On the D/L – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
Season 2 Episode 7 – “The Writing on the Wall”
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD spends an episode furthering the plot of the season and giving more information on the mysterious writing that Coulson has been carving into walls.
This episode was pretty much all on point as most of the running time was focused on finding the origin of this writing. There was also a subplot of some of the team tracking down Ward which was also handled quite nicely.
Much of the focus here was on Coulson who was forced to revisit the memories that he had forcibly removed. I liked the urgency provoked by the murders connected to the writing and how Coulson felt that he had no other options. I understand his reasons for not jumping into the machine before as he was frightened of what those memories might do to him and it has been established that one of his biggest fears is winding up like Garrett which would make him a profound danger to his team.
Clark Gregg’s performance was excellent here as he was clearly torn by this but willing to go through with it to consider the big picture. The ensuing flashbacks were both illuminating and fascinating. I like how the treatments using the magical alien drug started off seeming promising and innocent before devolving into complete insanity. It was quite harrowing to see such a profound change happen to the people featured over such a short time frame. Coulson’s reaction to it was very in character as well as he wants to do the decent thing and end the project to spare these people any more pain but he is overruled by his superiors and there we have the memory erasing.
After this scene comes a few moments that are a little clumsily handled. I wasn’t entirely convinced by Coulson’s one man crusade to resolve this himself that caused him to lock Skye in a cell to keep her out of the way. I would think that even a distraught Coulson would understand the importance of being backed up by his team especially since one of the main arcs of the season concerns Coulson surrounding himself with agents he feels he can trust. This just creates a fairly typical plot point where his team turn up at the last minute to prove their loyalty to him.
Sebastian Derek (Brian Van Holt) was a really good villain and presented a formidable challenge for Coulson. I liked how he felt personally betrayed by having his memories wiped without his consent and how driven he is to discover the truth about himself and the symbols. The idea that pain unlocking his memories and knowledge was an interesting one and the episode wasn’t shy about playing up the implications of self harming. I also found it interesting that Coulson realised the importance of his methods revealing a piece of the puzzle that were unknown to him.
Ward’s side of the episode was great. I liked how he was always one step ahead of Coulson’s team and outwitted them at every turn with little to no effort. There was great ambiguity in what he was doing and it was unclear whether he was bluffing about blowing up a bus full of people. He seems cold and calculating as well as really crazy. I wonder if he actually believes that he’s doing good things by handing prisoners over to S.H.I.E.L.D or if it’s part of some grander plan. Either way I’m fascinated to see what happens with him.
Now onto the revelation of the writing actually being a map of a city. There are many possibilities as to what this could be. It might be Attilan – home of the Inhumans. Given that Marvel have recently announced an Inhumans movie this would be my top theory. It’d be great if this concept was introduced in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D but I’m not convinced they’d use this show to lead the charge on something so huge. Another option is Namor’s underwater kingdom Atlantis but that’s a long shot as I’m not sure where the rights to that character sit.
It’s also possible that they’re doing something new but it’d be nice to really cement Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D as being a profoundly recognised part of the shared universe that Marvel have built.
A generally strong episode with some impressive attempts to further the overall story. Seeing Coulson’s past experience with the wonderdrug that causes those exposed to scrawl mysterious symbols is nicely illuminating and comes across as far more than a pointless tease. The story actually goes somewhere which is great and the revelation of the purpose of the writing creates some really fascinating possibilities.
There were some clumsy moments involving Coulson’s one man crusade that might have been better served with him involving his team in what he was doing. It led to a fairly predictable endgame that could have been avoided altogether.
Having Ward out builds him as a fantastic threat with complex motivations that could be a psychotic belief that what he’s doing is good or a small indication of a deeper plan.