Coulson Finally Reads the “Writing on the Wall” on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Credit: ABC
Credit: ABC

Two weeks. We waited two long weeks, Agents, for this tense episode where Coulson loses his mind in front of basically everyone and Skye is forced to pull a gun on him. But in true Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fashion, the wait was so, so worth it. Let’s find out what the “Writing on the Wall” finally means.

Tahiti still sucks: Skye is chaperoning Coulson during one of his “dates with the crazy wall.” Her theory that the writings are a map is coming apart at the seams. Coulson is worried because the writings are coming more frequently and May isn’t due back until they find Ward. Adding to his list of concerns is the death of a woman we know was attacked by the guy with alien tattoos. He told her he was drawn to her and then carved the symbols onto her body. Recognizing her as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Coulson and Skye visit the dead woman’s apartment. There he finds their common ground when he sees paintings of the alien symbols, some labeled “A Magical Place.”

A terrible plan is made: Laying out the dead agent’s paintings Coulson sees that they were working on the same design but that she had some pieces he is missing. Skye finds her listed as Agent Stevens in S.H.I.E.L.D. records where it says she died from cancer years ago. Simmons examines the body and finds GH325 in her blood as well as in the samples of her attacker taken from under her fingernails. Unknowingly, Simmons theorizes that whomever suffers effects of GH325 becomes a crazy psychopath. Coulson doesn’t know how they’re going to find this killer but he has decided the best option is to use Raina’s memory device to torture information out of him.

Where is May when you need her?: “In the history of bad ideas this blows everything away by light-years,” Skye tells Coulson. He goes under anyway. He sees Agent Stevens and a string of other agents, all of whom volunteered for the GH325 program, go mad or catatonic because of the symbols. A doctor recommends erasing the patients’ memories because the genetic material in GH325 that was taken from the alien host may be implanting memories into them and causing their insanity. Horrified by having participated in essentially erasing people, Coulson starts to fade. Skye desperately asks him for names of the patients. All but two of them are dead. Coulson sees the killer being dragged away screaming “I need to know” and then sees himself in the killer’s place. They wake Coulson as Skye calls May who instructs her to lock him up until she returns. Skye has to pull her gun to get Coulson to calm down but he then calmly agrees to go with her. Once down by Ward’s old cell though he shoves Skye in, puts up the sound proof barrier and runs out.

Ward leaves behind a present: Thanks to Senator Ward keeping the public unaware of Grant’s escape, no one is looking for Ward except S.H.I.E.L.D. Trip has eyes on the prize but Ward has strapped C4 to himself and knows they’re tracking him. Boarding a bus, Ward chooses a seat in the back next to Bobbi and quickly makes small talk with her before revealing that he knows she works for Coulson. He switches buses but May, being the brilliant agent she is, has predicted this and Hunter is planted on board. Later, Ward stops for a drink at a dive bar where he’s clearly known. Bakshi arrives as well having been called by Ward. He claims to be “finally free” now that he’s not in a cage or trapped behind his S.H.I.E.L.D. badge. Ward offers a face-to-face meeting with Coulson in exchange for a meeting with top HYDRA brass. Outside, the team decides they need to get a “good clean shot” on Ward but when they enter the bar they see the bartender and Bakshi’s men dead. May finds Bakshi in Ward’s clothing but alive. Written on the tape over his mouth is: For Coulson.

A different kind of map: Coulson visits a Mr. Thompson to warn him and also to force him at gunpoint to help complete the alien symbols map. Mr. Thompson swears he doesn’t know anything about the symbols just like he told the other guy. That would be the killer, who knocks Coulson out then and ties up both men. The killer, whom Coulson identifies as Sebastian, says pain brings back the memories Coulson took from him. To that end he cuts on Coulson a little and then discovers the Director is “one of them” now. Coulson proclaims he wants to figure out the symbols just as much as Sebastian. Meanwhile, Thompson frees himself from his ropes and when Sebastian hurls a knife at him, he deftly catches it. He throws it back to cut Coulson’s ropes and runs out with his family. On the road he flags down Skye and Mack’s car and points them in the right direction. They find Coulson holding Sebastian on the second floor, forcing him to look down at the train tracks Thompson had constructed. Together they see the symbols don’t form a map; they’re a blueprint for a city.

Finding the final pieces: Back at the Playground, Coulson shows May and Skye that the compulsion to carve the symbols is finally gone. Now they need to figure out why the alien wanted to get to the city so badly. He addresses the whole team and assures them he’s not crazy. He’s been trying to solve a puzzle and now things are finally coming together. Bringing up a 3D hologram of the “city” he tells them it’s their job to figure out what the puzzle means before HYDRA does.

More promises: Ward shaves off his sad beard and gives himself a buzz cut. Then he calls Bakshi’s phone and as he predicted, Skye answers. He promises to see her soon and will be sending Coulson some other gifts from time to time. He hangs up and zips closed a bag full of deadly goodies and his brother’s picture.

Field Notes

  • Fitz: “Brains never delete files they just lose connections.”
  • I’m loving how Skye knows May is in charge of Coulson too. She throws out there that May wouldn’t approve of the memory machine plan but Coulson snaps back, “May isn’t Director!”
  • At first I wasn’t into Bearded Ward but now that it’s gone, I kind of miss it.
  • Anyone think Fitz will want to try the memory machine next to attempt to fix his broken brain?
  • Does anyone feel like if they had shown Tony Stark the alien writing he would’ve turned it 3D and figured out it was a city in like 10 minutes? Remember that time he made a new element based on the layout of a 1970s Stark Expo?
Stephanie Coats