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Tear Jerker: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
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Agent Kaminsky, the enthusiastic HYDRA supporter from Season 1, after some thought. Think back to Captain America: The First Avenger: The guy who was called by the recruiting officer before Steve was "Kaminsky, Henry": Assuming that this is not a mere coincidence (and One Steve Limit would suggest that it is not), then this brings up the possibility that a patriotic US soldier has a grandson who is a traitor to his country. Damn.
Mike's entire situation. His life is going badly, and it looks like he's been thrown a lifeline... which promptly starts driving him mad.
Mike offers to buy a superhero action figure for his son's birthday. His son refuses.
Mike's wife left him and their son after his injury got him laid off.
His entire breakdown in Union Station is heartbreaking.
Ward telling Skye about his abusive older brother.
Skye telling Ward about her past as an orphan and how her foster parents rejected her after she tried calling one of them "Mom."
Hearing about what Akela went through after she disappeared and Coulson's fatherly concern for her.
Skye saying that being attacked by Akela in the van wasn't as bad as watching "Mom and Dad fight downstairs", referring to May and Coulson's argument over how to deal with Akela. For her, seeing a fight break out in her surrogate family was worse than being attacked.
The Girl in the Flower Dress
After The Team finds out that Skye warned Rising Tide hacker Miles that S.H.I.E.L.D. was tracking him: the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are all badly hurt by Skye's betrayal and Skye herself has a falling out with her boyfriend.
Coulson's angry dressing down of Skye is very cold and controlled; since he was the one who vouched for her joining the team, finding out she'd been lying to him directly from day one makes it all the worse. No wonder Skye took the bracelet.
Chan Ho Yin is kidnapped, manipulated, drained, turned into a crazed killer, and then put down like a rabid dog. All he wanted to do was perform!
Worse, Coulson is beating himself up over the situation as it didn't work as well as the last time with Mike did.
The end, when Coulson puts an anti-electronic bracelet onto Skye. He's giving her a second chance, but his trust in her has been badly shaken.
During the course of the episode, Simmons is infected by a Chitauri virus that has no known cure, and has already claimed three lives, explosively at that. They are stuck above the Atlantic with no way to get to land in enough time for Simmons to be treated on land, or for there to be really any options should the team not think of something but to dump Simmons into the ocean to avoid spreading the contagion. As the failed attempts at finding a cure themselves pile up, and even their Eureka Moment seems to be nothing more than a Hope Spot, there is a fifteen minute span of time where the team legitimately believes Simmons is about to die with no hope for recovery, and that they're going to have to kill her to stop the virus from spreading (it doesn't help that until just before the end, Simmons being jettisoned from the plane is portrayed as more of a Heroic Sacrifice, leading the audience to believe she's doomed as well). The characters' reactions are appropriately tear-worthy, especially Fitz's.
What's worse, just before Fitz discovers that their last cure wasn't a dud after all, Simmons realizes that since the team would be reluctant to jettison her - so she knocks Fitz out with a fire extinguisher and dives out of the plane herself. She gets better just in the nick of time, but for a brief moment she comes this close to a Senseless Sacrifice. The look on Fitz's face and his anguished screaming as he looks up and sees her fall out of the plane is heartwrenching.
Also her look of complete defeat when she believes the last test failed. And her words to Coulson.
Simmons: Sir, I know the protocols for this kind of thing. Would you tell my dad first? I think my mum would take it better if she heard it from him.
The entire scene between Fitz and Simmons while she's in quarantine. It begins as a minor disagreement, rapidly turns into a fairly vicious argument and then just as quickly becomes one of the biggest Tear Jerkers in the entire series when it really hits them that she's probably about to die. The change of expression on Fitz's face in particular, after he angrily says "you've been right there beside me the whole time" and then realises the implications that statement, is absolutely heartbreaking.
Ward off by himself, watching Simmons and trying to deal with his helplessness in the face of not being able to save her. Considering how limited their interactions had been on screen, it's tough to watch since Ward is known for being stoic, and almost unfeeling. He clearly cares more about her than he lets on and you can see it wearing him down.
The moment earlier when the firefighter realizes that he's about to follow his two buddies in death.
Also, Coulson trying to comfort the firefighter. He may appear stoic on the outside, but it's got to be tearing him apart inside.
When Simmons requests a possibly-pre-death moment alone with Fitz, Skye has to be gently led away by Agent May. She's so visibly shaken, she honestly looks like she's just not up for moving without help right now.
