Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Last Day

"You get any answers about who they are, why they brought us here?"
"Just more questions."

That bit of dialogue is this episode in a nutshell. Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long review.

I loved this episode. I didn't care about Voss' subplot, but the timey wimey stuff was so good. I usually watch an episode a second time before reviewing it, but I would have watched this one twice regardless if I were reviewing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or not. I just had to go through all the flashbacks again and try to make sense of them.

So, here we go. This is how I think it all happened.

Timeline One

- The agents go to the diner after killing Aida. They are not kidnapped. They solve their problems with the Government.

- Coulson dies. May takes over his place.

- Polly dies and somehow Robin ends up with S.H.I.E.L.D., and May becomes a mother figure to her.

- Daisy vanishes into a city that has been evacuated, the world cracks like an egg starting from that city.

- May, Simmons, Fitz, Mack and Yo-Yo take the remainder of humanity to the Lighthouse.

- Mack dies.

- Things go south in the Lighthouse and May accepts help from the Kree, despite Elena's protests.

- Fitz and Simmons design a time machine because of Robin's prophecies.

- In 2091, Deke's father completes Fitz' project and activates the time machine to (1) send someone back to 2017/2018 to tip Enoch off and (2) bring the agents to the future (I'm not sure if these two events can happen in the same timeline, but let's skip that detail because my head is hurting).

Timeline Two (and Three, and Four, and it's unclear how many...)

- The agents go to the diner after killing Aida. Enoch kidnaps and sends them, minus Fitz, to the future.

- Six months later, Fitz goes into the cryo-freeze chamber. Hunter and Bobbi take care of Robin.

- At some point in 2018, the team returns from 2091 with the knowledge they have acquired. But they don't have the solution to prevent the world's end.

- The Earth still cracks like an egg.

- The Kree enslave the human race.

- Fitz and Simmons design a time machine.

- It's 2091. Deke's father activates the time machine. The agents arrive from the past, fight the Kree and go back to 2018.

Current Timeline

The difference between this timeline and the ones that came before is that Robin finally tells May, at the right moment, what she needs to do to prevent the world from ending. Since the very first timeline, Robin has been talking about Flint, but because Robin can't distinguish past, present and future, she talked about Flint when it wouldn't make a difference.

It all makes sense. The person that can prevent the world from ending in 2018 would only be born in the 2070s, that's why the agents were sent to the future. They have to bring Flint from 2091 with them. Flint is the missing key.

The first flashbacks are set in Timeline One. The agents know nothing of 2091: Fitz is skeptical about building a time machine and May accepts help from the Kree. May and Fitz' discussion of whether time is fixed or changeable happens in Timeline Two (or Three or whatever). Fitz even mentions Voss, whom he met in 2091. The final flashback probably happens in the timeline that we are watching, because that's when May asks a young Robin to give her the critical information at the right moment. And old Robin recalled that.

Now, see, the writers are crazy! I love them. They threw in flashbacks to different timelines and trusted us to figure things out. As if time travel stories were easy to understand! Crazy! During my first watch of the episode, I was so confused. I thought it was all a big loop, but there were so many things that didn't add up. Why would May accept help from the Kree if she knew they were going to enslave humankind? Most importantly, if it's all just a loop, how would they prevent the Earth from exploding? It was only after reading a bunch of different theories on the internet and watching the episode a second time that things became clearer. But they are not 100% clear yet, which must be what the writers want at this stage.

Bravo, writers, seriously. That's how you write a good time travel story. Totally frying our brains but still making sense.

(Uh, I'm totally assuming that my explanation above is correct, but it could be wrong. One way or another, I'm having a great time thinking about all of this.)

Enoch's Role

If in the first timeline the agents didn't go to the future, that means they weren't kidnapped by Enoch. It's likely that Robin had already had the vision of the agents going to the future, but there was no one to make it happen. That is why I said that Deke's father would have sent someone to the past first: someone to lead Enoch to Robin and have things unfold the way they did.

Either that, or my assumption that in the first timeline the agents didn't travel to the future is incorrect. But, then, why would Fitz be so skeptical about building a time machine? He would have known there'd be one anyway. And why would May accept help from the Kree? She would have known they would enslave the remainder of humanity. Was the situation so terrible that she couldn't choose otherwise?

In any case, I think there is a small plot inconsistency here: why wouldn't Enoch tell the agents where/when he was sending them to? They would have arrived prepared and with better chances of success. I know, I know, it would have made for less exciting television, but still... Look how much Fitz benefited from knowing what he was walking into.

Okay, now can we talk about other stuff that it's not time travel?

Yes, we can.

