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Agents of SHIELD "Nothing Personal" Review: Flying Without a Net

     Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Nothing Personal,” was written by the team of Paul Zbyszewski and DJ Doyle and directed by Billy Gierhart. This is Doyle’s first entry on IMDb, so I’m wondering if this is someone emerging from the S.H.I.E.L.D. writing room. It’s another terrific episode as this show just gets better and better, so I’m thinking this is a name to watch for in the future. There are spoilers withing for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I'd also like to apologize for the lateness of this review - due to unforeseen personal events.

    This episode features Cobie Smulders guest starring as Agent Maria Hill. Smulders is always a joy to watch in this role as Hill clearly enjoys her job – and being a woman in a largely man’s world. The scene with her facing off against Ward (Brett Dalton) is classic. We have an additional shout out to the Marvel Universe movies as Hill is on the phone to Pepper (Gwen Paltrow) in the opening sequence – before May (Ming-Na Wen) takes out the detail tailing Hill. I also loved the disgust with which Hill chews out the FBI agents for taking so long to realize their agents are down, telling them that she’d fire them for being so incompetent.

    We learn in this first scene that May has far from abandoned Coulson (Clark Gregg) or the team but is trying to regain Coulson’s trust by finding out who was ultimately behind T.A.H.I.T.I. She is also there to solicit help for Coulson. We learn that the world is still being protected but through Stark Enterprises who is privatizing global security. This also explains why we see Hill getting a job with Stark at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Hill tells May that Fury said he “buried the intel when he decided not to bury Coulson.” Mill points out that Fury loved riddles. May insists again that Fury isn’t dead – and proceeds to unravel the riddle. I thought this was also a nice shout out to the end of the movie when we see Fury standing over his own empty grave. I can’t help but wonder what secrets he might have buried there. I have to admit that when we first see May digging up a grave, I thought it was Fury’s.

    Meanwhile the team at Providence is trying to piece together what happened with the team. Once again, Coulson proves why he is such a good leader – he understands exactly what’s going on. He realizes that May left because of the harsh words he had for her and that she is not a threat. He tells the team that he was mad and he was mean in their last exchange.

    Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) make shocking discoveries at the same time. Simmons finds Koenig’s body, and Fitz finds Skye’s (Chloe Bennet) message. I was very sad to lose Patton Oswalt as Koenig. The autopsy scene is a very powerful one and De Caestecker deserves special mention. Fitz loses it completely on finding out that Ward is HYDRA and refuses to believe it. Henstridge is also outstanding in this scene as Simmons pulls herself together to give the results of her autopsy which provide damning evidence against Ward but can’t hold in her emotion on seeing how devastated Fitz is by the news.

    For his part, Coulson tries to use the scientific method – we’ll take it one step at a time – to break down the news and try to keep Fitz calm. Coulson immediately recognizes that Skye has a play and is not working with Ward, but is playing him.

     Before the team can go to her rescue, however, Colonel Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) shows up with Hill. She has to give the authorities something in order to gain their trust and cooperation. Unfortunately, it also puts Skye at risk. Coulson’s “Are you going to shoot? Because if you’re going to shoot, I’m not coming out” to Talbot has to be one of the best lines yet in the show.

    Meanwhile, Skye is doing a masterful job of playing Ward. Bennet is simply magnificent in this episode. She convinces him that the coordinates are to the cafe where she first met Mike Peterson – I’m betting she was hoping that it might be somewhere Coulson would think to look. However, it also gives her time to tip of the police. Brett Dalton is also terrific in this episode. I loved the banter between the two of them as Ward plays boyfriend and completely misses that almost everything Skye says to him is dripping with sarcasm.

    I loved her describing how Ward must have felt with Garrett (Bill Paxton) having lied to him and betrayed him. She tells him to think about all that time Garrett was his SO, getting to know him, being his mentor only to lie to his face and betray him. She is totally describing the relationship between herself and Ward too. She goes on to ask him, “if you had one more moment before you shot him in the back of the head so heroically, what would you say to him. Of course, shooting someone in the back of the head is not heroic – it’s actually rather cowardly. Ward actually asks not to talk about it, but Skye pushes on with relish, “Would you tell him he’s disgusting? Would you tell him he’s a disgusting, backstabbing traitor? Or to rot in Hell?” All things that Skye is actually telling Ward. When he asks what she’s doing, she tells him, “trying to have an honest conversation for once.”

    At that point the police are ready to move in, and Skye might have gotten one over on Ward if Mike Peterson (J August Richards) hadn’t shown up to put a stop to her getting away. There’s a really interesting dynamic developing between Deathlok and Ward. There’s really little question that Deathlok is doing these things because of his son – and he has no choice buy comply or die. Ward, on the other hand, simply comes off as crazy at this point. Deathlok tells Ward that Garrett knew that Skye would distract Ward.

