Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The One Who Will Save Us All

"You are either with me or against me."

This week, the agents fight each other while Talbot rises as the season's villain.

I'm gonna do something different with this review. The Powers That Be have made an excellent job at giving each main character a unique perspective in the end-of-the-world crisis, so I'm gonna write about all of them, one at a time, from the ones that annoyed me the most in this episode to the ones that I'm more in agreement with. Warning: I'm bitter.

Mack: "When does killing become the only way?"

I was going through some old reviews of Agents when I found this:

"Does anyone else think Mack was a little too hard on Simmons?"

It's from Mark Greig's review of "A Fractured House" (that would be a fitting name to any of these latest episodes of season five), and he was talking about the first time ever that we saw Mack unleash a sermon unto someone. I never liked this trait of Mack's. Even when he has a point, he usually comes off as rude, pedantic or self-righteous. I wish the writers had toned it down already, or evolved that aspect into an actual positive trait, but Mack's sermons have come back with a vengeance this season.

I understand why Mack is pissed at Yo-Yo, Fitz and Simmons. They fooled him, locked him up and their side mission went completely off the rails. To make it worse, a revenge-driven Elena killed a girl that Mack believes could have been spared. But the fact is: she couldn't.

When Mack lectured Simmons back in season two, he didn't know the whole picture. He barely knew her to begin with and he wasn't there when she realized that her presence was harming Fitz. Three and a half seasons later, Mack still doesn't know the whole picture but acts as if he does.

He is wrong when he reduces Ruby to "a kid," she was dangerous and had just accidentally killed one of the few people she cared about. And he is beyond annoying when he tells Fitz that in order to be a good man one needs to follow "the Good Word." Please, Mack. The good word? That one that regulates slavery? That has tons of killing and mass-murder in the name of the Lord? Save it. Mack's Christianity could be an interesting aspect of his character, but combined with his preachy ways it becomes something that I have zero patience with.

Leaving all of that aside, I do feel for Mack. He and Daisy have been played – to put it lightly – by their loved ones, and they have all the reason in the world to be upset. I loved it when Mack told Fitz that he needed fixing. I was annoyed at Mack during their entire discussion and suddenly my reaction was "yes, tell him, Mack," which I see as a sign of how well these conflicts have been built. You could easily pick a side, but bottom line is these are all flawed people under severe stress and trying to do the right thing. Everyone's perspectives are at least partially wrong, except for May's, but we will get there.

Fitz: "It's not that simple."

I have to say, the writers have dropped the ball with Fitz's characterization post "The Devil Complex." What happened to Doctor Fitz? Is Fitz not hearing/seeing him anymore? Is he gone or have they become one unified Fitz? Doesn't Jemma worry that one day they might be making sweet, sweet love and he will shout "Hail, Hydra"? The lack of exploration into Fitz's psyche thus far is disappointing.

Fitz also annoyed me during his discussion with Mack, but not because of what he said – he had the strongest points for most of the time. He approached Mack with his head down, clearly worried about how Mack was going to respond. Cool, nice, appropriate, one might say. Why was his attitude towards Daisy more aggressive, then? Why did he apologize for locking up Mack but wasn't able to produce at least a half-assed apology for TORTURING Daisy? He also didn't address having a robot shoot Mack in the leg, so I'm puzzled as to why he is still so mighty about his actions to close the rift, but feeling guilty about lesser transgressions.

At least it looks like Fitz will finally confront his actions, and we have Mack to thank for that. After weeks (days, in the timeline of the show?) of not hearing a word Daisy had to say and having the convenient and questionable approval of his wife, it seems that Fitz listened to what Mack said. His words sank in. It must be the power of the Holy Ghost Rider. Better late than never.

Simmons: "This feels like we may be crossing a line."

You think so, Simmons? Now you want to talk about crossing lines? Oh, you adorable, you. Let's talk about you supporting your husband cutting into your friend without her permission. Don't you think that that is crossing a line?

