Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Force of Gravity

"We either save Coulson."
"Or we save the world."

This has been a somewhat divisive season. While many fans believe the show has retained the quality it achieved in its fourth season, some are less forgiving of the imperfections of season five. Whichever side you fall, there is no denying that this year S.H.I.E.L.D. has delivered a daring, big story, emotionally centered at the dilemma of letting Coulson die to save the world. "The Force of Gravity" finally puts the pieces of the puzzle together and leaves the characters with an impossible decision to make.

It's a straightforward moral conundrum: the same substance that can be used to save Coulson can be used to kill Talbot and prevent the end of the world. There isn't much of that substance left, though, and they don't have the time to search for or produce more of it. It's a mundane and circumstantial situation, almost as if the universe is laughing at the team. But they can't escape that choice. It's either Coulson or the world, and even if the team can think of other ways to kill Talbot, that would probably be convenient and reckless. They have seen the world cracked apart and they have received Future Yo-Yo's message, now echoing stronger than ever.

On the other hand, Fitz offers an intriguing interpretation of the message: what if they don't try to save Coulson, but make sure they save him? What if that's enough of a difference to change the fate of the world? That's quite the leap, considering that Fitz doesn't know if the team tried and failed to save Coulson in previous iterations of the loop. Fitz's interpretation is put to rest as soon as he lets it out, though, because that's also when Simmons reveals her idea to defeat Talbot, thus raising the need to let Coulson die. Nevertheless, I doubt Fitz's theory was just a throwaway thought, it might play a part in the finale.

There is also something going on with Fitz that could be relevant next episode. He is keeping it mostly quiet, but Mack's words really got to him, to the point that he couldn't even look Mack in the eye, being both hurt and ashamed. I have missed this Fitz, the Fitz that cares and sees beyond the pragmatism of his actions. And now I worry how far he will go to redeem himself. In any case, I'm glad good ol' Fitz is back.


It's not just Fitz, though, everyone was great here, and it's a relief that they are starting to make amends. Sure, it helped that Daisy spent the episode apart from Yo-Yo, Fitz and Simmmons, but there was a sense that the team has started to pick itself up. Daisy declared her respect for Yo-Yo, and Yo-Yo tried to gain Mack's forgiveness (maybe a little too strongly, there was a line of hers that made me think "girl, you couldn't be more obvious"). Mack was at his finest, dispensing wisdom left and right without breaking a sweat, and trying to appeal to Talbot's remaining sanity. And Simmons was happy at the prospect of the entire team being together again. I have no complaints.

Then again, when I had complaints last week, it's not that I thought the characters were being poorly written, that is something I want to make clear. The conflicts have been well built, I was just exhausted by the constant fighting, and I'm glad we've reached the point of peace making.

And of making out.

Coulson and May's kiss was wonderful, perfectly timed, with a delicious bit of bickering between the two of them leading up to the smooching. And the way Coulson grabbed May around the waist and shielded them? There was a touch of old movie romance to the scene and I loved it. But my favorite part was, hands down, Daisy's reaction. Chloe Bennet nailed it, from the awe and amusement of seeing mom and dad kiss, to realizing she still had an enemy to take down. And "hot lips," of course. God, what a memorable scene. Definitely worthy of the build up.


Last episode had me wondering if Talbot could really work as a villain, because after several weeks of writing him as a broken man, he was more or less back to being the goofy general he used to be, with the difference of being gravitonium-obsessed. While I understand why the writers chose that defining trait of Talbot to transition him from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s friend to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s foe, it didn't translate as exciting villainy. Luckily, "The Force of Gravity" adds more layers to Talbot as a villain.

There are two driving forces guiding Talbot's decisions. The first one is his impulse to absorb more gravitonium, which is surely the gravitonium inside of him talking. That could derail into the tired comic book trope of a man gone mad after an experiment or accident, but there is an extra motivation that gives Talbot the right balance: he truly wants to save the world. So on one hand you have Talbot hurting his wife when he believes she is working with S.H.I.E.L.D., on the other you have Talbot articulating to his kid that he is trying to be Earth's champion. It's clear that he wants to be Earth's champion to make his son proud of him, but is doomed to fail.


