Two stories (or, rather, one story and one completely unverified rumor from a previously unreliable source) about the upcoming Hawkeye Disney+ series dropped on the internet today, with both quickly becoming the topic of much uproarious discourse. The first, which I will address briefly so as to get it out of the way before we move onto the actual story, was the rumor that Adrianne Palicki – who played Mockingbird in early seasons of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. – would be recast, and her character rebooted in the Hawkeye series. This report is nothing to worry about: the site that covered the “news” is notorious for clickbait, so much so that I will not be linking to their story as a matter of principle. With that in mind, let it be known that if Marvel does decides to ever recast Adrianne Palicki as Mockingbird, I will not stand for it.
The second story, which comes from the folks at The Direct, carries much more weight due to their site having proven fairly reliable in past occasions. Per their exclusive reporting, the Hawkeye series will feature the MCU debut of an iconic comics villain, Madame Masque.
Interestingly, this means that both of these stories today are intertwined with the complicated rise and fall of Marvel TV, the studio’s subdivision which, until recently, produced offshoot TV programs for ABC and Netflix: including Agent Carter, which actually introduced a version of Madame Masque in its second and final season. Agent Carter‘s Masque bore little in resemblance to her comics counterpart – instead of an armored, high-tech villainess, Agent Carter‘s Masque was a 1940’s actress modeled on the real-life Hedy Lamarr, who worked secretly for the Allied Forces developing Isodyne Energy: during the course of her character arc, this version of Madame Masque never actually adopted the title, instead using the stage name “Whitney Frost”, a name which, in the comics, Masque sometimes uses. All of this means that, thanks to the show’s twist on the character, Marvel won’t have to explicitly say that this new Madame Masque appearing on the Hawkeye show is in fact a reboot or recast of Agent Carter‘s Masque, because they can legitimately claim that “Whitney Frost” was never really Masque at all. We all know that Agent Carter is Marvel President Kevin Feige’s favorite out of the entire Marvel TV division (it was the only one he himself worked on, and one of its stars, James D’Arcy, even got a brief but important cameo in Avengers: Endgame), so it makes sense why he wouldn’t want to just thoroughly disregard it even now, years after its cancellation.
But it begs the question: who is the real Madame Masque, the version of the character from the comics who will presumably be brought to life in Hawkeye? For starters, her real name is actually Giulietta Nefaria, and she is the daughter of an Italian crime lord, Count Nefaria. In the comics, she’s most often entangled with Iron Man (either as his enemy or his lover), so the MCU version could do something with that: Iron Man has already been shown to have had countless previously-unheard-of rivals during his career…one more wouldn’t hurt, right? Personally, I think one more could hurt: fans like Iron Man, but this is an MCU trope that’s getting real old, real fast. No, in my opinion, Madame Masque should be her own character, though if she does have to have connections to anybody else in the MCU it should be Baron Zemo. Zemo, who will appear as the main antagonist of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Disney+ series, is an associate of Masque’s in some comics: she’s even worked as his right-hand woman from time to time. With the MCU version of Zemo being set up to lead a new group of supervillains called the Thunderbolts, the time is ripe for Madame Masque to show up and secure her place on the team. How better to do this by than by trying to take out one of the last remaining Avengers?
In recent comics, Madame Masque has become a frequent enemy of Hawkeye and his young disciple Kate Bishop. They had a pretty infamous run-in on the island of Madripoor (which, as we know already, is also set to appear in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier), where Bishop was able to capture Masque and assume her identity briefly in order to help Hawkeye destroy some incriminating evidence of past potential wrongdoings, all while the real Masque was tied up in Bishop’s hotel room. In revenge for the humiliating incident, Masque later captured Bishop and took her to her California mansion – a mistake, in retrospect, as Bishop escaped and completely wrecked Masque’s home. Masque, motivated at this point purely by pettiness and spite, burned down Bishop’s house, but was eventually captured and put in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody when her secret base of evil operations was discovered in L.A. This is plenty of material for Hawkeye to dig into: but what’s most exciting is that we’ll finally get to see a truly menacing Madame Masque.
