Agents of SHIELD, Season 1, Episode 21, “Ragtag”
Written by Jeffrey Bell
Directed by Roxann Dawson
Airs Tuesdays at 8pm EST on ABC
Season one’s penultimate episode “Ragtag” looks back again into the past when Ward and Garrett first met, and it sets up a mean cliffhanger leading into the finale. In the opening scene, Garrett visits a young Ward in a juvenile detention facility. Ward is facing a hefty sentence for lighting his family’s house on fire with his brother inside, and Garrett is offering a way out with a secret organization that is always looking for young men like Ward. After breaking him out, Garrett abandons Ward in the woods with only a bag of clothes and a hunting dog named Buddy for companionship. If Ward can survive for a few months, Garrett will be back. Ward survives, and Garrett molds him in his own image with the mantra that any emotional attachment is a weakness.
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Meanwhile in the present day, Skye needs to find a Hydra or Cybertek computer to activate a Trojan horse program that she sneaked into their system. Coulson and May go undercover into a Cybertek facility, but instead of finding computers, they find a file cabinet full of intel on Project Deathlok, including the first patient, Garrett. Coulson and the gang head down to Cuba to find Garrett and Ward, but Coulson, Skye, May and Triplett end up at the Hydra barber shop while Fitz and Simmons find the Bus. Unfortunately, Ward finds Fitz and Simmons, and Garrett orders Ward to “put them down”.
“Ragtag” pulls off an elaborate juggling act, keeping three major storylines in the air at once. Ward and Garrett’s flashbacks give Bill Paxton plenty to do, as though Garrett dying in the present day storyline was not enough, and it sets up Ward’s attachment to Garrett which is borderline Stockholm Syndrome. Also, the writing sneaks humor in at the right points to prevent the episode from getting too heavy. Coulson geeking out over Triplett’s collection of Howling Commandos technology is perfect, and Coulson and May acting as former SHIELD scientists, complete with sweater vests and lines fed to them by Fitz and Simmons, is well-played. All this lightness almost balances out Ward shooting his dog. Granted, almost nothing can balance out a dead dog, especially a sweet brown Labrador retriever named Buddy.
The best moment of “Ragtag”, however, is Ward ejecting Fitz and Simmons out of the Bus. There has been some speculation about Ward’s motivations and whether he would redeem himself or reveal himself as the Severus Snape of Agents of SHIELD. Ward is officially beyond the point of no return. He makes his choice, and he chooses Garrett. He shoots the dog, and he drops the team’s human puppies Fitz and Simmons into the ocean with no hope of rescue. “Ragtag” leaves Fitz and Simmons’ fates up in the air, and with no SHIELD back-up on the way, it is entirely possible that they will die. Considering that Agents of SHIELD has Joss and Jed Whedon as executive producers, their chances of survival do not look good, and if Fitz and Simmons are dead, anything is possible in the season finale.
On a last note, Fitz’s big hero moment is a personal highlight of the season. It took me awhile to warm up to his character, but I cheered when he takes out Garrett with the EMP.