The Writing on the Wall
WOTW 078
Gallery The Writing on the Wall
Season 2
Episode 7
Airdate 11 November 2014
Written by Craig Titley
Directed by Vincent Misiano
Previous "A Fractured House"
Next "The Things We Bury"

"The Writing on the Wall" is the seventh episode of the second season of the American television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., based on the Marvel Comics organization S.H.I.E.L.D.(Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division), revolving around the character of Phil Coulson and his team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents as they hunt two killers: one a former friend and prisoner, the other with possible answers concerning Coulson's mysterious resurrection. It is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films of the franchise. The episode was written by Craig Titley and directed by Vincent Misiano.

Clark Gregg reprises his role as Coulson from the film series, and is joined by principal cast members Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, and Nick Blood. Brian Van Holt guest stars as a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent resurrected by the same program that Coulson was.

"The Writing on the Wall" originally aired on ABC on November 11, 2014, and according to Nielsen Media Research, was watched by 4.27 million viewers. The episode received a mostly positive critical response, with the conclusion of Phil Coulson's resurrection storyline, started in the pilot, and Grant Ward's story in the episode receiving praise, though those two points were also criticized by some.


A man is invited to a young art teacher’s apartment one night, where he reveals alien designs tattooed all over his body. He assures the young woman that they have met before, and pulls out a knife to help her remember. The woman, Janice Robbins, was once a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and in crime scene photos Agent Skye shows Director Phil Coulson, her body has been carved with the alien symbols. Coulson and Skye search her apartment and find many paintings she had made of the symbols. Agent Jemma Simmons performs an autopsy on the body, and discovers that both the victim and the killer had the GH-325 drug in their blood. Coulson believes the only way to get answers is to use Hydra's memory machine on himself, knowing that doing so would be like torture. Meanwhile, the fugitive Grant Ward is spotted by Agent Antoine Triplett accessing one of his hot boxes, where he has money and supplies. Triplett lets him go when he realizes that Ward has rigged himself with an explosive in case S.H.I.E.L.D. attempts to take him. Evading Agent Bobbi Morse, Ward gets on a bus to Boston, though Agent Lance Hunter is already on board, ready to follow him.

In the memory machine, Coulson remembers the patients of the T.A.H.I.T.I. project, who all first appeared to be normal, before going crazy and obsessively drawing alien symbols everywhere. Coulson wanted to shut down the program and destroy the alien host immediately but was presented with a different option – erasing the patients' memories so that they would have no knowledge of what was done to them and could carry out normal lives. In the machine, Coulson struggles to remember the patients' names, but manages to in the end. Realizing that one of the patients, Sebastian Derik, has been targeting the other patients of the project, Coulson rushes to the only other survivor, Hank Thompson, hoping to get there first. He also locks Skye in a holding cell so that she cannot interfere with his desperate attempts to discover the truth. Coulson holds Thompson at gunpoint, attempting to learn all that Thompson knows about the symbols he has been drawing, but Thompson has not been drawing the symbols and knows nothing. Derik knocks Coulson out from behind, binds and gags Thompson in his workshop, and ties up Coulson. Derik informs Coulson that pain drew out his suppressed memories, which is how he found all the other T.A.H.I.T.I. patients. Thompson escapes from his bindings, and some deep-rooted S.H.I.E.L.D. training helps him assist Coulson in breaking free as well. Thompson rushes his family to safety while Coulson struggles with Derik. Skye and Mack arrive and threaten to shoot Coulson, who has Derik trapped by the neck. However, Coulson is not trying to kill Derik, rather he is trying to get him to look down at a large toy train track Thompson had constructed: it is a 3D model of the alien writing, which is actually the blueprints of a city. Thompson had created it in the image of the city without realizing.

Thompson turns down Coulson's offer to rejoin S.H.I.E.L.D. while Derik is turned over to authorities, having found his peace. Coulson has also found his peace as realizing the writing is in fact a 3D diagram has satisfied his compulsion to carve. In a bar in Boston, Ward meets Hydra agent Sunil Bakshi, and informs him that he wants to meet Whitehall. When Melinda May's S.H.I.E.L.D. team storms the bar, they find Ward gone and everyone dead, except Bakshi, who Ward left as a gift to Coulson. Coulson vows that they will find Ward eventually, and will take advantage of his gift of Bakshi. Coulson then briefs all personnel at the Playground about the city blueprints, explaining that he is not crazy and has been trying to solve a puzzle, just like Hydra. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s primary task now is to find the mystery city before anyone else.

In an end tag, Ward calls Skye and promises to keep sending gifts, like Bakshi, from time to time, before hanging up and preparing to deal with his brother, Senator Christian Ward.



