Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: What We're Fighting For (Series Finale)

"Protect it at all costs."

Previously on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson went to Tahiti, then he had a team. One of them was evil, one had brain damage and another one got to quake things apart. Hydra rose, S.H.I.E.L.D. fell, S.H.I.E.L.D. rose again, another S.H.I.E.L.D. appeared and we called them H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F..
There was a flower dress, a necklace of death, a prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella sandwich and a shotgun-axe. Skye was Daisy. Ward was Hydra. Ward wasn't Ward anymore. A Monolith sent Simmons to another planet, but things were alright because Fitz was taking her out to dinner. A ghost rode a car, a demon rode a truck. May got kidnapped forever, but LMD May was awesome too. A robot wanted to be a lady, and nearly everybody became someone else. The world was quaked apart, but then it wasn't. Coulson lost his left hand, Yo-Yo lost both arms and Fitz didn't feel his legs. Coulson paid a final trip to Tahiti, and the mechanic became the Director. Enoch took bold action and Simmons kept things in a box. Sorry, boys, it's ladies' night. The team got sent to the future, the team got sent to the past. Phlebotinum! Beer was illegal, Yo-Yo became Yo, Mack defeated robots, and Fitz... who is Fitz?

I didn't know it would be so hard to say goodbye to this show, but it was. I was emotional through most of the episode, and when it was over, I cried. Like, really cried. It felt like losing a friend.

Last Tuesday I went to the hospital (I'm fine), and when I looked at the TV, what was on the air? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 3, episode 2. It had just started, Fitz being pulled away from the Monolith by his friends. I smiled. The show and the characters were so young and so less traumatized. Then I realized that, if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is like a friend that I lost, it's a friend that I can always revisit.

For this review, I'm doing something different. I'm going to talk briefly about the plot in the finale, and then dive into the main characters. In the end, it was all about them.

Two Timelines, One Kora

The second half of season seven was rushed, and this finale showed it. I love that the writers decided to give us gems like "Mack and the D" and "As I Have Always Been," but considering they only had thirteen episodes to work with, they ended up with too many pieces in place and not enough time to form a coherent whole.

The weakest link in the finale were the villains, by far. Nathaniel became insufferable, aiming for arch nemesis and landing on villain wannabe. One thing I realized while rewatching the finale is that Ruby, who was actually supposed to be a villain wannabe, was a much more interesting villain than Nathaniel ever hoped to be. Nothing against the actor, though, he tried to do something interesting with the role. In Daisy vs. Nathaniel the producers gave us a more dynamic fight scene than Daisy's confrontation with Graviton, but the former pales in comparison to the latter because Graviton is easily the superior foe.

Another thing that I didn't really care for was Fitz suggesting that they should just leave the new timeline, without giving any thought to the people in it. We didn't see Fitz all season and there would be no time to develop him in one episode and they place him in a moral questionable ground yet again? And it didn't even make sense! If the purpose of this entire journey to the past was to get Kora from the new timeline to the original timeline, what would have been the point of making her jump timelines if the Chronicoms didn't jump with her? Taking the Chronicoms to timeline one should've been part of Fitz's plan from the get-go.

Having that said, I really enjoyed the idea of Kora as the key, and that she had been the goal of the mission all along. Back in season five, I thought that the agents had been sent to the wrecked future to take Flint from that time to the present, and now I firmly believe that the writers read my reviews and stole my idea. :) I kid, but I did like that little twist.

My favorite plot point, though... Actually, my favorite part of the entire episode was the interlapse with the previous season finale. Wow, that so well done. We got confirmation that the people in the hazmat suits were indeed the agents from the future (their future, I mean) and the scenes from "New Life" just kept getting new layers. Fitzsimmons and Enoch's plan was so detailed and well-thought out. Color me impressed.

All in all, while the villains could've used more work in the writing department, the plot was tight enough to make this final hour exciting and worthy of the series. Obviously, the greatest strength of the hour was also the greatest strength of the season: the core agents, whom now I'll take some words to say goodbye to.

