Review: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D – “Ragtag”

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D roars into is finale section this week, as Coulson and company aim to take down Garrett and Ward all on their own. The show’s managed to stick to a higher level of quality in the last while, making up for its disappointing beginnings, but now they have to do it where it really counts – and earn that renewal. Thoughts:

-“Ragtag” sets the tone immediately as a dual timeline story right off the bat. A young Grant Ward faces “juve” when he’s plucked from the system by a young Garrett. It was a nice opening for a good plotline.

-Young Ward actor, not a good choice if I’m being brutally honest. Not enough of an age difference to make it worthwhile. Making Paxton look a bit younger worked better.

-They really do have this Sith vibe with HYDRA don’t they? The whole organisation is based around not trusting anybody, even other members of HYDRA. How can such a philosophy create such an effective organisation?

-Mike Peterson is off killing some random drug lord in Bogota. Why will be looked into later, for the moment I’m still thrown by how the team is just referring to him as “Deathlok” now. A dehumanising attempt? I guess they’re going to kill him off next week.

-I did like the chart that Coulson draws on the paper, really showing how far S.H.I.E.L.D has fallen: no more fancy holograms. Also: “Should have drawn another chart for this part.”

-So, Cybertek has been mentioned before but take on a larger villain role in this episode. They’re a relatively minor company villain from the comics, associated pretty heavily with Deathlok.

-Garrett’s in control of the plane, and back to being an awesome bad guy, being patronising towards Peterson, putting down Ward and just generally chewing the scenery. It’s just what the role needs.

-“Ragtag” has a recurring sub-plot regards Fitz’ feelings towards Ward, which borders on self-delusion. It’s all set-up for a good moment later, as Fitz is made to look rather weak starting off.

-The suitcase from World War Two comes out and the terrible comedy lines return with a vengeance. Some of Clark Gregg’s delivery in this scene was as bad as his has ever been.

-Second flashback time, and Garrett leaves Ward to fend for himself somewhere in an American wilderness. Harsh, but sort of fits.

-The flashbacks do a really great job of showing the warped relationship between Garrett and Ward. Garrett’s a really bad father figure fort a troubled kid who just wants some normal relationships. Conflict coming up!

-Coulson and May infiltrate Cybertek by impersonating Fitz and Simmons. It was sort of a nice sequence I suppose, but the humour really infected “Ragtag” a lot more than any episode in the second half of the season.

-Is it that they think the finale episodes will have a bigger audience and so they need to try and hook them in the “traditional” way, like with “Pilot”? Didn’t work then guys, you’re down over 50% in ratings since this show started.

-The “Enter an elevator with bad guy, doors close, sounds of fighting, doors open, bad guy is unconscious” thing is so, so overdone.

-Raina and Mike Peterson share a short, but interesting, scene on the plane. He wants to know if she’s being compelled to be there like he is. She’s snide and dismissive, interested only in discovery, whether people want to be discovered or not. Mike’s gone to a super dark place, and his probable demise will have to be handled carefully.

– Going through the hard copies of Cybertek’s files, Coulson see’s stuff related to “Metrobank” and the “Brand Corporation”. In the comics these are subsidiaries of Roxxon Energy Corporation”, sort of like a more overtly evil Exxon. You might have seen their name pop up throughout the MCU (Iron Man 3’s finale takes place on one of their rigs for instance) but they’ve never had a very big role so far. Given the way the camera had a look at them here, that might be about to change, perhaps in time for a second season.

-Garrett being the first Deathlok ties in to the repeated aliases that name has been attached to in the comics, even if it is a very late swerve in regards that character. Seems like this is the kind of thing that could have brought up before this.

-“Get ready for a large file transfer.” See, again with the terrible comedy lines. Surely Coulson should tell Skye to get out from under the filing cabinet he’s about to chuck out the window?

-Flashback #3 is a very quick one, with Ward shivering in the wilderness alone. I suppose this is his sort of seminal moment, as he has to choose between the HYDRA way or death.

-So Garrett has a terminal illness (of sorts) and that’s his true motivation for everything that he’s been doing. I can buy that I suppose, and it matches what I thought previously about Garrett’s real feelings about HYDRA: a means to an end.

-Skye and May share a decent scene in the motel, reiterating their determination to take HYDRA (and Ward) down even if they have emotional connections to their current enemies. It’s a good contrast with the more naive Fitz, who still thinks Ward might not be in control of his actions.

-Ian Quinn turns up again, absent any mention of Gravitonium, mores’ the pity. Still an aggravating little twerp, with more than a hint of Edward Snowden to his character now. He’ll get his, at some point. He’s too annoying not to.

-Raina brings the larger mystery of Skye back to the forefront, telling Ward about some terrible incident in China years ago where “monsters” destroyed a whole village looking for their baby daughter. So, is that an implication of Skye being alien in origin or something?

