Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S03E09 “Closure” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: E4, Sundays, 9pm
Writer: Brent Fletcher
Director: Kate Woods
Essential Plot Points:
- Ward assassinates Rosalind Price while she and Coulson are having a romantic burger meal.
- Ward mainly just wants Coulson to feel what it’s like to watch the one you love bleed tom death in front of you.
- While taunting Coulson he lets slip that Hydra intends to open a portal.
- Coulson flips and becomes HARD!
- New HARD Coulson practically interrogates his own team for any memories of working with Wade that might give a clue of his whereabouts.
- Price’s right-hand man, Banks, makes a link between the portal symbols Fitz has been researching and a facility that was funded by Gideon Malick.
- Fitz, Simmons and Banks go the facility but it’s a set up – Ward mentioned the portal on purpose to lure SHIELD here. Mr Giyera is waiting; he kills Banks and kidnaps Fitzsimmons.
- HARD Coulson steps down as SHIELD director because he’s HARD now and he knows he’s going to have to do HARD things that “cross the line”. He makes Mack the new director then enlists Hunter and Bobbi to help him track and finish off Ward.
- Hunter kidnaps Ward’s brother, Thomas. They call Ward on Rosalind’s old phone (he had phoned Coulson on Rosalind’s phone when he killed her) and let him talk to Thomas long enough to trace his call to the castle where SHIELD rescued Simmons a few episodes back.
- At the castle Ward has Mr Giyera torture Simmons until Fitz can bear it no more and agrees to help Hydra’s expedition through the portal.
- Malick cons… sorry, convinces Ward to lead the expedition.
- Mack gives the go ahead for inhumans Lincoln and Joey t0 go into action in the field. Finally Daisy’s team of Secret Warriors is coming together. They all head off to help Coulson.
- Hydra opens the portal, and, as the expedition leaps through, Coulson dives from the SHIELD quinjet, through a handy opening in the roof of the castle and straight into the portal.
Hang on – that wasn’t a season finale? There were times when it certainly felt like one. From its shocking opening moments to Coulson skydiving to another world at the end “Closure” crammed a season’s worth of emotional arc into under 45 minutes. Coulson goes from his usual genial daytime quiz show host persona to Craig-era revengey Bond. Amazingly, despite a couple of creaky moments, it worked.
You couldn’t really market “Closure” with the tagline, “This time it’s personal” because SHIELD has pretty much been driven by “personal” ever since Ward turned traitor in season one. You could say quite reasonably, that this time it’s even more personal. Blimey, when Coulson starts shouting and forgets to quip for a two thirds of an episode you know it’s really personal. It’s actually quite scary too, seeing avuncular old Phil turn nasty. It’s like the benign personality is a mask and underneath all the time was a festering hotbed of hatred an loathing that was just looking for a outlet. The excellent montage where he near interrogates his own team members about Ward and doesn’t care how callous he’s being in his questioning has to be one of Clark Gregg acting highlights from all three seasons so far. Compelling stuff.
Opening with Rosalind’s assassination is ballsy and clever. The death of a such a major character – especially one being mooted as a potential love interest for the star – would usually come at the end of an episode, with the star, holding her tight, giving it the full-on, “Nooooooooooooo!” treatment. Here, though, it’s a kick-in-the-teeth trauma that fuels the entire episode. Events happen too fast for Coulson to give us a cheesy, “Nooooooooooooo!” thank god. There’s also something downright chilling about a villain who admits he did he killed just to hear the panic in his enemy’s voice.
Not that Wards gets total satisfaction. Let’s face it – there’s not much closure in “Closure”. Well, the portal closes at the end but in terms of the characters – nah. Malick disdainfully taunts Ward about needing closure before denying him it, while Thomas is packed off with only the promise of closure; a promise that he can have no certainty SHIELD will fulfil. Coulson’s looking for closure but is more likely to get himself killed in the process. Meanwhile, Mack and Daisy are experience the complete opposite of closure; new, uncertain futures opening up for them.
We also get our weekly dose of Fitz and Simmons breaking out hearts. It’s almost becoming too easy for these two to win, “most genuinely sweet moment of the episode” every week. Mack continues his massive improvement this season; there was a time when the idea of him becoming the new Nick Fury would have sounded as convincing as a filing cabinet getting the job, but his promotion here feels well deserved after a half season of solid work.