Fitz going into the room with the infected Simmons shortly after an argument where Simmons pointed out that they were together through everything.
Simmons: Fitz, I don't know what you think you're doing, but—
Fitz: I'm doing what we always do. We're going to fix this. Together.
Coulson finally realizing (and admitting, almost tearfully at times) that his brush with death has made him different somehow. It freaks him out enough that he conducts medical/physical examinations and tests on himselfnote in the previous episode. His unsuccessful attempt to obtain the files that document the details of his "death" and subsequent miraculous recovery is an entirely different level of heartbreaking; the very system he has so much faith in is keeping him in the dark about his own life. It's difficult to watch a character almost solely known for being totallyunshakable beginning to break down.
Skye's reaction upon Coulson revealing the details of the file concerning her parents. He didn't tell her everything(not that she knows this), but that was enough for her to tearfully glomp him. It looked like that display of simple gratitude nearly had Coulson tearing up, too.
Simmons' obvious distress when Skye mentions the possibility of Fitz getting tortured while on the mission. She gets herself under control again quickly, but for a couple of seconds she looks close to tears at the thought.
Ward's staff-induced flashback, where we see just how much of a psychopath that older brother of his really was.
Ward snapping at Skye while under the influence of the staff. Even though she knows it's not his fault, his words have to cut pretty deep:
Skye: ...I'm here to... Ward: ...talk? Yeah, that's all you ever do is talk!
Ward insulting Fitz about not being the one who jumped after Simmons, especially since in the last episode Ward himself recognized that Fitz was really insecure about that. Fitz just looked and sounded extremely hurt after it.
You can tell that Hanna is deeply hurting, not just from guilt over the accident, but also from all the chaos seeming to follow her.
In particular, her using the same words Coulson told her in Bahrain. Let the girl go.
The Bittersweet Ending: Hanna is safe and on the road to recovery, but Tobias is apparently trapped in the other world permanently.
A lot of stuff about Mike. First, the reason he hasn't visited his son since the pilot in the first place - the last time Ace saw him he was doped up on Psycho Serum and he believes himself unworthy to look his own son in the eye. Later, Mike is forced to double cross Coulson in order to save his son - something he absolutely does not want to do, not only because he clearly respects. He's almost in tears when forced to tell Coulson the truth, and then tries a last ditch attempt to pull a triple cross and save both Coulson and his son, before it becomes clear that this will under no circumstances be allowed to happen. He's forced to take his son and leave Coulson behind, otherwise Raina promises Ace will die as painfully as possible. And then, in trying to fix things after getting Ace to safety, he gets blown up. Right in front of his watching son. Damn. The broken looks on everyone's faces at all points when this goes down, especially between Mike - who is crushed with self-loathing at his decision - and Coulson - who is hurt but understanding - just before Mike has to abandon him.You know things have gone to hell when the usually stoic May goes into shock.
Skye crying while ripping up her leads regarding her parents, seeing it as the price she pays for staying on the team. Coulson listening and deciding not to knock on her door doesn't help matters.
A Magical Place
Coulson crying when he's reminded that he forever lost his lady love note The Cellist and never got (and will likely never get) a chance to properly say goodbye.
While Coulson was attached to the Lotus-Eater Machine he began recalling what really happened after he died. He was on an operating table, his brain completely exposed with a machine rewriting his memories and all the while he was literally begging for the doctors to let him die.
Skye finding out that a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and a whole village in China died to protect her when she was a baby. She's spent all this time looking for her parents but it turns out that either they're dead or she doesn't have parents at all.
While it's heartwarming that the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents created an invisible protocol to keep moving Skye from one foster home to another, it becomes a Tear Jerker when you realize that some of her foster families might have actually wanted to keep her. Also, it made Skye feel that she was unwanted and unloved because she kept moving from foster family to foster family.
Donnie Gill, who gets manipulated by Seth and Ian Quinn into using his brilliant mind to create a freezing device, and when it goes out of control and he tries to stop it, he accidentally kills Seth, his only friend.
The team's reactions to Skye being shot by Quinn.
In particular, Simmons' utterly robotic delivery as she lays the facts out, making it clear that she's struggling not to break down.
