A supersized round of applause is in order for Hollywood newcomer Iman Vellani, who has been cast as the MCU’s Kamala Khan, a.k.a. Ms. Marvel – and also for the character of Kamala Khan herself, a teen Muslim superheroine whose journey from comic-books to video games to Disney+ and MCU stardom has all occurred in a remarkably short amount of time. Vellani, who will take on the starring role in the upcoming Ms. Marvel Disney+ series, is about to fill the shoes of one of Marvel Comics’ most iconic recent characters, and I could not be happier for her. She already has an incredible amount of support from the fandom, and I think we’ll all be excited to see her don Kamala Khan’s costume for the first time.
Because Vellani is completely new to the scene, it’s hard to say much about the casting itself and there are very few details about her to be found. Rest assured, she’ll soon become one of the faces of the MCU moving forward, so before long we’ll know more about her: for now, let’s just make sure we all give her the support she needs heading into this big responsibility. In the meantime, let’s talk a bit about Kamala Khan, the character Vellani will be playing, and why she has resonated so much with the Muslim-American and South Asian-American communities, ever since G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona brought her to life in 2013.
For the most part, Kamala has been written fairly consistently in the pages of Marvel comics. She is a Desi, Pakistani-American Muslim girl and Jersey City citizen, whose powers are revealed to be of Inhuman origin (for those who need a refresher, Inhumans are a group of characters in the Marvel Universe whose powers are unlocked, so to speak, when they are exposed to the Terrigen mist: they’re a bit like Mutants, but not as well known to general audiences – yet). Kamala’s specific powers give her shapeshifting abilities and incredible elasticity: she’s super-stretchy, but in a unique way, where she’s able to redistribute the atoms in her body to form giant hands or feet capable of powerful punches/kicks. They’re bizarre powers, for sure, but visually spectacular – and the recent Avengers PS4 video game, which stars Kamala, showed that her giant fists and stretchy limbs can also make for some exciting action. In the game, Kamala uses her powers to swing across rooftops, and sometimes even grow in size. This is all going to be very interesting to see in Ms. Marvel. It is unclear at the moment if Kamala’s Inhuman origins will be retained: it seems likely to me, but it’s theoretically plausible that Marvel will make her a Mutant or have her obtain her powers in a completely different way altogether.
Kamala’s Ms. Marvel has little to do with the original Ms. Marvel – the moniker worn by Carol Danvers before she was promoted to Captain Marvel – but Kamala is inspired by Carol and by other superheroes as well. The Avengers video game made a mistake by focusing almost exclusively on Kamala as a fangirl and not giving her any personal life beyond that, but there’s no denying that Kamala is a fangirl: meeting her in the MCU will finally allow us a chance to see what some of the general public think of superheroes, and how they’re marketed to the world. Do they have action figures and Funko Pops? Is Kamala part of online fan communities that discuss the Avengers and other heroes? Is there a superhero equivalent of “stan Twitter” within the MCU, and is Kamala a part of it? The possibilities for quirky meta humor (and marketing tie-ins) are endless.
That being said, Ms. Marvel should make Kamala’s family and faith equally as important to the heroine as her love of superheroes, if not more so. In the comics, Kamala struggles on a daily basis as she tries to reconcile her own hopes and dreams with the wishes of her religious, conservative family, and with her Islamic faith in general – but she also loves her family deeply, and finds comfort at her neighborhood mosque. She’s a complex character who’s busy learning how to define herself within the context of her religion, and it’s amazing that we’ll get to see this conflict play out onscreen. It’s also extremely important, not just because of how crucial this is to Kamala’s character, but because of how relevant this same struggle is for so many people around the globe. Few superheroes have even so much as mentioned religion thus far, over twenty films into the MCU’s lifetime, and fewer still seem to actually practice religion or engage in religious communities. Steve Rogers is the closest we’ve really ever gotten, and, well, he’s mostly just Protestant Christian by default, because of course he is. There’s never really been much thought put into it: if anything, it’s used as a joke to underscore how he’s the 1940’s ideal of an all-around perfect guy. And yeah, that’s problematic in and of itself. But Kamala Khan represents a much more nuanced depiction of a religious individual, one that we desperately need to balance out those past mistakes and give people a role model that they can turn to when dealing with their issues of faith.
