Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Together or Not At All


"I got a flying car. How different can it be?"

I realized at some point during the Framework arc that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had become the 24 of comic book shows. It's extremely serialized and fast paced, rarely allowing the characters to have a break.

When the closing moments of season four revealed that the show would head to space, I imagined that the first episodes of season five would be more standalone-y to give the agents some time to (1) get used to their new environment and (2) deal with what happened in the Framework. Instead, this season hit the ground running and, like 24, the trauma the protagonists went through in the previous season is being addressed in a scattered fashion. But Agents is a more character-focused show, and as a result this season has been extremely packed with both plot development and character moments.

Just last week, though, I wrote about my concerns regarding this current arc, in particular how I wanted the Kree to be dealt with sooner rather than later. Now, what? If we go strictly by the plot, "Together or Not At All" didn't even need to exist as it is; the writers could have had Daisy, Simmons and Fitz kill the villains last episode. But because this show has a large season order, the story needs to cover more hours and, sometimes, there is the occasional episode with a simpler premise that doesn't advance the plot a lot, which is exactly what "Together or Not At All" is.

So I probably should repeat my worries from last week. But, the truth is, I might have to take my negative comments back because this week's episode was great, and the Kree were a big reason why. Also, it was not an episode that merely stretched the plot; it reestablished the group dynamics of the agents and delved into the rich backstory of the villains.

Kasius and Sinara are a fascinating duo. She was understandably still upset that he sent her to a death match, but much like Kasius couldn't stand having Faulnak, his brother, overpower him, Sinara couldn't allow another warrior to take precedence over her. So, by the end of the episode, after Sinara had killed Maston-Dar and Kasius killed his own brother, the duo was stronger than ever. You know that the villains are being well written when you root for them, and I rooted for Kasius and Sinara here.

It turns out that they are indeed in exile, a punishment for fleeing battle. But as Kasius explains to his brother when he kills him, their father had sent him on a suicide mission, and it was Sinara who saved him from certain death and decided they had to escape. I wondered how Kasius would react to having his precious face cut, and this episode couldn't have handled it better. He splashes his brother's blood all over his face, and over his new scar, accepting that he is not all about pristine canvas and cultivation of beauty, sometimes he gets his hands dirty, he too is a marred warrior. Gold acting stars for Dominic Rains, he did a great job conveying all of Kasius' emotions and mood swings.

As the Kree hunted them down, the agents tried to keep each other safe and escape, which led to many exciting moments filled with pop culture references. What is not to love? I especially liked that the writers used the danger of the situation to seamlessly make Flint and Deke part of the unit.

Deke is still a question mark. I believe that he wants S.H.I.E.L.D. to win, but his morals are questionable, to say the least. He confirmed he worked for Kasius, so I wonder how far that work went. Was something related to the little Framework he built or did he sell more people to him? I think that is something the agents have to check before accepting him as part of the team.


Flint is a great guy, though. With one cameo and two episodes under his belt, he is already a hero. He is a determined, smart kid who knows how to play under pressure, and it shows in the way that he mastered his powers in such short time. He built a small stone weapon, killed the Kree dude and avenged Tess' death. I thought that was interesting, as the weapon was very primitive looking and, earlier, Faulnak had disregarded humans' weapons as primitive (also worthy of note that Kasius killed Faulnak with a human weapon).

Flint and Mack bonded, and that was a nice progression for Mack's journey as a man who lost his daughter twice. When Flint decided to stay behind and face the Kree, and both Mack and Yo-Yo chose to stay with him, that came as a natural development. I can see Flint as a kid Mack and Elena want to take care of, and I would love for Flint to go back to the past with them so they can become a wonderful little super family.

With most of the agents escaping the Lighthouse and heading to the surface, it was up to May and Enoch to get there first and set things up for next week. I absolutely loved their interaction, because Enoch is the best thing that has happened this season so far. I loved May's reaction when she realized he was the one that sent them to the future. Enoch hinted that May might have a career change, but whether that was him giving advice or telling her a prophecy, unknown. It better not mean that Ming-Na Wen is leaving the show.

Intel and Assets

- Sinara had more lines in this episode than in all previous episodes combined. However, whenever she could, she was still very monosyllabic.

- So, Daisy immediately thinks of removing the device from Simmons' ear, but doesn't say a word about extracting the inhibitor that is preventing her to use her own powers? Sure.

- Nice transition from Daisy climbing the opening in the elevator's ceiling to the surface of the Earth.

- The alien roach looked different from the premiere, as in better VFX and scarier looking.


- When he listed those who would save the Earth, Enoch mentioned May, Simmons and Coulson. Does that mean something or did he stop at Coulson's name because May interrupted him?

- May had a bilateral tear of the quadriceps. She diagnosed it herself.

- The scene of Maston-Dar slitting the redshirt's throat was weirdly inserted into the episode. He didn't need anyone to tell him that Daisy and the others escaped through the ceiling. The hatch was open, he just had to look up. It's like the writers needed to insert some violence (because Faulnak told Maston to spill blood) but just didn't know when.

- Faulnak referred to Sinara as a low-born subordinate.

- Gravitonium is what is being used to create the artificial gravity for the station. Gravitonium was introduced in "The Asset", way back in season one. Many fans have wondered if Graviton is the one responsible for the Earth's destruction, and the callback to "The Asset" has propelled that theory.

- Coulson's glee over flying the Trawler was the best.

- Fitzsimmons were adorable in this episode. It had been a while.


- The humans on the surface have been hiding in the Zephyr. I love these time travel continuities.

- Obvious question here: if the folks who have the answers that the agents are looking for are in the Zephyr, why didn't the Monolith teleport the agents to the Zephyr in the first place?

