The first half of Shield's third season comes to a dramatic close in a mid season finale that both concludes a number of stories, and sets up for some exciting new things.
The action is split between a castle in Scotland, where acting director Mack is leading the agents of Shield and the newly formed Secret Warriors in an assault against Hydra, and a distant alien world where Coulson is out for revenge against Ward, who is searching for the mysterious InHuman that desperately want to bring back to earth.
The earth bound elements are definitely the most fun of the episode, with the usual mix of action and humour. Hunter was as fun as ever, waving his arm around on the thermal scan to make sure that they knew where they were in the castle, but for me it was May who stole the show for her deadpan delivery. The Secret Warriors are mostly untested, never been in combat before, and they share a moment where they all realise that they are frightened and scared of what's to come, except May of course, because at this point I'm pretty sure nothing scares Melinda May.
Not even the release of Andrew/Lash seemed to phase May, as she went straight off to confront the killer her husband has become. Sadly for her, but as a bonus to the audience, Andrew/Lash seems to have escaped, which will probably result in some more Lash encounters for the team further down the line.
The Secret Warriors are given a chance to shine this episode too, or more precisely, Joey is. After having seen the obvious ways in which both Daisy and Lincoln can use their powers and how they would be effective in the field this is the first real time that Joey can really show of the versatility of melting metal. He uses his powers to melt metal over a barricaded door, which goes on to give our heroes enough time to survive, and jumps in front of gunfire to save Daisy, not knowing that his powers would melt the bullets before they hit him. Suddenly Joey goes from something of a questionmark to a very useful person to have around. Hopefully we'll get to see more from his character when the show returns.
Elsewhere, on another planet, Ward uses Fitzz to try and track down the InHuman Hydra was founded around, whilst Coulson is following close behind. Where the events on earth were fun and action packed, those on the alien planet are slow building and tense. A great contrast to the rest of the episode.
Despite volunteering to apparently save Simmons from having to be tortured it would appear that Fitzz had his own plan the whole time, to find Will, escape from Ward and return home. It all seems to be going well, he finds Will, convinces Ward not to kill him and even begins to bond with him. The scenes with Will and Fitzz are great, we get to see how these two men, who both love Simmons, would actually react when they met, and they're both such good honourable people that you can actually see them becoming good friends.
Unfortunately, all of that changes when they reach the point where the portal back to Earth will open, where they can see the ruined ancient civilisation that once existed on the alien world. Will gives Fitzz a little too much information, and reveals that Will is in fact dead, that he died way back at the start of the season when Simmons escaped, and that his body is now playing host to the creature that Hydra wants.
The realisation that Will is gone is a sad one. I personally wanted him to come back to Earth, to get to see Simmons one last time before she and Fittz go on to be the couple we all know they are going to be. It would have been touching, instead we're given this shocking moment, and no time to process it. We're immediately thrown into a situation where Fitzz is trying to stop the possessed Will from getting to Earth, whilst Coulson and Ward are fighting to death in the background.
It's all very quick and action heavy that we're not given the time to process the loss of Will. Yes, he was a very small character in the grand scheme of the Marvel universe, but I think a lot of people became very attached to him and his relationship with Simmons, and wanted a happier resolution than the one we are given.
Speaking of resolutions though, Ward finally gets his, as Coulson gets the revenge for Rosalind by crushing Wards chest with his robotic hand. I guess a broken heart for a broken heart. After such a long time with the character feeling at something of a loss it's good that his story has come to an end, and his death was really the only end he could have at this point really.
Unfortunately for the agents of Shield, Ward might be dead, but he's far from gone. After destroying Wills boy to a point where the creature couldn't inhabit it anymore it would appear that Ward is it's new host, as he appears back on earth, very dead looking, with Coulson's robot hand and something moving around under his face.
Ward as we knew him is gone, but he's suddenly become the big bad of the season, a creature thousands of years old that has already destroyed all life on one planet. Now that I'm thinking about it, the guys over at Shield might have to call on the Avengers to help with this one. This isn't a terrorist organisation, or even a small group of super powered beings, this is a creature that can literally destroy all life on Earth, the stakes have definitely been upped for the second half of the season.
I'm looking at this change in Ward as his Illyria moment, the character he was is gone, and in his place is something new and more bad arse, but something of who he was might remain. Will was clearly still like the person we knew before the creature took him over, he had some of Will's memories and personality. With that in mind, does that mean we're going to have a world ending entity with Wards hatred and obsession for Shield? If so, things are going to get very dangerous for out heroes when they come back next year.