. And as dark as it was, it wasn’t dark enough to hide the fact that two very different storylines were going on simultaneously, depriving the episode of true cohesion. What are your thoughts from this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

11 thoughts on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Writing on the Wall (EPISODE REVIEW)

  1. I am it for the characters, mostly Agent May. We have not had a long running female badass in a while (and why doesnt Marvel make Natasha a film???). And FitzSimmons. And Joss Whedon, because I ignored Firefly and Dollhouse and now I feel stupid and a little guilty.


  2. To me, this episode is a great example of all the bad things about Season 1 that they’re fixing in Season 2. Through a lot of Season 1, I felt like they were just killing time, and the payoffs for suspenseful subplots like the Clairvoyant seemed weird and rushed. After the Clairvoyant, I was prepared to not care about what Coulson’s carvings meant, but when I found out, I was totally psyched. I really feel like they’re committed to giving this subplot the time it deserves and a final payoff worth waiting for.

    I remember before Winter Soldier came out, there were hints that the nature of S.H.I.E.L.D. would change. Now that those changes have come to pass, I guess it makes sense why the TV show couldn’t commit to long-term villains and story arcs until Season 2. Still, you’d think they would have found a more graceful way to handle that.

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  3. well… I figured they didn’t turn the lights on since no one was supposed to be there and if anyone noticed the lights being on in a dead woman’s apartment then they might call the cops… and I didn’t think it was that disjointed… I mean a lot of shows have it where half the team is doing one thing and the other half another… like Warehouse 13 or Lie to Me… which are both cancelled now so maybe not great examples… but it does give more layers to the show… not just one thing happening at once but more realistically them have to handle all the crazy that’s going on… and I thought May was in the plane tracking Ward from above… or were they tracking someone else? I don’t know but those 2 are my least favorite characters so I didn’t mind them just being shunted off into a plane… I honestly wish they would give Fitz more time… but that’s just cause he’s my favorite…

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    1. Fitz is my favorite too. I’ve noticed a marked increase in speech capacity in the past few episodes. Hardly any stutter.


      1. well they said he was improving… which is good… but I kind of liked the friendship that came up between him and that big dude filling in his words for him…

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  4. I still don’t know how I feel about the series. At times I enjoy it, but it’s definitely still missing something. For a show set in the Marvel Universe, it’s nothing like as good as it could be. It might be an unfair comparison, but ‘GOTHAM’ managed to be far more engaging and enjoyable in just its few two or three episodes than S.H.I.E.L.D did in an entire season-plus. I’m beginning to think what it needs at the very least is one new character in the mix; someone more interesting than the existing group.

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      1. The thing is. There are so many plotlines going, that it couldn’t possibly have gotten past the pilot stage if it wasn’t attached to the Batman universe. At this point it’s little more than a toned-down Sopranos. And I generally cannot stand mafioso movies/shows.


  5. I tend to be less critical of SHIELD because I always had lower expectations… so I like the show, not love it… but that’s what I expected to be the case.

    In the comics, I always liked the idea of SHIELD when they would pop into another comic I was reading… but the SHIELD comics themselves (outside of the Steranko ones) never held my interest as long.

    I always felt like the SHIELD in the movies was a great glue to connect things… but SHIELD as the focus doesn’t work for me long-term. A SHIELD movie? Sure… especially with Samuel L Jackson… but I never expected much from a weekly TV show.

    So, I think with that expectation, it has exceeded what I expected from it.

    Liked by 1 person

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