As for when she’s actually out fighting crime, Ms. Marvel is most frequently working on her own, although she has teamed up with her role model Captain Marvel several times, and it looks likely she’ll do so again in the MCU – possibly in Ms. Marvel, if Brie Larson can be convinced to film a Disney+ cameo, or possibly in Captain Marvel 2, when Kamala makes the jump from streaming to the big screen. It’s my hope, however, that one of Kamala’s guiding influences as a heroine in the MCU will be the Inhuman Quake (played by Chloe Bennet, of course). A long shot? Maybe, but I’m not ruling it out. Kamala and Quake have interacted before in the comics, and with Quake having been established as Inhuman in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s second season, it makes sense to use her to explain the whole thing to general audiences still unfamiliar with the concept. But whether she gets a partner or not, it’s been rumored that Kamala’s first antagonist will be The Inventor, a half-human, half-bird clone of Thomas Edison (and yes, I am aware of how strange that description sounds).
In short, there are no downsides to this news. Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, is joining the MCU, becoming the first Muslim superhero to headline her own series – just as she was the first Muslim superhero to headline her own comic series. On both fronts, it’s a landmark achievement. Iman Vellani will do an amazing job, and she has our support and genuine admiration as she starts on this journey of a lifetime. And the Muslim-American community…well, I can’t even begin to imagine the impact that this will surely have on members of the community, who will finally see themselves reflected positively in a genre that has all too often depicted them in a negative light, or not at all. Yes, the MCU themselves have done this in the recent past. It’s no use trying to deny it, or ignore it: it’s time to properly address it, and make it right, with smart actions such as this authentic casting choice. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again – Representation Matters.
So what are your thoughts on Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel? Are you excited for the series? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!
Nicholas Joseph Fury (better known to general audiences as Nick Fury, and to his friends and family simply as “Fury”) has long been the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most enigmatic mastermind, the figurative man behind the curtain: subtly moving and manipulating the events of the MCU to better suit his own purposes while cloaking his motives in secrecy. It took us over ten years just to find out why he put together the Avengers Initiative in the first place, or how he lost his eye. But now, Marvel is about to spill some of Fury’s darkest secrets in a new Disney+ series, which will find the spotlight turned on Nick Fury for the first time – with Samuel L. Jackson reprising the now-iconic role, of course. Although the only other real information we have about the series is that Kyle Bradstreet is attached to write and executive produce, there’s actually a good deal of speculation already going on…in which I am about to shamelessly partake, because why not? We’ve been so hungry for Marvel content these past couple of months: allow me this opportunity to indulge myself. I encourage you to join me, because we’re about to have a lot of fun wildly theorizing, and I’m also going to gush about Daisy Johnson for the first time in forever (okay, so it’s been, like, a month, but whatever), so there’s that.