    Ward tries to protect Skye from Deathlok and Garrett, but she doesn’t make it easy for him. He tells Deathlok that he’s got it, and Skye points out that so far he hasn’t! Skye then directly takes her frustration out on Ward – even head butting him and bloodying his nose! When she asks him how he could betray them all, he tells her it “wasn’t personal.” Ward is completely offended when Skye points out that that is the twisted logic that the Nazis taught all their followers. Ward denies being a Nazi, but Skye points out that the founder of HYDRA, the Red Skull, was a Nazi. Ward continues to insist that he’s just a spy and was on a mission – he clearly thinks that absolves him from all the horrible things he’s done.

    Ward continues to insist that his feelings for Skye are genuine and that he’d never hurt her. She is appalled, saying she feels like she’s going to throw up. Ward insists that everything he’s done was very hard for him. That he made sacrifices because it’s what he does because he’s a survivor. Skye   tells him he’s just a serial killer. He insists that someday she’;; understand. She tells him he was right about one thing – she doesn’t like the “real him” and she insists that she will never, ever give him what he wants – her love. There is a great shot off Skye with her back to Ward and the look of devastation on Dalton’s face tells a whole story.

    Garrett tells Deathlok to take over the interrogation. Skye tries to appeal to Mike and the fact that he’s a father. Mike immediately points out that he has reason not to help her. He asked Skye to protect his son, and she’s done a very poor job of doing so. When he asks where his son is, Skye says with his aunt and they are both being guareded by S.H.I.E.L.D. But there is no S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore and we know his son isn’t safe.

    Deathlok knows it’s pointless to torture Skye for the coordinates just as he knows she’s not a murderer, so he almost kills Ward to get the coordinates. He knows that Skye, unlike Ward, isn’t a murderer. I loved how pissed off Ward was at Deathlok. It’s also clear that Deathlok has no use for Ward. Ward is only protecting his own skin by doing HYDRA’s dirty work. Ward tells Deathlok if her ever does anything like it again, he’ll kill him. I somehow doubt that Ward could kill Deathlok, but Deathlok’s response is perfect – “It’s not personal” – he taunts Ward with his own excuse – he’s just following orders.

    Once they have the coordinates they are prevented from taking off by Hill. I loved them trading insults. Hill,was particularly upset when Coulson told her that Ward was HYDRA because she’d vetted him herself. I loved that Romanoff came up again – she’s clearly a hero to Ward. Hill does try to appeal to Ward one final time, however, telling him he doesn’t owe Garrett anything  - but it’s clearly too late for that: Ward may feel loyalty to Coulson, but it’s completely outweighd by his devotion to Garrett.

    Of course, this was all to buy Coulson time to get onboard to take the bus back. It was a nice moment when Skye filings herself into Coulson’s arms. It’s was also nice to see how confident Coulson is that he can take the bus back from Ward. Perhaps the best moment, was Gregg’s face when Coulson learns that Deathlok is on the bus – and then he tells Skye to run!

    I have to admit that the somewhat cheesy effect of them escaping in Lola wasn’t their best executed effect on the show. Though I was happy that they did manage to rescue Lola even though she was injured in the process. I did think their hair was hilarious though...

    The final scene sees the team at what may be its lowest – hiding out in a hotel. Hill tells Coulson that there is no backup – that there is no more S.H.I.E.L.D., and we come back to the title of the episode. Hill tells Coulson not to pretend that his going after Ward and Garrett isn’t a personal vendetta. It is personal.

    Simmons is trying to reassure Fitz whose whole world is still precarious due to Ward’s betrayal. Interestingly, Fitz is still grasping at straws, hoping that it’s all some kind of brainwashing. Simmons, surprisingly, seems ready to accept that some people are just evil. Simmons assures Fitz that she isn’t HYDRA and isn’t going anywhere. Fitz still refrains from telling Simmons how he really feels and given this latest betrayal, I suspect he won’t for some time to come.

    Triplett (BJ Britt), not for the first time in the episode, re-iterates his loyalty to Coulson and his willingness to follow him and his orders. Skye tells Coulson that she’s left a present on the encryption for Garrett – I can’t wait to find out what it is! Skye may be their biggest asset now. Coulson remarks that he’s never been homeless before, but we know that Skye has been. She knows how to exist on the periphery and remain under the radar.
Coulson see's himself in the T.A.H.I.T.I. video

    When Coulson returns to his room May is waiting for him. It wasn’t everything I’d hoped from their reunion, but it contains one of the biggest shockers yet. Coulson himself was behind TAHITI and warned Fury to get rid of the program. He also indicated that the biggest danger came from the subjects being aware of the procedure – Fury really did withhold the truth from Coulson only to protect his life. Now we have to wonder what the effects may be on Coulson going forward.Gregg is once more fantastic in this episode as his shock and sudden realization are summed up in one look and a quiet “huh.”
Coulson reacts to the end of the video

    What did you think of the episode? What do you think Skye’s surprise is? Do you think Coulson will receive more help from unexpected sources? Do you think we will see side effects start to manifest themselves in either Coulson or Skye? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.