Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Inescapable

Fitz: "You are one sick, twisted piece of work."
Simmons: "I should strangle you right now."

What a fantastic episode. Fitzsimmons are constantly referred to as one person, as if they only had one mind. What an inspired idea, then, to have an episode in which their minds literally become one.

The set up is simple and straightforward: the Chronicoms connect Fitz's and Simmons' brains because they believe that the duo can invent time travel more quickly if their brains are combined. The Chronicoms' agenda is nothing but a plot device, though, for inventing time travel is completely ignored in favor of exploring Fitzsimmons' memories, darker sides and relationship.

After Atarah tells them what they should do and leaves them alone, Fitz's first move is to propose, which was also the first thing his other self did when he met Jemma in the future. That's a great Fitzsimmons' moment, first because of Fitz's unwavering intention and also because of Simmons' reaction: she doesn't blink an eye and accepts. There is no pain about reliving this moment, no thoughts given to what she lived with the other Fitz and lost. She has this Fitz and that's all she cares about.

Perhaps the most evident character trait of Jemma's is how down to business she is. Way back in the sixth episode of the series, she was ready to sacrifice herself to save the team without giving it a second thought. She knows what must be done and so she does it. But this episode reveals the flip side to that aspect of her personality. She deals with difficult situations in such a matter-of-fact way because she represses whatever complicated feelings she might have. That's also why she threw herself so quickly into the search for the second Fitz: she can't grieve Fitz if he's still alive somewhere.

When Fitz keeps asking what happened during his absence, Simmons is so eager not to tell that she devolves to her seven year old self and hides in her bed. We learn later in the episode that Simmons returned to that specific age because that was when her father taught her to keep her troubles and bad feelings contained in a little box so they wouldn't keep her up at night. The problem with that method is that it ended up creating a monster version of Jemma that she keeps locked in the deepest, darkest areas of her mind. I thought that approach to Simmons' evil side was rather simplistic and the only thing in the episode that didn't work for me.

We've known for awhile that Simmons can be extremely cold and detached when necessary. Whereas Fitz literally had an evil version of himself inserted in his mind, Simmons always had a darker side. So if you have an episode where Simmons and Fitz are wandering in each other's brains, it's a given that The Doctor is going to show up and I understand why the writers also wanted an Evil Jemma around. But why is that side of Jemma represented by a horror movie version of herself? It's so random and not the best representation they could have come up with. I'd expect Simmons' dark side to be a counterpart to Fitz's The Doctor, albeit not as cruel but certainly colder.

Maybe it's a matter of expectations, really. I'd rather have the focus be on Simmons' cold nature, the writers focused on her suppressed feelings. Still, "this character had a horror monster inside their mind all this time" is something that comes out of left field, so much so that the script has Simmons explain twice what the thing inside the box is. Ringu Jemma is not a complete fail, though, if only because of the way Fitz, Simmons and even The Doctor react to her. It's hilarious.

Before the episode explores the devils of Fitzsimmons, it devotes some time to update Fitz on what he missed. Simmons wanted to keep it all from him, or at least not dump everything on him so quickly, but after her brief return to childhood land, she can't stop her memories from manifesting themselves. "Please, not this memory," she asks, but it's of no use. Thus, we visit the moment after the battle of Chicago when they brought Fitz's body in. We haven't seen this scene before, so it's a chance for us to see how the group as a whole reacted to Fitz's death. Simmons was wrecked, but she had already told the others that there was a second Fitz. Mack wasn't buying it, but he was very respectful, as were May and Yo-Yo. Daisy put all her differences with Fitzsimmons aside and was there to give Simmons some solace. Daisy truly is the best friend ever.

Understandably, Fitz's mind is sent on a loop when he sees his dead body. He does the time travel math quickly, and his reaction is quite intriguing. First, he is truly devastated that his other self died. Then, when he learns that the other Fitz married Simmons, his reaction is "I missed my own wedding," except that it wasn't his wedding, as Simmons tries to explain. I expected him to wonder and worry about what would have happened to him if the other Fitz hadn't died. But he doesn't perceive that Fitz as another, and therefore questions such as "would Jemma have ever come after me?" never arise.


