Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Other Thing

"I've been to a lot of worlds. Some good, some garbage. But I've never been to one where people recognize my face."

Now, this was more like it, wasn't it? A solid, confident episode that goes right into the arc story and doesn't disappoint. Three parallel plots unfold and converge to the same place, while propelling the characters forward in great directions.

May vs. Coulson

May started off this year in a placid state of mind. Happier, more relaxed, ready to enjoy the goodness of life. The arrival of Sarge, though, changed that. It didn't send May back to an unhappier place, but I've never seen her so focused against an opponent before. One could presume that Sarge wearing Coulson's face would soften her, but she is repelled by Sarge's methods and cruelty. He is the antithesis of Coulson in many ways, which is why she wants to take him down so badly. When Sarge says "I thought you loved his face," May unleashes all her rage and beats him until he passes out. Then she puts his fallen arm on his lap, the same thing she did for a very tired Coulson back in Tahiti. I didn't read that as a sign of affection, but it is curious nonetheless. It's a reflex, a muscle memory, something she's ought to do, and she does it nonchalantly.

That's terrific writing for a character that becomes more interesting with each year. May could be a one note character, the stone cold archetype, but she is so much more than that. I loved how she subverted Sarge's accusation that Coulson was an impostor and had him question his own existence for a bit. He didn't let her see, but when he turned to get the radio, you could tell her words had hit him. Sarge may say that he doesn't look his age, that he's been around for 100 of Earth's years, but I still believe he's a version of Coulson from another dimension. Maybe that's wishful thinking, but it can't be a coincidence that the word "Coulson" rang a bell and May's verbal attack affected him.

The use of the flashbacks to Coulson's final days in Tahiti was clever. Coulson and Sarge echoed one another but the phrases had different meanings, another sign of how these two characters have something in common (beyond the looks) but are not the same. It was nice to see Coulson again, so loving and caring. Coulson, you are dearly missed. Dare I say, though, I think Clark Gregg is doing an even better job as Sarge. He plays Sarge with such confidence and distinction that I can't help but appreciate his work. Sarge could've been a poor excuse to keep Gregg around and not scare away the already small audience, but the writers and Gregg's efforts have paid off.

It turns out that Sarge and his team – as it was obvious since the last episode, but for some reason the writers only wanted to spell it out here – are not creating the evil birds, they are hunting them. Sarge says they are called the Shrike and that they serve their creator, a monster whose purpose seems to be destroy planets. Bring death to everything. The problem is that Sarge's approach to take down that monster and stop the plague from spreading to other planets now involves destroying Earth. This is a good development, for it keeps Sarge someone our heroes must fight against, even though he is not the actual villain of the tale.

It's all connected, within the TV series, at least

I wasn't expecting the Monoliths to have anything to do with this new threat, and I appreciate that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. constantly goes back to elements from previous seasons to create new storylines. They did that really well last season, to the point that I didn't think there were any loose threads left (except for that Inhuman dude in the bottom of the ocean), but now here we are dealing with Monoliths again, and then it hit me that they are kind of a loose thread because we never learned what that third Monolith did. It deepens the mythology of the series and gives me confidence that the writers know what they are doing.

But how exactly are the Monoliths connected to what's going on? Is the rift that created the fear dimension last season responsible for bringing this Shrike plague to Earth? I'm lost and intrigued. How does an Incan word fit into all this? Pachakutiq means "the death of everything," but how would an interdimensional traveler know an Incan word? I can only assume he came from a different version of Earth, and the same could be said of Sarge. Luckily, Dr. Benson's research will give us some answers.


In the Lighthouse, Mack checks on Yo-Yo to see how she's doing – spoiler alert, she is totally not dealing with Keller's demise – but ends up opening up about his own struggles. I have the impression that the writers are still figuring out how to write Mack as a leader, and so far they have relied on his broken relationship with Yo-Yo to show how he has been processing his new role. He wants to keep a distance, be responsible, but can he keep it all together on his own? I thought it was very telling that he couldn't be there for Yo-Yo and instead their conversation went completely off the rails. It was a weird dialogue, I'm not sure how much of that weirdness was intended, but it worked as a moment between two ex-lovers who don't speak the same language anymore. It looked like Mack was willing to bring some barriers down, but Yo-Yo wasn't having it.

