“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, Season 7, Episode 6 Review!

SPOILERS FOR AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. AHEAD!

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).

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons | meaww.com

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.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Nathaniel Malick | laughingplace.com

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.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Jemma Simmons | cinemablend.com

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.

Episode Rating: 6/10

Looking for a terrific self-storage facility?

Check out the Self Storage Barn of Morris which is where I have been keeping my BobbleHead collection of late!

“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season 7, Episode 5 Review!

SPOILERS FOR AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. AHEAD!

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).

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Phil Coulson | tvline.com

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.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Melinda May and Phil Coulson | goquizy.com

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?

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Daniel Sousa | laughingplace.com

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.

Episode Rating: 8.9/10

Looking for a terrific self-storage facility?

Check out the Self Storage Barn of Morris which is where I have been keeping my BobbleHead collection of late!

“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season 7, Episode 4 Review!

SPOILERS FOR AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. AHEAD!

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.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Daniel Sousa | bustle.com

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.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
denofgeek.com

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.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Daniel Sousa | meaww.com

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.

Episode Rating: 9/10

Looking for a terrific self-storage facility?

Check out the Self Storage Barn of Morris which is where I have been keeping my BobbleHead collection of late!

“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, Season 7, Episode 3 Review!

SPOILERS FOR AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. AHEAD

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.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Phil Coulson and Jemma Simmons | tvline.com

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.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Daniel Sousa | newsbreak.com

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.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Melinda May | purefandom.com

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.

Episode Rating: 8.8/10

Looking for a terrific self-storage facility?

Check out the Self Storage Barn of Morris which is where I have been keeping my BobbleHead collection of late!

“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season 7, Episode 2 Review!

SPOILERS FOR AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. SEASON 7, EPISODE 2

Coming off a solid premiere to the series’ seventh and final season, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. finds new ways to tie back into the canon of the mainstream Marvel Cinematic Universe, subtly hinting that more connections between the two are on the way as the team continues their journey through the Marvel timeline. Much as they might have liked to not interfere with the course of history, the truth is that was never going to work – and episode 2 is where it all starts falling apart.

We pick up right where we left off last week, with the Agents coming to the realization that, to save S.H.I.E.L.D. from an invasion of Chronicom aliens, they must save Wilfred Malick (Darren Barnet), the man behind the creation of the shadowy organization known as HYDRA, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s arch-enemy in later years. While Director Mack (Henry Simmons) and Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) unknowingly escort Malick on one of his missions, the rest of the team works against the clock to try and figure out what he’s planning, why the Chronicoms want him dead, and whether his life is really worth saving.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Jemma Simmons | tvline.com

The answer to the first question is revealed fairly early in the episode, and is what brings this episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D into conjunction with the events of the MCU – Wilfred Malick’s secret mission, disguised as a job bootlegging illegal alcohol, is to deliver vials containing the ingredients which will later make their way into the Super Soldier Serum: the very same which will one day course through the veins of both Johann Schmidt (HYDRA’s Red Skull) and Steve Rogers (S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Captain America). Through this chance encounter, yet another link is forged between the two enemies.

But as for that last question – is Wilfred Malick worth saving? – well, that’s a question that haunts everyone on the team, but especially Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet). Not only does she argue bitterly with her teammates about how they can feel comfortable allowing the future head of HYDRA to survive, but she even takes the initiative in one critical moment and tries to have him killed. Her assassination attempt fails – mostly because Deke isn’t really the best person to carry out any sort of plan, much less one that involves killing someone. But in the long run, that’s probably fortunate: since without HYDRA, S.H.I.E.L.D. would never be formed and Captain America would never be created.

Not everyone, however, makes it out of this timeline unscathed – or even makes it out of this timeline, period. The quiet, contemplative Chronicom Enoch (Joel Stoffer) accidentally gets left behind in 1931 at the end of the episode while the rest of the team escapes through an unexpected time window. Thankfully, he uses his wits to get a job at the speakeasy owned by Ernest Koenig (Patton Oswalt), who forged a somewhat uneasy relationship with the Agents during their stay in his timeline, and even gets to take a ride on the Zephyr One during this episode, marveling at modern technology behind his wildest imagination and demanding to know whether S.H.I.E.L.D. is really a group of Martian space invaders. The stinger at the end of the episode sees Koenig probing Enoch for information about how to make robots – seemingly hinting at an explanation for why he has so many descendants in the future, and all of them are identical.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Yo-Yo Rodriguez | telltaletv.com

Agents “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) come out of their escapade in 1931 having sustained several more traumas. Though it was teased in the premiere that Yo-Yo hadn’t completely recovered from the incident in season 6 when she swallowed an alien bat and was almost killed by the resulting parasite, it is made explicit here when she fails to use her powers during a tense moment, prompting interrogation from Daisy. May, on the other hand, is still suffering from gaps in her memory and terrifying hallucinations sustained during the season 6 finale when she battled the death goddess Izel: she doesn’t know where or when she is, and she’s angry when she sees the LMD version of Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), knowing full well that the Coulson she knew and loved is dead, and unwilling to let herself be tricked into trusting another duplicate of him.

Overall, I feel this episode is actually stronger than the premiere for a number of reasons. Yo-Yo, May and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) each get to play a part in the action, whereas the premiere left them waiting on the ship, essentially just twiddling their thumbs. The character work is a little bit stronger, as is the dialogue. And while I appreciated last week’s storyline focused on saving Franklin D. Roosevelt, this week’s episode benefited from being able to plunge us into the action and the drama without needing any red herring diversions to deliver exposition.

Speaking of action, there’s one standout fight scene when May and Enoch clash in the hangar of the Zephyr One: Enoch, re-outfitted with upgraded Chronicom tech, is almost winning until May (who, I might add, is still just recently awake from a coma) traps him and goes to town on his synthetic skull with a fire-extinguisher. I’m very excited to see where May goes in this season – it’s not at all unusual for her to use brute force, but her behavior in this episode is sending up red flags all over the place: she’s responding to her near-death encounter in season 6 much like how Coulson reacted when he found out he had been resurrected early in the series. If that’s a parallel that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is interested in exploring, I’m here for it.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Enoch | meaww.com

Once again, the Chronicoms are the weakest part of the story, and their villainy is tame and uninteresting. I was more intrigued by the possibility of HYDRA agents showing up to try and protect the Super Soldier Serum, but only one – a woman named Viola (Nora Zehetner) – actually appeared in person, and even she was either unconscious or unwillingly spitting out information in a German accent most of the time.

Now, all we can do is wait and see in which era of Marvel history the Agents will be dropped next – and whether or not they’ll get involved in any more MCU events on the long, uncertain road to the finale.

Episode Rating: 7.9/10

Looking for a terrific self-storage facility?

Check out the Self Storage Barn of Morris which is where I have been keeping my BobbleHead collection of late!

“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season 7, Episode 1 Review!

Returning to the beautifully messy, Marvel Cinematic Universe-adjacent world of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a seventh and final season is already proving to be a wild and unpredictable ride, filled with plenty of fun character beats, clever jokes and even a couple of callbacks. Already, the story is moving along at a better pace than season 6, though it also appears to be suffering from a couple of that season’s same problems. As the Agents move backwards through time and space to try and prevent a hostile alien takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D., they encounter a wide variety of characters – some taken straight from the pages of Marvel comics, others borrowed from history books – along with a number of uniquely dangerous scenarios that require them to be on top of their game.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
medium.com

Unfortunately for the team, their leader and only guide through the past is currently having something of an identity crisis. As you may remember from the season 6 finale, the team made a decision to resurrect the recently deceased Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) by planting his preserved consciousness into the synthetic body of an LMD robot. And though our first glimpse of LMD Coulson was as his smiling, chipper old self, it quickly becomes apparent that all is not well with him – Coulson, despite agreeing to help the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. one last time, is clearly angry at them for bringing him back from the dead: it’s been a recurring problem for his character, as the other S.H.I.E.L.D. members (and, ahem, the showrunners) can’t seem to let him rest in peace. LMD Coulson is seen struggling through panic attacks as his old memories flood his systems with past pain, trauma and guilt. He also ominously tells Director “Mack” (Henry Simmons) that when all is said and done, he will “reevaluate” the situation – dialogue that seems to forewarn more trouble for his character in the near future. It’s easy to imagine that everything will come down to his choice whether or not to die and stay dead – already, the premiere is hinting at possible conflict as LMD Coulson remarks during fight scenes that being a nearly indestructible robot has its perks after all, and he seems very happy being back in his element, leading the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on a romp around 1930’s New York City, fanboying over historical figures and relishing the opportunity to dabble in the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Apparently, not too much dabbling is strictly allowed by the rules of the series’ time travel mechanism, which appears to be rather different than the one presented in Avengers: Endgame. Though it hasn’t been explicitly stated what will happen if the Agents mess with historical events, everyone – and particularly super-genius Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) – strongly advises against it. In Endgame, tampering with history didn’t really matter too much, since the Avengers were simply creating alternate realities with every Infinity Stone they stole and every character they accidentally almost killed.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
digitalspy.com

As one would expect, however, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. don’t really have much of a choice when it comes to changing history, as they find themselves in a number of predicaments that require drastic measures. Surprisingly however, it’s not the team’s newest recruit, time-traveling business entrepreneur Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) who causes these predicaments (despite Mack specifically singling him out and ordering him not to try and file any patents in the past), but rather one of the team’s most senior members, Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet). Johnson was somewhat sidelined in the sixth season, but here she is already back in form – even encumbered by an impractical dress, she still has excellent fight scenes, making ample use of her Inhuman powers, and her confident wittiness provides a nice foil to Coulson’s steady flow of awkwardly timed “dad jokes”.

