Alien Zombies, Secret Warriors and Tatooine: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 'Maveth' Had it All

Wednesday, 09 December 2015 - 11:08AM
Marvel
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 - 11:08AM
Alien Zombies, Secret Warriors and Tatooine: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 'Maveth' Had it All
If you've been feeling nauseous during the first half of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s 3rd season, don't panic, because it's probably because there have been more twists and turns than a high quality roller coaster. Last week's episode not only built the foundations for a thrilling mid-season finale, it also set our expectations remarkably high. So, did "Maveth" live up to the hype? We're pretty sure it did, but we'll get back to the final verdict in a second after we've finished scraping our brains off of the walls.
 
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D, the team prepares to execute a seemingly impossible plan to "take the ultra-fortified Hydra castle and open the alien portal" and bring Coulson, Fitz and Will back to safety. The "plan" is eloquently explained to the new Inhuman recruits by Hunter as "make a plan, plan turns to rubbish, make a new plan", a line that further serves to highlight how Hunter is becoming a crucial comic relief element to the show.
 
 
Acting Director, Mack, splits the team into two taskforces with Bobbi and Hunter following him to secure the portal while Agent May and the "Power Rangers" are tasked with rescuing Simmons. With Daisy and and her team of Inhumans moving in to infiltrate the castle, we're reminded that we're probably witnessing the formative mission of the much-fabled Secret Warriors. And when they find themselves under fire and quickly use their powers to do away with Hydra's telepath Inhuman, we realize that these Secret Warriors will soon become a formidable team.  

Our newest recruit, Joey Gutierrez, selflessly jumps in front of Daisy to shield her from oncoming fire, and in doing so he discovers that his "amazing new superpowers" now include the ability to instantly melt bullets. What they don't know, however, is that Simmons was already working to rescue herself, releasing Lash in the process. She reasons that he's her best chance of escaping the Hydra agents on her tail, but after he gets away and kills a dozen Inhumans as they lay defenseless in their stasis pods, it becomes increasingly difficult to defend her decision.  
 
Meanwhile on the alien planet (aptly nicknamed Tatooine by Coulson), Fitz successfully tracks down Will and convinces Ward to keep him alive as a guide. After his skydiving theatrics from last week, Coulson wakes up alone on the alien planet and sets about tracking down the man who killed Rosalind Price. Given the disorientating nature of 'Tatooine' ,the ease with which characters like Coulson and Fitz managed to track their targets down felt somewhat convenient, but I guess we'll have to chalk this up to some the mysteries of S.H.I.E.L.D. training.

Will, all too aware that Hydra are the bad guys, leads the group directly into a sandstorm where he and Fitz begin to take down the almost comically, unexpecting Hydra henchmen. Having shaken the attentions of Ward, the pair head straight for the portal, leaving Coulson to face off against the man who has made it to 'Arch Nemesis' status on his hitlist. As Coulson holds Ward at gunpoint our slightly delusional villain waxes poetic about how the alien planet has helped him realize his newfound purpose in life. In hindsight, this scene probably served as a foreshadowing of Ward's ultimate "great purpose" that we believe is teased at the end of the episode.

As expected, the episode's big climax revolves around the two sides of the alien portal. Fitz discovers that the Will who has been escorting him to the portal is, in fact, the alien planet's Maveth in disguise, and the pair's scuffle next to the open portal gives and Coulson and Ward a chance to catch to the battle scene. If we had one complaint about this episode, it would be that the idea of the bookish Fitz successfully taking down a powerful alien being with nothing more than a hand-gun and an emergence flare felt a little ridiculous. This is a beast that has taken out hundreds of humans and ravaged entire cities, but a Scotsmen with limited combat training is able to triumph over it through sheer force of will (excuse the pun)?

Thankfully, this to be the undercard for the night's main event. While Fitz is preventing the alien Zombie Will from reaching the portal, Coulson is taking out his heartbreak and anger on Ward in a brutal display we didn't know the S.H.I.E.L.D. Chief was capable of. As Fitz urges Coulson to leave a bloody and beaten Ward behind, Coulson does something completely out of character. With all the calculation of a traditional Marvel villain, Coulson brutally finishes Ward off, using his robotic hand to slowly crush his chest. The resounding crunch of Ward's shattering ribcage and watching Will's body burning into ashes was a little more graphic than usual for the show, but it was more evidence of how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. sets itself apart from the other comic book offerings on TV. 
 
Coulson and Fitz make it through the portal in the nick of time, joining Daisy and Mack as they make their escape in an Inhuman containment module– seriously, these containment modules should probably be the S.H.I.E.L.D. Employee of the Month given the amount of times they've saved the day. Amidst all the hugs and teary reunions, we're not quite sure if Simmons more relieved to see Fitz return or upset with the realization that Will didn't make it back. I liked Will (and his death packed a special punch after we find out it wasn't really Will bonding with Fitz earlier), but  I just hope they don't spend too long using Simmon's grief as a way create more distance and drama between her and Fitz. These guys have gone through hell and back, it's time to give them a chance to develop their relationship.
 
But, just when it seems that disaster was averted, the post-credits scene shows Malik coming across a demonic Ward standing ominously in the middle of the road brandishing the robotic hand that we all believed had crushed the life out of him. A creepy ripple underneath Ward's skin suggests that "Death" found a new meat-suit to call home, just in time to hightail it through the portal.

After seeing Brett Dalton play a wonderfully villainous and unhinged Ward in recent episodes, I can't wait to see him as creepy Inhuman zombie Ward in the second half of the season. I never expected Ward to make it back through the portal alive, and I had a hunch that "Death" would get through the portal by possessing a familiar character, but I admit that I didn't expect it to play out quite like this. Predictable or not, the episode still managed to be a wild ride.
 
Despite being a hell of a mid-season finale, not everything about Maveth was perfect. I didn't really feel the tension of the 12 hour final countdown until the last few minutes as the portal was closing, and I felt like Simmon's guilt for letting loose a murderous Lash was glossed over as well. It seemed a little out of character, especially after last week when she was ready to be killed by Hydra to prevent "Death" from coming back. Her decision to let Lash out felt a little rushed, without enough focus on the resulting emotional impact. Perhaps this will be addressed when the show returns in March, but it would have been nice to see a little more emotional accountability on display as and when the events occur.

Speaking of guilt, we're looking forward to finding out how Coulson deals with his savage moment back on 'Tatooine'. With Fitz having witnessed every second of his cold-blooded turn, it will be interesting to see if the pair will confront each other in the aftermath.  Despite the fact that Coulson is back and able to reprise his role as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., I can't help but feel that Mack's temporary promotion was laying the groundwork for a more prominent role in the future. Coulson's recent exploits could see him take a leave of absence for some much needed soul-searching, and with the Secret Warriors likely to play a bigger part in the show come March, questions around Coulson's role in the team will abound. 
 
Overall, the episode did not disappoint, still managing to be packed full of hilarious moments and witty one-liners amid all the blood, death, and fire.  The mid-season finale was one high stakes moment after the next as it hurtled at breakneck speed towards the equally intense ending of the episode. The next half of the season has a lot to live up to, but with S.H.I.E.L.D. looking likely to face off with both a Zombie Ward and a rampant Lash, as well as expanding the Secret Warriors plotline, we're already counting down the weeks to its return. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has taken a lot of risks this season, and it's paid off in a big, big way. This show not only has us thoroughly invested in its characters, but it's also damned good fun to watch.
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