Simmons is off this season. I mean, what's her storyline? In the first half of the season, it was about helping a couple of Inhumans reach their potential. What else? Engagement, surprise marriage. Then she has this unexpected reaction to what Fitz did to Daisy and decides to run and sponsor Yo-Yo's "We Are Invincible" club. And that's it. I'm seeing a lot of stuff that includes Simmons, but no arc of her own.

I'm still waiting for her and Daisy to make amends. I really like their friendship, it's one of the reasons why the Framework arc is my favorite. For a moment I thought they were going to have a nice chat in this episode, but Simmons kept her distance and Daisy kept acting as the boss. No friendship at sight. Bummer.

Yo-Yo: "She's gonna get everyone killed."

Poor Yo-Yo. I feel for her. She is putting every turn, every event under the microscope of "this is how the world ends," and it's driving her nuts. She is even more stressed out now that she has talked about needing to let Coulson die and no one is buying her story.

But it was Yo-Yo's mistake to keep that information to herself for so long. Now she wants to compensate by butting in on Daisy's mission? Sorry, not a good look on her. It was completely disrespectful of Yo-Yo to open the bag that contained the remains of Daisy's mother, and, okay, she didn't know what was inside the bag, but she should not have taken it from Daisy in the first place. No wonder Daisy lost it and punched her.

Daisy vs. Yo-Yo? In theory, cool, but I guess I'm just tired of week after week after week of these characters not getting along anymore. Can they make up already?

Deke: "Who is Lincoln?"

I cannot believe that Deke is so high on my list, but there you go. There is no denying that he was adorable and very decent in this episode, and I felt for him. His conversation with Daisy was lovely, from trying to cheer her up to being respectful after she opened up about Lincoln. He found a purpose with team S.H.I.E.L.D. that he didn't have before, which is why he's there in the Lighthouse working with them instead of traveling around the globe while he has the chance.

I love you. Fitzsimmons are my grandparents.
But he keeps bringing up the fact that he's still in the Lighthouse, that he is not enjoying the goods of life, which gives me the feeling that he will never get to enjoy them: he will sacrifice himself, either for Daisy or for the team. It can't be a coincidence that Daisy mentioned Lincoln, the man who sacrificed himself for her and the team, right before Deke was ready to tell her that he loves her.

Coulson: "Just wanna make sure we're on the same page."

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Coulson has been the best this season. I don't have a lot to say about him though, as far as conflicts and relationships are concerned. He has surrendered to his imminent death to the point that he doesn't want Daisy and May working to prevent it, but his survival skills are as sharp as ever. What does that say about his willingness to live?

Daisy: "It's like the universe keeps reminding me that I should never have come back from the future."

I've seen a lot of people question Daisy's position as a leader, or question her tough approach to the job. Since she has betrayed the team a few times and not been the most obedient follower, it supposedly doesn't add up. Either May or Mack should replace Coulson. I'd like to defend Daisy a bit, then.

Daisy betraying and/or leaving the team has been a seasonal event (minus this season). The first time that Daisy betrayed the team, she was barely part of it, though. She changed a lot through season one and she remained loyal to the team after S.H.I.E.L.D. fell. Then she got her powers and H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F. took control of S.H.I.E.L.D., but H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F. was not keen on Inhumans and Jiaying used the scenario to lure Daisy into fighting against them. Daisy, however, saw the situation for what it really was just in time to take Jiaying down. Fast forward to season three, Daisy was "brainwashed" by Hive, so that doesn't even count. And in season four, depressed over Lincoln's death, Daisy left the team.

So why should Coulson leave her as the leader? First of all, she has what it takes to lead, and Coulson has seen it. She has come through for the team several times. She was the big champion of the team in season four; they would not have survived the LMD/Framework crisis if it wasn't for her. She was the one leading them from "Self Control" through "Farewell, Cruel World" and she did a hell of a job.

I agree that Coulson should have had May as his replacement, and I mentioned that in a previous review of mine. Daisy is still too emotional, she has yet to mature. But Coulson has also shown emotional weakness several times as a leader and May also quit S.H.I.E.L.D. once. So, to paraphrase Yo-Yo, why is Daisy being singled out?

