'Agents of SHIELD' react: A boy and his dog

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Image Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC

So, here we are. One episode away from the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season finale. It’s been a long road, a long TV season, and just like Grant Ward, we’re not exactly the same people that we were when the series first started last fall.

But everyone has to start somewhere, right? And so in an episode that centered around what made Grant Ward the person he is, we start our story in Plymouth, MA, at a juvenile security unit. This is where 15 years ago, a young and troubled Grant Ward was visited by a man named John Garrett, who was intrigued by the reason Ward was in prison in the first place. “Did you know your brother was in the house when you set it on fire?” Garrett asks, visibly impressed. Although Ward denies it, Garrett sympathizes with being a pyro (always a good thing to bond over) and makes him an offer he can’t refuse. With his family attempting to press charges for attempted murder/arson and his brother wanting to try him as an adult, he’s looking at a good long life in prison. Or…

“I can get you out of here,” says Garrett. (For the low price of your soul, your morals and your trust!) Garrett says he works for a “secret” organization that at one time we probably would’ve thought was S.H.I.E.L.D. but that we now know to be Hydra, and says that Ward fits the type of people they’re looking to recruit. Ward is understandably wary about trusting this random man who is promising him freedom, but Garrett appeals to him by telling him no one will ever screw with him again if he does. I think we all know what happens next, and it’s a little something called “Ward Is Hydra.”

Back at the hotel, Skye and FitzSimmons are trying to figure out the best way to track down Ward and Garrett while watching a feed of one of Deathlok’s newest casualties — a drug lord in Colombia. Coulson calls them into another room, where he and May sit the group down for a nice game of Pictionary. Just kidding. They actually show them a flow chart that connects Cybertek (remember them?) to basically every plot point that has been crucial to this season: Deathlok, Garrett and Ward, GH-325, Quinn, Centipede, the hard drive. It’s deduced that Garrett has been looking to re-stabilize the centipede serum and that the GH-325 drug is the final ingredient, which is why Ward was so interested in getting his hands on the drive, since it had all of the research on there.

We finally find out more about the “present” that Skye mentioned leaving on the hard drive when Ward finally got his hands on it: a Trojan Horse that infiltrates Hydra’s systems. Only problem is, Skye didn’t have time to build it correctly, so in order for it to work properly she needs to get her own flash drive into one of the Cybertek computers so she can activate it. Luckily, there’s an easy solution to this: all they have to do is infiltrate a Cybertek facility in Palo Alto where Skye can get access to the system. A big expensive organization called Cybertek MUST have computers, right? I mean, that’s like assuming you could walk into Apple HQ and find Apple products.

What this all means: May and Coulson get to go undercover! But really, all Coulson wants is his damn plane back.

Back at the Super Secret Lab Underneath The Barbershop, Garrett is recounting Deathlok’s kill like he’s a kid in a candy store. He’s so excited, in fact, that he even kind of rewards Peterson by allowing him to stream some video of his son. Ward is still kind of peeved about last week’s turn of events, where Garrett had told Deathlok to hurt him, and seems to be even a little wary about what he’s done to Deathlok in general. Look, I’m not being Fitz, here — I’m fully aboard the “Ward is evil” train and I really hope we’re not going to get a redemption arc, because he’s continually shown how ruthlessly nasty he is. But I do enjoy these little moments, like his concern for Deathlok’s situation, that show us the humanity that still exists underneath the Hydra armor, whether it’s genuine or not.

In the lab, Raina tells them she’s close to replicating the drug. Meanwhile, back at the hotel, the group is assessing how they’re going to get into Cybertek. Fitz isn’t entirely convinced Ward’s evil and is basically the only person on that train, because even Simmons is starting to think he’s insane. But then Trip shows up and sidetracks the conversation with some special hardware: some vintage S.H.I.E.L.D. spyware from his Howling Commando grandfather, Gabe. It’s Coulson’s turn to be a kid in the candy store, but for a much happier reason. (Bets on how long until he was thinking about following Steve Rogers into war with it back in the day?)

We flash back to 15 years ago again, and in the time between getting broken out of juvi and teaming up with Garrett, Ward has acquired a dog named Buddy. He’s really cute and loyal, and will probably die before the episode’s end (but maybe not!) Garrett tells Ward that if he wants to survive, he has to figure out how to do it himself — and then takes off, leaving him alone in the woods because basically, Garrett has no sympathy for the fact Ward might not make it on his own. Talk about kicking a baby bird out of the nest before it has a chance to fly. It normally takes a lot to sell me on actors who are playing younger counterparts, but I have to say that I was impressed with Austin Lyon, who shared a lot of Brett Dalton’s facial expressions and most of the same mannerisms.

At the Cybertek facility, Coulson and May are role-playing as Fitz and Simmons, while Skye uses Trip’s old spy equipment to scan for information. Coulson and May have the real two scientists on hidden comms so they can feed them some tech-y knowledge, and this scene was probably one of my favorites of the night — Ming-Na Wen’s acting when she was impersonating Simmons was absolutely flawless.