Fitz

Oh, Fitz, why took you so long? Iain DeCaestecker is having the busy career he deserves, but it's a shame it conflicted so much with S.H.I.E.L.D.'s shooting schedule. In any case, apart from the aforementioned moment of Fitz making questionable choices, I'm glad we had a chance to say goodbye to him and even more that he had a happy ending. After a brain injury, a brainwash and death (okay, that was the other Fitz, but you get my point), dude deserves a quiet, happy life.

Coulson

I'll admit it's weird saying goodbye to Coulson because, frankly, I already did that two seasons ago. ChoniCoulson has been a hoot and I'm so glad we had him around this season. But he is not the real deal, at least I never perceived him that way. I did enjoy his character arc, though. The writers didn't go overboard with his existensial crisis, finding the right balance between Coulson's usual banter and his attempt to understand his new incarnation.

I expected him to sacrifice himself in a blaze of glory for the team. That he goes off to explore the many possibilities of life is nice, but for me it takes something away from "The End." I understand, though, why the writers wanted to finish the series with a shot of Clark Gregg flying his Lola. It's not as strong as Tahiti, but it does bring things full circle in a way.

Deke

Deke had a nice journey, didn't he? Three timelines in one lifespan. We first met him in 2091, in a destroyed Earth, then he went back to... 2018-ish? And now he is going to continue his life in the 1980s. That's a nice reversal. When we first met him, he was a pretty selfish guy. Raised to survive and looking out for his back, he was never evil, though, and sacrificed himself (or so he thought) for the team even before leaving the dire reality of 2091.

His crush on Daisy was inappropriate sometimes, and I'm glad the writers never tried to make them a couple, but, frankly, a lot of the times it was endearing, just like in this episode. In a classic Deke moment, he did a fart noise to interrupt Sousa's grand speech and announced that he was the one to stay behind, in a selfless move that also had an element of self-centeredness. Like I said, a classic Deke moment.

Deke says "yes."
In Deke's gesture lies what I really loved about him this season: how dedicated he was to his friends. Dude was committed. Fitz's absent was felt, but the writers used that as an opportunity to deepen Deke's connection to Simmons. The more fragile she became, the harder he tried to take care of her. It was beautiful. But even grander was how he never gave up on Mack and what he did for young Mack. In fact, I'm glad that Deke was the one to stay behind in the new timeline: that means young Mack will have a true friend looking over his shoulder.

Yo-Yo

Elena's shining moment in the show for me was season five. She had such a complicated character arc there, very well written and portrayed. Her collection of traumas finally took center stage this season, though, as she had a chance to revisit them and heal. Like ChroniCoulson's arc of self-understanding, Yo-Yo's path to redemption was understated. I like that, as it makes the writers' intention less obvious and the character progression more organic.

I also enjoyed that she first had to lose her powers to unlock a new level, but I think that after she got her upgrade she didn't have a lot else to do in the season. What was there was good, though, and she did just enough to make a difference. The conclusion to her character arc is a great one. She and Mack are still together and she has her own team, rocking new missions with a smile on her face. I'll miss that smile.

Mack

If you've read my reviews, you know that sometimes Mack annoyed the hell out of me with his preachy ways. But the writers finally found the right tone and Mack became one of my favorite characters in these past couple of seasons. Maybe there will be discussions in the future about whether seasons six and seven were really necessary for the series as a whole, but, oh boy, were they worth it for Mack.

He grew stronger and more comfortable in his role of Director, showing great intelligence at key moments. Of course, this season proved pivotal for the character as he lost both parents in the new timeline. It tested his faith and resolve to do what's right, and it took him a while but he came through with the help of a great friend.

I wish we had had time to see him meet his parents again in the original timeline (they were still alive there, right?). Maybe that could have been the closing scene for him, but I won't lie that I loved seeing him so elegant and great on the helicarrier. If only it had been with Bobbi and Hunter by his side. Well, we can dream. Maybe they were waiting for him inside.

May

"The cavalry."

May's arc this season was an interesting choice. When the series started, May was the damaged character who didn't display emotions and as the series progressed she was given more depth, which allowed us to see beyond the thick skin and understand her better. With time, she allowed herself to be more relaxed and express feelings amongst her teammates, and season six might have made her a bit too fragile but it explored nicely her grief over Coulson's death. Overall, the writers found the right balance between her hardness and the real feelings she carried inside, which is why giving the stoic lady a literal burst of emotions in the final season had me scratching my head at first. Would such a late game character switch work? Could turning the hardened woman into an empath be the right character development?