As for Daisy being a hardass, I doubt that that is her natural leading style. When she led the team through the LMD/Framework crisis, her leadership was quite different. She is a hardass now because she needs to be. Because immediately before Coulson left her in charge, her friend drugged her and cut into her. Then, the friend's wife, also her friend, eventually sided with him, and later a third friend joined them on a mutiny against her. So, you know, it's not like she's been given the chance to hug everyone into following her orders. Considering her age and emotional control, Daisy has been doing a good job as the leader.

Curiously, she is doing to Coulson exactly what he did to her: disregarding his decision and doing what she believes is best for him. This is where Daisy's choices are questionable, but understandable, like pretty much everyone else's.

Last but not least, I thought it was a terrific touch to have Daisy mention that she's still in love with Lincoln. Of course she is. She was grieving when season four started, and since then how much time has passed? Not counting the time jump of six months from when the team left to the future to when they returned, I'd say six months, tops. So from Daisy's perspective it's been a year since Lincoln died. Forget time, though, it could have been ten years, it doesn't matter. We don't forget love, and Daisy certainly hasn't. She has just been too busy to think about it.

May: "We're going to help Coulson. Either find a way to pitch in or don't be here when we get back."

May is the best, forever amen. She needs to lock up all the children in the same room until they sort out their issues. She should have taken the leadership for a while now because she is the one that is less compromised by the stress they are all under.

I don't even blame her for not listening to Yo-Yo. She has no evidence that trying to keep Coulson alive is going to end the world, and she believes in Robin's words that Coulson will bring all the pieces together, whatever that means. Yo-Yo's and Robin's narratives will probably complement one another by the end of the season, but I can't fault May for not anticipating that.

Other thoughts

I'm gonna make this quick because this review is already too long: Talbot's transition to villainy is complete, and Hale bit the dust.

They practically telegraphed Hale's death by giving her a redemption arc, but I really liked how it was done. Hale realized that even as the boss she was guided by the shadow of her oppressors, carrying out Hydra's agenda. Only in her final moments she had a taste of freedom of mind. Her last couple of lines were her character in a nutshell (no pun intended with the way she died): trying to frame Coulson so she could escape unharmed, then trying to help Coulson, Hydra style. RIP, Hale.

Differently from Ruby and Creel, Talbot wasn't tortured by the consciousness of Hall and Quinn. Instead, his path to losing control to the gravitonium inside his body was smooth. He started off the episode being best buds with Coulson. Great team work, he says, after he does it all himself. But by the end of the hour, with a little manipulation by Papa Kasius, Talbot is convinced that (1) he must absorb more gravitonium and (2) Coulson is his enemy. Oh, he also has a costume now.


And that Infinity War tie-in... (INFINITY WAR SPOILERS AHEAD, jump to Intel and Assets if you don't want to read them.)

This episode confirmed that the current events on S.H.I.E.L.D. are concomitant to the events of Infinity War. Oh, boy.

How will they pull it off? If the show is renewed for a sixth season, will half the characters be gone? If that's the case (that would be pretty wild), when Avengers 4 undoes the Snapture, will S.H.I.E.L.D. simply bring back the characters that vanished? I don't know how that would work story-wise.

I'm curious to know just how much the showrunners knew about Infinity War. The Confederacy implied that Thanos was coming to destroy the Earth, but that was not really Thanos' plan. So either the Confederacy didn't know Thanos' plan or the writers didn't know much about Infinity War beyond the basics.

When Future Yo-Yo said that she reached out for Mack and he wasn't there anymore, was that a reference to the snapture or is it just a coincidence? And recently, when Simmons theorized about Deke vanishing out of existence, was that the writers laying the ground to Thanos wiping out half of the universe's population or yet another coincidence? I'm very curious to find out. Can you imagine Deke disappearing, Simmons believing that the loop has been broken, then other agents disappearing as well? That would be a great moment.