- Cool makeup detail, number one: Simmons removed the gold makeup, but there was some of it left on her forehead. That was a nice touch. It was realistic that Simmons, who was in a hurry and with no mirror, wouldn't remove it all.

- Cool makeup detail, number two: At first, we saw the natural color of Kasius' cheek (blue) where Simmons cut him, thus confirming that the white on his face is a makeup that Kasius uses.

Daisy: "Fight to the death? Really?"
Fitz: "Yeah, well, I had to make a splashy entrance."
Daisy: "Well, you could have jumped in the octagon yourself, then."
Fitz: "Nah, it wouldn't be fair. I do push-ups now. Double digits."

Simmons: "Full story later."
Fitz: "Yeah, there will be pints."
Simmons: "There will be gin."

Enoch: "That is the third Vrellnexian I have eliminated in pursuit of you. Not to toot my own horn, as you would say."
May: "I would never say that."

Daisy (re: Deke): "This is the guy that sold me to Kasius."
Simmons: "Oh, kill him, he's a snake."

Coulson: "How did you escape?"
Daisy: "Clumsily."

Daisy: "Mr. and Mrs. Boba Fett will be here any minute."

Fitz: "Once more unto the breach."
Simmons: "Allons-y."

The premise of the episode was simple, but the execution was great. Four out of four rocks, or close.
--
Lamounier

7 comments:

sunbunny said...

Guess who's all caught up?! (me)

I read Enoch's teasing May about being a doctor as an in-joke about Ming-Na's role on ER. I hope they're not seriously considering retiring her as a fighter. She's too awesome.

Also wondering why Daisy (or, more appropriately, Simmons) didn't remove Daisy's inhibitor.

I'm honestly having trouble caring about characters who aren't Mack or Daisy. It's a chronic problem for me on this show.

Deke is way too Ward-like to be even remotely trusted.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on catching up sun bunny. Also heads up for everybody I there's probably going to be a hiatus after the 10th episode at the beginning of February since the 100th episode has a date that wouldn't align otherwise.

I'm in a similar boat though it's more like Daisy, Fitz and then Mack. Everyone else is fine though. Still not sure the writing for them has been as strong as S3 though (though Evil Fitz was pretty cool).

The whole thing with Daisy's inhibitor was annoying me. Now maybe they couldn't remove it for whatever reason or couldn't find one of those remotes to deactivate it for whatever reason but the fact that none of these options were mentioned at all was weird. Also it's another repetition of the Framework arc (along with the being captured for being an Inhuman thing) where we have Daisy without her powers again. Isn't removing people's powers the kind of thing Heroes got a lot of crap for. Sure it's nice to see Chloe Bennet/Daisy kick some ass without them but you it's still annoying to keep holding her back. Season 4 wasn't so bad with this but they're starting to push it a bit. Hopefully the repetition of Daisy guilt we might be getting next week isn't too egregious.

Also a nitpick I mentioned elsewhere is why did they decide to send up Elena up the shaft by herself when they already established that two people could go up at once. Weren't they kind of pressed for time?

Not sure if Flint could travel back in time with them for too long if they plan on altering the future at some point (same with Deke maybe). Paradoxes and all that. Although at this point I'm not sure how much the rules of time are going to be bent since they were originally all "you can't alter the past" when they're probably gonna have to alter time so the MCU can continue for a good long while.

The aliens do look a lot better now that you mention it. Don't have that weird turquoise look going on. Also hail the return of Gravitonium.

migmit said...

Simmons' ear implant was hurting, maybe killing her. Removing it was a top priority. Daisy is just a little less formidable with hers, so, it takes a back seat for now.

Agents, when some youngster runs under the approaching tank, you follow. Then you lightly tap him on the head and get his unconscious body to safety. In full compliance with "leave no man behind" principle. Even if he is boring.

I agree about Enoch. He's great.

Anonymous said...

Whenever a show refuses to use a characters power or powers down said character it means one thing...Budget.and shield had one hell of a cut this season..I for one think they have navigated it brilliantly so far.
I forgive all minor flaws because they always work a certain magic like somehow making Kassius an interesting villain after weeks of annoying me..
I loved how pissy Sinara was in this episode...Its like the more she had to speak with these morons the more irritated she got.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a better alternative would be to put Daisy in fewer situations where she'd be forced to use her powers. I'm sure you could get real creative with it. Unfortunately as an comic book action show I suppose that would be kind of tricky. Also the whole dystopia space-arc they set up probably didn't help either what with the dangerous situation and the vistas of space (and with the serialized form they went with are gonna be stuck there for a while). Doesn't help that we had to add another expensive power person into the mix (probably for a long term payoff down the line).

Definitely down for the return of some standalone episodes if we can afford it.

Lamounier said...

Yay, sunbunny. Glad that you are caught up. And great catch, the ER reference went over my head.

As for Daisy's inhibitor, I get that there are budget issues and there were already lots of VFX in this episode, which is probably why the producers wanted to keep her without her powers. But I agree with this:

Now maybe they couldn't remove it for whatever reason or couldn't find one of those remotes to deactivate it for whatever reason but the fact that none of these options were mentioned at all was weird.

Exactly. If they had at least *mentioned* or tried something, I would have been okay with it. I mean, Fitz took the mute device out of Simmons' ear without knowing what it was nor if it would make her head explode. It's weird that they didn't even discuss Daisy's situation.

As for characters I care about the most, I would have to go with the original five, especially Fitz, Simmons and Daisy.

Patryk said...

I haven't noticed budget cuts. For all intents and purposes moving the show into space would warrant a budget increase not a decrease. So it's even more impressive for the showrunners.