Yo listen up here’s a story / About a little guy that lives in a blue world…
We’ve reached the midseason finale, which means it’s time to wrap up some plot lines and see if we can’t get a little of that closure Ward wouldn’t stop yammering about. But where one portal closes, another one opens, and this “finale” is as full of beginnings as it is endings.
Despite its title, “Closure” isn’t about resolutions so much as massive shake-ups. Most of the story lines function as setup for the big Part 1 finale that’s swiftly closing in, and the last few minutes leave us hanging from a cliff (or lying at the bottom of one unconscious, more accurately). Which isn’t to say that this wasn’t an intense 40-odd minutes of television. My heart, ripped out and pumping feebly on the ground at my feet, can assure you there was plenty to discuss.
If only AoS had some kind of Twitter hashtag to explain its narrative structure…
Top marks to the creative team this week as they chuck new complications into seemingly resolved conflicts and weave a whole lotta disparate threads into one extensive tapestry. That #ItsAllConnected tag they kicked up way back in Season One has become the show’s mantra at this point, which does a lot to assign retroactive significance to events and stories that once felt disconnected from the central one. And considering we’re within shouting distance of the midseason finale, that’s a pretty good place to be.
This week on SHIELD: Personal confrontations, ideological debates, moral abysses, violent resolutions, multiple feelings, and ‘ships launching and sinking and filling with holes and getting pulled out of the bay and set on land to be possibly fixed once a construction crew can get to them, you know, maybe, one of these days, funds permitting. One thing’s for certain: When this is all over, everyone on this team is gonna need that vacation to Maui.
After last week’s stroll down memory lane, we’re back to running full-speed through the present, as our many main characters combine, split, and collide to tell several stories and one big reveal: Lash’s alter ego. Regardless of whether or not the answer surprised you, there’s no denying it’s going to change the game in a big way going forward.
It’s always darkest before the once-every-18-years dawn.
After juggling multiple plot lines all season, SHIELD tries its hand at a single, streamlined story, going back in time to detail Jemma Simmons’ six months on the Desert Otherworld in one fell swoop. It’s a solid narrative decision all things considered, as an SF survival story is different enough from the rest of the season’s events that trying to intersperse it through episodes would likely have made it disjointed and tonally jarring. Telling it all at once keeps the pace from dragging, and Elizabeth Henstridge is talented enough to carry an episode more-or-less on her own. As for the decisions made within that narrative … well, your mileage may vary.
SHIELD faces their greatest challenge yet: playing well with others.
A simple recruiting mission goes awry, two secret organizations make for uneasy bedfellows, personal priorities conflict with professional duties, and a character I liked may have exploded. Yep. Just another day at SHIELD HQ.
SHIELD has spent the past two seasons developing and solidifying its central cast into a group of people who, short-sighted and secretive though they can often be, are genuinely trying to do the right thing by both the world and one another. We’ve seen how much they care about each other (often to a fault), and it makes any tension between them feel like family members fighting, any downtime like hanging out on the couch with your own friends, and any awkwardness like you just stuck your own foot in your mouth.
And this is a very good thing, because it means even episodes like this one where the central story moves so fast it barely makes sense, never mind resonates, can still mostly work because of the interactions and emotional beats woven into the various plots. So while I’m still struggling to give anything remotely resembling a damn about Lincoln (I swear I’m trying, you guys, I really am!), I’m fully invested in our SHIELD family, and that holds the show together even when a few seams start to stretch like they did this week.
The memory of Season One’s snail’s pace must still haunt the writer’s room, because we waste no time this week moving all of our story lines forward and wrapping up some at a blazingly fast pace. While I’ve enjoyed SHIELD a lot more since it became plot-focused, I do have to wonder if we didn’t lose some opportunities this week, particularly when it comes to developing characters. But hey—at least May’s back!