The next scene has Simmons shutting herself in the supply closet so she can cry without the rest of the team seeing. Compare to the scene in "FZZT" when she thought she herself was imminently about to die and was still able to more or less keep it together, and it's clear that her helplessness in the face of Skye's critical injury is so much more distressing to her.
Also, her reaction to having Skye's blood on her hands - she's trying to clean it off but is clearly too distressed to do so. A moment later when Fitz hugs her, she's visibly holding her hands at an awkward angle so as not to get blood on him.
Coulson spends the rest of the episode standing over Skye looking helpless.
The fact that the audience had to wait A MONTH for the next episode doesn't help make things better, either.
Mike (who is now the cyborg known as "Deathlok") asking the Clairvoyant ( who turns out to be Agent John Garrett) (through a written message on paper) if he can see his son, and being denied.
Heck, just about the fact that Mike is now a cyborg minion of the Clairvoyant is tear jerking.
The team in the waiting room, and then their reactions when they learn that there's nothing more the doctors can do for Skye after she was shot in the previous episode, and all that's left to do is decide if they're going to keep her on life support. What's more, the doctor tells them they'll need to contact her family to make the call. Coulson's face when he tells her "We're her family" is absolutely heartbreaking.
Once Skye has been injected with the serum she begins to convulse and her vitals start going into the red. Jemma looks as though she's about to cry because she isn't sure if the serum is helping or hurting Skye and it's tearing her apart to see Skye suffer.
Following up on the last episode, Lorelei still has the newlywed man under her thrall, then ditches him (by throwing the poor guy into his own car) for a biker gang. We never do find out if the guy survived or not.
Ward now considers Mike an unrepentant enemy.
We are again treated to more OOC Is Serious Business moments for Coulson. The poor guy just breaks down as he talks to Skye, his trauma really seems to have shaken him to the core.
The stand off on The Bus at the end. Coulson is aiming a real gun with real bullets at May because she was stalking Fitz with an Icer. Then Skye comes out and points a gun at her. Ward is in lockdown because Coulson thinks someone ordered him to shoot Thomas Nash. Simmons isn't here; she's at the Hub because she wants to anaylze Skye's blood and learn more about the GH-325 despite Coulson's strict orders against that. The Coulson family is coming apart at the seams!
Coming off this, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which takes place between "The End of the Beginning" and "Turn, Turn, Turn") reveals that Simmons will have been in the Hub during the attempted HYDRA takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D. That, coupled with the fact that she's with Hand (who's ordered everyone on the Bus except Coulson to be killed on arrival) means that she's potentially alone in a military complex full of psychos, depending on how many others are with HYDRA. Made really sad by the fact that Fitz earlier criticised her for leaving him on his own on the Bus: now, they've been separated during a potentially deadly crisis, something they've spent the whole season thus far fearing and avoiding.
Turn, Turn, Turn
Poor Coulson. First he finds out that May has been feeding information to someone outside the team, then he finds out that Victoria Hand is possibly the Clairvoyant and has ordered his team to be killed, then he finds out that May knew about Tahiti all along and more or less created the team herself on Fury's orders when Coulson thought he had (for the purpose of killing him if something went wrong, for that matter), and then he finds out that Victoria isn't the Clairvoyant, it's actually Garrett, his best friend. All in the space of probably only a few hours. And he doesn't even know that Ward is a HYDRA agent...
The moment when the penny drops and he realises that May knew from the beginning is one of the most heartbreaking, especially when you remember that May was the person he'd talk to about his resurrection and how he thought that there was more to it, or that he'd come back wrong. And she knew the entire time.
The fate of Fitz, and most likely Simmons, if HYDRA gets hold of them. They won't get to choose death because their skills are too valuable to HYDRA. Instead, they'll be seriously injured, tortured, and then forced to work for HYDRA.
Agent Triplette screaming at Garrett as the latter is apprehended and taken to prison. The entire scene is muted (for great effect), but it's easy to read Triplette's lips and see what he's shouting: "Traitor! Traitor!" and "I trusted you!"
The death of Victoria Hand.
It gets more upsetting when you realise that, for a short time, not only was she the highest ranking agent still with S.H.I.E.L.D., she was technically in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. because of that. She was the most powerful S.H.I.E.L.D. agent around and Ward murdered her so easily. It's terrifying, especially when you consider that she was one of the best agents to begin with.