Oh and, unlike the Agent Carter version of the character, one would hope this new Masque would actually, you know…wear a mask. In the comics, her bulletproof golden headpiece isn’t just decorative armor, but is meant to hide her disfigured face. Over the years, the fact that she wears a mask so often, and that so few have seen her true face, has become a major plotpoint: it allowed Kate Bishop to pass as her undetected on Madripoor, and it also led to her being a key target of the shape-shifting Skrulls during the Secret Invasion storyline. She was even attacked by Skrulls who planned to take her form as a disguise. In the MCU, there’s been plenty of hints and signs that point towards Secret Invasion being a major story arc in the near future, although we don’t know if Masque will survive long enough to be involved with any of that: it’s possible she’s merely meant for a one-time appearance.
So what do you think? How do you feel about her character possibly showing up in Hawkeye, and what do you think her future in the MCU will look like after the show ends? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!
Yesterday we discussed a fan-driven campaign very dear to my heart – the #SheRaMovie movement – but today we need to talk about another one: #QuakeSpinoff…and also #ChloeIsMyQuake…and just #QuakeWeek in general. There’s a lot of Quake related hashtags going around on Twitter today, and they’re all created by fans of the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series who fell in love with the character of Daisy Johnson, better known by her superhero nickname Quake, and who want to see her return in a big way in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Why? Because she’s amazing, that’s why.
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was created as a Marvel Cinematic Universe spin-off, but since then it has diverged radically from the main timeline of the MCU – until the finale earlier this month, that is, which showed the team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents apparently returning to the main timeline (or something like it, at any rate) and moving on with their lives, going their separate ways. Daisy Johnson’s storyline, which began with her as a roguish hacker trying to decipher S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secrets, ended with her furthering the organization’s mission of peace and goodwill in the depths of outer space, onboard the Zephyr Three with her sister Kora and boyfriend Daniel Sousa. Instantly, fans caught onto clues left in this very open ending: specifically, the way it seemed to link her to the S.W.O.R.D. organization, a team of space-faring agents who operate as ambassadors to alien nations while dealing with cosmic threats. S.W.O.R.D. is currently being introduced in the MCU, with former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury organizing an entire army of new agents on a top secret space station: other members of this team are expected to appear in the WandaVision series on Disney+. For years, fans have been hoping to see the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cross over into S.W.O.R.D. after the end of their own series, and the conclusion to Daisy’s story seemed to leave the door wide open for such a continuation.
Couple that with actress Chloe Bennet’s recent statements about how she doesn’t think she’s done playing Daisy, and you have yourself a fan-driven campaign. #QuakeWeek was started as an attempt to celebrate the superhero’s long and frankly fantastic character arc on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., highlighting her epic seismic powers. #QuakeSpinoff demands that Daisy not just debut in the MCU, but, obviously, get her own film or Disney+ series – personally, I’d settle for a major role in a Secret Invasion or Secret Warriors series. And #ChloeIsMyQuake insists that Marvel doesn’t simply take the character of Quake and recast her; Chloe Bennet is responsible for the popularity this character has across all mediums. For instance, I highly doubt you’d see Quake showing up in the new Avengers video game if Bennet hadn’t made her a fan-favorite with her nuanced performance.
Now, there are issues involved with transitioning Quake to the MCU – obviously, otherwise this probably would have been a done deal ages ago. Marvel Studios and Marvel TV started out with the intention of having a mostly symbiotic relationship, with the events in the movies impacting the TV shows and vice versa: but that hopeful dream was crushed fairly quickly, even though the few crossovers between the two led to some extremely memorable events on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and also the opening sequence of Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Since the latter event, there’s been a huge rift between the two divisions, which has only finally been healed now that the TV division has been folded under Kevin Feige’s management. The concern is that Feige has no interest in the entire TV division and wants to throw it all out: he hasn’t ever specifically said that, but he has his own clear vision of the future and it’s unclear what he wants to do with this remnant of Marvel’s past. Reassuringly, it was stated earlier this year that Feige has had talks with ABC, the network on which S.H.I.E.L.D. aired, about future collaborations: there’s no hint of what that might entail, but it’s comforting to know that he cares enough about the work that was done on ABC with S.H.I.E.L.D. to want to expand on that.
At the very least, it’s not implausible that Daisy Johnson could transfer over to the MCU. She’s an extremely popular character, and she has ties to several other major characters and plotpoints soon to be introduced in the MCU, such as the Inhumans, Kamala Khan, and S.W.O.R.D. Most importantly, she and the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team are about as close to the MCU as they can be after the events of the series finale. It’s been confirmed that, at the very least, they now exist somewhere in the same multiverse – a multiverse that, need I remind you, will be explored in depth in the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel. And while it’s hard to say what’s canon to the movies anymore, the movies have subtly hinted that there’s still a connection: Captain Marvel was the most recent Marvel film to reference a S.H.I.E.L.D. character.