This is a dark episode, and not just tonally. Much of it is literally shot in half darkness; the interrogation scene in near monochrome. In the past we’ve criticised the show for being visually drab (and its love of beige), but this is different. This isn’t gloom; this is impressionistic. The dark and the shadows and the close-ups reflect internal struggles and turmoil of the main characters. Later, in the episode, there’s a fantastic use of colour for similarly impressionist effect; when Fitz has to sit and listen to Simmons’s screams from afar, multiple banks of red light flicker in agitation behind him as if he is the one powering them. It’s a small detail but it’s the kind of visual flourish this show too often lacks.
The episode is far from perfect, but the niggles are mere niggles; they’re listed below and there’s not much point moaning about them more here because do little overall harm. Essentially this is an action adventure series delivering quality action and adventure along with a lot more besides.
- The genuine shock of Rosalind’s death; the cold, brutal way it happens; and the fact it’s at the start of the episode, not saved for some clichéd cliffhanger.
- The CG-aided tracking shot through the bullet hole, down the street and back to Ward.
- Coulson making Mack the new director, then later pointedly calling “Director” during a phone call.
- Mack making sensible decisions as the new director; finally we have an embryonic Secret Warriors – yay.
- Excellent direction; edgy, tense and atmospheric with a couple of disorientating transition shots the help reinforce the idea that there’s a lot going on simultaneously.
- The montage with Coulson questioning his team about Ward and not giving a toss how personal he’s being (“when you were sleeping together…?”) are brilliantly raw.
- Team SHIELD staring up at Coulson’s office as he has a “noises off” hissyfit.
- Fitz saying piss off and making it sound like he’s saying something far less censor-friendly.
- Fitz and Simmons giving the episode real heart again.
- Thomas unexpectedly telling Coulson to do him a favour and kill his brother.
- The “everything comes to a head” finale. Real edge-of-seat stuff.
- There’s not really anything bad, but there are a lot of “huh?’ moments that would be more heinous in an inferior episode, but you’re willing to let slide here, such as…
- …The handy fact that there’s a bloody big hole in the castle roof just above the portal. (A shot earlier in the episode to establish this might have helped!)
- …The idea that Coulson doesn’t seem worried he might emerge from the portal at the same velocity and immediately splat on the ground.
- …Ward phoning Coulson on Rosalind’s phone and not blocking his caller identity. (Okay, SHIELD would probably have the technology to overcome this, but he could have simply dumped the phone to stop them tracking him.)
- …Coulson nearly strangling Hunter then going all “I’m the one to blame” seconds later. Sure, dramatic contraction is a useful weapon in any scriptwriter’s arsenal but this was just too clunky.
- Ward acquiesces to Malick’s wish for him to lead the portal expedition just a tad too easily. Malick’s claim, “I’m not asking you to follow, I’m asking you to lead,” is political sophistry of the highest order.
- To the last, Coulson and Rosalind’s ping-pong quipping was the most bizarre form of mating ritual. All it needed was a David Attenborough voiceover: “The male makes a weak joke. The female responds with a cryptic comment. The male responds with self-effacing repartee. The female becomes passive aggressive. Then they seal the union with a comedy meal and mate while reciting Monty Python sketches and finally achieving mirthgasm.”
And The Random:
- This is Kate Woods’ first episode of Agents Of SHIELD as director. We hope it’s not her last.
- Ward says that Simmons has a “Furiosa” vibe going on so he’s clearly seen Mad Max Fury Road. Somehow the comment doesn’t ring true, though. Maybe telling her she’s got a “Peggy Carter” vibe would have been more fitting.
- Speaking of Simmons, there’s one really cute moment this episode when Elizabeth Henstridge’s native Sheffield accent very, very briefly surfaces. Just before she and Fitz are kidnapped and she says “oop” for “up”.
- Coulson and Rosalind apparently had their first drink together at the Half Moon Pub, which for some reason has the logo containing a crescent moon, not a half moon.
- Someone on the graphics department doesn’t know where the South West of England is. It’s not like you need to know the geography of the UK to know where the South West is on a map! That’s more like Milton Keynes.
- Okay, so this explains those odd, geometric indentations in the monolith.
- This might be the most frivolous thing we’ve ever pointed out, but one of the guys who attacks Coulson after Ward kills Rosalind has clearly just had his teeth done. In a scene set in near darkness his gnashers are almost luminous…
Review by Dave Golder