"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has had its share of ups and downs, like any first season TV show; but with this Tuesday's (May 13) season finale, we can pretty definitively say it ends on a high note. Thanks to Marvel, we got an early look at the episode and can confidently say that fans are going to be very, very happy that the show got a renewal for a second season… Particularly after watching those last few minutes.
Here's every spoiler-free thing we can tell you about "Beginning of the End," an episode that not only ties up season one, but also closes off plotlines left dangling from "Marvel's The Avengers:"
What A Whedon Way To Open
One of the biggest complaints about this first season is that creator Joss Whedon's heavy hand hasn't been felt on every aspect of the show. The team isn't scrappy underdogs enough! There isn't the signature Whedony dialogue! "Beginning of the End" goes a far way to correct that throughout, and nowhere is it present more than in the opening scene.
We're dodging spoilers throughout this, but suffice to say none of the main team is involved, but we do get to visit a different aspect of a place we've visited during the run of the show previously. The scene feels like it was plucked right from vintage "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," or the best parts of "Dollhouse." And it's a great setup for the episode to come.
It's All Connected
Marvel has been promising that everything is connected, and that's definitely on display in this week's episode. While not every plotline is neatly tied up with a bow by episode's end, there are more than enough great moments involving character beats, lines of dialogue and artifacts recovered that play throughout the hour, and reflect events that happened previously.
In fact, we wouldn't go as far to say that you should only watch the first and last episode of the season, but this last hour is a pretty perfect mirror to the first, down to jokes from episode one that are called back in surprisingly heartfelt ways.
Nick Fury At Night
ABC has been pretty prominently teasing that Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury will show up in the episode. Given he previously appeared in a short (but funny) tag in the second episode of the season, we expected he'd provide a similarly brief appearance here. Not so. We won't spoil how or why Fury gets involved (did we mention we're keeping this spoiler free?), but suffice to say it's a major role in the episode, and an extremely pleasant surprise.
Back To "The Avengers"
One of the major threads running throughout this season has been the resurrection of Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). We know now how he came back (machines, alien blood), but not why. Why was it so important to bring Coulson back from the dead, when S.H.I.E.L.D. agents die every day? This hour we get an answer to that, why Coulson is important. And it's a surprisingly emotional coda that not only ties up season one, but acts as an afterword to the events of "The Avengers."
This ties back to the Whedon of it all, but the episode is extremely funny. It's action packed and emotional, too; but the quips fly fast and furious. This is the most comedy the cast has gotten to do all season, and it shows how able they are at the laughs, as well as the kicking of the butt.
The Movie Connection
This one we're going to dodge around even more extensively than the others, but we can say that the episode does not tee up the next Marvel Studios movie, "Guardians of the Galaxy" — unless there's an explicit connection we missed. It does, however, tie into a number of other movies quite nicely, which is neat.
The ending of the episode is a major change of status quo not just for every single character on the show, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. It's a chance to start clean-ish, while still leaving open questions that beg to be continued on TV, and in the movies, too.
For the characters, it's an even bigger shift. Fans are sure to be buzzing about everything that happens, because true to Whedon fashion, no one is the same by the time the credits roll. There's one relationship in particular we're dying to know more about, because… Well, you just have to watch for yourself.
This being a Marvel show, there's the equivalent of two post-credits scenes: one with the bad guys and one with the good guys. The bad guys one is a huge set-up, and something that will almost definitely lead to the Big Bad for the Agents' second year.
The one with the good guys raises almost as many questions and is one hell of a cliffhanger. Our recommendation for that one? Once you see it, go back and watch the previous episodes in the season, because you're going to spend all summer looking for clues.
"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.