Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: A Life Earned

"Perhaps you are more than a fairy tale."


Fitz is back, y'all. Freaking finally. Let's do the dance of joy.

Okay, I knew episode five was going to be Fitz-centric, so I expected him to pop up at the end of this one, but I did not expect him to show up in the future. I'm a bit torn about that, to be honest. While I have been enjoying this futuristic escapade a lot, I'm starting to miss the present day "regular" stuff. Had Fitz stayed in the present, we would get a fix of that every week.

In any case, Fitz' arrival throws a wrinkle into an already complicated state of affairs. What the hell is he up to? And what story has he built for himself that he can arrive and just tell Kasius what to do? I have to commend the writers here, they have ditched traditional storytelling rules and, in the space of three episodes, have built such a complex little society whose dynamics they expand and explore in interesting ways.

This episode introduced a new Inhuman character, Ben, played by one of the most gorgeous actors Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has ever cast. We are told he has the power of hearing people's thoughts and can therefore anticipate his opponent's moves, but in reality his powers are to distract people with his prettiness, which is clearly what happened to this reviewer. But there is another facet to his power that is revealed in the episode's strongest scene.

Kasius puts two and two together and realizes that Daisy and Jemma came from the past, fulfilling the "prophecy" that S.H.I.E.L.D. agents would arrive from the past to save humanity. He worries that more people time-traveled with them, and questions Daisy and Simmons about it. Simmons, who can't hear a thing, needs to tell the exact same story as Daisy's, and Ben is there to read their minds and check for Kasius if they are telling the truth.

Daisy is very dumb. She tells this ridiculously detailed lie that Simmons could in no way replicate, but halfway through I realized that Ben was not only hearing their thoughts, he was also telling Simmons what to say. His telepathic powers are the complete package, both send and receive. The moment Simmons told the same story and it dawned on Daisy that Ben had helped them was very powerful. I cheered inside. I love stories of oppressed people joining forces against their oppressor, so that scene was a win for me.

Ben also got to read Kasius' mind and learn that he intends to get his ticket out of the Lighthouse and destroy it. I didn't like Kasius initially, but he continues to grow as a villain. He is ashamed to have a low-prestige position and aims to gain more respect among the Kree. He could care less about humans, he just sees them as means for profit. How did he end up in a position he hates so much, though?

This episode nearly confirmed that Daisy destroyed the world. Maybe even other worlds, since everyone refers to her as "Destroyer of Worlds." But I think this could be a big red herring, even if it's a different Daisy from another timeline. Let's not forget that the Kree erased history, so whatever happened, they have a reason to hide it. At the same time, though, they already knew who Daisy was and Kasius even respects her powers. What is the truth here? This is a really cool mystery.

We learned a new bit of information about the people who are hiding on Earth's surface: the man who tried to contact Virgil is Deke's father. Except that he was supposed to be dead and now Deke has a personal reason to side with the agents. It's too late, though, because after Coulson and May find out Deke lied about Daisy's MIA-ness, and May becomes the latest agent to be captured, Coulson has had it. It was a very in-character moment for Coulson, to be touched by someone's story but not to trust them because he knows better than that.

While they were still with Deke, Coulson and May learned another disturbing aspect of Lighthouse's society: people don't procreate anymore; instead, the Kree create babies in labs* to increase their chances of being Inhumans. It's all about using people to make money. Are the Kree an metaphor for capitalism?

*I wasn't sure I understood the logistics of that one. The way Deke said it, it seems like the Kree put something in the water/food to sterilize people, but some get selected not to be sterilized. So maybe those lucky ones make babies the old fashioned way?

This revelation ties nicely into Mack's strong subplot, that sees him and Yo-Yo going after Gunner, a man that owes tokens to Grill. Mack is reluctant about following Grill's orders – to kick Gunner's ass. Yo-Yo, bless her heart, argues that they are in a tough environment that will require them to make tough calls in order to survive. Not that I want Mack to go around hitting people, but he needs to realize his ethical purity is not practical. He tries to confront Yo-Yo about getting Zev killed last week, but hey, dude, had she not done it, you would be the dead one. If you are going to try to live up to your moral grounds, then at least suggest some alternative course of action that is actually smart.