Weaver'sprobable death. Not only does she seem like a genuinely lovely person and a loyal agent through and through, but she spends her last moments reaching out to one of her favourite former students, trying to advise her on how to stay alive and urging her to get in contact if they both make it out alive. The fact that she calls Simmons by her first name throughout - something only Fitz does with any regularity - just shows how close the two are. Then something nearby explodes, and her hologram feed dies.
Coming off the above, Weaver tells Simmons that the SciOps Academy has been completely overrun with HYDRA agents. From what we saw of the Academy in "Seeds", that means that there's a few hundred unarmed students with little or no combat capability, most of whom are only in their late teens and early twenties, completely at the mercy of HYDRA.
Skye finally found a place in the world, and not a day after finally becoming a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent it all came crashing down. To make it worse after working so hard to finally find out her past S.H.I.E.L.D.'s files were released to the public anyway. All her work was basically moot. She could have stayed in her van all show and still got the same result.
Adding to the sadness for Skye, her "very patient S.O." without whom she "couldn't have done it"? He's a sleeper agent for HYDRA. He betrayed her. Their entire friendship was a lie. Damn.
May said she/Fury needed a specialist in case Coulson had to be taken out. Surely she could do it, right? No, because she feels too close to him.
We've seen Coulson beaten, battered, bruised, even killed, but this episode shows cracks that may leave him broken. Evading Col. Talbot's "peace-keeping task force," following mystery coordinates appearing on Coulson's badge sent presumably by the supposedly dead Nick Fury, and exhausting the Bus's fuel to get there, the rest of the team doubts their increasingly frantic leader, leading to the most heart-wrenching Coulson moment since the Tahiti project reveal. Insisting it was the right move, he claims the coordinates were given to them for a reason. May questions what that is, and Coulson responds...
Coulson: I don't know, May, I don't know! (beat) There's got to be something here! [holds up badge] This means something! This HAS to mean something! The world needs us! HYDRA is out there! We CANNOT let them win! We—we CANNOT let them DEFINE US! Do you understand!? We are NOT "agents of nothing," we are agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and that still carries weight! It... it HAS to carry weight. AFTER EVERYTHING WE'VE BEEN THROUGH, THAT CARRIES WEIGHT! [beat, during which everyone just stares at him] ...I'm sorry.
Said badge is soon destroyed by an automated turret when Coulson pitches it in anger. Somewhat justifiable, sure, but sad nonetheless.
Skye Un-Personning the whole team. The stack of SHIELD ID badges on Coulson's desk says it all.
It happens off-screen, but Skye mentions to Coulson that Simmons chokes up when asked to hand over her identity papers for destruction. It's a reminder that, unlike the rest of the team, Simmons has a family she's still in active contact with. Her parents have presumably seen the news reports about SHIELD falling to HYDRA, but have no idea what's happened to her, and now it's possible they never will.
Fitz is mostly back to his usual Plucky Comic Relief self after the events of the last episode, but his pained expression whenever Simmons and Triplett are shown to be getting closer to one another is pretty sad, despite him being a typical Deadpan Snarker about it. Later, his inability to get her to understand what he's talking about when he expresses his hope that nothing will change now that they're no longer with SHIELD leaves him looking quite despondent.
The Only Light In the Darkness
Everything involving Audrey and Coulson. She thinks he's dead, but he can't reveal himself to her because she's healing and moving on. He also is forced to overhear just how much she loves and misses him, and laments to Fitz that she said he had never lied to her, yet he was forced to lie to her now.
Fitz also gets the Woobie treatment, again. It's revealed his only family is his mother (who we know from "Seeds" doesn't understand him), Triplett not only seems to have all of Simmons' attention currently but is also revealed to be just as good as Fitz is at "knowing stuff", thus elbowing into Fitz's role on the team as well, and Fitz is unable to spit out admitting his feelings to Simmons.
May leaving the team because Coulson can't get past the fact that she lied to him. Especially sad because he realizes he's been acting like a jerk and was going to apologize for it.
Skye's breakdown upon realizing that Ward is with HYDRA. It's naked, horrified, shock.
The death of Eric Koenig.
Fitz and Simmons at the motel pool. Fitz is so broken by Ward's betrayal and begs Simmons to tell him that she's not HYDRA, just so he can hear it. He tells her that he wouldn't know what to even do if she were.
When Deathlok is threatening Skye for information, she pleads with him not to go through with it and reminds him of his life as Mike Peterson and his son. He responds by blaming her for the current danger to Ace.