Well, this path chosen for May paid off for various reasons. The writers didn't change the essence of the character, she wasn't suddenly all feelsy. Quite the contrary, in a hilarious exchange with Yo-Yo in "After, Before," she is clearly annoyed to have to deal with so many feelings. It's this contrast between May's personality and her new ability that works so well, as if the universe had picked the most ironic set of powers to hand to her. The way that she uses it so pragmatically is another plus, her ability coming to its full potential combined with Kora's to bring the Chronicom Hunters to their side. Usually I'm not into villains being converted into allies through the power of feelings, but it made sense and it was well executed here, the callback to Enoch's "as I have always been" being the cherry on top.

The finale brings things full circle for May when she announces herself as the cavalry, the acceptance of that nickname revealing that she has overcome what happened in Bahrain. I also loved that May finished the series as a teacher, fulfilling Enoch's prophecy that she would have a career change. Truthfully, May has been a teacher throughout the series, training both Daisy and Yo-Yo, so it's fitting that she would carry S.H.I.E.L.D.'s legacy as a professor. I can only imagine how imposing and intimidating she must be, though if we are to judge from Flint's interaction with her, she must be a cool teacher as well. :)

Simmons

"They're your everything. Stars in your skies."

Simmons was the first character I fell in love with way back in season one, remaining my favorite character through most of the show's run. She lost that post when her fidelity to Fitz in season five became obnoxious, though, and her careless search for him in season six didn't help matters. But season seven course-corrected that by making her separation from Fitz part of the mission. It was refreshing to see Simmons on her own and when being apart from Fitz started to weigh on her, her quiet suffering was much more relatable.

Simmons' amnesia helped anchor both "The End is at Hand" and "What We're Fighting For" emotionally, and, no surprise there, Henstridge did a beautiful job as Jemma put the pieces of her memories back together. There was something so beautiful in her demeanor, somewhat childish and innocent, but growing in confidence as Jemma's memories came back to her.

It has been speculated for weeks that Fitzsimmons had a child, and that leaving that child behind was the reason why Simmons emotionally collapsed in one of the time loops in "As I Have Always Been." The finale slowly builds to the revelation that, yes, Fitzsimmons had a daughter. Fitz mentions her name, Alya, to see if he can bring Simmons' memories back. Simmons flashes back to their time in the Zephyr building the time machine, but the daughter is MIA. "She's forgotten something far more important than that," Fitz comments when Daisy notices that Simmons is remembering Fitz but not that she loves him.


It's by watching the team act the way they do, as a family, that Simmons is able to unlock her most pivotal memory. Her reunion with her daughter is a wonderful payoff to a season-long mystery, and we can now understand just how much she sacrificed for this mission. The final shot of Simmons, a big smile on her face as she watches her husband and her kid play, is the happy ending she most definitely deserves.

Daisy

"Family."

Daisy is, by far, the character that has changed the most. Her evolution through seven seasons of the series was very well written and portrayed. A hacker who became a reluctant agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., one that showed fidelity in difficult times, then was cursed with superpowers, learned they could be a blessing, became a superhero and saved the world. A lot.

Usually, I don't like when a TV show or a movie kills off a character just to resurrect them immediately. The death happens merely for shock value, only to be undone. But, oh my god, did I love it when Kora brought Daisy back to life. While I'm always there for a character who goes out in a blaze of glory sacrificing themselves for the world, it would've been a disservice to Daisy to have her die in a fight against Nathaniel.

Daisy's arc in the past few episodes has been the writers' conduit to insert the end of the series into the story. This team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents has become a family, and considering that Daisy didn't have one before, knowing that this would be their final mission together really hit her. Members of a family or friends going separate ways is part of life, the key here being to understand that that doesn't necessarily break the connection. And as people go away, new people enter our lives. I'm so happy that Daisy got a happy ending, with a man that cares about her (he didn't die or turn out to be evil!) and her sister Kora by her side.