And as for why Quake should cross over, well, here’s the thing: she’s not quite the first superheroine in the MCU (and environs), but she’s one of the most consistently well-written ones they’ve ever had. In fact, all the women of S.H.I.E.L.D. are. Daisy Johnson, Yo-Yo Rodriguez, Melinda May, Jemma Simmons…these women have been given the blessing of having hours upon hours of screentime in which to develop their strengths, their flaws, and their messy, complex personalities: this isn’t at all meant to diminish the onscreen achievements of heroines like Peggy Carter, Natasha Romanoff, Gamora, Hope Van Dyne, Okoye, Shuri, or Carol Danvers, but it is noteworthy that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had not one but two heroines of Asian descent throughout its entire run (one of them being Daisy herself), and since season three has featured a prominent Latina heroine – something the show never gets enough credit for, in my opinion. These are groundbreaking advances that can’t be undermined or ignored: representation matters. Daisy Johnson matters.
And that’s why I’m lending my voice to the growing movement of passionate Quake fans, and calling on Kevin Feige and the folks at Marvel to make Quake canon. Bring her into the MCU. Have her enlist at S.W.O.R.D. Even if it’s just for a glorified cameo, make sure this character continues to matter for future audiences.
How would you feel if Quake entered the MCU? Delighted, right? Right? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!
Spider-Woman, one of Marvel Comics’ myriad of web-slinging superheroes, is set to join either the Sony Universe of Marvel Characters or the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or both) at some point in the next few years, but first she needs an origin film: and thankfully, Sony has landed Olivia Wilde to do the job. Or at least, so it is being widely reported – technically, Wilde is developing a secret, female-centric Marvel movie for Sony, but the options for what that could be are fairly limited. It’s almost certain that this movie will follow the beginnings of Spider-Woman’s story.
The question of which Spider-Woman, and which cinematic universe she’ll feature in, has yet to be answered. Wilde’s pitch for the film is said to have “completely revamped” the title character, which makes sense but also gives us no clear indication of what we might be getting into: will this new version of Spider-Woman still go by the name of Jessica Drew, or will she be someone else entirely? Will she join Tom Holland’s Spider-Man over in the MCU, or will she be wholly separate?
These questions need answers quickly, and I’m sure we’ll have more information soon because everyone who knows their Marvel Comics knows what this could mean for the MCU if (and that’s a big if) this take on Spider-Woman does in fact come under the Disney/Marvel umbrella, and if she is directly inspired by Jessica Drew: the Secret Invasion storylines begin to write themselves. In the comics, Jessica Drew is a major player in the takeover of Earth by hostile Skrull aliens, who have already been introduced in the MCU as mostly benevolent figures. Drew is impersonated by the Skrull queen Veranke, who uses her disguise to infiltrate organizations such as S.H.I.E.L.D. and the New Avengers. While there hasn’t yet been any explicit hint of an upcoming Secret Invasion story in the MCU, the groundwork is being laid, and a series is rumored to be in development that will follow the story’s events: already, Skrulls have been shown impersonating Nick Fury and Maria Hill in Spider-Man: Far From Home, under his orders, and Fury is working with an entire army of Skrulls at an in-orbit space base believed to be the headquarters of his new covert organization, S.W.O.R.D. – an organization where, in the comics, Jessica Drew herself sometimes works.
But all that is wild speculation, and for now we only have to wonder how much of Drew’s backstory will be adapted into Olivia Wilde’s origin film for the character. Drew’s powers (superhuman strength, bioelectric energy blasts, etc) derive from radiation, of course, but her story begins with her living in the Balkan nation of Transia as a child before being adopted by HYDRA and given the fitting codename of Arachne. As a HYDRA agent, she traveled the world, killing and causing chaos in a super-cool outfit equipped with wings, until she was able to break free from her brainwashing with the help of Nick Fury – not unlike the MCU’s Black Widow. Since then, she’s proven to be a dependable ally of the Avengers and other forces of good, and has also worked with Madame Web, an unconventional antiheroine who is also getting her own solo movie. Her own villain roster includes Viper (otherwise known as Madame Hydra), who has previously appeared on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilde picks Viper as the first film’s big bad: in the comics, Viper and Jessica Drew form a complicated relationship with Viper actually helping Drew on several occasions and even pretending to be her mother, and Wilde enjoys telling stories that center female relationships.