Simmons' memories come to an emotional conclusion when Coulson enters the room. From the way everyone is acting around him, Fitz knows something is off. Iain DeCaestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge shine throughout the entire episode, but this scene in particular is a showcase of their acting abilities. DeCaestecker's silent reaction to the news of Coulson's death is so good, his eyes carrying so much emotion, and Henstridge alternates between reliving the memory and narrating it to Fitz. It's brilliant. I also loved the chance to see Coulson yet again, and I loved even more that he was the first one to believe in Simmons and encourage her to go after Fitz. Damn it, what a great father figure.

We get another great scene with Coulson when we visit a shared memory of Simmons and Fitz: the day they met him and were recruited to his team! Their reaction to the proposal is so on point. Simmons is immediately on board, but Fitz wants to think about it before making a decision. Now he traces back all the trauma and pain they went through to that moment when they decided to become field agents.

Fitz's remark is enough to bring Ringu Jemma to their presence, and Fitz and Simmons are separated from one another by their evil selves. It's a moment that once again shows how random Ringu Jemma is. The interaction between Simmons and The Doctor is amazing, especially how she just ignores his attacks and coldly calls him a psychopath. On the other hand, I didn't understand why Ringu Jemma wanted to torture Fitz, even if she gave an explanation for it ("you cause pain, my turn"). It's hard to believe she ever had this type of feelings about Fitz, even if repressed.

Nonetheless, it all leads to a terrific clash between the regular Simmons and Fitz. Locked inside the containment module (it's a containment module, Jemma!), they let it all out in the best climax this episode could have had. There have been many instances in movies and TV shows where a couple fights and screams and ends up declaring their love for one another, but damn it if it doesn't work like a charm here, and it's all because of good writing and acting. Fitz and Simmons' discussion is a recap of everything the writers have thrown at them, and therefore it's a great way to honor their story together. It's instantly a Fitzsimmons's classic scene.


At first, I wasn't in love with the resolution for The Doctor and Ringu Jemma. Simmons had said earlier that he was only part of Fitz's pain to be controlled, and I wanted that to be the resolution: Fitz and Simmons realizing that their evil selves were part of their troubled personalities and needed to be controlled. Instead, they leave the containment module to find the Doctor and Ringu Jemma... making out. Would the Doctor, a very polished man, ever feel attracted to a horror movie monster? I doubt it. But by the third time I watched the episode (I really loved it), I got a kick out of the scene, especially of how Ringu Jemma subdued The Doctor.

All in all, this was a special episode. I wasn't happy with the direction the writers took Fitzsimmons last season, but "Inescapable" course-corrected it. If anything, it showed that Fitzsimmons can't escape from one another, and we can't escape from them.

Intel and Assets

- Enoch for the win! I knew he would come through for Fitz and Simmons.

- In one of Simmons' memories, we learn that Daisy wanted Yo-Yo to be part of the Space Team. Yo-Yo declined because, even though she and Mack had already broken up, she wanted to be there for him.

- Fitz and Simmons conjured their best friends to help them beat The Doctor and Ringu Jemma. Simmons' was Daisy and Fitz's was Mack. Sorry, Hunter and Enoch.

- To force Simmons to return to her grownup version, Fitz threatened to bring Aida to their presence. That was savage, I loved it.

- Young Jemma was seven (and a half) years old, but the actress who played her looked older. And she certainly isn't English.

- I might not have loved Ringu Jemma, but Elizabeth Henstridge clearly had lots of fun playing her. I did like the attention to detail in the design of the character: she wore clothes similar to the ones that Simmons wore on Maveth, and she had gold makeup on her forehead, just like Simmons did under Kasius' rule in the future.

- The book that young Simmons asked Fitz to read turned out to be the Darkhold. That was a nice callback to season four.

- Nice bit of acting by Elizabeth Henstridge: the way Simmons touches her wedding ring when Daisy gives her Fitz's.

- Nice bit of acting by Iain DeCaestecker: the child-like way he asks "what's wrong with Coulson?"

- So many good line deliveries in this episode. I liked Henstridge's "he is trapped inside your mind and now we are trapped inside your mind with him," she really conveyed a sense of danger there. And DeCaestecker's body language and delivery of "I don't know what I did to deserve that horror movie" were amazing. Nothing beats Joel Stoffer's "I have taken bold action," though. He made that line so perfect.


Quotes

Fitz (re: the Darkhold): "That's not a good book, that's a bad book. Bad story, very poorly written."

Fitz: "Well, it looks like someone's only gonna have two Ph.Ds by the time they're 17, doesn't it?"

Simmons: "For an organized person, your thoughts are a bloody mess."

