Agents of SHIELD, Season 1, Episode 16, “End of the Beginning”
Written by Paul Zbyszewski
Directed by Bobby Roth
Airs Tuesdays at 8pm EST on ABC
“The End of the Beginning” wastes no time with pleasantries but jumps right into action with Deathlok (J. August Richards) breaking into a SHIELD safehouse. He is nearly taken down by Agent Garrett (Bill Paxton) and Antoine (B.J. Britt), prompting Coulson, Agent Garrett, and the gang to call up Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) and bring SHIELD into the fold on their newest mission. Together, Coulson hopes they can search through a list of potential suspects, people that SHIELD is aware of with ESP abilities, and find the Clairvoyant once and for all.
The episode’s title “The End of the Beginning” is appropriate, considering that the pilot episode of Agents of SHIELD was the introduction of Mike Peterson, and for now, it seems that Mike Peterson is dead and replaced by Deathlok. More than that, the episode represents a major shakeup within Coulson’s team and with the show’s overall direction. Since the beginning of Agents of SHIELD, the idea was to bring in Skye, an outsider and antagonist to SHIELD, and make her part of the team. With Skye becoming a full-fledged agent at the beginning of the episode, she is now fully integrated into SHIELD, but Coulson has never been closer to turning his back on SHIELD completely.
While searching for the Clairvoyant, Coulson’s team is thrown together with Victoria Hand and her people, as well as Agent Garrett and Antoine, and the pairings emphasize the divisions within Coulson’s team. May teams up with Agent Blake, Ward teams up with Antoine, and Coulson teams up with Agent Garrett. After Ward shoots someone who might or might not have been the Clairvoyant, Coulson’s team really starts to fall apart. Fitz and Simmons can’t understand why Skye won’t let them run tests on Coulson’s blood or her blood. Coulson doesn’t believe that Ward acted on emotion but that Ward was ordered to shoot Thomas Nash (Brad Dourif), a man believed to be the Clairvoyant. Almost no one believes that May has a good reason for a secret phone line on the plane. By the time May is in a Mexican standoff with Coulson and Skye, the damage has been done. Trust within Coulson’s team is gone, perhaps forever, and they are broken when they need to stand together the most against Victoria Hand.
“The End of the Beginning” has everything one could want at this point in the season. There is payoff for character developments going all the way back to “Pilot”, and it had a great cliffhanger ending that felt earned, unlike the ending of “The Bridge”. More importantly, writer Paul Zbyszewski sets up plenty of conflict to last to the finale, giving Agents of SHIELD its best chance at a great final stretch in its first season.
– Rachel Kolb