Through Daisy's final arc, the show acknowledges both the family that we are given and the family that we build. It's very rewarding to watch Daisy, who had big family issues and saw her mother die in two different timelines, finally have the chance to develop a healthy relationship with her sister. And it doesn't invalidate the fact that she already had a sister in Jemma, a bond she forged over the years.

In fact, family has been the biggest theme throughout this final season. We revisited Mack's and Daisy's families, and certainly the fourth (third?) Fitzsimmons was the biggest mystery of the season. Family is why these characters thrived, why they never gave up, why, no matter the odds, they would always put up a fight. It's why Nathaniel loses, he is unable to forge a significant alliance with anyone, betraying those closest to him, and why the agents win: they have something that matters more than themselves individually to fight for. The script is bit obvious when it comes to that theme, the title of the episode being repeated four times, but overall, the idea is well sold.

Then it's one year later for the agents, and I'm a little on the fence about them not seeing each other more often. Sure, Daisy is far, far away into outer space, but a Framework conference of five minutes per year? Are you kidding me? Well, at least, from Simmons side comment to Daisy, these two seem to be speaking more often. I do appreciate, though, the meta-ness of the closing moments of the show. The series is saying goodbye, and much like the characters, cast and crew members will go their way and move on. The moment that Daisy's connection starts to falter and we realize they are not really in that room is one that hits us, the audience. These people have grown apart, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really is ending. The characters have moved with their lives, and so must we.

The Finale in Pictures

The final title card.
Enoch's real face, as it has always been.
Yo-Yo doing her thing.
Kora doing her thing.
The writers doing their thing: giving us heart attacks.
I love the writers, never complained about them.
Happy Fitz.
Cutest kid ever. "I was only a little scared."
This room is not what it seems.
This made me cry.
"Cool."

Intel and Assets


- It was Ming-Na Wen's idea to have May announce herself as the cavalry. You can also watch her and Clark Gregg's reactions to that line during the table read of the finale. It's the best. In fact, the entire table read is a must, and if you haven't watched it, I highly recommend it.

- Elizabeth Henstridge was named performer of the week by TVLine. Very well deserved.

- So, the agents really were trailing after the Chronicoms' tail in the time jumps, weren't they? Fitz wasn't controlling anything. I assume they were able to follow the Chronis because Enoch stole a copy of the time stream.

- If Kora was the key, shouldn't have Simmons and Enoch know about it?

- Fitzsimmons named their kid after Simmons' favorite star, Alya.

- Gotta love Mack kicking the Chronicom to make sure he stayed down. "Nope."

- Alya wants to design her own fish. Of course she does.

- Yo-Yo is the most decorated agent.

- Agent Sousa writes letters.

- Piper and Davis are part of Yo-Yo's team. Not sure about bringing back Davis to life in LMD form. That's one happy ending too many.

- The score during the interlapse of times was reminiscent of the music in Continuum. I wonder if that was deliberate.

- I want to take the opportunity to salute the score composer and the visual effects supervisor who ALWAYS delivered great work throughout the series.

Quotes

Deke: "Danni boy over here is still impressed by a light bulb."
Sousa: "Not accurate or nice."

Mack: "One, two..."
Deke: "Wait, wait. Like, on three, or like, one, two, three, go?"
Mack: "On three, damn it."

Enoch: "My time with Fitz taught me how to be an outlaw, and I've gotten quite good at it."

Coulson: "Wait for it, wait for it."
May: "You don't need to keep saying it."

Mack: "That's some serious flying there."
May: "It used to be all I did."

Sybil: "These people always beat the odds."

Coulson: "I hope this works."
Mack: "You hope. I'll pray(ey)."
I loved this pun.

Daisy (to Nathaniel): "If you've seen my battles, you know how this winds."

Coulson (to Sybil): "Oh, a creepy smile. That's new."

Yo-Yo: "You friends or enemies?"
Chronicom: "Friends. As we have always been."

Piper: "Are you saying we were guarding this thing for nothing?"
Fitz: "No. You were guarding our everything."

Mack: "After all those years in hallways, I'm not used to having a view."
Tell us about it, Mack.

