Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: New Life

Daisy: "This is on me."
Yo-Yo: "Then make it mean something."

What the hell happened? "New Life" was the worst season finale Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever delivered. It wasn't just a bad finale; were this Inca zombie story a standalone episode, it would've been a failure as well. After the main arc of the season came to its conclusion, I asked myself what was supposed to be the point of it all. So far, I don't know.

A Terrible End

Regardless of my personal opinion on any of the previous five seasons, I recognize that each and every one of them had a vision. From the first season, which was always leading up to Ward's betrayal, to the fifth, which told the tale of a fractured team desperate to prevent the end of the world, there was a clear sense of direction to every story told. Season six lacked that.

Sarge's character development was, in a way, the spinal chord of the story, and when it went off the rails, so did the season. The first half of season six wasn't perfect, but the elements of the tale were exciting and promising. There were some plot holes here and there, but the villains were cool and different from anything the show had done before. Sarge was an intriguing character, and it seemed that the writers had cracked the code to keep Clark Gregg around in a way that didn't feel forced.

Then came "Collision Course," a two-parter where the two stories unfolding – the one on Earth and the one in Space – finally converged. Those episodes were good, but not as exciting as they could have been, a sign that this year's arc never had enough fuel to launch. The episodes also made the mistake of writing Sarge's team out of the story, when their interaction had been one of the most successful parts of the season. They wouldn't be necessary anymore since the reveal of Sarge's identity was about to happen, but it's unfortunate that such a cool batch of antagonists/anti-heroes were discarded to give space to a mediocre mystical story that didn't fit the tone of the series.

Karolina Wydra did her best with what she was given, but, truthfully, Izel didn't convince as a Big Bad. She was fun, like when she randomly saved Fitzsimmons from imminent death, and that was pretty much it, save from the one shining moment she had as a villain: when she possessed the agents and brought paranoia into the Lighthouse. Even that moment is one that I resent a bit. Looking back at it, it appears that killing off Davis was an attempt to engage the audience with an arc that was lacking. Surely the ordeal between Izel and Pachakutiq, the demonic creature inside Sarge, was not going to make us care.

Then we arrive at "New Life," which is a bad finale partially because the season preceding it isn't good and also because it's a poorly conceived and produced episode in itself. It dismantles whatever story the first twelve episodes were trying to build. What was the point of Sarge as a character after all? What was the point of Daisy's big moment with him two episodes ago if in the end he was just a demonic creature who would turn to dust? I'm drawing a blank.

Kevin Tancharoen, who has been responsible for some of the coolest fight scenes of the entire series, directed this finale. But May's fight against Izel was uninspired, and so was Mack and Daisy versus Sarge. And it's not just the fight scenes, the episode as a whole lacked exciting moments. What happened? What happened to the writers who couldn't deliver a decent script, to the director who couldn't build an exciting sequence, to the design team that couldn't come up with a believable-looking temple?

So much of "New Life" looked more like an episode of Charmed than an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The three creatures in hoods, the ritual that would never end, the mystical temple that looked cheap as hell. The stalling tactics were so damn obvious and the plot holes so glaring. Izel opens the gate, but at the other side there is another gate to be opened? Oh, come on. She says that the creatures from her world will arrive when the last of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been put down. Why? It makes no sense whatsoever, it's just that the writers didn't have enough story for 42 minutes and had to stall. If Sarge wanted May dead, why did he push her through the gate to a place where life and death didn't matter? Or maybe he didn't want her dead, because of the Coulson part inside of him, except that in the end he is nothing but a big demon that needs to be put down. God, what a mess.

Daisy and Yo-Yo aren't spared of the mess either. Along with Mack, they are trapped inside the Zephyr, surrounded by the Shrike-possessed people who are now acting like zombies, complete with sound effects borrowed from The Walking Dead. Daisy says that she can't take that many zombies, but, Daisy, of course you can. You can EXPLODE people if you want to. You can tap into matter vibration, honey, that's a giant power that the writers reduce to "producing shockwaves" most of the time. So disappointing. And Yo-Yo is a speedster. If nothing else, she could push the horde away in the blink of an eye.

Yo-Yo does get a moment of glory when she uses her superspeed to shoot and take down three zombies, but that lacks logic, for Yo-Yo pulls the trigger faster than a gun can reload. It's a cool moment nonetheless, immediately cut short by a Shrike entering Yo-Yo's body through her mouth. Daisy does nothing, just stands there off-camera, and Yo-Yo herself, a speedster who could beat that little bat to death before it saw what came for it, is unable to stop it. Why, show, why? Why so many inconsistencies? In any case, Yo-Yo's doomed situation did get me worried and I really thought we were going to lose her for a second. Guess that means that part of the story worked.

To sum it up, there were a few interesting bits. Daisy's, Mack's and Yo-Yo's reactions to Sarge's true form, Daisy and Yo-Yo's conversation before going into battle, Daisy holding a dying May in her arms, Mack holding an undying Yo-Yo in his arms. But those moments were sparse and lost in the middle of the giant mess that was the conclusion of Izel and Sarge's tale. Maybe the writers were somewhat aware of it, because the post-battle scene was literally cut short to give room to the other story, a much superior one, going on in the episode.

