Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Nothing Personal :: Betrayal and Rash Decisions
Season 1, Episode 20


Fitz, Losing ItSimmons Watching Fitz
Tell me you're not HydraI'm not Hydra
Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge, "Nothing Personal," 1x20 | © ABC Studios and Marvel Studios

"All that anger, all that pain, you need to hold it in and focus it on Skye. She's alive, and she just walked out of here hand-in-hand with someone she knows is a murderer, because she's playing him just like he played us."
—Phil Coulson

Update, 1-3-2018: Since I bought this AoS-type font a couple days ago, I've been going through all my posts and giving the titles some consistency. Unfortunately, many subtitles were a victim of my new format. This one was originally "I'll Never Abandon Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." I could also have titled it "Disloyal Viewers" or "Instant Gratification Seekers." Some people get way, way too involved with just one character in an ensemble and abandon it the moment it veers off the safe, same path. Apparently, some people have a hard time envisioning how a plot twist that twists a knife in the emotions of the characters could result in the best moments going forward. These moments are what give the actors something real to work with. The viewers receive a gift of feeling in the wake of tragedy. It's what connects us to the story and makes us care. Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked, but you can read more thoughts along the same lines below.

I wanted to have this done by last Thursday, but May (not the agent) started kicking my ass early. I read comments again. Please save me from the people who make rash decisions then feel they need to leave their opinions below things I read. If you stopped watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. because of what happened with Ward, if you didn't watch anything after "Turn, Turn, Turn," then I feel sorry for you. You might feel like you were betrayed as a fan, but there is a difference between being betrayed by a character and being betrayed by the writers and the show itself. It felt personal to turn Ward, someone we grew to love because he was in every episode as part of the team, but that's what makes it work. At that moment a great show became an incredible show that isn't afraid to have true emotion. Instead of being a season full of isolated incidents, it's all connected with a larger universe and every episode matters. The typical procedural is in love with the disconnect; it means people can jump in easy at any time, but that also means quality isn't very highly valued.

If you abandoned this show early or more recently, let me tell you, it has been good from the start and only got stronger every week. If you were interested only in one of the characters (who wasn't Coulson) in this terrific ensemble then you were never invested in the show itself and the other wonderful people who are now going through something unimaginable. From the beginning, those who were paying attention knew this show was going to dig deeper, but I guess some only watched because it seemed light, of no consequence, somethng that didn't make them think or feel, something they could enjoy but that didn't really matter. If they really cared then they would stick with it because they like everyone, because they want to see how the story plays out, because they are astonished by the acting and writing, because they have an affection for the real people who make their living putting everything they have into their work.

"Do you think this has been easy for me? Do you have any idea how hard it was? The sacrifices, the decisions I had to make? But I made 'em, because that's what I do. I'm a survivor."
—Grant Ward

If you don't want to know how Coulson, Skye, Fitz, Simmons, and May deal in the aftermath, how it affects them, then were just looking for the first excuse to abandon Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. You missed the team not knowing what to do other than to run to Fury's secret base, because Coulson was convinced he was alive and leading them there. You missed Coulson's desperate Agents of Nothing speech, which I made gifs out of. You missed the realization of the other team members, the tears, the denial, the defeat, and Coulson stepping up again to be the leader we love, telling Fitz to keep himself together and focus his pain into saving Skye. You missed Maria Hill trying to make Coulson understand that S.H.I.E.L.D. was gone only to have him convince her that they had to keep going. You missed May leaving because Coulson was enraged at her for keeping the secret of his resurrection. You missed May returning with the startling truth of who was behind T.A.H.I.T.I. You are missing perfect performances by the entire cast.

Ward wasn't developed as much as the others—as people tended to complain about—and now we know why. Because he couldn't be. He had to hide who and what he was. He has loyalty to Garrett, a man that got him out of a bad situation. I can understand that. That loyalty is a kind of brainwashing that keeps him from recognizing the warped view of the people he's working for, using the guise of saving the world in order to dominate it. He seems to believe that he's in love with Skye, and he tried to convince her that it was just a job, nothing personal. He was astounded to find out that Skye thought he would hurt her on purpose, a sign of a truly messed up individual. He thinks that "it was my mission" is a perfectly reasonable excuse to murder the people who trusted him.

"You are a serial killer. And you know what? You were right about one thing. I wouldn't like the real you."
—Skye to Ward

He destroyed what he had, a family that cared about him. But I saw a glimmer of doubt at first when he was shell shocked after shooting Agent Hand. I saw it again in "Nothing Personal" when Mike stopped Ward's heart then sarcastically parroted Ward's mantra that it wasn't personal, that he was just following orders. Maybe it's me and what I want, but it felt as though Mike was trying to get through to Ward. As a captive of Hydra, Mike can't do anything physically that would compromise Hydra's efforts, but it's still Mike in there. Ward can make his own choices, if only he understood that following orders no matter the consequence had led him down a dangerous and immoral path. It seems he never really has made his own choices. I hope that glimmer of doubt becomes brighter and that Ward, who I can't actually see being redeemed as of this point - unless the writers work their magic - finally does the right thing for the right reason, maybe tonight in "Ragtag."

"We're not bringing the band back together again, Coulson. It's over. There is no S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore."
—Maria Hill

For now the team is homeless, living out of motels, and trying to convince themselves that their mission to find and stop Ward and Garrett isn't hopeless. I hope one day some of those who abandoned it decide to get over themselves and give the show another shot, because the decision to make Ward Hydra was obviously not out of the blue. It was supposed to look that way, because he is a double agent; if you see it coming then he's not doing his job.

They did this to break the team and bring them together even stronger in light of the most distressing situation possible that Marvel was about to unveil in The Winter Soldier: that S.H.I.E.L.D. was not just infiltrated by Hydra, but truly secretly run by Hydra from the moment of its inception. If a story never challenged you, always stayed exactly the same, never threw obstacles in the path of the characters you say you love, didn't struggle with anything, had no startling revelations or gut-wrenching moments, nothing to strive towards or adversity to triumph over, what would be the point in watching? No, the show did not betray you. You betrayed it by abandoning it at its most emotionally raw, when it's most able and willing to prove its worth and did so beautifully.

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