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Agents of SHIELD – The Writing on the Wall Review

"IT'S FINALLY HAPPENING"

“The Writing on the Wall” continued Agents of SHIELD‘s strong second season this week. And what an explosive addition it was. And dark. Well ABC dark. Also, we’re treated to a couple solid answers to mysteries that, for a show based on the mystery box concept, is a little surprising. It was also a cool episode if you’re into Iowa. Weirdos.

Anyway, Hydra be damned, lets get on with it.

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Plot

So in this episode, Phil’s compulsion to carve the Alien Writing has grown much much worse and he’s closing in on the point of no return. More troubling, a serial killer is now murdering recipients of the GH formula and carving the writing into their flesh. The race is on to find the identity of the killer and stop him before he kills again.

Meanwhile, Ward continues down his dark path, meeting with Hydra and evading May and That Bickering Couple. He eventually shaves and puts on a suit. How nice!

The Writings on the Wall

So lets not beat around the bush here. The biggest development is obviously the reveal of the Alien Writing’s meaning. It’s a blue print. To a city. Attlian, right? Right, you guys? The home to the Inhumans? It’s gotta be. I mean so much evidence pointing to the Inhumans is piling up, it HAS to be Attilan!

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Maybe. A few things give me pause. For one, this show has a habit of trying to throw you off the trail. This could be Atlantis for all we know. They could be saying alien, but it’s really an Atlantean. Or something new. Something made up for the show, who knows. I mean the Inhumans movie is still four years away. Attlian is a big piece of the Inhumans puzzle. Not only is it a bit early to bring that out, it’s also a big piece to reveal on a TV show.

However, I hold out hope. It was such a satisfying reveal that genuinely took me by surprise. I would love for a arc spanning the rest of this season and beyond dealing with the Agents trying to locate this city first. Learning more about the culture of the Inhumans or whatever they turn out to be. It’s a really cool goal with a lot of places to go and mysteries to solve. Think about it. You could uncover a whole secret history of aliens visiting Earth. That could include a ton of Marvel history!

The other issue this actually brings up is Skye’s father. He clearly knows a lot about the situation, and now that we do too there are a ton of more questions. Has he been to this city? Is he from it? Lot of questions. This also opens up the possibility of a bunch of new story directions. Meeting characters from the city. People who’ve seen it. Brought back artifacts. People who worship it or guard it. It’d be great!

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My only critique is that we got all this so quickly, without any of the promised outcomes. Well that’s not true. Skye pulls a gun on a Crazed Coulson. Which is close, but not really the whole cigar, you know? May was set up for a confrontation far more than Skye was. She was only let in on Coulson’s Condition a couple episodes ago. Meanwhile, May and Coulson had a whole talk about putting him down. What’s more, Skye and Coulson’s confrontation ended pretty quickly. Just a quick trick and that was it! No real stalemate, no emotional plea, nothing. Not once did I think anyone is in any danger.

Then we head on over to the last guy where the serial killer has conveniently already arrived and a fight ensues. It cleans itself up pretty nicely and lo and behold: the last guy had figured out the equation. Or at least given Coulson the clue he needed to figure it out. I’m not sure. In any case, it was pretty convenient. I’m glad it happened, but with a slow build like that I was hoping it’d have more of an intricate pay off.

Alien Prejudice, Fitz on the Fritz, and Ward the Ronin

There was a strange subplot with Mac hating on aliens for some reason. There’s a moment where he’s in a car with Skye and he’s laughing at the preposterous idea of having a leader that’s half alien. He makes it brutally clear that having an alien hybrid on the team is weird and kind of wrong.

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In a way I can see how someone could get there. I mean aliens did wreck a ton of New York only a few years ago. It’s not hard to believe that Mac lost someone to it. Even simpler, it could just be that people are now kind of on edge when it comes to aliens. Humanity’s first “official” contact with them and it’s a full scale attack fleet. That’s gotta leave a bad impression.

However, it’s a weird view to just THROW it in this episode. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a cool idea. Skye would struggle with the possibility of her being half alien a lot more if people were really against aliens, and that could make for some really cool moments. Still, no one has really voiced this opinion yet and they’ve faced both alien artifacts and actual aliens before. If this xenophobia was a prevalent as Mac thinks it is (assuming Skye would be against an alien hybrid boss too), then surely others on the team should have shared the same idea. I mean how long does it take for a person to reveal themselves to be racist? Not long, right? It just feels artificial. Like they’re trowing this in now for something to give Skye drama.

Speaking of drama, Fitz is going to try and fix his brain with the Memory Machine, right? Right? I feel like that’s the obvious set up. What with the talk of backup brains and reshuffling. Will it work? Who knows. This show likes to kick you in the gut with Fitz. Maybe it’ll make him worse. Maybe it’s temporary and we get a Flowers for Algernon situation going. Regardless, if anyone can make it believable, Iain De Caestecker can. He continues to be one of the most convincing, most hard hitting actors on the show.

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Lets talk about Ward for a minute. I like the way they’re going with him. It’s more interesting than your generic bad guy. He’s becoming a wandering warrior with a loose moral code and deadly, deadly skills. It’s awesome. A 200 percent increase over the generic Ward we got at the beginning of the first season.

There’s just something off about his character I can’t quite put my finger on. I think it may be his nebulous motivations. He’s not really evil, if I understand, he was just working with Garret because he was raised by him. Now that Garret is gone, he wants to work for SHIELD? Or at least he wants to work against Hydra. But why? Why work for anyone? It’s not like he had strong convictions, he was simply doing as he was told. I’d like to believe he’s actually a text book psychopath and is using whatever excuse allows him to kill the most people with the least amount of consequence. That’d be nice.

Rating
8.0
Pros
  • Alien Writing Question Answered
  • Memory Sequence
  • Spy Games with Ward
Cons
  • Rushed Answers at the End
  • Semi-Artificial Anti-Alien Subplot

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