Wilde’s own previous directorial credits include the popular breakout hit Booksmart, a witty coming-of-age comedy. She is one of a steadily growing number of women joining the Marvel and Marvel-adjacent universes as directors, and she is definitely well aware of that fact: it was reported that she had a chance to pass on this project several times, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to “launch her own female superhero” and accompany other groundbreaking women like Chloe Zhao, Cate Shortland and Nia DaCosta into the superhero genre. I can’t wait to see what she can do with Spider-Woman’s character, and I’m excited to see how/if it ties into the MCU.
So what are your feelings on a Spider-Woman movie? How should the character’s backstory be adapted? Who should be cast in the lead role? 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.
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.
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally gave us some answers to some of the burning questions we’ve had since the final season premiere – and at least some of them were actually helpful. If you were wondering what the Chronicom shape-shifters actually want with the Earth, or where Leopold Fitz is in all this chaos, then you’re in luck. If, like me, you were hoping for answers to both these questions that actually feel like answers instead of further riddles to unravel, then you may still have some waiting to do before you actually get what you’re looking for – especially since next week’s episode, by the looks of the teaser trailer, is going to be completely focused on Director Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie (Henry Simmons) and Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward).
Many of the answers we got this week come from an epic confrontation between Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and the being who seems to be the leader of the Chronicom invasion force, a woman known as Sibyl (Tamara Taylor), who calls herself a “Predictor”. Her powers aren’t quite as simple as one would expect: she can’t see the future, but she can see what actions need to be taken in the past to lead to any given future (I think). Coulson and her actually get to have a pretty interesting conversation, despite the fact that she’s not so much an exposition-dump as an exposition-landfill, basically overflowing with information on every topic. For instance, what do the Chronicoms actually want? According to Sibyl, their grand scheme to wipe out the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and conquer Earth isn’t anything personal: they just want to ensure the survival of their species. Of course, that’s in character for a group of sentient aliens who have been shown to be completely devoid of human emotions, but it doesn’t really make for an interesting villain origin story – and Sibyl doesn’t ever explain why they’re only going after S.H.I.E.L.D. and not, you know, the Avengers or something. Nor does she stop to clarify why Earth, out of all the planets in the universe, is the only one where the Chronicoms can live. I was partially hoping she and Coulson would be able to strike up a deal to take down HYDRA together – but that doesn’t seem likely, since HYDRA took a backseat this week and may not come back to the forefront for a while.
Even Nathaniel Malick (Thomas Sullivan), the son of HYDRA leader Wilfred Malick, reveals that he has his own agenda that has nothing to do with his father’s organization. No, his motivation for kidnapping Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) and Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) in last week’s episode is pure selfishness: he wants to harvest Daisy’s Inhuman powers for himself, and he’s also come to the mistaken conclusion that Sousa is an Inhuman because he doesn’t age. Last week’s stinger, revealing that the younger Malick was in contact with nightmarish Nazi doctor Daniel Whitehall (an Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. antagonist from the series’ second season), gave me very high expectations: only for me to be slightly underwhelmed this week, when Whitehall was a no-show and Malick only got to wield Daisy’s quaking abilities for a couple of seconds before bringing the roof of his secret lair down on top of himself. But his storyline wasn’t a complete disappointment: Sullivan makes the most out of his small amount of screentime, giving Malick a vibrant, if dangerously unstable, personality; Daniel Sousa gets an opportunity to open up to Daisy while they’re both imprisoned, comforting her with wartime stories; and now there’s some doubt as to whether Daisy has any of her powers left – though if that’s the case, and such a momentous event in Daisy’s life was handled mostly offscreen by a one-and-done minor antagonist, I’ll be very angry: this season has already forcibly depowered “Yo Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), and I’m not keen on the idea of another woman having her powers taken from her without her consent.
The only character who has gotten a power upgrade this season is Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), whose ability to read and imitate peoples’ emotions (or lack thereof) is becoming very useful indeed, allowing her to identify Chronicoms and other enemies just by touching them. But this new power comes at a terrible cost: the complete loss of May’s own emotions. I’m still conflicted on how I feel about this: back when Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. had twenty-two episodes in every season, a story arc like this might have had plenty of time and space to expand, and I might have really enjoyed it – in a season that only has thirteen episodes, six of which we’ve now plowed through, I don’t know whether May’s character arc will receive the screentime it desperately needs.
