Tuesday, December 1, 2015

End The ATCU: "Closure" Advances HYDRA Impressively!

The Good: Good use of ensemble cast and characters, Wonderful plot advancement, Sufficiently weighty
The Bad: Very much a set-up episode (does not actually live up to its title), Still a little busy
The Basics: "Closure" pits Ward and Coulson against one another as HYDRA reasserts its importance in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

Midseason finale time is upon us and I'm psyched that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is nearing its finale with "Closure." I'm particularly excited about Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. getting closer to its midseason finale because my week off from the show was packed by reviewing the entire thirteen episode run of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's new addition, Jessica Jones (reviewed here!). With "Closure," hope rose in me that the dull Grant Ward HYDRA plotline might finally come to an end.

That hope was not at all met. Instead, HYDRA becomes a credible and impressive antagonist to S.H.I.E.L.D. once again. No longer a ragtag batch of lame enemies who were motivated by ridiculous ambition or picked off by Grant Ward, Gideon Malick's HYDRA explodes with relevance in "Closure."

"Closure" follows on the heels of "Many Heads, One Tale" (reviewed here!), which set up the possibility that the HYDRA arc might actually end. Ward's plotline has been convoluted and boring for the past season and a quarter, since his mentor was killed in "Beginning Of The End" (reviewed here!); in "Many Heads, One Tale," Gideon Malick's character became instantly more interesting by being able to tell Ward the origins of HYDRA and its purpose. Ward's on-again, off-again status with HYDRA, as opposed to being a rogue who doesn't care about HYDRA's ideology or plans, has become tiresome by "Closure" and with a title like "Closure," it is hard not to get one's hopes up.

Opening with Coulson and Price having dinner together at her home, Price reveals what she has learned about Malick and HYDRA. Price plans to go into the ATCU the next day, as if everything was normal, before she is shot and killed by a sniper rifle's bullet. Ward is the sniper and he calls to taunt Coulson before his goons break in and attempt to kill his former boss. Rescued by Mack, Coulson returns to base to break down and plan his revenge. Coulson interrogates May, Simmons, Fitz and Daisy about their relationships with Ward in order to try to find Ward's weakness. Mack brings Banks into the headquarters to try to learn more about Malick and the NASA Distant Star program HYDRA funded for the obelisk.

Morse, Hunter, and Coulson head off to deal with Ward, leaving Mack as Acting Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Banks, Fitz and Simmons are attacked by Malick's people while searching the Distant Star facility. Malick has Fitz and Simmons interrogated, while Coulson and his team kidna Ward's younger brother. Thrown off balance by Coulson and his brother, Ward strikes a deal with Fitz while Malick and HYDRA prepare to open a portal back to the distant world to recover the evil creature there. Mack brings Gutierrez and Campbell onto a team to try to rescue Fitz and Simmons from HYDRA before it is too late.

There is something very charming about Coulson and Price having take-out for their first real date. The shock comes from the bullet in the window is an engaging opening to "Closure" and a return to excitement for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Constance Zimmer and Clark Gregg are given just enough time to establish genuine on-screen chemistry before Zimmer disappears from the episode. One hopes that if Zimmer is not returning, Gregg gets the chance to work with Amy Acker again.

"Closure" has one of the most gruesome openings of all episodes of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Unless Coulson is a bad shot, there are seven people killed in the first seven minutes of the episode. The episode has a seriously high body count and between people getting shot in the head and neck, "Closure" is fairly brutal. As the episode progresses, the quick deaths are replaced by long torture sequences that are unpleasant to watch on every level. They generally only increase the sense of Ward's villainy.

As Ward is characterized again by his former teammates, he appears on-screen as an actual Agent Of HYDRA. Gideon Malick has used Ward to get all five of the terrigen stones and Ward seems ready to end Coulson. Brett Dalton's performance is somewhat monolithic for the bulk of the episode. The best moments for Dalton's performance come as he shows some slight bit of vulnerability while Ward talks to his estranged younger brother.

Throughout "Closure," there is a Fitz and Simmons subplot. Fitz continues to grow closer Simmons and she seems split between Fitz and rescuing Will. Fitz, for his part, is committed to rescuing Will. Ward quickly realizes that the greatest torture for either of them begins with having them separated and the manipulation from Ward is appropriately villainous. Beyond that, Fitz reveals the depth of his feelings by making a gesture for Simmons that leads to a heartbreaking sense of emotional climax to the episode.

Throughout the third season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. up until this point, a big problem with the show has been finding the right balance of characters with the (now) rather large cast. "Closure" has the right balance; the dichotomy between Coulson and Ward suddenly becomes engaging again. Coulson is obsessed and Ward is brutal. With the on-screen appearance of Ward's younger brother, "Closure" calls back to "The Well" (reviewed here!) and "The Things We Bury" (reviewed here!) to definitively remind viewers there is no ambiguity about his nature.

Coulson's focus and obsession allow Morse a brief, wonderful moment in "Closure" where she has some real chance of growth. "Closure" also has a fairly decent sense of writing to it. Brent Fletcher seems to know how ineffective torture is; neither Fitz, nor Simmons breaks and Fitz's sacrifice is characterized as more selfless than manipulated.

Leading into the mid-season finale, Ward and Malick are established as the definitive villains for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Malick finally grows into the real commander role that viewers have been waiting for. His ideology and goals make Malick a credible adversary. The combination of elements make "Closure" one of the best episodes of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. yet!

For other works with Andrew Howard, please visit my reviews of:
The Hangover, Part II
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the third season here!


For other Marvel movie, television season and episode reviews, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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