Talbot is not a villain in the traditional sense. May and Coulson, Mack and Yo-Yo, Fitz and Simmons all discuss separately what should be done with him. He is a good man after a series of unfortunate events. In fact, the second half of this season has been a series of unfortunate events, both for our heroes and for the alleged villains. This isn't the story of S.H.I.E.L.D. versus a Big Bad, but the story of how a wrong approach (Hale's) to a crisis, combined with the clash of different points of view (everyone's), can lead to chaos, even when the motivation is correct. I was critical of some of the Hale and Ruby section of the season, but I think this season will prove to be great rewatch material once it's done and the puzzle is complete.

We are nearly there. With Talbot about to crack the Earth in his search for more gravitonium and Coulson on the brink of death, we are entering the final moments before the Earth goes boom. It's pretty exciting. Odds are the agents will be able to prevent the end of the world this time, but the season has made such a great job building up to this point that it feels like it could go either way. That's good TV right there.

Intel and Assets

- The working title of the episode was "F = G (m1 x m2) / d2," the equation for Newton's law of gravitation. I'm a nerd, so I liked that title more. Having that said, "The Force of Gravity" has more weight, pardon the pun. It's more than a reference to Talbot's powers. Gravity is what makes Coulson fall when he doesn't have the strength to stand. Gravity is also what brings the pieces together, and by the end of the hour the team is back together in the same room, with a world changing dilemma dangling in front of them.

- Talbot absorbed the Absorbing Man. I liked Creel and hoped he would get a happier ending.

- Talbot's costume is much better without the cape.

- Daisy displayed her wit and smarts in spades in her conversation with Papa Kasius, who just looked pathetic in his attempts to subdue her.

- The Remorath were, disappointingly, much easier to kill this time. Loved Deke using his belt to choke a Remorath, though.

- In the first half of the season, Simmons helped Fitz build the time machine, something that fell in his area of expertise. Now, Fitz helped Simmons work with the centipede serum, something that falls in her area of expertise. I like that symmetry.

- When Simmons came up with that crazy idea to defeat Talbot, I raised my eyebrow and thought "she can't be serious." Fitz said they ran the simulation and it was all good, but injecting odium into Talbot could be what cracks the world apart, right?

- Speculations on who might die? I'm not ready to see Coulson go, and they've been signaling his death so strongly that he might survive. If anyone dies, my money is on Fitz sacrificing himself for the team and the world, to redeem himself before his friends.

- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was renewed for a sixth season of thirteen episodes that will air in the summer of 2019. That's the perfect number of episodes and the perfect time for a few reasons: (1) It would have been either that or cancellation; (2) if it's still gathering enough buzz, the show could make the leap to Disney's streaming service; and (3) the writers won't be too limited by the events of Infinity War, since the new season will air around the release date of Avengers 4. I don't see how a season of 22 episodes would work bound to the falling out of Infinity War.

- There were tons of meta dialogue.

Coulson: "You're just the villain of the month and you're going down, just like all the rest."

Deke: "You got to be kidding me. That is totally nuts."
Davis: "No, no joke. It really happened. Good thing too, otherwise Aida would've killed me."
Agent Kim: "I've had to hear this story enough."
Deke: "Yeah, but that's the most incredible story I've ever heard, and I'm the same age as my grandparents."

May: "Imagine back then if someone had told us that someday we'd be worried about Glen Talbot."
Coulson: "I know. But things evolve. They change. People change."
May: "Yeah, they do. And sometimes, even then, you can't save them."
Coulson: "But you still have to try."

Kasius: "Come with me and I can show you how to unleash your power."
Daisy: "As your weapon."
Kasius: "As my disciple."
Daisy: "Oh, God. What is with your family and this God complex?"

Daisy: "Funny. I see the future, too. And you have two despicable sons who wear even dumber makeup than you."