On that point, let’s discuss another subplot that needs to be more adequately explored: Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and her memory issues. Last week’s episode sparked several theories that Simmons, who appeared to have some sort of device plugged into the back of her neck, might be a Chronicom or LMD (Life Model Decoy), but it has now been revealed that that device, which for some reason is nicknamed “Diana”, is simply meant to suppress Simmons’ memories of Fitz. Specifically, her memory of where he is, a question that fans have been asking since he vanished last season. Simmons tells Deke that Fitz is in an exposed location, and that if the Chronicoms find out they’ll kill him – so in an effort to protect her lover’s life, Simmons has removed most of her memories of him and placed them in “Diana”, where she hopes they’ll be secure. This, obviously, doesn’t actually answer the question of where Fitz is, but I’m sure we’ll find that out when the Chronicoms inevitably hack into “Diana” and extract Simmons’ memories.
The Chronicoms are becoming ever so slightly more interesting as the season progresses, this week entering a new phase of their evolution: now, rather than just being able to steal faces, they can also steal personalities. This does make them more formidable, but it also essentially just turns them into LMD’s, which we already dealt with several seasons ago. Until we get to see them actually adapt into three-dimensional characters, I will continue to say that the Chronicoms are the weakest part of this season, which has up until this point proven to be pretty good.
But let’s see what happens. As I mentioned earlier, it looks like next week’s episode will follow Mack and Deke (who got separated from the rest of the team and are now stuck in the 70’s, where they must spend a considerable amount of time, considering that next week’s teaser trailer shows them in the 80’s, Mack now sporting a sizable beard and Deke wearing something indescribably hideous), but when we reunite with the rest of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I expect to have clear answers to a number of my own questions: does Daisy still have her powers? Did LMD Coulson actually get destroyed in the explosion he set off under the Lighthouse to destroy the Chronicom hunters, or will he be back, as May confidently assured her teammates? Will HYDRA return as well? How will the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. learn to adapt to their next problem? Only time will tell.
Landing unexpectedly in the 1970’s, the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. find themselves confronted with their biggest moral conundrum yet, as they begin to realize just how many alterations they’ve caused to the timeline: HYDRA is rising to power within S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ranks decades earlier than expected; characters who should be dead are still alive, well, and plotting world domination; and worst of all, groovy fashion is in (okay, well, technically that’s not their fault, but I think we can safely assume that 70’s fashion is the unfortunate side-effect of some rift in the timeline).
But this is exactly what I wanted to see! When the season started off, I was very worried that the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. would somehow be able to hop from time period to time period without ever breaking anything along the way – maybe because I was still reeling from how badly-written the majority of season 6 was, and I was worried we were in for a repeat of that disaster. But we’re not: five episodes into this final season, and I can safely say that every member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team is feeling heavy consequences for every action they take – and they take a lot of actions, some well-informed, some very impulsive and reckless. Curiously, looking back with the advantage of hindsight, I almost feel like Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) had the right idea when she gave the order to try and kill a young Wilfred Malick. Considering everything Malick has already done to try and take destroy S.H.I.E.L.D., that no longer seems like it was such an impulsive or reckless notion.
On the flip-side, I’m happy she didn’t get to kill him back in 1931, because then he wouldn’t be around to trouble S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 1970’s, where he manages to do plenty of damage before meeting a (literally) untimely demise. Wilfred Malick (Neal Bledsoe) is exactly the type of antagonist this season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D should have had from the outset – in fact, he’s the type of antagonist that any show should have: he’s wily and conniving, effortlessly manipulates the happily oblivious idealists running S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 70’s (we’ll get to Rick Stoner in a moment), and doesn’t play nice with his enemies. He also has a massive ego, something that tends to happen when you’re given complete control over a network of Neo-Nazi terrorists living like parasites deep within government organizations all around America. Malick’s reign over HYDRA has been extended, thanks to the timeline meddling, and he’s been able to add an extra six years to his lifespan, allowing him time to complete his master plan: a weapon, known as INSIGHT, capable of targeting and eliminating thousands of U.S. citizens suspected by HYDRA of being potential threats, either currently or in the future – Peggy Carter, Nick Fury, Victoria Hand, and even a very young Bruce Banner all end up on Malick’s list of targets. Filling out HYDRA’s ranks in this episode are Malick’s sons Gideon and Nathaniel: the former of whom hilariously tries to flirt with Daisy, not knowing that she will eventually kill him when he’s much older; and the former of whom was supposed to already be dead, but is still alive somehow. At the very end of the episode there’s also a tantalizing tease that Nazi scientist Daniel Whitehall will make his return to the show, probably while trying once again to murder Daisy Johnson and dissect her body.