Simmons: "I would remind you that we came in here because your Hydra fascist shadow was trying to kill us."
Fitz: "Oh, so you unleashed the bloody Ringu Monster that you keep in a box. I don't hold a candle to you, psycho!"

Fitz: "You need therapy. You have some deep, deep, pent-up issues."
Simmons: "It's been a rough year."

Fitz: "I had no idea you were holding on to all that."
Simmons: "What's the point? Don't let anyone know, that's the whole idea."
Fitz: "You are so English."

Fitz: "There's no better place to lay low than Strategic Homeland Intervention..."
Simmons: "Yeah, it's an awful acronym."

Coulson: "Fitzsimmons, the brain, topped out of your class after being the two youngest ever enrolled."
Simmons (proudly): "Well, there can only be one youngest, sir."

Fitz: "Then you get taken away by some rock, only to fall in love with some bloody astronaut..."
Simmons: "I was alone on a desert planet."
Fitz: "... who turned out to be Hive, by the way. Oh, and also, are we sure that that happened after you slept with him? Because, hey, the jury's still out on that one."
Simmons: "Oh, you wanna go there? At least he was a person!"

Simmons: "The Framework revealed the truth. It's all ego."
Fitz: "Oh, ego? I would love to deal with ego."
Simmons: "Would you?"
Fitz: "Guess why."
Simmos: "Why?"
Fitz: "'Cause your id's out there chewing Mack's head off."
Clever bit of dialogue.

Fitz: "If it was you in the Framework, the place would look like Night of the Living Dead."

Fitz: "Didn't know you liked that."
Simmons: "Didn't know you'd do that."

Mack: "Their entire planet was laid waste. And the ones who did it, they're..."
Daisy: "They're here?"
Mack: "Here, yeah. Yeah, they... You kind of stepped on my moment there, but yeah."


Even if I didn't love Ringu Jemma, I thought this was great. Flawed, but marvelous, four out of four music boxes.
--
Lamounier

3 comments:

televisionandotherrantings said...

I'm not really sure this episode really course corrected FitzSimmons much for me since while they acknowledged some of their issues with each other they didn't seem to acknowledge some of the crap that they've put others through in the name of their love. Namely the fact that what Daisy went through at the hands of Fitz last season as well as Simmons' stabbing her in the back is completely unaddressed. Sure they have The Doctor and allude to the breakdown but we actually have what happened to her specifically get mentioned. Would this not have been a great opportunity for Fitz to find out about that situation? It doesn't help that DJ Doyle's response to why they couldn't show it in this episode (namely that it's not the same Fitz) is contradicted by the fact that Fitz is able to see his own dead body through Jemma's memories and Jemma was there during the surgery.
https://twitter.com/DoyledAgain/status/1142238456375939074

So yeah at this point I have to pretty much believe that the writers are just never gonna address that whole situation (I'd like to be wrong but there's been little indication that they will).

Also some of those points in their fight were pretty low blows that weren't really all that fair (although maybe some of that is intentional). Pretty sure Will had to not be Hive before she left the planet or else a lot of things wouldn't make sense.

Yeah Ringu Simmons was a little silly.

Also I feel like the resolution was maybe a bit too neat and maybe they could have left the machine a bit shaken up and still needing to work through some issues. Overall the episode wasn't bad (and the overall concept was a good one) but I just didn't care for it as much as a lot of other people seemed to.

Anonymous said...

Why would they address what Fitz did to Daisy when she is not there. Great for us to see Fitz find out but the actual victim isnt there so whats the point. And Jemma is clearly still not going into specifics concerning the Doctor. If they dont address it by seasons end than i will be calling bs too but until then let the story play out and deal with the frustration that there not dealing with what you want them to and when.

televisionandotherrantings said...

@Anonymous

The idea is that Fitz would find out about the situation (and truly be able to understand the horrific experience his other self put Daisy through by seeing it rather than just being told) and then he and Daisy would talk about the whole thing at a later point and get some closure.

I don't think Jemma not wanting to go into specifics really matters since she ended up showing Fitz's dead body, dying Coulson and her repression monster against her desires so narrative-wise there isn't much reason that she couldn't have let the surgery slip up (especially if she's gonna mention the breakdown anyway).

I wouldn't say that there's zero possibility that they can't address the Daisy/Fitz situation but there was a real missed opportunity to do it here in a real effective way. And when the writer's explanation for why they couldn't doesn't make much sense it starts to look kind of suspicious.