“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” has been delivering a fantastic and matured Season 2 week after week, and with “The Writing on the Wall” it proves that its story is no longer the family-friendly tale that dominated the early days of Season 1. In fact, the Nov. 11 episode, written by Craig Titley, was downright disturbing in a number of ways as it resolved the purpose of the alien design Coulson (Clark Gregg) has been compulsively carving.
Here’s a breakdown of the moments meant to make viewers squirm in “The Writing on the Wall.”
1. The opening scene
Brian Van Holt’s tattooed mystery man was introduced in the ending tease of episode 6, “A Fractured House,” and viewers didn’t need to wait long to see him again. The opening sequence of episode 7 showed him seemingly courting a woman before revealing his true purpose: To carve the mysterious alien glyphs into her skin. The pain from this caused her to die, and even though Holt’s character Sebastian later says was trying to make the pain bring back the woman’s memories to help solve the glyphs’ mystery, that only makes the sequence more disturbing.
2. How comfortable Ward is being someone else
Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) is on the run, and part of staying one step ahead of Coulson means blending in with the people he’s traveling with. Whether it’s talking to a mother and her son or threatening Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki), he is putting on an act to pretend to be the person he should be in each situation. This is the exact same thing he did in Season 1 with SHIELD until his HYDRA loyalties were revealed. Has the audience ever seen the real Ward, or has he always been pretending? Not knowing his true personality is especially concerning considering the way he’s been clinging to Skye (Chloe Bennet).
3. Coulson’s flashbacks and experiments
In Season 1, “Agents of SHIELD” fans learned the horrifying way Coulson was brought back to life. They also learned he was the former head of the TAHITI project in SHIELD that was used to resurrect him. Now, we see the hand he had in experimenting with TAHITI on other people. It’s enough to torment him, and to trouble those watching.
4. Skye torturing Coulson for his memories
As if Coulson’s flashbacks weren’t concerning enough, viewers also had to watch Skye torture Coulson — at his behest, to be fair — to make sure they got all the information about the patients in TAHITI out of his memories. This was as horrifying for the characters present on the show to watch as it was “SHIELD” fans.
5. Fitz spilling all the details to Mack
Is Mack (Henry Simmons) just Season 2’s equivalent of Skye — aka the character to ask all the questions the audience is thinking — or is he a secret mole? Fitz has been filling Mack in on a lot of top secret information in Season 2 thanks to their new friendship, and if Mack is anything other than a friend, then the people or person he is working for will have a lot of dirt on SHIELD and Coulson.
6. Coulson losing his mind
The fight and final conversation between Sebastian and Coulson showed just how mad Coulson became during his search for the meaning of the alien glyph. He hit some low moments in Season 1, but nothing came close to his mental unraveling in this episode. Though “The Writing on the Wall” ends with him telling his team that he is back to normal following the reveal that the glyphs show a blueprint of a city, it’s hard to trust him after seeing how far he spun out of control.
7. Ward continuing his psycho courtship of Skye
At this point in Season 2, it genuinely seems like Ward is doing his best to still be a part of Coulson’s team despite everyone on said team considering him an enemy and a monster. He is giving Coulson and Skye useful “gifts,” and promising more of this sort-of help is on the way — all while hunting his maybe-evil brother, Senator Christian Ward (Tim DeKay). While his questionable morality is proving to be one of the strengths of Season 2, it is hard to watch his dogged courtship of Skye considering she has repeatedly stated she is not interested in his advances. Whether he ends up being a good guy or not, at this point he is pursuing her against her will.
8. Hunter’s southern accent
Lance Hunter’s (Nick Blood) Southern accent was supposed to help him take on a new identity, but instead it was enough to give viewers chills. Fortunately, the Brit’s drawl was likely intentionally bad. No wonder Ward figured out he was one of Coulson’s agents so quickly.
Did you find yourself disturbed by the events in “The Writing on the Wall”?