Of course, 70’s S.H.I.E.L.D. has no idea that any of this is going on right beneath their noses – the atmosphere of the episode, despite it dealing with some very dark and dramatic topics, is fun and light-hearted, from the ridiculously over-the-top opening credits to the jokes about bell-bottom pants to the party going on at the Swordfish bar (which has been redecorated once again) and the silly INSIGHT birthday cake that someone baked for Wilfred Malick, apparently. And, of course, there’s General Rick Stoner, (Patrick Warburton) who was kind of incompetent but also pleasantly optimistic about everything. I love how he fell hard for Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) while she was disguised as the character of “Chastity McBride” in 1973, and still recognized her immediately when he saw her again three years later.
In fact, let’s start our discussion of the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. team with May, whose new power upgrade is one of the best (and most) utilized in this season so far – probably both because it’s important and can be used in a lot of clever ways, but also because it’s conveniently cheap. May just has to stand near someone and she instantly feels and imitates their emotions. She knows before anyone else when a situation is about to go downhill, and she also has a bunch of comedic moments: like when she’s in a bar, and starts unintentionally mirroring the drunken giddiness of everyone around her.
Least utilized this week are probably Daisy and “Yo Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley). The former has the advantage of being able to bounce off S.H.I.E.L.D. team newcomer Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), and her hacking skills do come in handy once or twice, especially since, as she herself notes, 70’s computers don’t have firewalls; but she only gets to use her Quake powers once. The latter, meanwhile, is still trying and failing to use her own Inhuman abilities, which have been malfunctioning for the past few episodes and don’t show any signs of being reparable: that being said, Yo Yo has had to deal with losing both her arms before, so I’m confident she’ll get through this latest struggle intact. I just want the show to do something big with her character before the end – she’s always been one of the most interesting Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I’d hate for her to be sidelined now just because her powers are too expensive for the series’ CGI budget.
Surprisingly compelling this week is Director “Mac” (Henry Simmons), who I haven’t said much about this season because he’s mostly just been standing around and giving orders: but here, the big twist is that he can’t bring himself to give the order to flood the S.H.I.E.L.D. Lighthouse (and stop INSIGHT in so doing) because his parents are prisoners in the base and will drown if he does. Instead, Mac’s decision is to let INSIGHT launch and then attack it with missiles from the Zephyr One – that bit, to be honest, is a little underwhelming because it only takes one direct hit from them to blow INSIGHT out of the sky, but it does now expose S.H.I.E.L.D.’s position, something Mac ominously forebodes.
Meanwhile, Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) is on his own mission: to do what he couldn’t in 1931, and finally pull the trigger on Wilfred Malick. It’s cool that he’s finally getting personally involved in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s mission, and I enjoyed seeing him take the leap at the end of the episode, shooting Malick dead mid-monologue.
Unfortunately, with Malick dead, I assume we’ll have to deal with more Chronicoms – who are still, with the exception of Enoch (Joel Stoffer) – mind-numbingly boring, from their monotone outfits to their blank facial expressions. I am, however, at least mildly interested to understand why Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) seems to have some sort of technology implanted in her body, something that Enoch appears to know about and which could suggest that the Simmons we’re seeing in this season is actually some sort of LMD like the version of Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) we’re also currently following. If this is a fake Simmons, then where’s the real one? Happily married to Fitz in another timeline, hopefully?
Finally, we need to talk about Daniel Sousa. While the episode ends with both him and Daisy Johnson as prisoners of HYDRA, he has the most time to shine throughout the episode, as we explore his character’s shock at being transported somewhat unwillingly to a new era. The “fish out of water” trope can be tiresome, but there’s something fresh and fun about the way Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is handling it with Sousa’s character – it’s humorous to watch him try and wrap his head around the concept of 70’s fashion norms (trust me, he’s not the only one perplexed by those), but it’s also interesting how he reacts to other, more meaningful things: he’s clearly confused by the team’s lack of a structured hierarchy, and he shows obvious disdain for some of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s more questionable tactics. I think he’ll be a exciting character to follow into the finale, as he could be another who, like LMD Coulson and this new, super-powered May, feels like he wasn’t given the chance to decide his own fate.
I’m beginning to suspect that the conflict between fate and free will is going to be a major element in the upcoming finale, as the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. come to terms with what they’ve done to the timeline and try to work out how to fix it – if they can. I’m just hoping that Daniel Whitehall shows up fairly quickly, because now that I’ve been reminded of just how excellent HYDRA vs S.H.I.E.L.D. fights can be, I don’t want to put up with anymore of that Chronicom nonsense.
Waves were made on last night’s episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the resulting ripples will probably dramatically affect everything that happens during the rest of the seventh and final season of the long-running series. S.H.I.E.L.D., HYDRA and a host of time-traveling Chronicoms meet and clash in a three-way battle centered around the life of one man – legendary S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), whose mission to deliver dangerous Russian technology to Howard Stark (MCU namedrop!) puts him on a collision course with death.
But while HYDRA – and HYDRA’s leader Wilfred Malick (Neal Bledsoe), the very same one whom the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. reluctantly rescued in 1931 – wants Sousa dead because he knows the extent of their infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Chronicoms want Sousa dead because…well, actually it’s still a little unclear why they want anything…the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. quickly make the decision that they want to save Sousa’s life. It’s a bit of a dramatic heel-turn for Director “Mac” (Henry Simmons), who was fervently against killing Malick in the 30’s, and in the absence of any better explanation I’ll just assume that Mac came to the conclusion that he was outnumbered: Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) and “Yo Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) both make it very clear in this episode that they support altering the timeline, while Deke (Jeff Ward) goes back-and-forth right up until the moment when he meets Wilfred Malick again for the first time since literally saving his life, only to realize that the man he was so adamant about rescuing then has predictably transformed into a tyrannical killer over the past two decades.
Yes, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are still stuck in the 1950’s, and this week’s episode is filmed entirely in black-and-white to reflect that: Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) narrates the episode like a cheerful, quirky private investigator in a classic murder mystery – delivering exposition in a way that feels fresh and fun, while also providing seamless scene-transitions. This is truly a Coulson episode: from his first scene, handcuffed to a desk and musing on his predicament, to the revelation that he swapped places with Daniel Sousa on the night of Sousa’s imminent assassination, letting Sousa live while simultaneously cleverly deceiving HYDRA – the version of Coulson we’re seeing in this season, while still an LMD (Life Model Decoy), is nonetheless abundantly more entertaining than the “evil Coulson” who befriended and later betrayed the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the sixth season. And of course, he’s still alive by the end of this episode because no matter how many bullets HYDRA fires into him or how lifeless he may look while floating face-down in a pool, he’s a robot and thus nearly invincible. We actually haven’t seen anything yet that has posed any physical threat to him – his challenges have been mental and emotional so far.
Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) is facing similar issues, and we even get some much-needed answers to why she’s been acting so unusual these past few episodes. Turns out, she may have lost her own ability to feel emotions in the season 6 finale, but she gained the power to feel others’ emotions when they’re near to her. Last week, we saw her abruptly panic during the attack on Area 51, which apparently was caused by everyone around her panicking. This week, while standing next to tech genius Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) onboard the Zephyr One, she suddenly gets uncharacteristically giddy about science – and later, in Sousa’s vicinity, she gets freaked out, mirroring his own reaction to seeing the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents’ sleek, futuristic aircraft. It’s unclear how large a role her new abilities might play in the rest of the season, but I’m intrigued. Considering how emotionless the villainous Chronicoms have been shown to be, I wonder if May could possibly tap into what little humanity they have. After all, we know some Chronicoms are capable of feeling – just look at Enoch (Joel Stoffer).
In fact, we get a glimpse at Enoch’s new life during this episode, when Coulson enlists him to essentially be S.H.I.E.L.D.’s phone operator. It appears that Enoch hasn’t changed much in the two decades since getting stuck out of time, though the bar he works in has been redecorated. I’ll be interested to see if we follow his subplot through the rest of the 20th Century – the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. appear to be headed to the 1970’s after their next time jump, judging by the use of Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy” to close out the episode.
There are several big twists, of course, but the biggest one by far is the fact that Daniel Sousa actually survives and ends up on the Zephyr One by the end of the episode – and even gets an offer from Coulson to essentially join the team on their final mission. Coulson, in fact, has the best line in the episode while inducting Sousa into the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. family: “Welcome to life after death. I’ll tell you all about it.” If Sousa does serve as a team member (and at this point, I don’t know if he has alternatives), we could see him in the final showdown between S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA, whenever that is. The post-credits stinger shows HYDRA and the Chronicoms teaming up to take out S.H.I.E.L.D., with the Chronicom leader bringing Wilfred Malick up to speed on everything that’s happened.