If the show doesn't get renewed, I'm thinking that the final episode won't include any scene of people vanishing out of existence. Jed Whedon promised us a conclusive finale, so I can see the agents defeating Talbot and the Confederacy, and deciding they are just too tired to help the Avengers. Fade to black before Thanos snaps his fingers. End of series.

But I would love a season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Leftovers.

Intel and Assets

- I realized while writing this review that Fitz has outlived the other agents by six months (not counting the many years he spent in cryo-sleep). Or, more accurately, the team minus Fitz lost six months of the linear time compared to everyone else. How do you keep track of your age like that?

- Papa Kasius finally showed up and he is kind of entertaining, as someone whose company I believe I would enjoy (were he not evil). What went wrong with his sons?

-  Of course Talbot was sexist about Ruby not being able to control the gravitonium.

- What does Mack hope to accomplish by saying to aliens, who could care less about humans' Bible, that there is only one god?

- It's completely unbelievable that in a couple of weeks they turned the Zephyr into a spaceship. Anyhow, they are clearly burning 90% of the budget in those terrific special effects.

- Deke left a bunch of lemons in Daisy's bed and, obviously, it didn't work out as he hoped it would.

- In the midst of all the craziness, Coulson still fanboys Talbot's costume. Speaking of it, it was more comic book-y than this show is used to doing.

Talbot: "You and I are going to show these ETs who is boss."

Coulson: "What about the voices?"
Talbot: "A bunch of dead losers raising a ruckus. Turns out all they needed was a general to get them in line."

Coulson: "Why gravitonium?"
Qovas: "Because its power is unlimited. It can bend space, build Empires and destroy them."
Coulson: "Couldn't you just find a fun game on your phone instead?"

Deke: "What's in the bag?"
Daisy: "My mom."

Three out of four gods.

Note: if you want to talk about how Infinity War might affect S.H.I.E.L.D., don't forget to put a spoiler warning. You can also write your thoughts on the movie here.
--
Lamounier

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You could easily pick a side, but bottom line is these are all flawed people under severe stress and trying to do the right thing..

This is why as annoyed with the characters that i am, i recognize it all comes from a mostly authentic place and is backed up by the characters we have come to know over the seasons. Its good if frustrating writing.

I love May but you can't dismiss she is also acting from a place of personal love (to Coulson and Robin) just like everybody else..She is just much better than them all at controlling her emotions.

Anonymous said...

Impressive rundown of all the various perspectives. I was just skimming through the comments of a reaction to this episode (Jimmy Macram) and there are a lot of ways to interpret things.

Simmons bringing up ethics was pretty questionable. It's like she just rebooted to an earlier state in the season and just forgot about stuff that went down in the past couple episodes. And I agree in general that Jemma's characterization has been kind of subpar this season in general.

I will say I'm a little concerned that May kind of ignored that whole "saving Coulson=doom" thing from Yo-Yo. I get that she has her own prophecy she's following but it seems like that should be put under some more consideration. At the very least somebody should have mentioned that to Daisy.

Daddy Kassius is a borderline cartoon. He better friggin' die.

Yeah I've been wondering about the loss of six months in your personal timeline for a while now. Poor Daisy will have end up doing some Day Lights Savings Time on her age AGAIN.

I think the spaceship effects look pretty good.

KIND FOF SPOILERS.
That Leftovers joke has been making the rounds but its pretty fitting. There's a lot they could do with the ending of Infinity War and I'm hoping they get a chance to follow-through on that potential.

This season has kind of suffered from what Supernatural Season 9 suffered from where the in-fighting among the leads has gone on for so long that you just get plain sick of it. Even if some of the grievances make sense it just gets plain not enjoyable to watch. Something tells me we're getting some reprieve from this one way or another in the next possible season (probably thanks to Infinity War) so that's at least a light at the end of this tunnel.

Patryk said...

Good to know that Talbot can also produce Gravitonium Tentacles and absorb people into the gestalt concioussness. Maybe that alien guy will tell him stuff about the ins and outs of the Confederacy.