Guest StarringEdit



The show begins as ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. assassin, and T.A.H.I.T.I. patient, Sebastian Derik, enters the home of Janice Roberts, an art teacher in Rhinebeck, New York. Roberts talks about recognising Derik from somewhere, but being unable to pin-point the exact location. Derik notices she's a painter and tells her when she returns with drinks that they have, in fact, met. He proceeds to unbutton his shirt and show her the alien symbols he's had tattooed all over his upper body. He then pulls out a knife and moves towards her as she begins screaming.

Meanwhile, back in The Playground, Coulson carves the symbols on his wall to jazz playing on a gramophone with his knife before breaking it. Skye then stops the gramophone before discussing her inability to find a match to the supposed map.

Triplett is monitoring one of Ward's drop points in Philadelphia when Ward enters. Trip requests permission to shoot him, but May denies the request. Coulson, who is monitoring the situation on comms, tells them to bring Ward in "by any means necessary."

Triplett reaches for his gun when Ward shifts his coat, revealing that he has strapped himself with a belt of C-4 explosives wired to a dead man switch. Triplett, therefore, cannot take out Ward without potentially killing everyone in a two block radius.

Back at the base, Skye tells Coulson that she has found a match to the symbols, carved onto the body of Roberts. Coulson recognizes Roberts as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent instead of the art teacher she had thought herself to be. Skye and Coulson travel to Roberts' home in New York to investigate. There, they discover that she had been painting the symbols prior to her murder, hauntingly labeling one as "A Magical Place." After returning to the base, Skye finds out that Janice Roberts was, in fact, Rebecca Stevens, a Level 6 S.H.I.E.L.D. agent based at the Triskelion. Her file stated that she had died of cancer five years prior.

Back in the Playground lab, Mack and Fitz produce Stevens' body, stating having stolen it. Simmons then begins her autopsy.

Meanwhile, Ward has made his way to a bus station in Atlanta and insists on assisting a mother and her son with their baggage. Originally boarding a bus for Dallas, he sits next to Agent Bobbi Morse, who is under cover monitoring the bus to track him. After quietly letting on that he knows who she works for, and threatening to detonate his bomb if Morse creates a scene, Ward disembarks and boards another bus bound for Boston. What he does not know is that Lance Hunter is disguised as a cowboy sitting a few seats behind him.

In the Playground, Simmons informs Coulson and Skye that her autopsy has concluded that both Roberts and her attacker had GH.325 in their blood. Coulson informs Simmons and Skye they will be putting him in the Theta Brain Waive Memory Machine, much to their displeasure. They attempt to convince him of the folly of this course of action, but Coulson insists. They begin the process and Coulson remembers his time overseeing the T.A.H.I.T.I. project. He remembers there were six original test subjects, all former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. He recalls how they originally seemed miraculously healed but in time degenerated to states ranging from manic fits of scrawling the alien symbols, to catatonia, to enraged outbursts.

Hunters watches from a car as Ward enters a bar in Boston where he soon meets HYDRA agents accompanying Sunil Bakshi. Ward offers Bakshi a chance to "have a face-to-face with Coulson" in exchange for the opportunity of meeting Daniel Whitehall.

Coulson continues to recall his time at the Guest House; meanwhile May and Trip are unable to reach anyone at the Playground, causing them concern. Coulson recounts how the decision was made to re-write the memories of all those patients affected by the GH.325 madness, giving them new identities. As his vital signs are becoming dangerously erratic, Coulson is able to recall the new identities of all 6 of the patients, only two of whom are still alive. Skye contacts May and informs her what has transpired. May orders Skye to incarcerate Coulson until she can get back and assess the situation. Coulson starts to lash out, forcing Mack to restrain him and necessitating Skye threats to shoot him with an I.C.E.R. Coulson complies, but once in the holding cells, he shoves Skye into the cell and activates the barrier, silencing her protests.

Hank Thompson, the last T.A.H.I.T.I. survivor, other than the killer, is working in his shop watching his son play with an elaborate train set he constructed. His wife comes and informs him that someone claiming to be an "old friend" is waiting for him at the house.

Mack and Fitz are playing Halo 2 and discussing all the information that has just come to light. Fitz states that the mind cannot be erased, information is just backed up, like a computer. Mack wonders if that could be the key to helping Fitz recover some of what he has lost. Simmons enters asking if they had seen Skye, when she discovers Skye trying to get the attention using the camera in her holding cell. Simmons and Mack race downstairs and free her.

Thompson opens his front door to find Coulson standing there. Coulson pulls a gun on Thompson and demands to know what he knows about the alien symbols. While he is distracted, Sebastian Derik sneaks up from behind and knocks Coulson unconscious with a metal pipe.

Back in Boston, May, Bobbi, Hunter and Trip are gearing up inside a Sprinter van preparing the enter the bar and apprehend Ward. As the team enters, they discover the bartender and two HYDRA agents dead in the bar and a restrained Bakshi in a back room. Bakshi awakens started to see May standing over him with a gun pointed at his head. He has duct tape across his mouth with the words "for Coulson" written on it.