I have great respect for Yo-Yo as a character. She is even more loyal to her work ethics than Mack is to his, and that's saying a lot. Being someone willing to do what's necessary no matter the cost demands a lot from her, but she doesn't let her spirit get broken. Her relationship with Keller wasn't developed enough, but her reaction to his death is well written here. She doesn't allow Mack to comfort her, but Dr. Benson is able to reach out to her. I liked how he brought the death of his husband as a parallel to Yo-Yo and Keller's situation. Both Benson and Yo-Yo had to end the life of their significant other who wasn't really there anymore. Now they have to live with the burden of that choice, even though they know it was the right one.

Enoch, the Traitor

The third plot of the episode revolved around the Space Crew, and now that storyline started to fit into the big picture of the season. "Many Heads, One Tale" is how this show rolls, isn't it?

The Chronicoms had their home planet destroyed, and Atarah, who seems to be the leader of the surviving few, said that minor distortions in the fabric of space released a plague, which is pretty much what is going on on Earth right now. Initially it looked like the Chronicoms were after Daisy et al. to punish them for tampering with the universe... but they too want to tamper with the universe: go back in time and save their planet from destruction. Kidnapping Fitz was part of their plan to get Daisy and Jemma to tell them how to travel through time. Interesting that the noise Daisy had been making on their search for Fitz backfired and turned them into targets. Of course, they couldn't know someone else had their eyes on time travel and, consequentially, on their intelligence.


The agents find themselves cornered, and it's a trap they can't escape from. They didn't create the technology that sent them to the future and then back to the present, how can they help? In order to keep Fitz alive, Jemma says that he could figure out how to build the technology. It all leads to Enoch's betrayal, who sides with Atarah as a move of loyalty to his race. It's a switch of sides that makes sense. Enoch left his home behind to observe humanity and now that his own planet met a similar fate to the one he helped stop on Earth, wouldn't he try to help? I also believed him when he told an enraged Fitz that he did what needed to be done to keep them all alive. Enoch is a decent being and I felt for him when Fitz called him a useless automaton.

The noble move of the episode comes from Jemma when she realizes that she needs to surrender herself in order to keep the others alive. I loved that she gave credit to Daisy, Piper and Davis, acknowledged their help, thanked them and said that she couldn't keep putting them in danger. This is enough of a redemption after dragging them to another place of the galaxy against their will, and a nice bookend to their adventures together. It's also a necessary development for Simmons: her likability rises just in time for the Fitzsimmons-centric episode coming next. It is set up perfectly when Simmons says that, whatever happens, she will be with Fitz. For the two of them, that's all that matters.

Intel and Assets

- Could the Monoliths have some connection to the infinity stones? There is a Time Monolith, a Space Monolith and the third one has something to do with life and death, like the Soul Stone.

- Chronicoms have no gender.

- Chronyca-2 was destroyed by a plague. What about Chronyca-1?

- I liked the continuity of the Confederacy trying to exploit the remnants of a destroyed planet. Also convenient to save some money on set design.

Quotes

Yo-Yo: "I've made hard choices before. Being right doesn't stop it from feeling wrong."

Enoch: "They will never release Fitz."
Simmons: "And I'll never stop fighting."

Sarge (to May): "You keep staring like that, my head is bound to catch fire."

Atarah: "Lies. A favorite human pastime."

Sarge: "Our tracker shows [Deke] is not from here, but he's no Shrike. What is he?"
May: "Exhausting."

A good ol' Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode. Three out of four flashbacks.
--
Lamounier

1 comment:

televisionandotherrantings said...

I appreciate that they're going a bit more into the Monoliths since the expansion of that bit of mythology last season felt pretty undercooked.

I guess the Chronicoms are gonna look a little silly when someone explains the multiverse to them. I also don't really get why they couldn't have contacted Zephyr team first instead of going after Fitz first. They could have had Jemma put hostage in a similar situation and gotten Daisy to spill the beans and then maybe get them to help find Fitz. I guess this all depends on how long ago the Chronicom planet got messed with.

I still feel like the issues with Jemma aren't quite completely handled even if this seems to be the case. Because she already knows where Fitz is and can get to him her letting the space team go isn't really that much of a sacrifice. It doesn't really make up calling them "cowards" earlier on either.

The episode on the whole was fine enough I guess.