Some thoughts on tonight's Agents of SHIELD episode 20 (spoilers)
Yea, I write too many metas, but a few people have been requesting another one on this episode, so…
First off, I hate John Garrett more than I have ever hated a fictional character ever. That promo for next week… yea. We’re screwed.
Gosh, this episode just broke my heart. Everyone is applauding Skye for playing him, and for being two steps ahead of him, and for using the moves he taught her against him when she fights him, but for my part, it just kind of broke my heart all over again. Yes, Skye is incredibly badass and strong and I knew she wasn’t going to let this break her, but my heart broke for her because she is the one who holds onto hope even when no one else does.
I thought it was incredibly significant that she was able to look at Deathlok and still see Mike Peterson. She appealed to his humanity, and it breaks me that she’s lost hope in Ward’s. I mean, it’s completely understandable, and I think Chloe did an incredible job of capturing the hurt and betrayal that Skye must be feeling.
But damn this is still the saddest episode I’ve seen to date, because it was like watching Grant Ward unravel. He’s supposed to be the “super spy” and the unfeeling, cold-blooded specialist— because that’s who he has tried to be and who he has always believed he is— but in this one he shows again that it’s impossible for him.
First of all, he’s good at espionage, and all he can figure out is that Skye seems a little “nervous.” He doesn’t freaking figure out that she’s playing him, because he wants so badly to believe the good she has seen him. He wants to believe he can still have that; have her.
And then the scene in the diner. The look on his face when Skye says, “It must be hard, living a double life. Getting close to people, only to turn on them” is the look of a man who literally has no hope left for himself. You can see that same hopelessness in last week’s episode, when May talks about orders, and Ward just shakes his head and says that “you get orders and you don’t think about it; you just follow them. No matter the price.” He thinks he knows already how this will end; it will end as it has always ended for him. With loss, with impossible choices, with heartbreak. Because that’s all he’s ever known.
And Ward should have known in a second when he asks Skye not to talk about Garrett and betrayal at that moment, and she just says sardonically, “If you had one more moment before you shot him in the back of the head so heroically…” This comment should have seemed too vindictive; too intrusive, coming from Skye if she didn’t know, but Ward, although he’s upset by it, doesn’t seem to think it’s out of the ordinary. What a cold, unfeeling super spy should have done at that moment would be to drag her out of the diner and assume that she knew everything. What Ward does is sit there and let her words destroy him, because he believes he should be destroyed; because he has never known anything else.
And then the next bit: that super-spy who is supposedly so good at hiding his feelings? You can see the complete devastation when Skye tells him he’s a disgusting, backstabbing traitor who should rot in hell. He’s not devastated when she turns the screen to face him and reveals that she tipped off the police, he’s devastated when he sees himself through her eyes. He’s devastated that the woman he fell in love with sees him as a monster— and he’s devastated because he believes that to be true, too.
Even after this, though, even after he is completely devastated, when Skye runs towards danger/Deathlok, he literally screams her name because he’s terrified that something will happen to her, and when he sees the cops throwing her against the squad car, he screams her name again. Friendly reminder that the only time we’ve ever heard Grant Ward lose it like that was when Skye had been shot and her body was reacting against the alien drug (right after they inject her, Ward is literally screaming Skye’s name in front of freaking Garrettbecause he thinks he’s losing her).
When she pulls away in the car, he chases her and yells, “You don’t understand! I’m not trying to hurt you!” And it’s so devastating, because he’s not. Because he went in on an undercover mission under orders from the person he cared about most, and whatever his horrendous actions and twisted logic and the absolute hit he’s done, Grant Ward has never once wanted to do anything but protect Skye.
I know I’m overanalyzing ever scene they have together, but Ward’s conversation with Mike as Skye wakes up on the bus is really, really important. Garrett didn’t trust that his best weapon, his best recruit, would be able to get information out of a simple hacker— in fact, he was so sure that Ward cares about Skye that he sent Deathlok to try to prevent exactly what happened. I’ve said it before: Ward owes Garrett everything, but Garrett has seen the threat Skye poses a long time before anyone else, and he is terrified that he’ll lose Ward’s loyalty because of her. And I don’t know about you, but I love that Skye puts fear into the heart of a top Hydra agent.
"I was on a mission. It was nothing personal." Oh, Ward. His greatest weakness is how incredibly personal everything is for him. His loyalty to Hydra? Because he’s personally loyal to Garrett. The way he’s put his life on the line for Skye and the team? Because he, personally, could not stop himself from falling in love with her.
However, I thought the most significant moment in this episode is when we get a brief glimpse of that hopeful, compassionate Skye when she talks to Mike Peterson. She amazes me, because after all this, she can look at Deathlok and still see Mike Peterson. She tells him he has a choice; tells him that no matter what they’ve done to him, he’s still Mike Peterson, and contrasting that with Ward is a phenomenal parallel. If she can still look at Deathlok with hope that he’ll choose to be something more, something better, I believe someday she’ll be the one to look at Ward with that same hope. No, Ward doesn’t have the eye piece controlling him, but in some ways he’s gone through even more than Mike, and is being “controlled” more than Mike. Ward’s redemption arc hinges on this: that Skye, who has this incredible capacity to see good in people, will convince Ward that there’s something left in him to save.
I think it’s incredibly symbolic that Skye was responsible for making Ward’s heart start beating again. Ever since she has met him, she has been bringing life into the worst places Ward has been, and now— even being angry with him, even feeling as hurt and betrayed and pissed off and wanting him to hurt— even now she is willing to save his life. Goddamn, our girl is so incredibly strong and brave and compassionate.
So I guess all this rambling is just to say that I have never been more hopeful about Grant Ward’s redemption story. Ward is broken, finally, and he realized just how dispensable he is to Garrett. Ward has never believed he was worth saving— and when he thought he was dying, when he choked out Skye’s name, I don’t believe he thought she or anyone was going to save him, because he has been trained to believe that the only person who would think he’s evenworth saving is Garrett. This is exactly what John Garrett has feared since he first saw the way Ward had fallen for Skye: Ward doesn’t owe his life to Garrett anymore. He owes it to Skye.