It doesn't matter how good a plot is, it has to be grounded in good character work to resonate, and this episode strengthened the time travel shenanigans with a beautiful arc for May. See, May, the one who had to kill an Inhuman girl, is the one that raises Robin, also an Inhuman girl. While everyone around her kept losing faith, May never gave up. She believed in Robin and believed in a better outcome for humanity. May has always been a mother figure, but a tough one, and I loved that she became so sweet and caring to Robin. It's such a beautiful tale that a woman as wounded as May, in the midst of the Apocalypse, would have the healing experience of becoming a mom, would open up, allow herself to show affection in the degree she shows it to Robin, and carry the torch of hope for humankind. It's almost too bad that we won't see May's story develop this way because the end of the world will be prevented.

Like I said before, Voss' subplot didn't draw my attention. From the first time he interrupted May before she could get answers from Robin, I knew he was up to no good, and even though I understand his reasons, I didn't care for his actions at all. That footage he showed Daisy proved NOTHING. Now it looks like everybody, even Daisy, believes she destroyed the world. I just wished they would pay attention to the fact Robin, the seer, never said that Daisy was the one who did it.

"Hello, gorgeous."
The other subplot was the one with Mack, Yo-Yo and Flint chasing some alien roaches. That was fun, especially Mack reuniting with his shotgun-axe and Yo-Yo using her powers to kill some cucarachas. Mack continues to act like a protector to Flint, and I believe Flint will become to Mack what Robin became to May. I like the strong case this show makes for adoptive parenting, and I like it even more that they are using it to give new meanings to the lives of Mack and May. They deserve it.

Who. Will. Die?

Remember in season three when Daisy had a vision (by Robin's father, no less) that someone from the team would die? And ABC decided to tease us with that impending doom in every promo? I didn't care then, but now I'm super worried that someone is going to die. With the hundredth episode fast approaching, I have this feeling that the writers are cooking up a new death, although now in a less obvious way.

They are suddenly giving us lots of Fitzsimmons scenes. The couple has shown more intimacy in the last three episodes than in the entirety of season four! I have seen one Whedon do something like this before, and it means one of the love birds dies. Don't you dare, Jed and Mo, don't kill one half of Fitzsimmons.

It's not just them, though, that are in the line of fire. This episode established that Mack died in the previous timeline, and I can see him sacrificing himself to save Flint in the current timeline. It looked like Coulson died too, because May had become the boss. With Enoch indicating that May will have a career change, it could be that she will take Coulson's place once he is gone.

Robin told May that the agents were kidnapped at the diner because that was the last place they were all seen together. Considering that Coulson isn't even mentioned in the flashbacks, I'd say he died  shortly after the events of the fourth season finale. He also died in every subsequent timeline, which means he either died still in 2091 or back in 2018, before the Earth cracked. Robin said: "Philip J. Coulson, he can bring all the pieces together." Was she just making a cryptic reference to Flint, or did she mean that Coulson as a leader can bring his team together to save the Earth, perhaps sacrificing himself in the process? Let's not forget that whatever deal Coulson made with The Ghost Rider, the Rider will come to collect the payment. Finally, there was a picture of an island drawn by Robin, which could be a reference to Tahiti. And we all know what Tahiti means for Coulson.

Is Coulson paying a permanent visit to Tahiti?
Maybe no one will die and I'm worrying for nothing. Or it could be someone that I haven't listed. It could be anyone, really. Except for Daisy, I don't see the show killing her, except if it's the series finale – and maybe not even then. She'd be the easiest character to crossover to other Marvel shows.

Intel and Assets

- I totally broke Billie's seventh rule of television. Sorry, Billie. ^^

- Deke's father continued the project of the time machine that Fitz designed. Deke could turn out to be Fitz and Simmons' grandson.

- Is Deke's father really dead? Maybe Voss just hid him.

- I rolled my eyes when Voss stabbed Robin. It's so predictable to kill the character who has the answers right after the main characters find him or her. But, then, the May/Robin scenes happened and I was left with no complaints.

- Robin told Fitz: "You gave them everything you could." Is she referring to Fitz sleeping his way to 2091 or to something else?

- I really like how the score composer mixes the character musics of Sinara and Kasius when they are together. I was going to mention that last week, but I forgot.

- The score that played when Yo-Yo killed the cucarachas was very Stranger Things-y, wasn't it?

May: "Looks like you had a rough landing."
Coulson: "Yeah, can't recommend the airline. Inexperienced pilot, lot of turbulence, ran out of pretzels in coach."

Coulson: "Anyone who has the answers is either unreliable, dead or wants us dead."
May: "So, status quo."