May (re: being a teacher): "I fought aliens, demons and androids. And this is the first time in my life I've ever felt this exhausted."

Yo-Yo: "What about Christmas?"
Fitz: "It's overrated."

Coulson: "If this is a contest, I died like seven times."


In the name of the Agents of D.O.U.X who reviewed this show, a huge thank you for everyone that read our reviews over the past seven years. You guys were part of the journey.

This was a beautiful finale. I'm going to miss these characters so much. Four out of four families.
--
Lamounier

Programming note: real life has been really demanding this year, but I will go back to the four episodes that I haven't reviewed yet and review them all. Stay tuned.

8 comments:

televisionandotherrantings said...

That recap you started with was pretty fun.

I think this finale was alright and not the worst way to end the series but there were a lot of things that held it back from greatness and I can't help but feel a lot of frustration still with these last 3 seasons.

The fight with Nathaniel was a bit better than the Graviton one. Talbot was a better villain but I don't like how he went out like one. Daisy vs Hive is still the best finale fight as far as I'm concerned.

I was wondering about this and people have said that Fitz's Kora plan would have involved her stopping the Chronicoms that were in 2019 so it would have applied even if the other Chronis had stayed in the '80s. But yeah Fitz is a real jerk (and I still don't understand why he needed to erase the existence of Alya from Simmons' mind, just erase the location you ass). Also, still annoyed that the aftermath of Daisy's torture was never addressed but that wasn't really a surprise at this point.

I didn't really care for the timey-wimey blue suit shenanigans. I can do with this kind of thing with Steven Moffat but for the finale of this show it just felt really convoluted. At least this is one question they answered tho. I still don't get why there are two space Monoliths or why the Chronis thought Earth was the best planet to take over. And Flint just being able to create Monolith fragments raises a boatload of questions. Also, I have to imagine we're still in a non-Snap timeline that somehow happened since you'd think if time travel was available they would have tried to do something about the Snap before the Avengers needed to come up with time travel themselves. Hopefully, some future MCU property can clear up that last question at least.

The Coulson ending is alright but I feel like it would have been good to commit to him living or dying one way or the other. Bringing back Lola made sense (tho the transformation seemed unnecessary).

I'm glad we don't have to deal with Deke anymore (Worst. Character. Ever.) Don't feel like they justified whatever redemption he was supposed to have over the seasons. At least he realized that Daisy had a good thing with Sousa and stayed behind to make sure it happened (tho why they couldn't have just told the '80s agents how to set things up is unclear, maybe Deke really wanted that rock god lifestyle).

I didn't really care much for Yo-Yo's Season 5 arc but I think my thoughts are under those reviews. I feel like they could have done more after that (and I don't really like how her power was altered) Her ending with Piper and Davis was decent enough (Davis being brought back as an LMD I have notable concerns about tho).

My big issue with Mack as Director is both that I have no real idea why he even wants to be Director at this point and the stupid double standard about being emotional that apparently means Daisy can't be in charge but if it's Coulson or Mack it's apparently fine. This is admittedly more of a Season 5 problem but S6-7 could have done more to justify things. Also, the death of his parents arc just felt kind of pointless in the grand scheme of this season (his parents apparently already died in the original timeline according to Watchdogs based on what general discourse has said). Other than that he's cool with me.

(To be continued...immediately)

televisionandotherantings said...

May's empathy powers were an interesting turn but they weren't very well explained or necessarily consistent (and is it even still in play one year later?). Also, while changing the villains' through empathy is fine in theory given that Malachi was the Chroni that began this stupid time travel to take the Earth plan in the first place the idea that just giving him empathy would have him change his mind is pretty doubtful. And the "always been" just makes this seem more like brain-washing more than anything. Might have been nice to even have ONE line telling us what happened to them in the epilogue but why care about the Chronicoms making sense now I guess. Real weak ass villains. Back to May, the Calvary stuff is cute and her being a teacher is a nice enough end (don't think I saw anyone mention that being a call-back so nice catch) (tho I can understand the Philinda stans being annoyed, they got played so hard these past 4 seasons).

