Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (2013) season 2, episode 7
"The Writing on the Wall"
WRITER: CRAIG TITLEY
DIRECTOR: VINCENT MISIANO
AIR DATE: November 11 2014
‘The Writing on the Wall’ moves Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. into a decidedly darker direction with the tying up of some loose threads - namely Coulson’s incessant carving the strange symbols onto walls motifs - while answering some questions, and hinting at the future. We first get a look at Sebastian (Brian Van Holt), who we saw in a previous teaser, with his obsession over many of the same strange symbols, as he commits cold blooded murder. The case draws the attention of Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his associates, who are also busy hunting for the fugitive Ward (Brett Dalton), which forms the B-plot of the episode.
Coulson gets a lot of face time, as his connection to the strange symbols comes to a head, and it drives him to do a few things that we might wonder at, all while giving us flashbacks and nightmarish images that are a tad darker than what we might expect. In common with others - who have no memory of their time in S.H.I.E.L.D. - the symbols are a source of madness for the individual... and yet also a resolution to the crisis, as Phil learns the meaning of the assembled symbols to be the map of a city. With the Inhumans rising up in the Marvel cinematic universe, and hints that we might already have seen something of that in this television series, it seems apparent that Attilan would be the obvious choice.
risks extracting his buried memories
Ward is the other issue in the episode, and he keeps the team occupied and tied into knots. After his escape he’s gone to ground, and his actions are being tracked by the team. This gives us more of the cloak and dagger spy versus spy thing that S.H.I.E.L.D. as an agency is supposed to be about in the first place. We don’t know Ward’s agenda, we have no idea what side he’s on, but he’s behaving very much like you’d expect a man on the run would do. Changing his appearance, collecting funds and supplies from a dead drop storage locker, and letting the people who are following him know that he knows they’re out there. It’s a good turn for the character, as Dalton was the weakest member of the cast last season. He still is, really, but making him a wild card like this gives the character interest.
Everyone else, meanwhile, have to find themselves reacting to him instead. For relative newcomers like Tripp, Hunter, Mack, or Morse, it’s uncertainty as to what his game is, but they don’t have the history with Ward that others do. For Chloe (Skye Bennet) or May (Ming-Na Wen), the connections and history are deeper. Sufficed to say, in one way or another, every member of the team wouldn’t mind the chance to put a couple of bullets in Ward’s head.
There’s an Easter egg moment that I liked. Ward’s face to face with the elusive Hydra agent Bakshi refers to Baron von Strucker, who we’ve seen in a credits teaser in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And there’s the matter of the other guest star this week, Joel Gretsch playing a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with no memory of his time in the agency. He’s done a lot of television work, including in sci-fi, for shows like V and The 4400, but I first noticed him in the feature film The Legend of Bagger Vance.
It seems the compulsion and the crisis that Coulson has been under since the end of last season is at an end. Overall, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has found its footing, something that was already well underway in the latter half of last season, but has now firmly established itself. There hasn’t yet been a false step all season, and that’s a good thing.