There are several big questions everybody seems to have about this series, but the most urgent one by far is: will this be a prequel, or a sequel set after the events of Avengers: Endgame? If it’s the former, my hype will have plummeted – I just can’t imagine getting excited about only having Samuel L. Jackson return so that he can act as a framing device while a younger actor assumes his role for extensive flashback sequences set prior to Captain Marvel. As we saw in that film, Nick Fury’s life wasn’t actually all that eventful until the superheroine crashed into his life and a nearby Blockbuster. But everything happening right now, all the stuff that’s going on behind the scenes in the MCU that Nick Fury is very much a part of?…that’s what has me intrigued, and has me hoping that this series is not entirely new but is, in fact, one of two or three series’ rumored to be in early stages of pre-production some time ago. I am, of course, talking about Secret Invasion, Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. (which might also be the same thing as Secret Invasion), and Secret Warriors.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to combine Secret Invasion and Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. into just one category. It was rumored that Disney+ was making a series which would follow the Agents of S.W.O.R.D. post-Endgame as they deal with a variety of intergalactic threats and generally try to prevent anything on the scale of worldwide decimation from ever happening again. Since we’ve already seen a tiny glimpse of the S.W.O.R.D. organization in the post-credits scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home, which clearly indicated that Nick Fury is overseeing the entire operation, it’s not a stretch to assume that a series about this team would necessarily involve Fury, probably in a starring role. My theory has always been that an eventual Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. series on Disney+ will start out with the team (comprised of humans and shape-shifting Skrull aliens) already formed and working overtime from their in-orbit space station, but will inevitably grow, over the course of one or maybe two seasons, into a full-scale, Secret Invasion storyline. For those unfamiliar with the notion, let’s break it down: basically, in the comics, the Skrull aliens are villains, and eventually attempt to overrun Earth by force, disguising themselves as well-known superheroes and wreaking havoc. In the MCU, this will have to happen for a very different reason, because the Skrulls have thus far been depicted as peaceful refugees trying to establish a new homeworld after their entire way of life was obliterated by the militaristic Kree aliens – but that reason has already presented itself. In Far From Home, it was revealed that the Kree already have sleeper agents on Earth – making it extremely likely that the Skrulls will want to eradicate them before they pose a problem. If this causes rifts between them and the humans on the S.W.O.R.D. team, we could see several Skrulls go rogue and use their abilities to sneak off the space-station and down to Earth – a secret invasion in more ways than one. I’ve talked at length about how certain characters could get roped into this, but the one we need to focus on today is Nick Fury, because of course, all of this will be happening under his watch. A Secret Invasion series would find the S.W.O.R.D. Director attempting to stop the invasion with the help of his team – which, in my opinion, would consist of established characters like the Skrull general Talos, American Air-Force pilot Maria Rambeau, Maria’s daughter Monica, the half-Skrull Hulkling, the infamous Flerken cat Goose…and “astro-ambassador” Daisy Johnson, who will finally make the jump from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the MCU proper. Daisy’s space-faring partners, Kora and Daniel Sousa, are give-or-take: I don’t mind them sticking around, but Daisy is currently my top priority, and if we have to make sacrifices to ensure she shows up as an Agent of S.W.O.R.D., then I’m prepared to do so.
When Secret Invasion becomes a massive hit for the Disney+ streaming service thanks to Daisy Johnson’s as-yet hypothetical involvement, the spin-offs will start – and that’s where Secret Warriors comes in. We might as well just refer to this one as the Quake Spinoff, because that’s essentially what it has to be. Another rumored project, this series is said to revolve around a storyline in the comics where Nick Fury enlists Daisy Johnson and a small, elite team of superhumans to take care of the Skrulls that have made it to Earth. This, of course, is where I anticipate Daisy reuniting with S.H.I.E.L.D. teammates like Yo-Yo Rodriguez, but it’s also the other potential series that Nick Fury could lead. That being said, it’s far more likely to be an eventual spin-off of Secret Invasion, and Fury himself will probably have a smaller role. So don’t get your hopes up for Secret Warriors just yet.
At the moment, I think what we’re seeing is the first step towards Secret Invasion. For those of us who love Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s a first tentative step towards making that show officially canon to the MCU. For those of us who love Nick Fury and just appreciate seeing Black characters in leading roles, it’s about time that this fascinating super-spy moves to the forefront of the action, after more than a decade spent on the sidelines. For those of us who love both, it’s a win-win situation. And for the rest of you…well, I don’t know why you’ve read this far but I hope you’ve gotten something out of this.
So how do you feel about Nick Fury leading a series on Disney+, and which series do you think it will be? Do you think Daisy Johnson will show up in the MCU? 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!
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.
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.