Yo-Yo, for instance, tries the approach of scaring Gunner without beating him, which is super valid. Mack follows through, but unbeknownst to him, his choice of words makes Gunner believe Mack is threatening his baby's life. Who would be that cruel? Mack could never and the things Gunner says to him are too much. So Mack unleashes on him.

Let me say that I'm so glad the show is addressing this. I said in my review of "World's End" that the emotional resolutions for Mack and Fitz post-Framework were too rushed and too easy, and that I expected the show to revisit their traumas this season. And now here we are.

Mack is completely wrecked by Hope's death, but it's not because Framework Hope reminded him of real Hope: he is actually grieving Framework Hope more, and that makes him think he is a terrible man/father. Yo-Yo tries to comfort him, saying that Framework Hope might not have been real, but his love for her is. Which is true, you know? May said that waking up from the Framework was like waking up from another life. Now, that life is another weight on Mack's shoulders.

The script was a little heavy-handed, with Gunner saying the exact words that would hit Mack hard, and Grill later telling him he belongs right there (in Lighthouse's cruel world). But overall this subplot was very well done. I loved that Coulson anonymously gave Deke's coin of richness to Gunner, which both cleared his debt with Grill and assured he will have money to take care of his kid. That was a sweet bit of light and hope in an episode filled with somber developments for some of the agents.

Intel and Assets

- The Kree already installed a power inhibitor on Daisy.

- May more than held her own against Sinara, but her injured leg is really slowing her down.

- Having that said, hasn't May gone through enough emotional and physical torture already? Evil writers even left us with a cliffhanger, and since next episode will be all catching up with Fitz, we will probably have to wait until next year to learn what happened to May.

- Major props to Ming-Na Wen. At the age of 54 and still recovering from a knee surgery, she is doing her own stunts.

- Sinara is amazeballs and Florence Faivre continues to do a solid work in a role that basically consists of facial expressions and body language.

- Coulson locked Deke in his room. I hope he has a bathroom in there.

- Was Fitz the one that created the "prophecy" of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s arrival back in the day? Also, in the scenario that Daisy didn't destroy the world, could he be the one that linked her to its destruction in an attempt to hype her powers? (Not that she isn't extremely powerful.)

- Grill said to Mack: "Have you looked in a mirror? You're a beast. Go be one." At first I heard "Obi Wan" instead of "go be one" and got so confused.

- Yo-Yo grew up in a city called Potosí.

- Lighthouse levels: level 4 is holding (it's where the agents arrived), level 17 is engineering, level 35 is where they create babies.

- The previous episode was called "A Life Spent", in which a death occurred – Zev's. This episode was called "A Life Earned", in which a child was born. Nice parallels.

Coulson: "That's a little slang I picked up here. 'Crusher'... it's when you --"
May: "Phil, I get 'crusher.'"

Daisy: "Maybe I don't feel like performing on cue today. Unless you've got peanuts."

Yo-Yo: "We won't lose ourselves. I promise."

Three out of four bargained babies. And I can't wait for the next episode. Fitz-centric and with that returning character? I'm hyped. If that character travels to the future with Fitz, I'm doing another dance of joy.

(I'm not saying names to not spoil things for those who don't watch promos, but promo discussion is allowed on the comments.)


Anonymous said...

Good episode..Kassius is also growing on me, he had a hilarious moment of pettiness. Cersei would have been proud.
But i still find Sinara the more interesting of the two. I have high hopes in Shield surprising us with whatever she has done to May.
Mack's story is why i like Shield so much..I didn't find it particularly interesting but the subtlety of where his guilt and feelings are coming from is something you wont find on many other super hero shows.

Anonymous said...

You called Daisy dumb for the story she told. Yet she told the story using the facts but left out the rest of the team hoping Jemma would pick up on it. She lied as little as possible while not incriminating any of he others. She mentioned their last mission. She told of Fitz being distraught. She had to make a reasonable statement as to why Fitz was not with Jemma so she said he quit the team which he said he wanted to do. She said they went to a diner, just her and Jemma to talk and that's where they were taken. It was actually a pretty smart story - leaving in some truths, but not implicating the others.

Patryk said...

Fitz doing a Leia in Jabbas palace so I bet it will backfire on him. Why would Kassius listed to a human. Yeah the mask removal was for our benefit but still dumb move.