Back in Thompson's workshop, Derk has Thompson's wife and son locked in an office, with Thompson tied to a support beam and Coulson strung up by his hands. Derik reveals that he discovered pain was the only way to remember everything about who he is and what was done to him. He starts to cut Coulson with a knife in an effort to draw out what he knows about the alien writing. Meanwhile Thompson is working to cut his bonds on a screw in the beam he is tied to. Coulson notices the train set Thompson has constructed and realizes that alien symbols are a map that has to be viewed 3-dimensionally. Once he frees himself, Thompson quietly opens the door to let his family out; but when the door creaks, Derik hears them and throws his knife at Thompson. The former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent's training kicks in and he catches the knife between his hands, much to his surprise. He then turns and hurls the knife freeing Coulson from his bonds. Coulson starts grappling with Derik and tells Thompson to get his family out.

Out on the street, Skye and Mack come across Thompson and his family, who direct them back to his workshop where "two men are trying to kill each other." The two agents burst in on the workshop to find Coulson holding Derik in an apparent choke-hold. Coulson states that he is fine, and he is only trying to make Derik see the culmination of all the alien writing. Mack threatens to shoot Coulson, with a real gun, if he doesn't release the other man, and Coulson complies as Derik sees the truth, and right before Mack is forced to fire. Coulson states neither he, nor Derik will be a danger any longer, and Skye is amazed as she sees the 3 dimensional map unknowingly created by Thompson.

Back in Coulson's office, he offers Thompson a place back in S.H.I.E.L.D, but he declines, stating he is happier in his new life. After he departs, Coulson informs May and Skye that Derik has been turned over to the authorities for crimes he committed long before he volunteered for Project T.A.H.I.T.I.. He also states that the compulsion to carve is completely gone, now that he has seen what the completed map looks like. Coulson calls a meeting of all his top agents and shows them a holographic map of the city the alien writing points to. He states HYDRA may have more resources and the Diviner, but they don't have the map. He tells his team that their new top priority is finding the city before HYDRA.


Ward looks at his bearded face in a hotel mirror before shaving his face and trimming his hair. Skye is working in Coulson's office to obtain information from Sunil Bakshi's apprehended cell phone when the phone shows an incoming call from an unknown number. Skye answers it warily and is shocked to hear Ward greet her on the other end. He informs her that he will continue to occasionally leave them little presents, like he did with Bakshi. He then tells her that he has some business to attend to, but he will be seeing her soon. He disconnects the call as he tosses a newspaper into his duffel bag. The front page headline shows his Senator Christian Ward and his vow to bring Ward to justice.


Behind the ScenesEdit





  • The Playground
  • Rhinebeck, New York
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Boston, Massachusetts


Weapons and TechnologyEdit



Episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Season 1:   Pilot0-8-4The AssetEye-SpyGirl in the Flower DressFZZTThe HubThe WellRepairsThe BridgeThe Magical PlaceSeedsT.R.A.C.K.S.T.A.H.I.T.I.Yes MenEnd Of The BeginningTurn, Turn, TurnProvidenceThe Only Light in the DarknessNothing PersonalRagtagBeginning of the End
Season 2:   ShadowsHeavy is the HeadMaking Friends and Influencing PeopleFace My EnemyA Hen in the Wolf HouseA Fractured HouseThe Writing on the WallThe Things We BuryYe Who Enter HereWhat They BecomeAftershocksWho You Really AreOne of UsLove in the Time of HydraOne Door ClosesAfterlifeMelindaThe Frenemy of My EnemyThe Dirty Half DozenScarsS.O.S. Part OneS.O.S. Part Two
Season 3:   Laws of NaturePurpose in the MachineA Wanted (Inhu)manDevils You Know4,722 HoursAmong Us Hide...Chaos TheoryMany Heads, One TaleClosureMavethBouncing BackThe Inside ManParting ShotWatchdogsSpacetimeParadise LostThe TeamThe SingularityFailed ExperimentsEmancipationAbsolutionAscension
Season 4:   The GhostMeet the New BossUprisingLet Me Stand Next to Your FireLockupThe Good SamaritanDeals with Our DevilsThe Laws of Inferno DynamicsBroken PromisesThe PatriotWake UpHot Potato SoupBOOMThe Man Behind the ShieldSelf ControlWhat If...Identity and ChangeNo RegretsAll The Madame’s MenFarewell, Cruel World!The ReturnWorld's End
Season 5:   Orientation: Part 1Orientation: Part 2A Life SpentA Life EarnedRewindFun & GamesTogether or Not at AllThe Last DayBest Laid PlansPast LifeAll the Comforts of HomeThe Real DealPrincipiaThe Devil ComplexRise and ShineInside VoicesThe Honeymoon