There were plenty of missteps in the first season of Agents of SHIELD, which had a lot to do with the fact they needed to fill 22 episodes. Despite all its flaws, they really stuck the landing on the finale. It was not a particularly substantive episode of television, but it definitely contained the Marvel’s lively spirit of fun. We were given the resolution we wanted, with a few fun surprises along the way.
What I appreciated most about “Beginning of the End,” however, was that it was Whedon clever, something that much of this season has not been. The cool-and-collected exchange between Coulson and Nick Fury opposite Bill Paxton’s terrific scenery chewing in the climactic showdown was perfect (even if it appeared that the Coulson/Fury scenes were not filmed at the same time as the Paxton side of the exchange), and I absolutely loved the way they nipped Garrett’s potential resurrection in the bud with what was almost a throwaway, cartoon gag. Garrett will not be returning to Agents of SHIELD, unless it’s in a freezer bag.
And though Evil Ward didn’t die, we were spared from a sickly sentimental redemption story, as he remained evil until the end. May appropriately was tasked with neutralizing Ward, and she did so with acrobatic aplomb (and a nail gun, NAIL HYRDA). Ward will likely be given a Faith-like storyline, which is to say: He’ll eventually redeem himself, but not before playing villain for a while longer (and Brett Dalton is 96 percent better at playing villain than bland hero).
Meanwhile, the Fitz/Simmons plotline was perfectly Whedonesque (and yes, I know that Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon deserve the lion’s share of the credit), as is the Whedon wont, they nearly killed off a character right after he confessed his love, and just as they’d finally established Fitz and Simmons as more than just adorable sidekicks. Fitz didn’t die, of course, but he’s barely alive, and his fate and condition would appear to be a part of a major storyline next season.
Speaking of future storylines, Skye didn’t screw up anything in this episode (!), and hell if Chloe Bennet hasn’t gradually grown on me in the last month. The identity of her father will also be a major storyline (again) next season, and it appears he may be season two’s Big Bad (possibly in cahoots with Raina). I’m sure that Evil Ward will also somehow play into next season, as will Agent Coulson’s rebuilding of SHIELD.
In the end, it was a fun, clever, bad ass and satisfying season finale that managed to completely tie up the HYDRA storyline. While it maybe didn’t provide the answers we wanted to know about Agent Coulson’s past, it did successfully neutralize the questions. It also got us excited about a second season even as this first season proved the need for shorter episode orders and less filler. If Agents of SHIELD had focused on 13 great episodes instead of 22 mostly mediocre episodes, the series could’ve built on the 12 million viewers that tuned into the season premiere instead of shedding more than half of them.
— I thought they made great use of Mike Peterson in the episode, too, and I’m kind of looking forward to what might look like a Deathlok redemption side-plot in season two.
— I hate identical twin reveals, but I’m willing to forgive this one because Billy Koenig may mean more Patton Oswalt next year (and who knows, maybe Billy is less a twin and more one in a series of clones).
— There’s some speculation online that Skye’s father could be the real Mandarin. I’d like that.
— I hope and expect Triplet to be elevated to series regular next season (maybe they can find a way to work in Maria Hill, too. Come on, Cobie? You can’t sit on your HIMYM royalties forever. Oh wait, yes you can.)
— Next season, we will at least be spared off-weeks and reruns, as SHIELD will be divided into fall and spring seasons, with Agent Peggy Carter subbing in during the winter.
— I suspect that the Map of the Universe Coulson was constructing on the wall in the tag (and that Garrett had been assembling earlier) will play right into this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy, as someone will need to “translate the Words of Creation,” as Garrett had wanted to do before Mike head-booted him unconscious.