Death, madness, carnage, a special guest appearance by Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury (following on from the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier), snappy dialogue, the redemption of Deathlok and Ward getting a righteous beat-down - what more could we have asked for from the season one finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
The episode opened with souped-up Garrett going totally bonkers, much to Ward's discomfort, Cybertek trying to cut a deal with the US Government to sell them the Deathlok technology, Coulson's crew organising a raid on Cybertek's manufacturing plant and FitzSimmons trapped in an escape pod under 90ft of water.
Showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon brought their A-game to the script of Beginning Of The End with some brilliant moments of dialogue, such as the banter between Coulson and Fury while facing off against Garrett and Deathlok, or the incredibly moving scene between Fitz and Simmons, where - in the face of imminent death - Fitz finally lets Simmons know he loves her, without actually saying the words.
I was pleasantly surprised that, despite a number of hints, the mystery surrounding Skye's "monstrous" parents wasn't revealed and, given one of the episode's closing scenes, this is clearly going to be a serious sub-plot for season two.
By the end of the season, Coulson's team has changed almost beyond recognition. They've lost Ward (and good riddance, although I wouldn't be adverse to him escaping S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, gaining superpowers and becoming a villain) and possibly another member of the team, but gained Trip in the process. But all the characters have changed through the duration of the show, none are in the same psychological place they were back in the pilot.
Hopefully Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) aka Deathlok will become a regular recurring character next season as Coulson embarks on the major mission he was given by Fury.
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a solid show from day one, but - after its rather perfunctory tie-in to Thor: The Dark World - it really took off in the second half of the season, with the extended, multi-episode, tie-in to The Winter Soldier, the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the rise of HYDRA.
Clearly there are elements there still to be dealt with, but hopefully the brains behind the show have realised it works best in this latter, serialised format. Sure, it needs its episodic stories, to sow the seeds of future extended plotlines, but perhaps it needs to minimise these and ramp up the bigger plots.
Clark Gregg on Season Two:
Hayley Atwell on Agent Carter: