It’s becoming increasingly clear that Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is probably the least interesting part of the upcoming Hawkeye Disney+ series…which I imagine really sucks for Renner’s hardcore fans, but is great for those of us who are only going to be watching Hawkeye for the amazing women involved: Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop, Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, Vera Farmiga as Eleanor Bishop, and Alaqua Cox as the antiheroine Echo.
And despite being a complete newcomer to the acting scene, it’s Alaqua Cox’s Echo who’s apparently first in line for her very own Disney+ spinoff coming out of Hawkeye, a series that hasn’t even finished filming yet. Variety reports that, while the spinoff is still in the early stages of pre-production, Etan and Emily Cohen have come onboard to write the series scripts. This news, if true, would make Echo the first Marvel character introduced on Disney+ to get her own solo spinoff, further enriching this vast corner of the MCU, and hopefully proving once and for all that the Disney+ series’ aren’t just supposed to act as extended prologues and epilogues to other movies – they are their own thing, and should be viewed as such.
It’s been hard to convince some fans of that latter point, particularly when dealing with a universe where the occasionally eyeroll-inducing need for “interconnectedness” drove viewers away from Marvel’s previous TV collaborations with ABC (which hosted the long-running and criminally underrated Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Netflix (which only just recently relinquished the rights to Marvel’s Defenders content, including beloved heroes like Daredevil and Jessica Jones), after those TV series’ struck out on their own and forged new ground…in the process becoming less essential viewing for the MCU overall. That’s a pattern we saw repeated after WandaVision‘s finale, which proved to be controversial in part because fans felt cheated when the series didn’t halt in its tracks to introduce the Multiverse, or reveal villains like Mephisto and Nightmare, or reinstate Fox versions of the X-Men (though, to be fair, Evan Peters should have been playing Peter Maximoff), despite laying the groundwork for at least two other Marvel films and another Disney+ series.
The news that Echo specifically is getting a spinoff is exciting for several reasons. The character – whose codename comes from her ability to expertly replicate or “echo” any opponent’s fighting style and techniques – is a deaf Native American antiheroine named Maya Lopez, who rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld to become a widely-feared and respected warrior. While operating in Japan and fighting a faction of HYDRA, she adopted the alias of “Ronin”, the same name we saw Hawkeye himself randomly pick up in Avengers: Endgame, during his five years as a vigilante/serial killer. The Hawkeye series will hopefully explain away all the mysteries surrounding the Ronin identity, including whom it belonged to first in the MCU canon, but Echo’s story doesn’t have to end there.
In the comics, Maya Lopez goes on to help and hinder the Avengers at various points, even playing a critical role in the Secret Invasion storyline which will be adapted for Disney+ in the near future. She’s had complex relationships with many of Marvel’s grittier street-level characters, including Daredevil, Moon Knight, and the Kingpin – who mentored her throughout her childhood, after first murdering her father. Maya later turned on Kingpin and left him temporarily blinded, but he’s honestly the least of the villains she’s battled while wielding her signature nunchuks, from Madame Hydra to the Skrull Queen Veranke – the former of whom at least deserves to be brought back into the MCU, with Mallory Jansen reprising the role she so brilliantly originated on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. In one storyline, Echo even hosted the cosmic power of the Phoenix Force within her during an underwater battle with Namor.
Echo’s role in Hawkeye is still unknown, though I remain confident in my theory that she’ll be revealed to be one of the last remaining Red Room cadets trained by Taskmaster, positioning her at an intersection between the storylines of Hawkeye and Black Widow and making her the literal “echo” of one of Widow’s greatest failures, still reverberating through current MCU history. Having her own spinoff series, though, vastly expands the number of stories that could be told with the character – from undercover work as a ninja in Japan, to fighting alongside Daredevil on the streets of New York City, all while helping to increase onscreen visibility for the Indigenous and disabled communities.
But what do you think? Are you excited to see Alaqua Cox as Echo? Do you have any theories about her spinoff? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
Yes, I know I’m late. The Marvel fandom has had their fun with WandaVision‘s seventh episode already, bopped to dozens of “Agatha All Along” remixes over the weekend, speculated endlessly about the Nexus and the Multiverse and the hexagons, and yet here I am, rushing out this review on the eve of a new episode…and you know what, I don’t care. I’ve been out of action for the past few weeks following an emergency appendectomy, I’ve missed my window to properly review two episodes of WandaVision, and I’m not letting this last opportunity to review episode seven slip away!
Now it’s your turn to say “I don’t care”.
The fourth wall isn’t the only thing that gets shattered into a million pieces in WandaVision episode seven, a brisk and tightly-edited installment that sees Wanda’s cozy suburban utopia begin its inevitable descent into surrealist calamity. As the dark forces swirling around Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) close in on her, her control over the volatile situation – which once seemed almost absolute – is ebbing away…because, surprise, she was never really in control at all. But it takes a whole musical montage to finally wake Wanda up to this realization, after spending decades (well, days, actually, but whatever; time moves differently in “The Hex”) under the impression that all of Westview’s brainwashed citizens answered solely to her.
Of course, it seemed far too easy for Wanda to have complete creative control over The Hex, a world that seemed so tailor-made to her specific needs and wants that it almost had to be the product of some nefarious scheme. That being said, it’s still slightly too early to say for certain if my assumption was correct all along, that The Hex was built by someone else to trap Wanda within, and that she was given a false sense of power to lull her into complacency. That’s one working theory, as Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) would say: the other, which I still don’t entirely buy, is that Wanda did create The Hex, but her control over it has slowly been leeched into the hands of another entity over the course of the series. There’s evidence for both theories, but either way, we now know the identity of WandaVision‘s antagonist (or, well, one antagonist: there’s a slew of other baddies who could still show up, including but not limited to Mephisto, Ultron, Nightmare, the Grim Reaper, and HYDRA).
But I’m jumping ahead. The episode picks up the morning after the previous week’s events, both in the real world – where the scattered remnants of S.W.O.R.D., headed by Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg), have regrouped eight miles outside of Westview’s glowing boundaries and are prepping another assault: the lack of brain-cells is truly staggering – and in Westview, where Wanda wakes up with a magical hangover, still wearing her Halloween costume from the night before (sans half-moon tiara, the only element of that costume I genuinely wish she’d keep), and reeling from the mental and physical strain of having to expand the boundaries of The Hex to absorb S.W.O.R.D.’s initial base camp. Luckily, an invisible film crew has taken up residence in the Vision residence, allowing Wanda a safe outlet to express her grief, disillusionment, and burgeoning sense of self-awareness, all while breaking down the fourth wall in a spoof of 2000’s sitcoms like Modern Family and The Office, which employed the “mockumentary” format.
The hustle and bustle of a chaotic morning routine provides the perfect backdrop to Wanda’s entire world coming untethered from space and time. Vision (Paul Bettany) still hasn’t returned from his late-night escape attempt; the con-artist-formerly-known-as-Pietro Maximoff (Evan Peters) is missing; and all of Wanda’s furniture and household appliances are erratically changing shape. Just as the stress of trying to parent twin boys in the midst of all this chaos becomes too much for Wanda, overly-friendly neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) arrives to escort the kids back to her own house, leaving mom to a self-inflicted quarantine-style staycation…as “punishment” for her reckless behavior. As always, Olsen’s brilliant performance keeps Wanda firmly relatable and sympathetic even as everything else is beginning to spiral down the drain.
Several miles away, Vision wakes up in a field full of clowns – alive and fully-functioning again, but deeply confused about life, the universe, and everything. Thankfully for his sanity, it takes him no time at all to reconnect with Darcy Lewis, who was last seen being unwillingly absorbed into The Hex alongside him, and who has now been recontextualized into a carnival escape-artist. Vision has questions, Darcy has answers, and the duo escape in a funnel-cake truck (did you notice the potential Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. callback in the set dressing?) to get back to Wanda, while Darcy gives Vision a rundown on his MCU backstory: including a partial account of his multiple deaths, two of which Wanda was unlucky enough to witness first-hand, and one of which she caused. Darcy’s poor storytelling and tendency to leave out vital context doesn’t seem to help the paranoid android process his own confused emotions (yes, I squeezed two Douglas Adams references into this paragraph: I don’t know what that’s about, either).
Back in the real world, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) head to the boundaries of The Hex to meet Monica’s aerospace-engineer friend, who…doesn’t actually show up, leaving us with more unanswered questions about their identity. But whoever they are, they dropped off a nifty little armored vehicle that Monica hopes will be able to break through Wanda’s magical TV-static barrier. It doesn’t, making that entire subplot slightly pointless (at least until the engineer shows up in-person and turns out to be massively important), but it allows for an ultimately more epic sequence in which Monica, rather than admitting defeat, chooses to run headfirst into the barrier in a desperate attempt at re-entry. Despite her apparent beef with Carol Danvers, she’s certainly inherited a lot of the captain’s recklessness.
Monica’s body begins disassembling in psychedelic slow-motion, while voices from her past rush through her head – but she pushes forward, mustering the strength to literally pull herself back together and step through the barrier, as her eyes glow electric-blue. Although WandaVision audiences have now heard plenty of references to how Monica’s frequent passages through The Hex have rewritten her DNA on a molecular level, this would seem to mark the precise moment at which Monica officially becomes a superhuman: fulfilling her destiny from Marvel Comics, where she goes by the name Spectrum. As in the comics, her powers appear to be light-based, and include the ability to see Westview as it really is: an abstract alien landscape with vivid purple skies stained by lazy splashes of neon light and humming with extradimensional energy. Donning a version of her comics-accurate black-and-white costume, Monica sprints off into Westview, unfazed by her superpower epiphany.
The episode deftly balances all these converging plotlines, bouncing back and forth from Vision (who abandons Darcy and takes to the skies after a series of contrived obstacles initially keep the duo stuck on the outskirts of Westview: obstacles that Vision mistakenly believes were put in place by Wanda to keep him away) to Monica, who breaks Wanda’s quarantine, barging through the front door with an offer of help – which Wanda rejects out-of-hand, telekinetically dragging Monica onto the front lawn and levitating her there for the whole neighborhood to see. Monica uses her own powers to avoid being crushed on the sidewalk, leading to a tense confrontation as Wanda’s forced to back up and listen to what she has to say. Monica is empathetic; she warns Wanda to not let her grief overcome her, and not to let Tyler Hayward make her the villain of the story. And despite Wanda’s eagerness to claim villain status, Monica does seem to be getting through to her.
Which is why Agnes shows up a split second later to extricate Wanda from this potentially paradigm-altering experience and lead her back to her own house (which cleverly borrows its façade from the actual Bewitched house). There, it seems no amount of magic or sitcom silliness can hide the truth about Agnes’ evil intentions: the house is dark, eerily quiet, and inhabited by cicadas – but there’s no sign of Agnes’ husband, Ralph…or Wanda’s twins, whose half-eaten sandwiches are still sitting on the coffee table while Yo Gabba Gabba! plays threateningly on the TV. Wanda’s search for her kids leads her to the basement, which extends far below the house and connects to a network of overgrown tunnels and a temple complex decorated with hexagonal emblems, ram skulls, Satanic artwork…and a small black book spewing fiery energy, which could be the Darkhold of Marvel lore. No stranger to live-action adaptations, the Darkhold was used in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. to help design an alternate reality in which HYDRA conquered the world, and could serve a similar purpose in WandaVision.
But before Wanda gets a chance to do any sleuthing, Agnes joins her in the basement, wearing a quirky grin and her familiar pendant. “You didn’t think you were the only magical girl in town, did you?,” she taunts Wanda, while showing off her own supernatural powers. Whether she’s been orchestrating Wanda’s movements and actions pre-Westview or first had to infiltrate The Hex to do so, Agnes is the series’ antagonist heading into the penultimate episode (which means she’s at risk of dying, and that….terrifies me). And, to nobody’s surprise, “Agnes” was only ever an alias in the same vein as every other Westview resident’s adopted identity: a clever one, to be sure, but not too clever to outwit Marvel fans, who long ago guessed that Agnes would turn out to be Agatha Harkness, a sorceress from the comics whose relationship with Wanda involves mentoring her in the art of chaos magic, babysitting and occasionally kidnapping her children, and walking a fine line between protecting her and manipulating her trust. And sure enough, last week’s episode confirms what we all suspected, with the help of a musical montage that deserves to be ranked alongside the best Disney Villain songs.
Inspired by The Munsters‘ intro, “Agatha All Along” elevates the villain reveal from boringly predictable to delightfully campy. Through Wanda’s eyes, we watch past events with a new twist – Agatha gliding into Westview in a quickly-glimpsed witchy costume (before turning to the camera with a gasp of faux-astonishment), gleefully messing with the talent show in episode two, manipulating Herb’s mind in episode three, and puppeteering Pietro’s unexpected arrival. Her encounter with Vision on Halloween? That was all an act. Even the cameraman interviewing Wanda this very episode was Agatha in disguise. But you don’t need me to tell you that: just listen to the song, and/or its multitude of remixes and covers.
The episode features WandaVision‘s first mid-credits scene, a quick stinger showing Monica breaking into Agnes’ basement only to get caught by Pietro – whose line, “Snoopers gonna snoop”, is delivered totally deadpan. Agatha having summoned Pietro to Westview and controlled his every movement, it would make sense that he’s still obeying her – but lift the spell, and he’s probably not a bad guy. He’s also definitely not Pietro, but he probably is Peter Maximoff from the X-Men cinematic universe, because there’s literally no other reason why this version of the character would be here. Further proof of that lies in the episode’s commercial, which (a) hilariously parodies overly-optimistic real-life drug commercials, and (b) directly references the Nexus of All Realities: the crossroads at the heart of the Multiverse, where universes collide. With the “real” version of Pietro dead in the MCU’s main timeline, Agatha would have reached into the Multiverse to find another – and ripped Peter Maximoff out of his timeline, given him Pietro’s memories, and installed him in Westview to play along with her game.
So was it really Agatha all along? Or is she too a minion? We still don’t know, but what I do know is I’ve been watching WandaVision for the past week (the fact that that’s a direct quote from the show speaks to how meta things are getting), and I’m certain that killing off Agatha in the series finale would be a waste of Kathryn Hahn (not to mention Agatha’s clear talent for producing quality music). So Marvel, please, pay attention to what the fandom is telling you and stop killing your villains before you’ve had a chance to use them properly: I don’t want to have to revisit this subject in two weeks time.
Even apart from official confirmation that Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany will indeed be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk) in the upcoming Disney+ She-Hulk series – despite her insistent, and very convincing, claims to the contrary over the past few months – there were several other reveals about the series that have me even more excited to see Maslany transform into the lovable, seven-foot tall, bright green bodybuilder: and prove once and for all that she is not simply a gender-swapped version of the Hulk, as some like to claim, but a unique and fascinating character in her own right, with an abundance of new stories to tell.
For one thing, the series will not gloss over Walters’ day job as a lawyer and activist for both societal reform on a widespread level, and individual superheroes. Marvel president Kevin Feige strongly implied that a couple of familiar MCU characters – both heroes and villains – might wind up in court before Walters, and that she might be placed in increasingly more tricky (and potentially dangerous) predicaments depending on who she’s either representing or trying to place behind bars. Heroes who might show up include Falcon, Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, and Kate Bishop, most of whom are already fugitives from the law. But they likely won’t end up in prison, or if they do, it won’t be for long. Villains, on the other hand…that’s where this gets interesting.
The MCU has long had a habit of discarding potentially interesting villains after a single film appearance, without ever actually killing them off – which was just lazy storytelling during Phases 1 through 3, but turns out to be a blessing-in-disguise heading into Phase 4: because now, with the Infinity Saga finally completed, we have time to go back and address all the unresolved storylines of these various antagonists. And there’s long been speculation that, as in the comics, a multitude of these long-forgotten villains will assemble their own version of the Avengers called the Thunderbolts, under the leadership of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, an anti-superhero watchdog (who, ironically, is secretly able to transform into the Red Hulk). With no specific Thunderbolts series or movie announced during the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday, I believe She-Hulk will act as the Phase 4 set-up to an eventual Thunderbolts series or movie during Phase 5.
Think about it for a moment. Currently, the MCU has dozens of villains whose fates are still unknown, and a few who have yet to show up but probably won’t be killed in the near future: and all of these villains have committed more than enough heinous crimes to deserve high-profile court trials. Let’s go over a few. Justin Hammer, Tony Stark’s wannabe copycat in Iron Man 2, quietly dropped off the grid after unleashing a small army of heavily-armed robots on New York City; Ghost, the quantum-phasing antagonist of Ant-Man And The Wasp, never received the healing particles she was supposed to get from Scott Lang, and has likely regressed back into self-loathing and hyper-aggression; Yelena Belova, who is set to appear in both Hawkeye and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, probably won’t stop being a violent super-assassin anytime soon; Baron Zemo, the big bad of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, is far too ingenious to stay locked up for long (he’s already escaped one high-security prison); and Madame Masque, whom Vera Farmiga will likely play in the Hawkeye series, is just a really cool character. There are a bunch of others who could fill out the team roster, but the one that we need to focus on is Abomination.
First introduced in The Incredible Hulk in 2008, Emil Blonsky (better known as the horribly mutated, grotesque titan Abomination) has only been referenced in-universe once or twice since his debut: back in 2013, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed that he was being held in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, in a cryo-cell in Alaska. Since then, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by HYDRA and been almost entirely disassembled from the inside, but there’s been no mention of Abomination since. Until now. She-Hulk will officially feature the return of the old villain, with Tim Roth reprising the role after over a decade – and hopefully getting a new and improved, comics-accurate, design. The fact that Roth’s involvement has already been announced suggests that Abomination plays a key role in She-Hulk…and what do you know, he also has connections to Thaddeus Ross, and thus to the Thunderbolts team.
So what’s my theory? I believe, based on everything we know so far, that Jennifer Walters’ work as a prosecutor will place her directly in Thaddeus Ross’ line of fire, as he tries to secretly unite various villains and keep them out of prison, even while Walters fights to incarcerate them. In the MCU, it may be agents working for Ross who give Walters the gunshot wounds that almost kill her, leading to Bruce Banner having to save her life with an emergency blood transfusion – which in turn leads to her becoming the She-Hulk, and gaining the extra brawn she’ll need to take the fight straight to Ross. And when she comes face to face with him (probably in the season finale, after figuring out how deeply the corruption goes), that’s when Ross will reveal his own alter ego, the Red Hulk, and engage her in an epic duel. Sounds pretty good to me.
As an additional bonus, Tim Roth’s MCU return means we could see other characters from The Incredible Hulk pop up in She-Hulk: including Liv Tyler as Betty Ross (herself a Hulk variant in the comics, the fearsome antiheroine Red She-Hulk). Tyler’s return is something that’s been rumored, and that fans have especially been hoping to see – and of course, I’m always up for a Lord Of The Rings star coming into the MCU, even though, in Tyler’s case, she’s been there for a while; just not getting the recognition and screentime she deserves.
So what do you think? What are you looking forward to from She-Hulk, and how do you want Tim Roth’s Abomination to feature in the series? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
If a Fantastic Four movie announcement hadn’t overshadowed everything else at the Marvel presentation during the Disney Investors Meeting, Secret Invasion definitely would have been the big headline coming out of the event. The Skrulls are literally about to invade the Marvel Cinematic Universe and don the skins and personalities of all your favorite MCU heroes; this is big news, people. Why it didn’t make more of an impression is a mystery to me – though, personally, I feel it has to do with how dreadfully ugly the logo for the new series turned out to be (yes, I know it’s a direct nod to the comics upon which this storyline is based; no, I don’t care, it’s still ugly).
The Secret Invasion will start out as a Disney+ series (though technically it was foreshadowed in the post-credits scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home, which revealed that Nick Fury and Maria Hill were both being impersonated by shapeshifting Skrull aliens), but it will likely expand across the entire slate of MCU movies and series. If it’s going to play out at all like the comics, it has to be on an epic scale: otherwise, they might as well call it Secret Skirmish. The Ms. Marvel series will likely include some Skrull action, thanks to its new connection to Captain Marvel 2: which will almost certainly be where the Secret Invasion reaches its full extent – unless the Secret Invasion series gets renewed for multiple seasons, and becomes Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. (more on that in a moment).
Samuel L. Jackson will return to reprise the role of Nick Fury, and star in the new series – which means that yes, this is the Nick Fury show we heard rumors about just a few months ago. Not a prequel exploring his backstory, thank goodness, but something actually relevant (I swear that’s not a jab at the long-delayed Black Widow movie). Fury will have a key role in the Secret Invasion, heading up the S.W.O.R.D. team from his headquarters in space. On earth, his Skrull ally Talos is probably still impersonating him, so there’s ways for Jackson to appear even when Fury technically isn’t onscreen.
Ben Mendelsohn will be co-starring alongside Jackson, as Talos: suggesting that he will spend more time as himself than as Fury or other characters, which is great, because Mendelsohn is an incredibly charismatic and underrated actor. Talos will be in a tricky position in Secret Invasion, having to battle misguided friends (and perhaps even members of his own family). With the Skrulls currently being depicted as good guys in the MCU, it’ll take something drastic for even a few to turn against Fury and Talos and infiltrate the ranks of Earth’s mightiest heroes: something that drastic could easily divide Talos’ own loyalties, causing him to question his allegiances to Fury – and perhaps even betray him. I expect his character to have plenty to do.
But…the show still needs a female lead. There are some great candidates: Maria Rambeau is presumably still out there, and I’ve long hoped she’ll be a prominent member of the S.W.O.R.D. organization by this point in the MCU timeline; Monica Rambeau, her daughter, could rise through the ranks during the events of WandaVision; and Abigail Brand, S.W.O.R.D.’s leader in the comics, might show up to fill this role. Personally, I hope all three feature heavily in this series. But I also want another woman to appear in Secret Invasion, and that woman is – you guessed it – Quake. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Daisy Johnson, seismic Inhuman superheroine and the most well-written character in the Marvel Universe (you heard me), appearing via Multiverse shenanigans or just plain and simple S.H.I.E.L.D. canonization. It appears I can’t write a single post about the MCU without mentioning Quake, but that’s because the entire MCU seems to be leading up to a place where her inclusion is not only beneficial but necessary.
Oh, and, uh, in case this wasn’t clear already: just bring back Chloe Bennet as Quake. She is the character. She’s lived and breathed Quake for the past seven years, and she’s made it abundantly clear she’s not ready to call it quits. And the series finale this year left Daisy wandering on an emissary mission through space, headed for some sort of weird-looking space anomaly. That could easily have been a portal to another reality, and if Marvel wants, they can just leave Daniel Sousa and Kora out of the equation. Say they’re off somewhere else, or don’t say anything at all. I don’t care. I only need Quake in the MCU, and I need her because she’s far too good a character to waste, or to throw aside just because she comes from Marvel TV. Reminder: Charlie Cox’s Daredevil is also a Marvel TV character, and yet is strongly suspected to be appearing in Spider-Man 3.
Quake is a crucial character in the Secret Invasion storyline in the comics, personally assigned by Nick Fury with the task of assembling a Secret Warriors team to combat the Skrulls that made it down to Earth and were wreaking havoc while in disguise. As one of Marvel’s only widely-known Inhuman characters besides Ms. Marvel and maybe Black Bolt (if we’re pushing it), she’s also a great character to help introduce that complicated concept in the MCU. And besides all that, she’s resonated with viewers because of her courage, resilience, and complexity. She’s also Marvel’s first (and to date only) Asian-American lead character, Marvel’s first female lead in live-action, and one of their first superpowered heroines.
Now that I’ve derailed this post completely, it’s time to wrap up with a cheery reminder that Secret Invasion doesn’t yet have a director attached, or a release date. So it’s still a long way off, and there’s still plenty of time for Marvel to see the light and cast Chloe Bennet as Quake.
What do you think? Are you excited for Secret Invasion? Do you also want to see Quake in the MCU? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
When Netflix’s Daredevil was cancelled after four seasons in 2018, fans of the series – which had been developed in partnership with Marvel Studios and was, theoretically, MCU-adjacent – were rightfully angry, especially since an added complication in the breakup between Marvel and Netflix was that Marvel had to wait a full two years before being able to use any of the characters they had previously handed to Netflix: characters like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and a bunch of other street-level superheroes and villains. Well, now that the two years is finally up, the rights have reverted back to Marvel at long last: and a new scoop from Murphy’s Multiverse indicates that the studio is going to do what fans have been hoping and praying they would, which is to bring back the version of Daredevil that Charlie Cox made so popular and beloved over on Netflix. Not only that, but he’ll be arriving in the MCU soon – jumping into Spider-Man 3, which is already busy filming.
Whereas many of the Netflix Marvel shows and characters were just okay adaptations (and some were downright mediocre), Daredevil was actually very successful, and probably the most comic-accurate of the entire bunch. Cox is a great actor, and Marvel president Kevin Feige has been said in the past to be a big fan of him and his work. So it makes sense why Daredevil would end up joining the already massive cast of Spider-Man 3 – which, as we discussed yesterday, is set to bring back several other major characters from past Marvel franchises, including Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire’s versions of Peter Parker. But it’s also huge news, if true, because it means that Kevin Feige could pick and choose some other MCU-adjacent actors (or actresses) to make the jump into the MCU proper. If you know me, you know where this is going…
Yes, my end-goal is still the same: I want Quake (brilliantly portrayed by Chloe Bennet across seven seasons of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.) to finally make her own MCU debut in the near future, and there’s an entire fandom that thinks the same way. Just as Daredevil fans have been told for years that their favorite show was never going to be inducted into the official MCU canon because of its cancellation and the messy rights situation, so have Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans been told the same thing. And I understand why a lot of people think this: Marvel Studios and Marvel TV didn’t have a great relationship, and the Marvel TV shows drifted pretty far from MCU canon as time went by. But things have changed with the rise of passionate, determined fan-movements (which got #SaveDaredevil trending last month), and the introduction of the Multiverse: a risky but wonderful narrative tool that has the power to make literally anything possible.
Although we don’t know if Charlie Cox’s Daredevil will hail from a parallel universe when he appears in Spider-Man 3, it’s certainly an intriguing coincidence that he’ll be showing up in a movie that already features so much Multiverse mayhem. The Multiverse (a vast network of infinite alternate realities) enables his entire series to exist just outside of MCU canon, but easily accessible if need be – with the potential for any number of characters to cross over from one to the other, no problems. Daredevil, obviously; but also Kingpin, his arch-nemesis, as whom Vincent D’Onofrio has been eager to return. Same thing with Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., where Quake and Yo-Yo Rodriguez are among the handful of characters I would select to make a comeback. Either that, or these MCU-adjacent TV shows could just be canon pure and simple, which works for me too. But if Marvel wants an excuse for how and why they’re doing it now, instead of years ago when these shows were actually still running; they have the means to do so organically. That’s what I’m saying.
As for Daredevil in the MCU, we don’t know what the plans for him are beyond his appearance in Spider-Man 3. YouTuber Grace Randolph has added that she believes Daredevil (or rather, his alter ego Matt Murdock) will be acting as Peter Parker’s lawyer. Last time we saw Parker, his secret identity had just been revealed to the world, and he was being accused of murdering scientist Quentin Beck. He’s presumed to now be on the run from authorities and a host of supervillains, so a strong legal defense is probably a good idea. But if that rumor is true, it does means that She-Hulk (another lawyer whose business usually involves representing superheroes in court, and who will star in a Disney+ series), won’t be the first of her kind in the MCU. That being said, it could be interesting if She-Hulk and Daredevil are rival lawyers, and go toe-to-toe in court (something that Randolph notes is a possibility, as she believes Cox is also in talks to join the She-Hulk series).
So what do you think? How excited are you for Charlie Cox’s return, and what do you think this means for other MCU-adjacent characters? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
Marvel Studios has a reputation for strict secrecy, and they’ve always been good at keeping things hidden from the public and press, even if it means lying and spreading misinformation to cover their tracks. The casting of Kate Bishop, however, has been one of the studio’s worst-kept secrets in recent months, as literally every clue has pointed towards singer and Oscar-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld being the top choice for the coveted role – but nothing official from the major Hollywood trades has leaked to confirm or deny these rumors since September of last year, when Steinfeld was said to be “in early talks” to play the vigilante archer. This summer, The Illuminerdi was able to confirm that Steinfeld had officially landed the role, and they have now been proven correct. Hailee Steinfeld was spotted today in full Kate Bishop costume, filming the Hawkeye Disney+ series in New York City.
The question of whether Steinfeld could even play Bishop was always a tricky one, because of her pre-existing commitment to film another season of Dickinson on Apple TV. But it appears that her schedule has now cleared up thanks to the constant shuffling of production start dates, or something else has happened behind the scenes. Either way, video footage distributed online by multiple scoopers today (including Charles Murphy at Murphy’s Multiverse, whom I believe to have been the first to do so) clearly shows Steinfeld alongside Hawkeye star Jeremy Renner, racing through a subway station – accompanied by none other than Lucky the Pizza Dog, Hawkeye’s canine companion from the popular Matt Fraction Hawkeye comics, here making his first MCU appearance.
In the comics, as some of you will already know, Kate Bishop is a young adult crime-fighter who takes after Hawkeye and ends up becoming his apprentice and accomplice, taking on villains like Madame Masque, who has also been rumored to show up in the Hawkeye series. Later, she becomes a founding member and leader of the Young Avengers, a team that is currently being assembled across the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in both movies and TV. While the MCU’s version of Hawkeye is still very different from his portrayal in the comics (and you could make a convincing argument for why Renner has been miscast all along), MCU Kate Bishop already looks nearly perfect, and she’s equipped with her trusty bow. The overcoat she’s wearing appears to just be part of her outfit: unlike the heavy tarps often worn by MCU actors to hide their costumes. She’s definitely wearing something purple underneath the coat, although another behind-the-scenes photo seems to show that it’s an oversized sweater rather than a version of her actual superhero suit.
But no matter what, Steinfeld is clearly a great choice to portray this important character. She’s been in the running for so long, and the conversation around her casting has become so intense, with people picking apart her social media posts looking for hints, that it would have been absolutely bizarre if someone else had come in at the last minute and claimed the role instead of her. That’s not to say there aren’t other actresses who could have done so, but Steinfeld is – no questions asked – extremely talented in multiple different fields, with a strong film and TV resume, and a successful music career. No word yet on whether she’ll do any singing for Hawkeye, but I wouldn’t be opposed. Every good series needs a theme song, right?
Of course, the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fan in me can’t help but wonder if Kate Bishop’s other mentor and role model from the comics, Mockingbird, will make an appearance in the Hawkeye series. Mockingbird was portrayed by Adrianne Palicki all-too-briefly on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. before parting ways with the other agents and going rogue, and Palicki has expressed interest in reprising the role in Hawkeye (or even replacing Hawkeye completely, which sounds…okay by me, honestly?). Fingers crossed she gets to return!
So how do you feel about this casting? Is Hailee Steinfeld the Kate Bishop you had in mind, or were you hoping for someone else? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
After seven years, the end has finally come for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I’m pleased to report it’s a glorious one. In so many ways, it’s the end of an era – for us, as the devoted fandom who stuck with the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. team even when others claimed it wasn’t worth it because it would never be Marvel canon; for the cast and crew, obviously, since they’ve put so much hard work into making this show everything that it has become; and for an epic chapter of television history; Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. brought us seven seasons worth of brilliant, albeit absolutely bizarre, storylines spanning the entire Marvel Universe (and occasionally breaking out from its confines). And best of all…it’s a happy ending, the kind where all our major characters get to go out on a high note and nobody gets killed off just to make the plot more dramatic: in fact, precisely zero of our protagonists died on last night’s two-hour long finale event. On the flip-side, I think I can safely say that we, the audience, all died just a little as we had to grapple with the realization that this is…really it. It’s over. It’s done.
Though, if anyone is wondering – and be warned, you will be hearing about this a lot from me in the near future – there’s still plenty of ways in which Marvel could continue the story of certain S.H.I.E.L.D. team members, particularly Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) and Yo-Yo Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), both of whom I still firmly believe can and should join the MCU proper.
The finale, which is actually two back-to-back episodes, gave us a lot to muse on: from Avengers: Endgame tie-ins and references, to cinematic visual effects, to the individual endings for each and every character’s arcs. Because this show has always centered around its amazing characters, we’re going to break down all of those endings one by one: yes, even the villains because villains deserve satisfying endings too.
Well, except for Chronicoms. And speaking of Chronicoms, let’s talk about them first and foremost because these folks (a race of emotionless cyborgs with the ability to steal human faces and wear them as their own) have been a mixed bag since they first showed up in any large capacity. When it was just Enoch (Joel Stoffer) back in season five, they did seem kind of interesting – but ironically, that was because Enoch turned out to be a rogue Chronicom who had actually developed emotions during his long sojourn on Earth. Particularly in this final season, the Chronicoms have felt very one-dimensional, with only their leader Sybil the Predictor (Tamara Taylor) having much personality. And that doesn’t really change much in the finale. The Chronicoms are extremely threatening, which helps, but they still don’t rank high on the list of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. villains, with their vague motivations and bland character designs. In the opening minutes of the finale’s first half, they capture Daisy, Al “Mack” Mackenzie (Henry Simmons) and Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) as the trio of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents tries to launch a daring raid on the Zephyr One, where their friend Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is being held prisoner. But apart from Sybil, the Chronicoms don’t actually come out in full force until the last half of the finale, when their entire army heads to the Lighthouse S.H.I.E.L.D. base in a last-ditch effort to stop their arch-nemesis Leopold Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), only to find themselves defeated by a very unlikely threat from above: Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), who, after incapacitating Sybil with a kick to the face, uses her newfound empathetic powers to give the entire Chronicom army emotions. It’s a good idea in theory and it underscores the point that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been about compassion and unconditional love, but it’s definitely a concept that needed more set-up: and the way the Chronicoms simply drop their weapons, declare themselves to be friends, and then disappear completely from the story afterwards is…well, not exactly underwhelming because I didn’t expect much from the Chronicoms, but just a little anti-climactic.
But that’s okay, because they were never the real big bad anyway. This whole time, that’s been Nathaniel Malick (Thomas E. Sullivan), the son of HYDRA royalty, who was supposed to die young in 1970 but, due to timeline meddling, ended up surviving all the way into the present day, stealing some of Daisy Johnson’s seismic superpowers and becoming the finale’s main antagonist. I didn’t have a problem with this: Malick, despite his questionable fashion statements and anarchistic tendencies, is a lot more compelling than any Chronicom – and the duel between the two Quakes is every bit as epic as was promised. Malick’s goal by this point in the episode is to kill Daisy and use the remaining half of the Chronicom fleet that’s still descending through the earth’s atmosphere to wipe out S.H.I.E.L.D., and he figures that Daisy won’t be able to stop him because the only way she can feasibly kill him is by killing herself in the process. “That’s the idea”, Daisy responds – and she explodes. In the biggest display of her powers ever, she sends shockwaves tearing through space, ripping the entire Chronicom fleet to pieces: taking Sybil and Nathaniel Malick with it. But Daisy, at the eye of the hurricane so to speak, unintentionally survives the blast and her drifting body is picked up by Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) in the Zephyr One just in time for her sister, Kora (Dianne Doan), to come in and revive her using her own healing powers.
Kora, the final season’s third major villain, has an awkward redemption arc at the last moment. She comes to her senses after a confrontation with Daisy, tries unsuccessfully to convince Malick that Daisy is actually a good person, gets shot for her efforts, and then uses her powers to assist Melinda May in the final battle. Fitz describes Kora as the key to ensuring the survival of the world and that’s great and all, but…what exactly did she do? Her powers get upgraded so quickly it’s hard to tell what her limits are anymore: first it was just glowing punches, then it was somehow related to electricity, then she could heal people, now all of a sudden she can shoot laser beams through space. But while I might have to rewatch the episode to clarify certain details, I’m still a little confused as to why her power was so vital. She saved Daisy, so I’m eternally grateful for that, but Daisy had already defeated the Chronicoms – her survival wasn’t necessary, except to fans. And the laser she shot at the Lighthouse achieved…what, exactly? In hindsight, I wish she had been introduced earlier in the season if only so we could have gotten a better idea of what she wanted and what she could do. But of course, that wouldn’t have worked because of the way the time jumps were going, so…
Speaking of time jumps. The emotional core of the entire finale is the FitzSimmons duo, who, as it turns out, have been orchestrating most of the events of seasons six and seven with masterful intricacy and a lot of help from time travel. As is explained in flashback, they both took off at the end of the season six finale and spent years perfecting a time machine design so they could eventually come back and save their friends. Fitz, whom we’ve been waiting for ages to show up again, finally reappears at the crucial midpoint of the finale and confirms that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is actually utilizing the same time travel logic from Avengers: Endgame – which states that going into the past creates divergent timelines, rather than changing the future. Amazingly, the Endgame tie-ins don’t end there. Not only does Fitz reference how time travel makes use of the subatomic Quantum Realm and explain that he’s been traveling the Realm all the time he’s been gone, examining different timelines to see which ones work in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s favor, but he actually takes the S.H.I.E.L.D. team through the Quantum Realm, along with the entire Chronicom fleet. This is all to make sure that the Agents get back to their original timeline and leave the other timelines mostly unscathed, but it has the added benefit of bringing the show closer to the MCU than it’s been in years.
Unfortunately, escaping the alternate timeline to return to the original one comes with consequences: one member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team has to stay behind in the past to work the time machine apparatus, and that member is the rascally Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward), who offers himself up voluntarily. Deke has spent his entire time on the show trying to fit in, and he’s never truly belonged anywhere but the 1980’s. And, as he explains to the team, he’s kind of a rock and roll superstar in this alternate timeline. But that’s not his only task: with all of 80’s S.H.I.E.L.D. in chaos, Deke promises to step up to the challenge of becoming the organization’s new director, a title that definitely should not suit him as well as it does. Thankfully for him, he’ll get to work with a couple of agents who escaped the Chronicom attack on last week’s episode – including a younger but still instantly recognizable Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows), who gets her long-overdue justice on her killer John Garrett (James Paxton) by shooting his younger version in the forehead.
Returning to the day of the season six finale and what should be the proper timeline, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are able to overcome both Chronicoms and Malick. This requires a slight detour to the ancient Mesoamerican temple where the season six finale took place, where we reunite with Piper (Brianna Venskus) and the Inhuman Flint (Coy Stewart), both of whom have hilarious interactions with the time-traveling FitzSimmons as they try to make sense of what’s going on – one of the funniest moments is when Piper, for whom only a few minutes have passed, asks whether or not all the commotion is being caused by the death goddess Izel (the season six big bad), and Simmons has to wrack her brain just to try and remember who that is. But Piper and Flint aren’t just there for laughs, being asked by Simmons to stand guard over a mysterious chamber while she and Fitz manage the whole time travel business. As we discover near the end of the episode, that chamber contains something incredibly precious to FitzSimmons: their daughter, Alya, named after the star system in which they hid for years, lived their lives and designed their time machine. Alya, who speaks with a Scottish accent clearly inherited from her father, is the reason why the fight is so personal for FitzSimmons, and she’s the perfect culmination of their incredible love story.
And on that point…culminations. The end for so many characters we’ve grown to love over the past several years. FitzSimmons, luckily, are the first ones to get their happy ending, and they even get to enjoy it twice – since by finale’s end, they’ve settled down in the current timeline, on Earth. The last scene of the finale follows the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. team reuniting via hologram message at Enoch’s old hideout, the Swordfish bar, discussing old times, playfully teasing each other, and promising to stay in touch, with each eventually disconnecting and giving us a little glimpse into their new lives. FitzSimmons and little Alya are enjoying a picnic when we last see them, and they’ve never looked so happy. Their romance, which one seemed like a curse, has blossomed into something beautiful.
Mack and Yo Yo had the least to do in the finale overall, with Yo Yo only getting a couple of action scenes (standouts, nonetheless: that’s just how awesome she is), but their lives in the present day look fascinating. Mack is still director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and he’s sporting a very Nick Fury-like coat as he strides about the deck of his helicarrier. Yo Yo, meanwhile, is on assignment with her own team, which includes Piper and Davis (Maximilian Osinski), who has been resurrected as an LMD. Yo Yo has one last incredible moment as she jumps out of the team’s car and speeds off down the road, her upgraded Inhuman powers giving her the ability to go wherever she wants and never have to “bounce back” any longer.
For Melinda May, her future involves a lot of hard work – but no longer as “The Cavalry” (a nickname she finally embraces near the end, putting aside the trauma she had formally attached to it). Instead, she now works as a teacher at the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy, which has been renamed the Coulson Academy and also seems to sport a daisy in its new logo. Flint is amongst her students, and May seems genuinely happy helping the next generation begin their training as agents. Some fans of the Philinda romantic coupling are upset that she and Coulson didn’t head off into the sunset together, and I get that, but I also feel like May’s new empathetic powers lend themselves well to the role of a teacher (besides which, her and Coulson are still giving each other meaningful looks in the closing minutes so maybe there’s still a spark between them?)
Eventually the series brings us back down to where it all began, with Coulson and Daisy. Their relationship is the real core of the whole story: it’s fitting that they get the last word. For Daisy, her future includes a journey into the depths of space alongside Daniel Sousa (they end up together, which is…fine, I guess), and Kora, with the intention of reaching out to alien races across the galaxy – almost like they’re Agents of S.W.O.R.D. or something. Those of us who still want Daisy Johnson in the MCU will continue to push for an Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. series that includes her in some capacity, and the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale has given us a tantalizing hint of how awesome it could be.
And as for LMD Coulson…who did NOT decide to power down or turn off completely, the future is looking bright. He’s taking some time to himself, traveling the world without any urgent plans, and he’s got a “cool” (the very last word spoken in the entire series) new flying Corvette modeled after his original car, Lola. A gift of Mack’s, the sci-fi vehicle allows Coulson to go out in an appropriately epic style, soaring over the streets of Washington D.C. and zipping away to destinations unknown. I was certain that Coulson would die this season, completing his cycle of death and rebirth, but this is a much more fitting end: after all, this whole series was started partly because of how much fans rallied behind the hashtag #CoulsonLives, after it seemed we had lost him forever in The Avengers. Coulson is, indeed, living his best life now.
And that’s the true beauty of this show. It’s always been about the fans. We’re not the biggest subsection of the Marvel fandom, but we’re passionate, we’re persistent, and we made it so much farther than anyone could have ever guessed. And in the end, I hope we’ll all keep in touch, just like the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. – raise a toast to a spy’s goodbye for now, but somewhere down the line we might cross paths again. Maybe in the MCU, even, if we pressure Kevin Feige enough…
Thanks to Hurricane Isaias and a poorly-timed power outage, this review is several days late – but still just in time to get out before the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale this Wednesday: a hotly-anticipated two-hour long farewell event that will bring seven seasons worth of intricate storytelling to a close…and hopefully tease further adventures with certain characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe down the line. Fingers crossed.
But before we start looking ahead, let’s break down everything that went on last Wednesday, in the penultimate episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. – the episode serves mostly as finale set-up, moving characters into place like chess-pieces ready for battle, but it still manages to get a lot done: particularly when it comes to strengthening the relationship dynamics between our main cast. Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) and Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) have a chance to clumsily – but adorably – rekindle the romance they started during the turbulent time-loops a week or two ago, while Daisy’s long-lost evil sister Kora (Dianne Loan) establishes a fragile bond with both Daisy and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), which quickly breaks down after she learns of the death of her mother, Jiaying – an atrocious act committed by Kora’s partner-in-crime, Nathaniel Malick (Thomas E. Sullivan), which she nonetheless blames on S.H.I.E.L.D. because Malick is apparently so precious to her that by the end of the episode they’re locked in a passionate embrace, kissing while Chronicom warships blow S.H.I.E.L.D. bases to smithereens from space. There’s a lot to unpack here.
Obviously the most urgent issue at hand is the captive state of Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), whom Nathaniel Malick and his crew of mercenaries snatched away from S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters week before last, with the intention of probing her memories and discovering the location of Malick and the Chronicoms’ arch-nemesis, Leopold Fitz (Iain De Caestecker, appearing only in flashback sequences). By the end of the episode, despite Malick doing everything in his power to ransack Simmons’ mind and emotionally torture her, Fitz’s locations remains a mystery. Add onto that the fact that Simmons apparently doesn’t even remember who Fitz is anymore, and we have ourselves a big problem: the Fitzsimmons ship, which I listed as the most romantic coupling in the Marvel universe, is in real danger of not becoming endgame. Fitzsimmons is known for the emotional trauma it inflicts on all of us, but this episode really outdid itself – through flashbacks, we bore witness to the moment Simmons had to say goodbye to Fitz, screaming through her tears that she didn’t want to forget him or the life they had together. Would it be possible for her to share her memory-suppression technology with the rest of us, so we too can forget that painful scene ever happened?
Then there’s the question of how to rescue Simmons from the Zephyr One, which Malick hijacked and flew straight into the cold void of outer space. Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) makes a half-hearted attempt that goes wrong very quickly, and gets tortured by Malick alongside Simmons. The last we saw of him, he was alive, but bruised, bloodied, and very confused. Thankfully, Daisy, Daniel Sousa and S.H.I.E.L.D. director Al “Mack” Mackenzie (Henry Simmons) are on their way to the Zephyr One‘s coordinates in their own spacecraft, and they share the most memorable scenes in the episode: Mack tries to play matchmaker for the awkward couple (I wasn’t too fond of them before, but Mack’s teasing – paired with his very serious warning that if Sousa does anything to hurt Daisy, he will face the wrath of the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. team – did a lot to warm me up to the unconventional pairing), and Daniel just can’t get over the fact that Daisy’s superhero nickname is “Quake”, a moniker he finds laughably ridiculous. Personally, I’ve always found “Quake” to be a very cool and fitting name, and I wish Daisy used it more often, but I will admit that Daniel’s suggestion to Daisy that she get a giant “Q” stamped on her utility belt (poor Daniel, with his outdated notions of superhero costuming!) was extremely funny.
On the ground, Kora spends most of the time locked away in a S.H.I.E.L.D. holding cell at the Lighthouse, until a confrontation with Melinda May leads to her unleashing her…weird golden glowing fist-punch thing…instantly knocking out all the electricity at the base (too soon, Marvel, too soon), including the computer system’s firewalls – in turn allowing the disembodied Chronicom Sibyl to creep into the Lighthouse’s computer systems, where she starts wreaking havoc immediately. Luckily, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is himself mostly robotic at this point, and spent a good deal of time trapped inside a computer in the 1980’s, giving him an acute knowledge of coding that keeps him…well, not exactly one step ahead of Sibyl, but maybe, like, just one or two steps behind her? He doesn’t manage to stop her from turning every other S.H.I.E.L.D. base around the globe into a heap of burning rubble, but at least he was able to figure out her evil plan a few seconds before she actually went through with it. That’s got to count for something…right?
With the power out, Kora also obtains her freedom. Despite Melinda May’s best efforts to turn the homicidal Inhuman into a force for good, Kora simply doesn’t want to change. She does genuinely offer her services to the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, but her offer involves murdering a baby (though, that baby is the future Grant Ward, which doesn’t make it right but also doesn’t make it entirely bad), so Coulson turns it down. Enraged, Kora escapes back to Malick, and that’s where we get the whole kissing-while-the-world-burns nonsense. Honestly, it’s hard to visualize an outcome where Kora is redeemed by the end of this: her treachery hasn’t earned her any love from the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Daisy is already hell-bent on erasing her from history. But, according to Kora, the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. are already living in an alternate timeline and the only way to make things right is to start killing off the people who shouldn’t be alive in the present day – cut to the time-displaced Daniel Sousa, who is definitely treading on very thin ice heading into the finale. Will he, like most of Daisy’s previous love interests, meet a horrible fate, or could he be the lucky one that gets away?
Heading into the finale, the world is currently under attack from the Chronicoms, who have an entire fleet of warships that are just occupying the earth’s atmosphere; Daisy, Mack and Daniel are about to collide violently with said fleet; Nathaniel Malick is no longer interested in finding Fitz, and has instead generously offered Simmons and Deke first-row seats to the end of the world; Kora is on her own, having alienated everyone who tried to care about her; Coulson, May and “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) are stuck at the Lighthouse, which is probably going to be the Chronicoms’ next target; and Jiaying is still dead, which is a disappointment.
I have no idea what’s coming next. There are hints and rumors going around that some kind of MCU crossover will happen in the finale, with the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. possibly setting the timeline right only to get snapped out of existence by Thanos, and it’s entirely possible there are still some major cameos planned for this last episode. Fitz is going to turn up somewhere, somehow – I’m hoping and praying he’s actually on Nick Fury’s secret S.W.O.R.D. base from the Spider-Man: Far From Home post-credits scene, but I’m not betting on it.
It’s been a wild ride, and I can’t wait to reach the end of the road. I’m also extremely grateful that my power was restored so I’ll be able to watch the finale and not wait almost a week to review it. Sorry about the delay, dear readers.
The final season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had a villain problem since its premiere – namely, there’s a whole bunch of villains, and none of them have gotten enough screentime or character development to make any of them particularly interesting. Most of them are brand new, and some have only been introduced in the last few episodes. More were brought onboard on last night’s episode. But at last, even though I still wish this season could have focused on just one established antagonist (preferably HYDRA), I’m beginning to see the appeal of having so many villains unifying across the Marvel universe with the intention of wiping S.H.I.E.L.D. out of existence.
I say this because last night’s episode was very villain-centric, giving us slightly more insight into the minds and motives of characters like the anarachistic Nathaniel Malick (Thomas E. Sullivan), youngest scion of the royal family of HYDRA and so far the best new character to come out of season seven; Kora (Dianne Loan), an Inhuman who now serves Malick, surgically separating her brethren from their own superpowers and giving them out to Malick’s other henchmen; and even a young, hotheaded John Garrett (James Paxton, the son of original John Garrett actor Bill Paxton), who apparently was always a narcissistic idiot even before he joined HYDRA. The episode does spare plenty of time for the other characters, in particular Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet), but much of it revolves around Malick and Kora as they go about their business reinventing the Inhuman refuge of Afterlife as a nightmarish prison for their test subjects. And it gives me a little hope that we’re not walking into a disappointing finale (which, in case you’ve forgotten, is now just two episodes away): Malick and Kora are both truly wicked, terribly effective at what they do, and at this point very nearly irredeemable – certainly Malick is, at any rate. There may be hope left for Kora, especially since the episode ends with her landing in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.
The big question, of course, is how Kora and Daisy Johnson will react to each other, since both characters now know they are sisters. Daisy hops on a wild emotional rollercoaster this week, first learning about her secret sibling from her friends (who neglected to tell her about that little tidbit of information when they actually found about it), then being reluctantly reunited with a younger version of her mother Jiaying (Dichen Lachman), who, for context, tried to murder Daisy in season two. This leads to a brilliantly written conversation between the two as Daisy tries to skirt around the whole issue and Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) acts as an unwanted mediator of sorts, but it still ends up with Jiaying dead – though not before she has a chance to make up for her future version’s horrible misdeeds by actively stepping in to save Daisy’s life when Nathaniel Malick attacks, using her own powers to weaken him long enough for Daisy to recuperate from her injuries. It would be an understatement to say that Jiaying’s death is a disappointment: she’s always been a complicated character, but a fascinating one as well, and her relationship with Daisy was just getting scarily good. I’m going to miss her – again.
The worst part is that Nathaniel Malick’s encounter with Daisy and Jiaying didn’t need to happen: Malick’s attack on The Lighthouse and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn’t because he was after Daisy or the recently upgraded Inhuman speedster Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), but because he was looking for Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge). Simmons has been holding back some pretty important secrets all season long, and it looks like she’ll finally be made to reveal where Leopold Fitz is. Then again, it was hinted at the beginning of the episode that Simmons has reason to believe that Fitz is dead already, so…I guess we’ll see what happens? No matter what, Malick isn’t going to let her go easily: to paraphrase his words, every possible scenario in which he loses involves Leopold Fitz being the one to defeat him.
Also Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) is a prisoner of Malick and young Garrett, even though neither Malick nor Garrett actually realizes that yet. Leave it to Deke to be so busy listening to classic tunes (he really is Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Star-Lord) that he ends up unintentionally being kidnapped. I hope he musters enough courage to try and rescue Simmons on next week’s episode.
Speaking of where we go next from here…well, the Zephyr One and its time machine are now in the hands of Malick, which means I suspect we’ll continue to be trapped in the 1980’s alongside the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout most of next week’s episode. At this point, I have doubts we’ll even catch up to the present day before the finale. This is a problem for me for several reasons, one of which is that I desperately wanted a tie-in to Avengers: Endgame, and another of which is that I’m not too crazy about Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s take on the 1980’s – it was fun for a moment there, but it’s simply less interesting than the other time periods to which they’ve traveled, and I’d rather we say goodbye to this era in favor of sometime a little more relevant to the S.H.I.E.L.D. team’s history.
Last night’s episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was an especially emotional one, as it marked the directorial debut of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Elizabeth Henstridge, who has played Dr. Jemma Simmons since the series’ very first season. But while it was the beginning of one joyous chapter for her career and a pivotal turning point in her character’s arc, it was also the end of another chapter of the show’s history, as we bade farewell to one of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s longtime fan favorites.
But on a happier note, let’s first discuss all the murders that took place!
The episode begins (well, technically, it begins several times, but this is the first time chronologically) with our team of agents having just escaped from the 1980’s, only to land themselves in a time storm that threatens to drag the Zephyr One into a swirling vortex of oblivion. The story luckily revolves around Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet), who has been unfortunately sidelined throughout this season, as she has to try and survive through a series of time loops long enough to save the ship – and all her friends – from being wiped out of existence. But once Daisy begins to realize, after about a dozen or so time loops, that the key to getting out is somewhere in the mysterious memory implant embedded in Simmons’ neck, people start dying. These deaths are quickly reset with every successive time loop, but that doesn’t make it any less horrific to watch as first Simmons, then Daisy, then most of the other Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., are brutally killed off. The killer is soon revealed to be Enoch (Joel Stoffer), who was programmed by Simmons to prevent anyone from removing the memory implant – which contains, among other things, the exact whereabouts of Leopold Fitz, Simmons’ husband and the mastermind behind the entire time-travel apparatus. The problem is that Simmons has no idea she did this because, well, that information is also stored inside the almost inaccessible implant, and she also has no idea how to countermand the programming. Thus, most of the middle section of the episode revolves around the S.H.I.E.L.D. team trying, unsuccessfully, to distract Enoch while Simmons and Daisy attempt to remove the implant. In one of the time loops, where Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) ends up being killed by the robot, we get this brilliant exchange from the survivors: “Do we have to be sad about that?”…“We do not.”
Meanwhile, even with all the death and destruction going on, Daisy finds time for a romantic interlude. Her and the team’s newest recruit, Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), locked lips somewhat spontaneously after Sousa admitted that some of his favorite people – Peggy Carter shoutout! – are people like Daisy. I have so many problems with the fact that Daisy is suddenly in another romantic relationship this season. We’ve been blissfully spared any such entanglements for the past few seasons, much to the benefit of Daisy’s character and the quality of the show overall. It’s not that I have a problem with romances but…well, I just have a problem with her romances. Why is it that every one she’s ever had, from her weird hacker boyfriend in season one to the cynical, scruffy Lincoln in seasons two to three, to whatever this thing is with Sousa, always feels like a rejected subplot from one of the lower quality CW shows? I had almost begun to hope that the showrunners themselves had figured this out as well, and had decided to steer clear of any more angsty romantic storylines for Daisy. Clearly, I was wrong, and now I’m prepared to be predictably disappointed when this relationship spirals down the drain in a couple of episodes. The internet is still working on a “ship name” for the couple: I’m sorry, but if I’m going to be stuck with this for the rest of the season, I’m at least demanding something catchier than “Daisysousa”.
Now that we’ve discussed the metaphorical death of my hopes for a single Daisy Johnson (or better yet, a bisexual Daisy Johnson who finds a loving and supportive girlfriend: even Chloe Bennet herself was open to the idea!), let’s talk about the real, physical death of Enoch.
It’s not entirely surprising that, as we near the end of the season and the series, we’re going to start seeing characters die – especially in a series like Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., which has always found clever and exciting ways to incorporate themes of death and deathlessness into its writing. No matter how many people will criticize the series for constantly resurrecting its dead heroes, I will maintain that S.H.I.E.L.D. has always done so with the utmost care and attention to detail. Characters don’t just pop back up for no reason – the show always takes time to explain the feelings of horror, loneliness, guilt and anger that come with being resurrected: just ask Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who’s now been brought back from his peaceful afterlife far more times than he would have liked, or Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), who had a near-death experience last season and came back as an emotionless shell of a human being who is still recovering from her trauma. But when the series really kills a character, they don’t fool around: and Enoch, I think, is absolutely and permanently dead.
Enoch, the eternally befuddled and unintentionally hilarious Chronicom who has been a constant companion of the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. for the past two seasons, was written off the show last night with a heartwrenching (literally) death scene that involved a heroic self-sacrifice and more tears than one would think possible for a mostly stoic cyborg alien. Once the memory implant was finally removed from Simmons’ body, it revealed that the mechanism which powers Enoch’s entire system could save the Zephyr One – but removing it from Enoch would kill him. Fortunately for the fate of the universe and unfortunately for Enoch and our supply of Kleenex, the robot had no objections to handing over his heart. As he died, Daisy and Phil Coulson were both by his side: and Coulson, who has too much experience with this sort of thing, reminded him that death is lonelier for the people one leaves behind than for the person leaving. Don’t mind my sobs of pain and anguish.
Despite the emotions over losing Enoch, the tone of the episode’s last couple of minutes was dark and ominous rather than bittersweet. Just before his death, the cyborg dropped a major bombshell: this mission will be the S.H.I.E.L.D. team’s last. That means no matter what happens, we now know something will happen in the next few episodes that will divide the team permanently. A death? A betrayal? A crisis? In this episode, we also saw Jemma Simmons briefly remember Fitz’s location (at least, I assume that’s why she started screaming and crying uncontrollably?) once her memory implant was removed before a time loop reset everything again: will she possibly retain that information? And even if she doesn’t, how long will it be before someone gets their hands on her and that crucial info? Keep in mind that the reason Simmons is so adamant on keeping that secret is because Fitz is apparently somewhere so vulnerable, the Chronicoms will be able to kill him immediately if they find out where he is. Additionally, the episode stinger revealed that rogue Inhuman Kora (Dianne Doan) is busily increasing her own powers, getting ready for her showdown with Daisy Johnson.
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is creeping ever closer to its finale, putting the pressure on these next few episodes to start laying the groundwork for a climactic final battle of some sort, the resolutions to a dozen or so characters’ story arcs, and satisfying and conclusive answers to all the questions we still have about time travel, Chronicoms, and now – because apparently this final season wasn’t already getting dangerously overcrowded enough – Inhumans.
To be clear, I like Inhumans a lot. Since their introduction in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s second season, they’ve been a constant presence in the show: the series’ protagonist, Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) herself is one, and in the third season we added another, Elena “Yo Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), to the team. But both characters have moved somewhat to the sidelines over the last season, and as a result we rarely even hear the word “Inhuman” tossed around anymore – which may also have something to do with the poor reception to the Inhumans spinoff show. This week, that’s changed: the team has to make a quick detour in Afterlife, the Inhuman hub of activity deep within the Himalaya Mountains, and encounters several new superpowered characters as well as younger versions of ones we already know and love (or hate: mostly hate). In any other season, I would probably have welcomed this subplot, which gives us a chance to revisit one of the series’ best stories: but in this season, I think the showrunners and writers might be biting off a bit more than they can chew. The Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. already have to deal with the Chronicoms, Sibyl the Predictor, Nathaniel Malick (Thomas E. Sullivan), HYDRA, and the consequences of their time-traveling antics – now, we’ve suddenly added an entirely new Inhuman threat to their long list of antagonists (oh, and apparently Daisy has an evil sibling from another timeline, which is…a twist, I guess).
The reason for our return to Afterlife revolves around the character of Yo Yo, who has been struggling for a while now to regain her own Inhuman powers – which mysteriously vanished soon after she was infected by the Shrike parasite last season. This week, her ability to run super fast and “bounce back” to the place she started from finally has a chance to come in handy: the time machine that the Agents have been using to navigate the Marvel universe is malfunctioning, and moving too quickly for anyone to get near it and shut it down. On a good day, this would have been an easy job for Yo Yo – but this time around, it requires her and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) to leave the relative safety of the Zephyr One and head off to Afterlife, following the advice of Daisy: who, to be fair, is technically correct that the Inhumans there will know how to help, but also overlooks the many things that could go very wrong if they disrupt the timeline – specifically, the possibility that she could cease to exist if something happens to her Inhuman mother, Jiaying (Dichen Lachman), the leader and protector of Afterlife’s citizens.
There are many good things that come about as a result of this detour: we get to see a (slightly) more lovable Jiaying, who in this timeline hasn’t yet been ripped to pieces and stitched back together by Nazi doctors; we’re introduced to a knife-wielding warrior named Li who is briefly yet brilliantly portrayed by Byron Mann; and best of all, we are privy to some of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s best comedic banter as Jiaying instructs May – notorious for her grim, cynical attitude – to lead Yo Yo on an emotional journey with the power of incense, meditation and physical contact. I love when this show gets funny: and watching May and Yo Yo try to figure out their own method of physical contact that doesn’t involve any actual physical contact (“Do I have to be this close to her face?,” May wonders aloud at one point) is both hilarious and strangely heartwarming. It feels very much like an episode straight out of a past (and perhaps better) season, with a multitude of clever details in the writing that hark back to when this show was some of the best television on the air – for instance, when Yo Yo has to hold a Diviner to prove she’s an Inhuman, but realizes she can’t use her prosthetic hand to do so; or when May and Yo Yo sort out their aforementioned embarrassing predicament with good old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat. This is a very good episode, so it’s a shame it’s trying to do so much with so little time.
The big twist is that rogue HYDRA agent Nathaniel Malick has discovered Afterlife, and plans to capture Inhumans and basically torture their powers out of them and into himself. Malick invades Afterlife in a disappointingly low-budget raid with the help of Kora (Dianne Doan), a rebellious and underappreciated pupil of Jiaying’s who is also, apparently, the daughter of the Inhuman leader – which makes her Daisy Johnson’s sister. I didn’t know that Daisy needed a long-lost sister this late in the game, but apparently she’s getting one whether she wants one or not. Malick runs into Kora and stops her before she can commit suicide (in a very cunning touch, he uses the little bit of Daisy’s powers that he stole to remotely disassemble Kora’s gun): Malick manipulates the young woman’s fragile emotions and quickly recruits her to his cause – her, and her impressive powerset, which allows her to create weird glowing golden spirals out of thin air. It’s set up fairly well (when we first meet Kora, she’s already trying to escape from Afterlife), but it still feels a bit too rushed, especially since we don’t really have any attachment to Kora before her turn to the dark side and now we’ll probably only get to see her as Daisy’s evil sister, whom I’m sure will have to confront her sibling in an epic duel, etc., etc. You know how it goes.
As for Yo Yo…well, there’s a lot going on with her. Turns out, she’s been holding herself back all this time – and I mean all this time. Since she was first introduced, her power has always been to “bounce back” – I mean, it’s literally where she got her quirky nickname. But as she discovers during her emotional journey with May, she’s never actually needed to bounce back. This is something I feel deeply conflicted about: the fact that she can now just run super fast without limitations is very exciting, but it does make her seem a little too much like every other speedster superhero we’ve seen before. Another crucial element of her character, her metal arms, was also conveniently hidden away earlier this season when she got a new, upgraded pair of lifelike prosthetics that make it easy to forget how life-changing the loss of her arms was for her, and how she became such an icon for people with disabilities who were inspired by Yo Yo’s ability to bounce back after trauma and loss – the very same ability she’s now given up. Yo Yo is clearly supposed to be going through a transformation, but she’s not becoming any more interesting or unique with each of these changes. I still love her, and I can’t wait to see what the next step of her journey will be, but I’m more worried than ever that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is forgetting part of what makes this character so beloved in the fandom.
What makes it worse is that, when all is said and done and Afterlife has been vanquished by Malick’s forces and Jiaying is in hiding and the timeline has been completely and utterly disrupted, Yo Yo’s new powers still don’t help to save the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. from being sucked into some sort of new catastrophe – a time storm that, by the looks of the trailer for next week’s episode, threatens to put the agents on an endless loop. The good news? Next week’s episode also looks like it will be Daisy-centric, finally reconnecting us with the series’ protagonist after what feels like an infuriatingly long time in the background.
Any story set in the 1980’s has to feature at least a little rock and roll, and the latest episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is no exception: even while murderous robots are prowling the Lighthouse in search of targets and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s digitized enemies are plotting their comeback, it’s hard not to feel at ease with some classic tunes blasting in the background. This is a mostly light-hearted and fun episode of the long-running Marvel series – at least until the aforementioned robots reveal their extensive catalog of weaponry (including circular saws, drills, laser beams, etc) and start killing people in the hallways of S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, leading to a very unsettling game of cat-and-mouse in the dark.
I was hesitant at first, because we pick up right where we left off with Director Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie (Henry Simmons) and Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) stuck in the 1980’s while the Zephyr One – and the rest of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – zip off to a new time and place without them, and almost immediately we watch as Mack, riddled with feelings of grief and guilt over the death of his parents in last week’s episode, turns to the same methods of coping that Thor did in Avengers: Endgame; stress eating, drinking, failing to take care of himself. But while I was initially worried that, much like how Thor’s grief process was made the butt of several unfortunate jokes in Endgame, Mack’s process would similarly be played for laughs, that wasn’t the case at all. There are no jokes or rude comments aimed at Mack, at least not by characters aware of what’s he going through: there’s only love, understanding and concern, which is exactly what I wanted to see from the other Avengers when they greeted Thor after his five-year long absence. And shockingly it’s Deke Shaw who manages to coax Mack back out into the world.
Now, I’ve never liked Deke Shaw. When he was first introduced in the fifth season, he felt like a cheap, even boring, Star Lord knock-off – and I already don’t like the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Star Lord. He’s had some cool moments and a lot of clever, funny moments during his time on the show. But this is the first time that he’s ever felt truly important to the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. team: while Mack is off the grid, it’s Deke who becomes the leader at the Lighthouse, successfully reconstructing Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and translating him over to a massive computer on wheels, while still finding time to organize a band. Without having to sacrifice any of his unique character traits, Deke has quickly become one of the final season’s most valuable players.
Mack and Deke are joined on their 80’s jaunt by a strange group of new agents: Olga (Jolene Andersen), a Russian Annie Lennox-lookalike with a talent for blowing things up; Tommy and Ronnie (John and Matt Yuan, respectively), twin brothers who come off as thinly-drawn caricatures rather than actual characters; and Roxy Glass (Tipper Newton), who gets stuck with Mack during the robot invasion – that’s not really a personality trait, but it’s all she’s got. There are a couple other new S.H.I.E.L.D. agents as well, but their purpose is solely to be murdered by robots.
Speaking of which, it’s time for a hot take: the robots in this episode, who are basically Daleks (they literally scream “Exterminate!” at one point) with sawblades, are actually better antagonists than all of the Chronicoms we’ve seen in this season so far. Yes, they’re still technically controlled by one Chronicom in particular, the Predictor Sibyl (Tamara Taylor), but she’s just an automated voice for most of the episode, until the very end when it’s revealed that her brain or consciousness or something has been installed in a computer similar to Coulson’s new lodging. Like Coulson, who gets promised a new human body by the other Agents, I’m sure that Sibyl and her Hunters will have new forms soon enough: but for the moment, I’m enjoying this respite. The robots were actually pretty terrifying, and were responsible for some of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s most shocking and gruesome killings in a very long time.
Getting back to that end-credits stinger, however, we have to address the elephant in the room – or should I say, the Malick in the room. Nathaniel Malick (Thomas E. Sullivan) is revealed to still be alive, even after the incident last week where he was trapped under the collapsing roof of his underground lair. He’s back on Daisy Johnson’s trail, intent on draining her of all her Inhuman abilities – I still have a lot of questions about how much of her power he was able to steal, but it’s probably enough to make him a viable opponent in the near future. With Sibyl’s help, he’ll be able to track down the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in no time at all.
For Mack and Deke, the end of their 80’s adventure comes with some bittersweet emotions. Mack gets to briefly meet a younger version of himself, and slowly begins to heal from the trauma of his parents’ death. Deke comes into his own and discovers a warrior (and fairly talented vocalist) within himself. So even though this episode took us away from the main plotline briefly, I’m glad we got to see it: it gave me a lot of the character development I’ve been looking for from this season – and, of course, rock and roll music, which is never not a good thing.