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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: As I Have Always Been

"Phlebotinum!"

This is a terrific episode. Great television, from start to finish. Fun, poignant and clever, it's easily the best episode of season seven and a series high.

The premise is simple, but definitely not simple to pull off: the team is trapped in a time loop, Daisy and Coulson are the only ones who remember each loop, though Daisy forgets everything if she dies, and they are running out of loops until the Zephyr falls into a time vortex and they all cease to exist.

This could've gone south if not well executed, but cast and crew pulled out all the stops. Drew Z. Greenberg's script was near-flawless, which is always a good start, and Elizabeth Henstridge's directing was meticulous and gave the show the right flow and pace. The story was dynamic, it kept evolving. From Daisy grasping the basics of what was going on, to Daisy and Coulson learning Simmons had valuable information hidden in her own brain, and finally the confrontation against Enoch. Insert some comedy and characters' one-on-one's at the right places – "I can take a loop" – and it's a great hour of television.

Daisy was absolutely awesome. She quickly understood what was going on and took charge of the situation. Remember when they tried to make a point a couple of seasons ago that she wasn't ready to be a leader? She totally is now, and she's always had it in her. It's because of her tireless work, with the aid of Coulson, that they are all able to jump out of the loop.

There is also progression with the growing romance between Sousa and Daisy, and it is so well done. Who knew that Daisy's perfect match would come from another show and time? I just love how protective he is of her, and the way he justifies his behavior. He takes care of her because she is so busy keeping everyone else safe that she doesn't pay attention to her own well-being. He won't remember saying that, he won't remember that he died for her in one of the loops (yes, for practical reasons, but I'm sure he also wanted to protect her), but it all leads up to their kiss. His caring for her is so genuine and effortless that you can understand why she gave him that kiss. Too bad he won't remember it, though.

The one who does remember it all, Coulson, also gets some important development. Honestly, I can't bring myself to fully care about this iteration of Coulson, but I know this series wouldn't be the same without Clark Gregg. As it is, he finally gets meatier material to work with as Coulson shares with Daisy his existential turmoils: that he might not have a soul, which would make him a copy without an essence to call his own; and that he is doomed to watch everyone he loves die. There isn't much he can do about the second issue, though Daisy offers a good counterpoint that she knows a thing or two about watching her friend die again and again. But the episode is very clever in the resolution of his main conflict with himself. It's when he is bringing solace to a dying Enoch, telling him that he too belongs to the cycle of life, that Daisy hears what he is saying and very subtly emphasizes it back to him. And you can tell he got the memo.

The frantic episode wraps up somber and calm, with Daisy and Coulson staying with Enoch during his final minutes of life, after he sacrifices himself for the team (after beating them in several hilarious loops). It's a terrific scene, and Joel Stoffer knocks it out of the freaking park. He conveys different emotions while using the same monotone delivery. That's called talent. Enoch ends his contributions to the team with a monologue about the nature of family and the temporality of all things. It's a great capper to a character that added so much to the series, but also a reminder that this very series, as all good things, is also coming to its end.

Intel and Assets

- Repeating the title card was clever. The quinjet was missing in the CGI/VFX, though.

- The mystery of who killed Simmons, and then Simmons and Daisy, was a good one. My money was on Coulson or Enoch.

- Daisy, Simmons, Sousa and Deke died in this episode. Daisy several times, and Simmons at least twice. Finally, Enoch died for real.

- What is blocked from Simmons' memory that disturbed her so much when she remembered it?

- Enoch says he'd like to think Fitz would sacrifice his life for him. Well, Enoch, I'm sorry to say, Fitz wouldn't.

- Enoch tells Daisy that he saw the future and her friends will survive, but the team won't. His phrasing is a bit worrying, since he doesn't include Daisy among the survivors.

- Curious that the two versions of Enoch sacrificed themselves to get the team out of a time travel complication.

- The end tag is almost a distraction, it takes us from a great show to two lesser villains. Then again, we can always pretend there is no end tag.

- This was Elizabeth Henstridge's debut as a director, and she did a terrific job. She is one of the best performers among this great cast and has now directed one of the finest episodes of the series. What a talented artist.

Quotes

Deke: "We're trapped in a time storm."
Sousa: "Are you just taking unrelated words and putting them together?"

Daisy: "There is a major brain fart happening."

Coulson: "I was really hoping not to have this conversation again, but if you forgot everything we went through, I guess that means you died again."
Daisy: "I died?! Again?"
Coulson: "And always say it just like that."

Coulson: "The Time Drive is stuck. It keeps looping back on itself over and over again."
Daisy: "Like feedback?"
Coulson: "I've been thinking about it like a record skipping. [re: Daisy's look.] Every time I say that, you give me the same look. Vinyl's back. You're supposed to know records again."

Daisy: "Think of a fake word and just say it out loud. Anything."
Simmons and Daisy: "Phlebotinum."
Daisy: "Yeah, this isn't the first time we did that."

Enoch [re: Simmons and Daisy]: "They are dead."
Coulson: "What a pain in the ass."

Daisy: "Why do you care?"
Sousa: "Because you don't."


Coulson: "That did not go well."
Sousa: "Where did he get all those weapons?"
May: "Deke's dead?"
Daisy: "Very."
Mack: "Do we need to be sad about that?"
Daisy: "We do not."

Sousa: "I know your type."
Daisy: "My what, now?"
Sousa: "I know people like you. Some of my favorite people are people like you."
Aw, such a beautiful line, and greatly delivered.

Enoch: "People arrive, so we celebrate, and people leave us, so we grieve. We do what we can with the time in between, but the cycle is always there. No one escapes it."

This episode is up there with "4,772 Hours" and "Self Control" as series best. Four out of four time-loops.
--
Lamounier

1 comment:

  1. An absolutely exceptional episode -- clever, funny, tragic, edge of your seat, pretty much perfect. I loved it. Everything that happened with Enoch. With Coulson, whom I like more with every episode. With Daisy as a true leader. With Sousa and Daisy, who just feel perfect for each other.

    And I'm also worried about Jemma falling apart like that. She has been forced to forget something awful, and we're not going to like it when we find out what it is.

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