A Promising Beginning

It's the Fitz and Simmons' show in the Lighthouse, and it's a good one. The Chronicoms' attack on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s HQ was, by far and away, the best part of the episode. It created tension and delivered a terrific Fitzsimmons moment when the two of them realized that they couldn't escape and decided to sacrifice themselves to give everyone else a fighting chance. Their act of bravery doesn't come to pass, though, for Enoch appears right on time and saves them.


Even though I wish the episode had devoted more time to what was going on in the Lighthouse (to spare us from the trainwreck that was everything else), I understand why that needed to be a more fast-paced, contained story. There isn't time to go into details or have Fitzsimmons catch up with Enoch. It all goes down fast until Enoch announces that they will have to do something that will change the course of their lives forever. Of course. It's ominous and fun, and it leads to the best season-ending cliffhanger the show has ever done.

Enter Simmons at the temple to rescue her friends. She is acting like a Chronicom, somewhat robotic, methodically dictating every step of the way. In chronological time, it hasn't been more than 30 minutes or so since Fitz and Simmons were in the Lighthouse, but clearly more time has passed for her. Like she says, they had time. It's intriguing and I love it. May and Yo-Yo receive proper medical attention, and Daisy and Mack follow Simmons around, trying to understand what is going on. Fitz is nowhere to be seen. As Simmons tells Deke, she doesn't know where he is. She can't. They are separated once again, but it seems that Simmons, full on mission-mode, understands that for now that is necessary. It must be that way.

Fitz contacts them, though, and sets the coordinates to the place they must go. Thus the Zephyr makes the jump to... the 1930's. It turns out the Chronicoms, who want to establish Chronyca-3 on Earth, are targeting S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout the decades, and the agents must act to stop them, preserve history and save the Earth. This is, honestly, a brilliant plot for season seven and I'm very excited for it.

The return of Coulson, albeit in LMD-Chronicom mode, is another element of goodness. Yes, the writers have come up with yet another way to keep Clark Gregg around, but after Sarge turned into a fiasco, I'm more than pleased to see Gregg reprise his role of Coulson. And it makes sense as part of this specific arc. They need an expert in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s history, who fits that description better than Coulson?

If done right, the exploration of S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout history could be the perfect final chapter for this series. If the execution is as good as the setup was, then season seven will be a hell of a ride, and the worthy conclusion Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. deserves.

Intel and Assets

- I have praised the show for using elements of previous seasons to build new stories, but I'll take back the praises I have given this season on that regard. They should have left the damned Monoliths alone.

- Sarge said he spent centuries chasing Izel. You are telling me that centuries being chased by him and only now she was able to awaken the Pachakutiq inside of him? I don't buy it.

- Simmons: "We lost the Lighthouse." Thank God, the set design for that place wasn't very good.

- Agent Khan was killed by the Chronicoms. We don't know what happened to Piper, Snowflake or Flint, though.

- Since the new version of Coulson is made of Chronicom hardware, should we call him ChroniCoulson?

- If nothing else, at least this season gave us "Fear and Loathing on the Planet of Kitson" and "Inescapable."

Quotes

Deke: "What is west?"
Fitz: "Towards the bloody sun."

Simmons: "What do we have to do?"
Enoch: "Change the natural course of your lives forever."
Fitz: "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah..."
Simmons: "That again."

May: "Singing a different song now, aren't you?"


Two out of four portals that take forever to open. It would be one without the setup for the next season.
--
Lamounier

4 comments:

televisionandotherrantings said...

Yeah this finale was very messy. There was definitely some potential there but it just got messed up.

The fact that Daisy wasn't able to deal with the Shrike after decimating them a few episodes ago is just pitiful. And the fact that her vibration abilities never factored into a villain who's whole deal was related to frequencies and vibrations is just a huge waste. Like there's inconsistent power levels and then there's...this. And was that Centipede Serum supposed to have had a permanent effect or not.

And now that the season's over the individual who commented under Ep6 saying they might still address the Fitz/Daisy surgery can be as pissed off as I am now because they blantantly ignored it. And it seems unlikely that S7 will either. I swear if they have her hook up with Deke next season I'm gonna be so pissed. And frankly I didn't feel bad for him earlier because he brought a lot of that onto himself.

The Sarge thing could have maybe been salvaged if some goodness in Coulson managed to help them defeat him in the end but as is it pretty much amounted to nothing. And if you were gonna end up bringing in another Coulson type thing not long afterwards why not just have had the Sarge Coulson body be that Coulson once the demon was taken out or something. It's better than rushing a whole new one.

There is literally so much that doesn't make sense in regards to the whole Izel/Sarge business. Like they had so much time and are only now able to find the Monoliths on Earth. Seems unlikely. At least you could understand why Hive wasn't able to return to Earth for all of those years. But with this there's like nothing to work with.

The bringing back the Monoliths I don't think was a mistake in the grounds that some explanation was due after S5 but there was still a lot of not making sense. So those 3 robes dudes happen to have little mini-rocks with markers similar to the Monoliths to open their people in another place. Why are they in there and not on the planet itself? Why do these guys have form if they're supposed to be non-corporeal? And how the heck was the S2-3 Monolith supposed to connect to all of this?!?