The members of the team who actually get to wander through the streets of Great Depression-era New York – Coulson, Daisy, Mack and Deke – also get a much-needed makeover, trading in their sleek black S.H.I.E.L.D. uniforms for historically-accurate outfits, haircuts and accessories. Daisy complains about having to get rid of her purple highlights, but her resulting 30’s look, complete with delicate white gloves and a fancy fur stole is far and away the premiere’s best. Mack comes closest to matching her retro vibes, though he himself notes that the sight of “a black man in a fine suit” attracts more attention from passerby than he had hoped.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
showbizjunkies.com

The action back on the team’s ship is significantly less interesting and much less stylish, but Agent “Yo Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) has a number of touching, heartfelt moments while debating whether she wants to even try and fit in with the times if it means having to hide her mechanical arms, which she had grown to accept and be proud of, behind new, eerily life-like prosthetics. But for the most part, she and Simmons are forced to stand around and watch while the helpful Chronicom Enoch (Joel Stoffer) patches up Melinda May‘s (Ming-Na Wen) wounds from the season 6 finale.

A few other characters show up and either help or hinder the heroes’ journey. In particular, I have to give a shoutout to Patton Oswalt, who returns to the series to reprise his role as Koenig, the mysterious man with a seemingly endless number of identical siblings. Here going by the very appropriate codename “Gemini” and working as the proprietor of a speakeasy, this Koenig bears little resemblance to his descendants (apart from, you know, being identical to them): he’s rude, demanding, and a bit sexist. But he also hires a young man named Freddy (Darren Barnet), who proves to be of much greater significance to the story than one would guess.

And that’s my cue to start talking SPOILERS!, so if you haven’t seen the episode, turn back now.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
“Freddy” from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. | newsweek.com

Yes, as it turns out, the Freddy who is working as a waiter at Koenig’s bar is in fact Wilfred Malick, a.k.a. one of the key members of HYDRA, the organization that would go on to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. soon after its foundation and, eventually, rip it apart from the inside – and it’s Freddy who is the reason why the Chronicoms have invaded 1931. But as Coulson and Daisy realize at the very end of the episode (in an exchange which, unfortunately, was already revealed in the trailers), the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. now have to save HYDRA in order to save S.H.I.E.L.D., because without the one, the other cannot exist. The symbiotic relationship between the two covert groups has never been more fascinating.

But watching S.H.I.E.L.D. history unfold in front of our eyes is twice as much fun when its intertwined with real history – and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. perfectly mingles the two by leading Coulson and his team on a red herring mission to rescue then-Governor of New York Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Joseph Culp) from what they mistakenly believe to be an assassination attempt by the Chronicom aliens. Though they quickly realize they’ve made a mistake, they fortunately get to have a delightful little conversation with Roosevelt (who, in Marvel canon, founded the organization that would later become S.H.I.E.L.D.). It’s heartwarming to see how much the team idolizes him – in particular Coulson, who ends up helping the Governor into a wheelchair and is subsequently sworn to secrecy.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
twitter.com | @bestofbennet

The episode’s biggest weakness is the Chronicoms themselves: the emotionless alien lifeforms whose mission to root their opponents out of history still feels pretty vague – tying everything back to the irreversible connection between S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA is the right call, as the series began with that and ultimately should end with it as well: I just wish we didn’t have the Chronicoms right in the middle of the conflict, as I don’t know whether this thirteen-episode season will be able to balance so many storylines. Now, substitute the Chronicoms for the Kree and then I might reconsider, because at least the Kree have had connections to S.H.I.E.L.D. for a very long time – but these aliens, with their face-stealing technology and imperfect attempts at replicating humanity, feel very random. All except Enoch, who doesn’t really seem to have much stake (if any) in the fight between his civilization and the human race.

The episode’s last-minute stinger, however, brings the focus back to Enoch – though only as a way of showing us that Melinda May, who had been unconscious for the entire episode, is awake, and has escaped from her hyperbaric chamber. Judging by the glimpse of her face that we get as she watches Enoch from where she’s hiding in the ceiling fixtures, it looks like she’s having some issues of her own – she probably hasn’t quite gotten over the experience of being tossed through a portal into a demon dimension just yet. But as much as I’d love to see her deal with that pain as slowly as she needs to, I also don’t want the series to spend any more time addressing things from season 6 than it absolutely has to, if that’s at all possible. Even the mere mention of the Shrikes from last season made me want to cringe.

Overall, I hope the final season can improve. I had fun with this episode – the writing was good, and characteristically clever, but the heart wasn’t fully there. I want episodes that focus heavily on character development, rather than on time-travel mechanics and Chronicom politics. Namely, what I don’t want is another season 6: a season that gets so wrapped up in trying to outdo everything that’s come before, that it forgets to be fun and exciting. At the moment, season 7 could still go either way.

Episode Rating: 6/10

Looking for a terrific self-storage facility?

Check out the Self Storage Barn of Morris which is where I have been keeping my BobbleHead collection of late!