Skye doesn’t find much in her search, but she does find something interesting on the heavily guarded fourth floor. May and Coulson take care of a couple of guards (no big deal, May’s just a BAMF who takes someone out with a back flip and some awesome fight moves) and they find Cybertek’s data room. Unfortunately, Cybertek seems to be really smart when it comes to protecting their secrets in today’s post Winter Soldier world, and everything is hard copy instead of digital. Coulson and May do manage to make an important discovery in the files, however, finding one for “Project Deathlok” of which Garrett was patient zero. Most of you were smart enough to spot the shiny piece of tech attached to Garrett’s body in a previous episode and wonder about it, but this is our official confirmation that Garrett was apparently the first Deathlok.

Unfortunately, security chooses that moment to come after them. They escape by throwing the file cabinet out the window, which somehow not only does not break, but also manages to keep all its files intact. (I guess its that idea of older technology being better than new technology, in the long run?) They then escape via a zipline, in a scene that reminded me of another Hydra-esque heist that also starred Trip’s grandfather – the infamous train scene from Captain America: The First Avenger.

Back at the lab, Deathlok is losing his patience with this whole situation and approaches Raina, blaming her for giving up his son. He then asks why she’s here in the first place. (How much do you want to bet next week either we have a Deathlok sacrifice, or just a Deathlok death when he realizes he doesn’t want to play Garrett’s games anymore? Assuming that we find a way to save the kid, of course.) Raina tells him she’s here “for you and others like you,” before saying she’s waiting for what’s inside of her to be revealed. Oh, and that thing about Skye, too. Because Raina believes that what Skye has inside is something that they have in common.

Yeah, I’m confused at this point, too…but I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to be.

Ward argues with Garrett, telling him he’s not the scared kid that he was all those years ago. Garrett still believes he’s playing the victim, but their spat is cut short by Garrett collapsing randomly. Ward brings him to the lab and pushes everyone, including Raina, out of the room, while he helps stabilize him. Raina, it should be noted, does not look pleased about this. Ward successfully “reboots” Garrett and Garrett admits that his organs are failing. What’s more, he’s dying, and Cybertek only gave him a month or two to live.

The team goes over Garrett’s files, and figures out that Garrett doesn’t exactly want the drug to build super soldiers — he wants it for himself so he can heal. And hey, if he happens to create some weapons for Hydra in the meantime? That’s a 300 point bonus! While Skye laments being too soft and not killing Ward when she had the chance, and while Fitz goes off about seeing the good in people again, pizza arrives. This is very important, because these agents do need to eat at some point.

May goes to talk to Skye, who has declined the pizza, which is a definite cry for help. They bond, in so much as you can bond with Melinda May, and Skye basically tells May she thinks she doesn’t feel anything because she’s so zen. No, May corrects her: she certainly feels everything, but she channels that anger into thinking about what she’ll do when she finally sees Ward again. And, you know, 5am workouts. (Or, as Skye calls it, “hate-fu,” a term I might have to start using on a regular basis now. Thanks, Jeff Bell!)

Coulson gets a lead on Cuba, and we see Quinn getting a haircut in the barbershop, because Garrett intends to make Quinn the face of his new business and that involves looking snappy. Ward receives a text from Raina, who basically calls him down for a secret pow-wow of her own…and some big mystery reveal.

It turns out that when Raina realized Garrett didn’t exactly share her interest in “special people,” she did a little digging of her own and found out some information about Skye from the files downloaded from the plane. In addition to medical records and hospital records, there were also adoption agency searches. That’s not all that interesting, but what is interesting is her DNA, which appears to be a match for someone that Raina heard about a long time ago. There was a story about a baby girl who lived in a Provence in China, that was torn apart by monsters. Those monsters? Were the baby’s parents.

And that’s all we get on that front. But now we do know that we’re a little closer to solving the mystery behind Skye being a “0-8-4″ and if my instincts are correct, we’ll get more answers in next week’s finale. Any ideas? Aside from the fact that Skye is most definitely probably some sort of alien being?

In another flashback, Garrett returns six months later and is pleasantly surprised to see that Ward is not only alive, but doing pretty well for himself, thanks to raiding some cabins and learning how to adapt to the camping lifestyle. Essentially, he’s passed the first part of proving he can survive, so the next step, naturally, is target practice. (Seriously. This doesn’t look good for the dog. Things look more optimistic for Ser Pounce.)

Ward lies to Garrett about why Raina wanted to speak to him, once he realizes Garrett is becoming a little wary of Raina in general. Did he do it to protect himself? To protect Skye? Honestly, either one is debatable at this point. Garrett knows Deathlok’s files were stolen, but there’s some good news: Raina has (almost) successfully re-created GH-325. It’s not a direct match, but it should at least be able to regenerate and heal cells like it did for Coulson and Skye.