Simmons was better in S7 but I still can't quite forgive how S5-6 handled things. And again, the daughter erasure thing doesn't make much sense when you really think about it (also if the Chronis had scans of their brains wouldn't going to a star/constellation that Simmons liked as a child be something they could have determined?). Basically the FitzSimmons ship is one that I was cool with for a while but am generally pretty annoyed with at this point. But whatever they have a child yyaaaaaayyy.

Daisy was definitely given more justice in this season than the last two. The stuff with her sister was alright (that death got me nervous for a bit but the save was nice) but the Sousa stuff was by far the best thing in the whole season and the saving grace (I really do love that man now and you should probably check out Agent Carter if you haven't still). And her ending is a pretty satisfying one generally speaking. She went from a character that I didn't really care much for or was annoyed by in the beginning to genuinely one of my favourite characters ever. Her progression is probably the series' greatest achievement (even if the later seasons kind of treated her like crap) and Chloe is just a ray of sunshine in her own right by this point! If any of these characters were to show up again I would definitely want it to be her (and Sousa and Kora can come to). We know there's definitely interest in a Quake spin-off so hopefully someone will use her in the MCU in some capacity.

Seasons ranking: 3>2=4>1>7>>6>>>7

And shout out to you Lamounier for reviewing the show in the stead of others (and shout out to those others as well of course). The insights have been welcome over the years and I thank you for allowing you to inflict my personality in the comments section.

sunbunny said...

I haven't watched this show in YEARS but I'm so happy they introduced Sousa and gave him and Daisy a happy ending, ESPECIALLY since Sousa and Peggy were rendered moot (at least in one timeline) by Endgame.

Enver Gjokaj deserves more work! Hire Enver Gjokaj more often!

televisionandotherrantings said...

I think the issue with Enver is that after Dollhouse anything he does is gonna seem tame by comparison. In fact, part of my issue with Sousa in Agent Carter was that it kind of felt like anyone could have played that part. With S2 and especially here it felt like Enver was able to bring more oomf to it. He had so many great bits and the romance was a nice surprise (although the idea that he was with Daisy's mom/Dichen/Sierra in Dollhouse does add a bit of weird vibe) (and it would be nice if he could play him again).

Billie Doux said...

It's sad that Enver seems to have missed his window. He was so amazing in Dollhouse.

Lamounier said...

televisionandotherrantings, I agree that the agents seem to be in a different timeline than the main MCU timeline. In fact, in the finale, S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be as big as ever, and that's definitely not the direction the movies went.

Hopefully, some future MCU property can clear up that last question at least

I doubt they will. I have the impression that, now with Kevin Feige being the boss of eveything, Loeb's Marvel TV is as gone as good. It's a shame, really, I would love to see some of these characters again.

the stupid double standard about being emotional that apparently means Daisy can't be in charge but if it's Coulson or Mack it's apparently fine.

I'm okay with Coulson and Mack as directors, but yeah, the double standard is annoying. It looks like Daisy is running the mission in space, though, and that makes me happy. She is a natural leader.

Why are the Philinda stans annoyed? Coulson is dead. ChroniCoulson is cool, but it would be out of character for May to hook up with him, she saw the real Coulson die.

Thank you, televisionandotherrantings, for all your comments. I know you haven't been in love with these past few seasons, and we have different opinions when it comes to seasons 3 and 5, but your insights were always welcome.

As for Enver, his Sousa was one of the highlights of the season, and I hope that he gets more roles, he certainly deserves it!

televisionandotherrantings said...

I just realized I put 7 twice in the season ranking bit. I think what I meant was clear with context but just in case:
3>2=4>1>7>>6>>>5

Philinda stans annoyance I guess just comes down to being toyed around with for the past several seasons and the fact that FitzSimmons pretty much got it all by the end has got to sting too.

The Feige thing is definitely disheartening for the future but I got to at least have a bit of hope. I mean crazier things have happened.

And thank you again Lamounier.

Lamounier said...

You dislike season 5 so much that you didn't even type the number. (:

I don't have a definite ranking, but I gave it a try and ended up with the following:

Best season: 4
Great seasons: 2 and 5
Middle of the pack: 1 and 3
Fun, but could have been better: 7
What were they thinking? 6