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.?