While the team stakes out the barbershop, Coulson sends FitzSimmons to find the Bus, which kind of seems like a bad idea in retrospect (like, maybe he should’ve sent Trip with them?) Anyway, it’s nice to see that they’re being trusted with their own missions. And what do you know, they do find the Bus pretty easily, but they also notice it’s being readied for departure. Coulson tells them to get the hell out but of course they don’t listen, and decide to try to put a device on the Bus to track it once they confirm Garrett is on it. Unfortunately, Ward finds them first and takes them hostage.

We have another flashback, this time to ten years ago, where Garrett tells Ward about his mechanical parts and the reason why he deflected to Hydra in the first place: turns out that he was wounded by an IED and, upon being left for dead, realized that S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t care about him. I guess that’s a reason to hold a grudge, but I don’t know if I would join Hydra because of it. I might just go to therapy. Then again, “Hydra understands the importance of survival.” (Yes, I wanted to say to my TV. See: The Winter Soldier.)

Ward brings FitzSimmons on board and Garrett tries to speed up the launch, but Fitz is smarter and he hits a device that shuts down all of the electronics, including Garrett’s mechanical parts. Basically? Garrett is screwed. He’s dying. And that freaks Ward out. Which is a good time to flashback to Garrett telling Ward he’s been accepted by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s operation division, so now we have a pretty clear timeline on how Ward came to be a part of Coulson’s team. Garrett cautions him that if he’s going to work within S.H.I.E.L.D. for Hydra, he has to fight weaknesses. He can’t get attached. “That’s not a weakness, is it?” he asks as he looks down at man’s best friend. (I knew I was worried about that dog for a reason.)

Back on the Bus, Ward calls in Raina and asks her to call in Cybertek to help save him. A dying Garrett orders Ward to finish the job with his teammates — “that’s not a weakness, is it?” Meanwhile, Raina opens up Garrett and discovers he’s been running on her centipede serum. In fact, it’s literally the only thing that’s been keeping him alive. Garrett orders her to inject the GH-325 serum into him, hoping it’ll jump-start his system. He’s dying, anyway, so what does he have to lose?

FitzSimmons make a run for it, but end up being caught by Ward. They manage to get themselves safely trapped (or so they think) behind an armored door — probably not the best circumstance, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here because when you’re running for your life, you can’t always think rationally. Fitz again pleads with Ward, hoping to appeal to his humanity, refusing to believe his friend is that far gone. Ward, again, seems to hesitate before admitting that he does care. Therefore, that’s a weakness, which is ultimately why he releases the sealed chamber into the ocean. The whole thing honestly gave me flashbacks to the well story with Dana at the beginning of the season — anyone else?

Random Aside #1: Did you all notice how we were careful not to show FitzSimmons in the preview? I highly doubt they would kill off both characters, but I really am curious as to how they’re going to get out of this mess. Then again, they are master scientists. Never let it be said they don’t have some secret weapon that can save them.

Random Aside #2: This scene is also inter-cut with a scene of Ward shooting into the air so that Buddy the dog runs away, and we’re really excited for a second because we think that we might’ve spared the dog a horrible death. But then we flashed to the dog in the crosshairs. So basically, I’m not sure if it’s ever confirmed if Buddy lives or dies, and if no one can make a convincing argument I’m just going to pretend he lives so my happiness isn’t crushed.

Raina injects Garrett with the serum, but tells him she can’t make any more after this. Garrett’s body starts to go crazy, as if he’s been injected with Extremis or something, before stabilizing. Ward asks how he’s feeling. His answer? “The universe.” Yeah, this is not going to bode well for next week…

Meanwhile, the team has found the Super Secret Lab Underneath The Barbershop via a secret door, and eventually they also find a Hydra terminal. Hurrah! But they also find a Centipede soldier guarding it (with the Asgardian Berserker staff that we saw earlier in the season in our Thor episode tie-in.) In fact, they find a lot of Centipede soldiers guarding it. Not so much of a hurrah. Unsurprisingly, while there is no “to be continued,” this is where we leave off until next week’s finale and our tag is Quinn meeting with military men trying to sell them super-soldiers. He uses Deathlok’s actions with the drug lord as an example of what Cybertek can do, citing the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the rise of Hydra as a need for “reliable security.” He then offers them a tour of their new super-soldier facility. Hey, anything to sweeten the deal, right?

So, basically, everything is in limbo going into the season finale: Fitz and Simmons are in mortal danger, and no one even knows where they are. Garrett has been saved from dying, but is quite possibly now more dangerous than he’s ever been. May, Trip, Skye and Coulson are preparing to face down some super-soldiers that they’re not sure they’re ready to take on. And Ward is still evil, though he seems to be showing a tiny bit of resistance that makes me wonder what his eventual endgame is. Oh, and Skye is possibly an alien, possibly something else, but definitely whatever an “0-8-4″ is.

What do you think will happen in next week’s finale? Share your thoughts below! And, of course, your thoughts on the episode’s real eternal mystery: is Buddy the dog dead or alive?

Line of the night: “I wish I knew how to use that hate-fu.” – Skye

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