‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: ‘Closure’ Features a Shocking Death and a Big Risk
Recap and review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 3 Episode 9 – Closure:
It’s kind of funny that this week’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is titled “Closure”, because it offers everything but. And that’s a good thing, actually, as “Closure” manages to be one of the most engrossing episodes of the season, due in large part to how it continually escalates the tension between the differing factions within the show. We begin the episode with a shocking death, transition to a major kidnapping (along with another abrupt character death), and culminating in a game-changing risk that could have huge implications for the midseason finale next week. Put simply, this was one of the best episodes of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season.
In an opening that ranks as the biggest jaw-dropper of this season, Ward (Brett Dalton) murders Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer) with a precise sniper rifle shot. She bleeds out while Coulson (Clark Gregg) begs for her to hold on just a little longer, and…well, I’m still kind of stunned by it, honestly. It’s an instant punch to the gut, and while we haven’t had too much time to become as invested in the Coulson/Rosalind relationship, it was still a remarkably effective scene even with the small amount of time we’ve had with Coulson and Rosalind together. I can only imagine how much more heart-wrenching this would have been if Rosalind had been around a bit longer. I love Constance Zimmer, and thought the show could have gotten a lot more out of her relationship with Coulson than we’d had the chance to see, particularly since, despite their relationship, it still felt as though they were often working at cross-purposes. That added a fair amount of intrigue, doubly so with the revelation that Rosalind was indirectly working for Malick (Powers Boothe) without her knowledge. But the suddenness of her death is part of what makes it so effective. This wasn’t expected, for Coulson or the viewers, which made the weight of Rosalind’s loss, and the depth of Coulson’s anguish and rage, all the more palpable. It’s especially powerful after we learn that this had nothing to do with preventing Rosalind from getting too close to Malick — this was personal for Ward, a receipt for the death of Agent 33. Narratively, it’s an act that sets the pace for the rest of the episode, as this more or less serves as the inciting incident for a more aggressive war between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra, with Coulson essentially going on full rampage mode.
Coulson serving as a more strict, regimented presence on the show makes his break from his usual protocol all the more compelling here. He basically goes around grilling each of his agents about what they remember about Ward from his time as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, no matter how uncomfortable the interrogations make the agents. He then nearly chokes out Hunter (Nick Blood) for failing to kill Ward the last time, before reading Mack (Henry Simmons) the riot act about following orders and doing the job he’s ordered to perform. This, despite Mack feeling it’d be a better idea for him to accompany Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and Banks (Andrew Howard) to stop Malick from opening the portal. This turns out to be a bit of a blunder on Coulson’s part, actually, since Mack accompanying the group could have actually helped prevent the bad things that end up happening to them, as the ATCU Inhuman kills Banks with his own gun, and then abducts Fitz and Simmons. Of course, Mack being there could simply mean that he would have been killed as well, but the narrative seems to suggest that Coulson’s one-track mind regarding Ward has left him blind to the broader manipulations in play. Coulson didn’t realize that, by mentioning Malick’s plan to open up a portal, Ward was manipulating him to send Fitz and Simmons right into Hydra’s hands. So Coulson decides, thanks to intel on Ward’s abusive home life that he received from Daisy (Chloe Bennet), that he’s going to abduct Ward’s beloved younger brother, Thomas. The plan to bring in Thomas was something that I found pretty engrossing, because it offers us a window into Ward’s fractured psyche. In his mind, he can justify his horrific actions as being part of a bigger mission to protect the ones he loves. Ward has essentially crafted a narrative for himself in which he’s the hero, despite not actually having seen his brother in nearly 15 years. Ward isn’t the hero, but he survives largely by convincing himself — and trying to convince Thomas — that S.H.I.E.L.D. are the bad guys. And yet, for all his talk about wanting to be a leader rather than a follower, he’s manipulated by Malick into leading the Hydra team into the portal, despite his desire to stay behind and finish things with Coulson, once and for all. This is because Ward is susceptible to any manipulation that paints him as a hero, a leader, a figure worthy of admiration. Ward could have been a real hero, but it appears he’s never had that characteristic in him. Not really, since all his heroic acts back in Season 1 could be viewed as part of his season-spanning manipulation of his team. But Ward is a broken man, and the only way he can keep the pieces together is to lie to himself about what kind of man he truly is. It’s tragic, in a way, but it also makes Ward a more well-rounded character, because there’s pathos behind his villainy.
Anyway, the Thomas plan works remarkably well, as Thomas gets on the phone and basically accuses Ward of being the true monster in their family, rather than Christian or their horrible parents. This has the net effect of keeping Ward on the phone long enough for the call to be traced, giving Coulson his location. So we get our cat-and-mouse game, and it builds to one of the more satisfying climaxes of the season, as Coulson dives out of the plane and chases Ward into the portal to the alien planet just moments before it closes. Essentially, by taking the main conflict of the season and centering it around the very personal battle between Ward and Coulson, we’re getting a more intimate war than we would have gotten if it were just two rival factions clashing over a difference in ideology, which is mostly what we’ve been getting for the past two seasons. More evidence for the effectiveness of the show’s character-driven approach is found in the relationship between Fitz and Simmons. In short, Fitz volunteers to go through the portal to bring back the Hydra founder, all so that Ward will stop torturing Simmons to get her to tell them how she managed to come back from the alien planet. It’s a gamble that seemed pretty obvious Fitz would volunteer to take, particularly after we see him strapped to a chair and forced to listen to the sounds of Jemma’s screams. Fitz has had his big hero moments, such as when he pulled Simmons back through the portal earlier in the season. However, he’s often been unable to protect her in the moment, and this was yet another situation in which Fitz is made to feel powerless.
The innate likability of FitzSimmons makes it difficult to watch them suffer, and so it’s with a certain relief — but also a kind of dread — that Simmons is released while Fitz must go through the portal. Still, it’s a storyline anchored by a lovely exchange in which Fitz declares that he had to volunteer for the mission, since he couldn’t risk Hydra killing her. “I don’t think I could live in a world without you in it,” Fitz declares, and it’s one of the most emotional exchanges these two have had, in a season of true heart-wrenchers for this couple. For his part, Fitz vows not to bring back the Hydra demon, stating he’s only going to bring back Will. But this is going to be easier said than done, since Malick convinces Ward to go along as the leader of this ragtag crew of space travelers. They go into the portal, but not before Coulson takes that game-changing risk by following along. Basically, the score between Coulson and Ward looks like it might finally be settled — and in an area where the stakes are higher than ever, considering this isn’t exactly a place that’s going to be hospital for the survivor(s). Either way, I’m really excited for next week, perhaps more excited than I’ve been for any episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so far.
But what did you think of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 3 Episode 9, “Closure”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., read our review of the thrilling “Many Heads, One Tale”!