-That reminds me, if “Ragtag” has a signature word, its “Monster”. Skye’s parents are monsters, Deathlok’s a monster, Garrett is a monster, everyone is a monster.

-Flashback #4, and Ward’s going down the HYDRA route fast, stealing from others to survive and pointing guns at people. Garrett is impressed and the two take things to the next stage. A nice evolution is occurring here.

-“Ragtag” does do a good job of showing how there is significant discord within HYDRA, or at least with its four main players. No one trusts each other, everyone lies and that’s going to be its undoing.

-The team manages to track down HYDRA rather easily when you think about: one break in and a filing cabinet. I guess they just really needed to move things along faster.

-Nice scene where Fitz and Simmons get caught by Ward. That confrontation between Ward and Fitz has been earmarked all episode, and it was good to see the two combat-lite character prepared to try and give infiltrating the plane a shot beforehand.

-Flashback #5, and a grown up Ward gets flat out rejected when he just wants to shake Garrett’s hand. They really hammer on that trust issue a lot in “Ragtag” but the point has to be made.

-“HYDRA understands the importance of survival.” A very apt statement for the organisation really, and for Garrett when we find out more about his deeper motivations.

-Fitz has previously shown some bite, like in “Turn, Turn, Turn” when he stared down Garrett directly. He does the same thing here, flat out attempting to kill Garrett and showing no regrets. It’s the right juxtaposition with his earlier weakness. There’s a dark side to this guy, and I hope we get to see more of it.

-Flashback #6. The moment you see a cute dog introduced in a plot like this, you know the animal isn’t going to have a happy ending. A good comparison between that moment and Ward’s “modern” orders to eliminate Fitz and Simmons.

– Fitz and Simmons make a break for it. You really do feel the weight of it when they run into Ward, a man whose actions have turned into a terrifying prospect.

-The last flashback seems to indicate that Garrett shot the dog when Ward refused to (or at least knew that he let it go). An odd moment, and I’m not sure what the point is. Is it that Garrett knows Ward’s can’t be trusted to make the right choice, HYDRA-style?

– Ward, showing his “weakness”, or rather his compassion, dumps Fitz and Simmons off the plane alive rather than outright kill them (though their protestations about it were a bit strange, it’s an escape pod, shouldn’t it float?). It seems clear we’re heading towards a point where Ward turns his back on HYDRA, presumably right before he dies.

-Garrett, on the way out, takes his last chance. The serum is going to do something bad to this guy, that’s for damn sure, and it’s probably going to lead Ward to the point of taking him down.

-The team investigates the barbers in Cuba, and stumble upon a warehouse of active CENTIPEDE soldiers. Oops. A decent cliff-hanger leading into the finale.

-Our outro shows Quinn buttering up some US military types (one of whom is played by everyone’s favourite Presidential bodyguard, Glenn Morshower). Such a scene indicates HYDRA’s larger plans, but I’m mystified as to where they can really go with this with just one episode. Unless its set-up for season two of course…

Another good episode, though it lets itself down with some of the more worthless comedy elements. The stakes have been set as high as they’re probably going to, and next week we have a few final confrontations – between Garrett and Coulson, Ward and Skye/May, Peterson and Skye – to look forward too, with legitimate apprehension. A few people almost certainly won’t make it out of the next 45 minutes alive. Probably at least two of Garrett, Ward, Peterson and Raina if I’m making predictions, and in that order. On the good guy side, I can’t see anyone I’d see as an obvious kill off, unless they want to do a proper swerve and let Coulson buy it for the second time. There’s also Samuel L. Jackson’s appearance to look forward to. Stabilised ratings are a welcome as well. Give this show another season guys. One episode to go.

To read my thoughts on other episodes of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.Dclick here to go to the index.

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4 Responses to Review: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D – “Ragtag”

  1. Pingback: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D Episode Review Index | Never Felt Better

  2. Zeke says:

    These are some good reviews. There’s a point I think I can clear up for you in this one: it’s definitely Ward that shoots the dog, not Garrett. He uses the first shot to get Buddy running (as foreshadowed earlier) so he won’t have to die knowing his master shot him. It sets up a parallel with how Ward handles Fitz and Simmons in the present — he can just barely bring himself to kill them, but not to do it flat-out or even look at them as he ejects them from the plane.

    Knowing Garrett like we do, it’s safe to say that if Ward had spared Buddy, (a) Garrett would have known and (b) he would have considered Ward a failure and not brought him back. There were probably more tests over the years, gradually making Ward into the kind of person who can casually murder SHIELD agents today.

    Btw, did you catch Past Garrett remarking that he’s “not a mind-reader”?

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