In regards to the Chronicom time travel plot I might be a bit more intrigued if those guys were more interesting villains but they really aren't. And OH GREAT another Fitzsimmons separation. Haven't seen that a bazillion times. Maybe we'll get some decent stuff traveling in SHIELD's past (and I HAVE wanted an Agent Carter crossover for quite a while now) but I'm still not confident that it's gonna be that amazing after all of this. As far as I'm concerned the show peaked at S3. S4 had a lot of good stuff but you can see the cracks show for a lot of the weak writing that permeates S5-6. I still like S6 a bit more on the grounds that it was less depressing overall and had more variety but it's still not a ringing endorsement.

Anyways hope S7 can maybe end things on a decent note and maybe Daisy will get a spin-off if we're lucky (Simmons can stay out of it tho I'm not a huge fan of her at this point). At least we still have Marvel Rising in the mean time. That has charm. See ya.

Katerina said...

"What the hell [just] happened?" was exactly my reaction to the end of the episode. All my criticisms were echoed in the review and comment above. It's especially infuriating when powered people apparently "forget" they have powers that could easily help them out of a situation. Regarding Yo-Yo's shrike attack, though, she wouldn't even have needed to use her powers. She had plenty of time to grab the shrike with her super strong hands and rip its head off. I agree that there were just so many things that didn't make sense. I really thought possessed Coulson stabbing May and pushing her into the portal was some clever maneuver that was part of his plan to defeat Izel, but no. What was the point of him or the Temple of Unending Doom? That was one of my least favorite plots/arcs.

On the other hand, I've really enjoyed the Deke/Fitzsimmons interactions. As for the cliffhanger, I was still too confused and irritated to fully appreciate the new circumstances until after I'd been able to think of it for a while. It could be interesting, but I am *so* over Fitzsimmons being separated. Maybe they're not, though. Maybe that was just an LMD of Simmons, and she meant she couldn't know where the real(?) Fitz was? I just hope the writers/directors step it up for the last season.

Katie Hart - Pinterest Manager said...

I was disappointed in this episode. Disappointed that Yo-Yo swallowed the shrike that she could have easily killed (which undermined every emotional moment around her being turned). Disappointed that Daisy didn't use her powers to defeat the shrike zombies more easily. Disappointed that Sarge having Coulson's memories meant nothing in the end. Disappointed that Fitzsimmons are separated AGAIN (it better not last long).

But there were bits I liked. Deke is always good comedy relief. While he has a lot of character growth needed to be a good match, I don't mind the idea of him and Daisy ending up together eventually. But I do want him to end up happy and somewhere he feels he belongs - I'm wondering if that's in the past. He will make the sacrifice play when needed, so I can see him staying behind to send the rest of the team to the present or something.

I do wonder if the last bit of Sarge was the one to push May through the portal - exactly where she needed to be, with the weapon she needed, to defeat Izel. Sarge is perfectly willing to sacrifice team members to defeat Izel, especially one who was pushing his pain to the forefront. Coulson would have stabbed himself to try and get rid of the demon inside him (like he tried to get Daisy to do). Unlike Yo-Yo, I did feel the emotional pull of May's eminent death. And they brought back Fitz's stasis chamber!

I also liked that this season finally revealed the powers of the third Monolith and a bit about their origins. While the temple and ceremony were over-the-top, they did fit Izel's love of theatrics (not to mention that she'd been waiting hundreds of years for this moment). Also the chamber made a lot of sense in a "wood between the worlds" way (a la The Magician's Nephew, one of The Chronicles of Narnia). A place that was only used as a passageway between worlds, which is why death had no meaning there and why there were two gates. It also explains why the 3 creatures there had form - they weren't a part of Izel's world, though they did do her bidding.

I'm excited about where (and when!) the show will go next year, and hope it ends on a high note!

televisionandotherrantings said...

@Katie

Even if Deke had more character development I still think there's too much bad blood there to make him and Daisy being together at all desirable. The dude sold her into slavery and never apologized for it and then went on to make a sexified version of her in a video game intended to be sold to the mass public (while he had a girlfriend!) (which putting aside any lizard brain thoughts about it is REALLY messed up). And I feel like her ending up with him just to deal with his feelings of longing would be fairly wrong. At least Spike actually went through some major change over time (but even then there's still a fair amount of ick surrounding that relationship. And frankly Daisy could do SO MUCH BETTER. She's WAY out of his league looks and personality wise and deserves to be with someone who will treat her right after everything she's been through. Not sure what Season 7 will bring but hopefully it doesn't suck.

The "wood between the worlds" idea isn't actually a bad idea. However if they were gonna bring that into things they probably should have mentioned it WAY before hand. As is it just feels kind of rushed and awkward (and maybe there should have been more worlds to access like that Narnia example, just seemed like it was only Earth and Izel's world).

My hopes aren't high at this point but hopefully S7 can deliver a decent ending at least (and I still want that spin-off with Daisy dammit!)