That can mean only one thing: S.H.I.E.L.D. is in for a lot more trouble in the near future (well, technically the past, I guess). As long as the series continues to serve up this kind of quality content, I’m good with that. It was about time some waves were made.
The seventh and final season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is suddenly delivering on everything I wanted it to: not only are the tie-ins to the Marvel Cinematic Universe abundant and cleverly constructed in the third episode, but the character work is excellent, the writing is mostly superb, and the setting – Area 51 in the 1950’s, at the pinnacle of the Space Race and America’s obsession with aliens and UFOS – is utilized wonderfully.
From the moment the title card appears, changed to fit the new historical period and accompanied by some classic eerie sci-fi music, I knew I was in for a good time. And yes, this season is still suffering from a few flaws – mainly, that the exposition is often, though not always, delivered through straight-up monologues of boring, nonsensical information that never fail to stop a dramatic scene in its tracks – but the good far outweighs the bad this week. The episode, titled Alien Commies From The Future!, leans heavily into comedy and has no problem poking a little fun at itself, or the tropes commonly associated with the 50’s. Sleek, “All-American” diners in the middle of the desert; the threat of “Stalinites”; CIA coverups. It’s all there, and it all works.
Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) are, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, the comedic MVP’s of the week – it’s surprising because they rarely ever get paired up with each other, but it’s also unsurprising because whenever they do, they have brilliant banter. Do you remember the scene on the train all the way back in season one, when they pretended to be a father and daughter on vacation? The scenes they share in this episode have shades of that hilarious interaction.
But the drama and the social commentary, though subtler, is handled surprisingly well. In particular, there’s a scene in which Coulson is rambling excitedly about all the great things happening in the 50’s, only to have his teammate Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) shut him down with a gesture toward the back of the aforementioned diner, where it’s hard to miss the signs indicating segregated bathrooms. Race relations come up again later in the episode, when the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. capture a Department of Defense official for interrogation, only to discover he’s a nasty bigot and is more threatened by the idea of spilling secrets to a Black man than he is by the thought of betraying his country. So they send in Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward), who, after some grumbling about “stupid white privilege”, does in fact weasel information out of the prisoner. The prisoner in question is released by the end of the episode, and gets his just desserts – running, screaming, through the desert and rambling about communist aliens.
On a more personal note, there’s drama and comedy to be found in the interactions between Simmons and one Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj). Simmons, in order to infiltrate Area 51 undetected, riskily disguises herself as none other than Director Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Peggy Carter, only to run into Sousa, Carter’s former work partner and post-Steve Rogers love interest. Though I would have liked to have seen Carter turn up in the flesh (and there were rumors that she would, or perhaps still could), Simmons frantically trying to keep her cool as she figures out that Sousa isn’t buying her disguise is possibly just as good a scenario. Sousa doesn’t have very much to actually do in the episode – his role is limited to following the Agents around and trying to figure out who’s working for what – but it’s nice to see him reprise the role he had on the short-lived Agent Carter series. Next week’s episode will apparently also star Sousa, as the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. have to decide whether or not to save him from HYDRA assassins.
Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) and “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) are also featured prominently in the episode, as they are tasked with breaking into Area 51 – it’s never actually explained how they do that, but I digress – and stopping a Chronicom suicide bomber from activating some sort of nuclear explosion. But May is suffering from severe trauma and breaks down in a rare moment of vulnerability for her character, while Yo-Yo is apparently still unable to use her Inhuman superpowers. They do defeat the Chronicom eventually, but their fight with her is brutal, claustrophobic and punchy: significantly grittier than May’s usual, elegantly-choreographed action sequences.
The Chronicoms are still just there. What are they even trying to do at this point? We get a little hint, as a new Chronicom leader is introduced early in the episode, but everything still feels slightly confusing: why don’t the Chronicoms infiltrate multiple timelines simultaneously, forcing the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to spread out? Why do they even care so much about S.H.I.E.L.D. anyway? There’s still far too many questions about them, and not enough answers.
But let’s not end it on a negative note: I loved this episode. I’m a little nervous to see what happens next week, since I don’t like the idea of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. watching from the sidelines as Daniel Sousa is killed, but I’m also cautiously optimistic: Daisy Johnson almost had Wilfred Malick killed in the 1930’s – could she rescue Sousa in the 50’s? Could she sneak him onboard the Zephyr One, and they could fly off and have more adventures? Sign me up for that spinoff.