Daisy: "Sucks when your parents get to say 'I told you so.'"

Mack: "Dial it back a notch, Pebbles."

May: "When that day comes, you have to tell me how to get back. You tell me your vision of us saving the world."
Robin: "But I've never seen that vision."
May: "You will."

"The Last Day" was such a good episode and exactly what I wanted since the premiere revealed that the agents were sent to the future. Voss' subplot didn't do much for me, but the stuff in the Lighthouse was pretty cool, the flashbacks were terrific and the May/Robin scenes were beautiful. I'll have to go with another four out of four robins, or close.
--
Lamounier, who is one million neurons short after reviewing this episode.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Shield week by week continues to stamp itself as the best comicbook show..The scale and ambition on such a low budget is incredible.
May's story shows you how well the show knows its characters and just how three dimensional they all are, even the villains.

Such a Wonderful review by the way, im left with nothing to add...

televisionandotherrantings said...

So the question here is if they bring Flint back with them to the present and they succeed in preventing the disaster does Flint not cease to exist if the events that would have led to his birth no longer happened?

We still need to account for the existence of the Lighthouse in the pre-2018 days so there ought to have been more time shenanigans afoot.

Also I'm not so sure about Robin being able to see through multiple iterations of the past (the future maybe). Although I suppose any interpretation is valid at this point. I'm curious if they could have used one of those power suppression devices to possibly turn Robin's powers off at some point so she could maybe be a bit more coherent in what she's seen (or give her some release from the pressures of this lifestyle).

The May/Robin stuff doesn't quite beat the equivalent scene in Doctor Who with River Song. This script didn't quite have the grace that peak Moffat had. Although I do find the implication that May herself gave herself the hope of a better future very White Tulip-esque.

Just to add a point to the S3 jab it should be noted that even in universe there was a vision of death (from Robin's dad appropriately enough) so it wasn't strictly in there as a marketing ploy. It kind of tied into the themes of that season of predestination. What we have here in S5 is interesting I guess but it's arguably a bit convoluted and I have doubts its gonna hold up to scrutiny as far as paradoxes go. Sure some of those are inevitable but if your season arc resolution relies on them it makes it a tad more frustrating. Though they are definitely being more subtle on the possibility of death for one of the main crew (although Coulson's deal situation definitely put him under the magnifying glass since the season began).

Voss basically pulled a Braxton from Voyager's Future's End on this one and used the slimmest evidence of a person being at a particular event to go on a bout of murder to prevent a catastrophe. Oh and hopefully the writers are a bit more clever with the time travel than Voyager was cause boy howdy a lot of logic from that show didn't make sense.

Onanymous said...

I'm also pretty sure that Deke is going to turn out to be Fitzsimmons' grandson. They've been talking about his parents so much, it has to be important, especially since the monolith shard belonged to his mother. His dad was sent to the surface along with Robin and Deke himself used to bring her tea every day.

The scenes between May and Robin was just lovely. She's comes so far from the blunt, emotionally closed-off Cavalry we met in S1.

Did you notice that Fitz was wearing a wedding ring in the flashback with the time machine schematics?

Robin kept predicting Jemma's death. I don't think I could bear losing her. For that matter, I don't thing I could bear losing any of the team. I definitely agree with Anonymous that this is one of the best comic book shows on air at the moment.

WhyMe said...

Better than the episode :)

Thank you!

Lamounier said...

So the question here is if they bring Flint back with them to the present and they succeed in preventing the disaster does Flint not cease to exist if the events that would have led to his birth no longer happened?

Not really. Have you ever watched Continuum, televisionandotherrantings? I really like how that show explains time travel. Think of the time space continuum as a tree. When someone goes back to the past, they create a new branch of the tree. So regardless if the previous branch collapses or not, the people who traveled in time will continue to exist in the new branch.

So, Flint would continue to exist, because it's a new branch. ;)

Onanymous, I did notice the ring, lovely detail. Also, I read a theory online that said that Deke would turn out to be Fitzsimmons' son, not grandson, because of the story Deke told about how devastated his father was after his mom died. But Deke is just too young to be their son, and as of now I'm leaning towards grandson.

Thank you for the kind comments, Anonymous and WhyMe.

Patryk said...

If they want to kill anyone my money would be on Fitz because Ian seems to have a carrer outsisde the show that prevented him from being part of the firstst 4 episodes, But to be honet I dont trust them to folloiw up ever since the major part of the team that died in season 3 was Lincoln. Talk about a cop-out.

I have to say the multiple timelines are interesting and I would not have figured it out if not fot the review. So thank Ypu for taking the time. :)