The more we see Mike the more we see Deathlok taking his place. The quiet, humble and noble man who wanted to stand for something and be a good father? He's slowly becoming a monster, a killer with blood on his hands, and he has no choice in the matter to keep his son safe and to keep himself alive in the hope of seeing his son again. Mike Peterson, the man who in a fair Universe would have been a friendly neighbourhood superhero must turn himself into something terrible and tragic.
Simmons delivering her autopsy report on Koenig. She struggles just to get through the description of his injuries and the necessary physical attributes of his attacker, and snaps at Fitz when he tries to hurry her, because she's already worked out who the killer was, and is dreading telling everyone else.
Fitz losing it and wrecking the place when Simmons says that the evidence confirms Ward killed Koenig and thus is a HYDRA agent.
Simmons is shown crying slightly as she tries to comfort him. Whether she's distressed because of Ward's betrayal or Fitz's reaction to it, or both, is unclear.
Coulson asks Maria Hill for backup to go after Ward and Garrett, like nothing changed, and Hill says point-blank: "there is no S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore" and that if he goes after Garrett and Ward, he's on his own. What makes it worse is that Coulson responds "not officially" as if he fully expects her to reveal another secret base with all the resources he'll need. Again, Hill shoots him down: there is no hidden bunker and no more sanctioned missions, official or otherwise.
Skye and Ward in the diner. When she hypothetically asks him what he would say if Garrett were in the diner with them now, it's painfully clear that the "suggestions" she offers are her thinly veiled way of telling him what a disgusting bastard she thinks he is, while doing her damndest not to break down in a fresh round of tears. Remember, this is her S.O. we're talking about, the guy who played a large role in helping her see SHIELD as "the nice Big Brother" and not just "scary guys in black suits" and she's just learned that all of it was an act.
Coulson unthinkingly asks Hill to say hello to Tony Stark for him, before remembering that Stark still thinks he's dead.
Fitz and Simmons pleading with Ward as he prepares to jettison them from the plane. And he goes through with it.
In the flashback, Garrett asking Ward to 'take care' of the dog, and Ward, lets it go free. Doesn't stop Garrett from getting the job done. That was his dog originally.
The fact that Ward has been so thoroughly conditioned by Garrett that he believes that caring for people and feeling compassion makes him weak.
As a reward for acts of violence and murder, the only solace Mike Peterson/Deathlok can get is watching per-recorded footage of his son... in a cell where Mike can't touch or talk to him. Despite having enough firepower to take on an army, he's helpless here. Imagine that kind of hell for a loving father like Mike. He can't comfort Ace, he can't tell him he's there and he can't tell Ace that things will get better because Mike isn't sure if they will.
The Beginning of the End
Simmons's take on death - 'I like to think about the First Law of Theromdynamics-' - is as heartbreaking as it is heartwarming; she genuinely thinks she's reached the end of the road, that they're going to starve to death on the ocean floor, and is trying to assuage her and Fitz's fears.
Fitz is fully prepared to sacrifice his life to give Simmons a shot at swimming to safety, knowing that it's likely that only one of them could make it, and that he wouldn't be able to go on if Simmons died.
Simmons sobbing uncontrollably in response to Fitz calmly reasoning why she should take the only oxygen canister and attempting to deliver a Dying Declaration of Love is pretty heartbreaking all by itself.
Even worse, though Simmons is ultimately able to save his life, he apparently suffers brain damage of unspecified severity due to oxygen deprivation, and is in critical condition. To make matters still worse, he doesn't appear onscreen again after being pulled out of the ocean halfway through the episode, meaning that the rest of the team (and the audience) only know as much as Fury and Simmons tell them about what's happened to him, so his future is left uncertain at the close of the series. It's made very clear how much this is tearing up Simmons inside.
Even after he and Ace are freed from HYDRA's control, Mike doesn't want his son to see what he's become and leaves to make amends.
When Coulson, May, Skye and Triplett arrive at the new S.H.I.E.L.D. base Fury directs them to, the Bus's cargo hatch opens and they see Simmons, standing waiting for them on her own. The fact that she's framed by a large, empty, clinical and bleak-looking space really emphasises the idea that there really ought to have been someone else there with her. She quickly reassures them that Fitz is, at least, alive, though that's apparently the best that can be said for him at that moment. It's somehow made worse by the fact that she tries to smile reassuringly through the whole scene.