Simmons: "It's funny, isn't it? The centipede serum was part of our first mission, and now it's the key to curing Coulson. We've come full circle."
Fitz: "Just in time for the end of days."

May: "All these hallways look the same."

Deke: "I can count to five."
Coulson: "You lived there for decades and you know five numbers?"
Deke: "I also know zero, so, no, I know six numbers."

Mack: "Everyone's the hero in their own story."
Yo-Yo: "Then what's his? 'Macbeth'?"

Coulson: "Are you giving me an order? 'Cause that sounded like you were giving me an or-"
May: "Yes, I'm giving you an order, you're just gonna slow me down, so zip it and get to the..."
[After the kiss.]
Coulson: "I thought that would shut you up."

Coulson: "Not a word, agent Johnson. That's an order."
Daisy: "Copy that, hot lips."

Fun was had, until that gut punch in the end. I'm not ready for the season finale. The trailer alone left me emotional. Three out of four numbers.
--
Lamounier

2 comments:

televisionandotherrantings said...

Overall I'm also glad there was some levity in this one and less fighting going on (although some of the peacemaking did seem a bit abbreviated).

I actually like Graviton with the cape better.

The meta self-deprecating jokes were definitely great. Also Daisy's reaction to the kiss and her toying with Coulson were fantastic. And her breaking out of the mind prison thing was a baller move.

This probably will go down as being the most controversial season to date managing to even best Season 3 in that honour. I think this season has had some strong moments but a lot of the plot has been pretty messy (probably not helped by the budget cuts and other factors).

RENEWAL THOUGHTS AND INFINITY WAR SPOILERS

Definitely glad that we got the renewal given my distaste towards some of this season. While fewer episodes and being the summer time is a tad annoying it definitely is better than nothing and hopefully they can conjure up something good even with these considerations. I wouldn't want this to end up what I heard/saw happen to Quantico where it got the 13 episode summer season only to immediately get the axe. I suppose we can hope we get a solid end if that happens or that this move will allow us to get to the Disney streaming service (because Disney must clearly want the show to be around for one reason or another).

I'm a tad disappointed that we couldn't experience the season as a lead up to Infinity War and see the aftermath of things on the world but given the fewer episodes and various other conceits it may not have been feasible. Should the "snap" not be completely erased from people's minds or whatever I'd like some flashbacks if at all possible or at the very least some consequence from what happened. Leading to my next point...

My theory is that the finale may very well include the snap and quite possibly that Daisy will be the only survivor of the main crew. The writers do love to mess with her and having her left alone like that would definitely do it (plus it would be an interesting opportunity since the characters that are gone will be back almost certainly). While they did say they wrote this finale as satisfying possible series finale I wouldn't necessarily put it past them to pull something like this (see Angel's Not Fade Away). At the very least I believe Coulson will end the season dead (before probably being brought back for Season 6) in order to be all thematic and stuff.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes i feel as viewers we have become extremely whiny and entitled. This is not aimed at anyone in particular i myself am guilty of this. Their have been flaws no doubt but it slao feels like we almost wait for shows not to reach heights we have seen it reach than turn around and be like 'aha' This great season hasn't been amazing like last season.. With the shows renewal up in the air once again i think i had a moment where i finally realized what this show has achieved...Since season 1 (everyone says the twist is were everything changed) but personally i thought it showed marked improvement from T.RA.C.K.S which was episode 13. I can honestly not think of an episode let alone season that was not at the very least solid if not good after that point. At a stretch i could possibly name only a handful of episodes that i didn't like and even then it would be reaching. I have watched the show since it piloted with the Avengers hype surrounding 1t (people really thought Iron Man was going to show up) and 14 million + viewers. The show has been on the bubble since episode 3 of season one after it lost more than half it's viewership..Every season gets budget cuts, renewed late and the 22 episode format ..All while striving to be it's own thing while simultaneously weaving in element's of the movies in ways that
have to be useful but not cared about by the films. They have done this masterfully and on many occasions fearlessly in my opinion.