When the world is going to shit and anxiety seems to be our new “normal” emotion, I’m grateful that there are shows like Agents of SHIELD on the air to provide some distraction and break from the absurdity that is 2017. For 62 minutes (I record extra because this is Marvel so you never know and those “SHIELD will return in a moment” scenes sometimes go long) I wasn’t thinking about #ImpeacingTrump or James Comey or the Russians (well…) or any of that shit, because SHIELD didn’t allow any time for all that.
SPOILERS FREQUENT THIS ESTABLISHMENT OF ILL REPUTE
Leading up to this episode, some people in the know were indicating online that the episode was going to set the record for most visual effects shots in an episode of SHIELD to date. That’s saying a lot coming from a show that took place in a computer simulation, introduced Inhumans, introduced us to the Koenig’s, went to another world, showed a rock eating a main character, gallivanted on helicarriers, went to space, and gave Coulson a kickass shield.
But that’s the beauty of Agents of SHIELD. Even though this episode was the most visual effects heavy, the episode was great for reasons that had nothing to do with how pretty it all looked. The best parts weren’t the awesome visual of the Zephyr leaving Talbot in the dust or Aida jumping around or the bird’s eye to fish’s eye view of the Superior’s oil rig lair. No, the best parts were the banter between Coulson and May while stuck in a small room with multiple Superiors on the other side of the door; YoYo’s intense argument about Mack and Hope; and everything between FitzSimmons. This episode could have had the special effects of Star Trek Voyager and still would have delivered.
That’s one of the reasons why I love Agents of SHIELD. It’s not the visuals or explosions that make this show work: It’s the characters and their relationships. Everything is earned. We care about May and Coulson and the bottle of Haig because we care about these characters. We care about FitzSimmons because they are the show’s rock and have been long before it was romantical. Say what you may about Daisy, but she’s grown tremendously since she was living in a van down by the river – and we’ve been there for all of it. Hell, Talbot is a lovable dolt because this show put in the work to make us understand what he’s feeling when ROBOTS DESTROY A SHIELD BASE and he just can’t even.
Forget about the spectacle or trying to one up the stakes every season. Agents of SHIELD’s bread and butter is the relationships between the characters. This may be an action/adventure show, but it’s just as much that as it is a character comedy and drama. The writing is solid, and characters choices feel natural and earned. Characters don’t make stupid decisions for sake of plot. Daisy doesn’t have to call in to
Cisco Fitz every time she faces the enemy of the week, and uses her powers creatively instead of running head strong into a gorilla’s shield, as an example for no particular reason.
This is why the show deserves to be renewed for a Fifth season. The MCU is in that interesting spot where it’s trying to tell smaller stories instead of upping the stakes every installment. If they continue down that road, Thanos will either be literally unstoppable or the next Ultron. That’s why Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (OHMYGODSOGOOD) works so well. Sure, Ego wants to take over the universe or something, but that’s not the story. The story is Peter and his father; Gamora and her sister; Drax and his nipples; and Rocket and his doppelganger. The thing is, Agents of SHIELD has been telling these smaller scale stories for some time now, and knocking it out of the park.
That’s why we need a Fifth season. Next week marks the (hopefully, only) season finale, and as the end of this episode teased, Aida is going to learn what spicy feels like.
1. I realized watching the recap from the last episode something I forgot to mention: Daisy had the worst wake-up from the Framework imaginable. Have you ever had a dream where you were falling, only to wake up just before you hit the ground? Have you (like me I swear) ever had that dream, and at the same time roll off the top bunk of a bunk bed, only to wake up when you hit the ground in both the dream and reality? Well, Daisy went through door number two. I laughed just as hard last night as I did last week. Daisy, while in the Framework, jumped into the back door that was below her, to escape. At that same moment, the Zephyr got rocked and her bed was knocked over, throwing her to the floor. Daisy jumped from elevation in the Framework, and didn’t stop falling until she hit Zephyr floor. Somewhere along the line she “woke up” from the Framework, but continued her fall. I can honestly say I’ve been there, and damn does it suck.
But man is it funny to watch someone else do.
2. I know I spent a plethora of paragraphs explaining why this show isn’t good because of its visual effects, but seriously: That panning shot of the Superior’s oil rig base and the dive below to show the secret submarine dock was beautiful. I would have been happy with a quick shot above and below the surface, but that was a nice treat.
However, if I had to pick one moment from the episode that stood out to me, it would be Coulson defacitating The Superior with his hand shield, right after The Superior told him he was nothing without his shield to hide behind. Not only did the effects of the shield look awesome, but so did its effect on The Superior. Cut his face clean off!
3. Coulson and May are the best. Their back and forth about Coulson not being able to tell LMayD apart from the real deal was classic, and Coulson’s coyness with what happened was hilarious. “Did she try to kill you?” “Kill me. Yup. That’s what happened. It was messed up.” I died. And May’s indignation when Coulson admitted that he drank the bottle of Haig without her and May’s realization of what it meant with LMayD was equally awesome.
4. Come to think about it: as heavy as this episode was, it had some gold comedy moments sprinkled in. Coulson and May listing off what they had in the room (“We’re safe from a hangover”); The Superior reviewing the Darkhold (“It had a few funny passages”); Coulson’s entire recap of Ghost Rider and Elias and who The Superior was; Talbot’s completely justified FREAK OUT upon finding Coulson, May, Daisy, and Fitz back at the base; Coulson’s implied story time with Talbot; etc. It was all hilarious.
5. The Superior has to be MODOK, right? That’s the implication? MODOK stands for “Mobile Organism Designed Only for Killing. The Superior told Aida that she could do what she wanted to “this” body, which was “designed only for killing.” MODOK seems to be within the realm of the MCU (with him only making limited appearances in X-Men related comics but despite his mutagenic origins) and just out-there enough that the MCU would be hesitant to use him. Maybe the MCU can use everything about him sans his original mutagenic-origins, and Fox can use him sans any reference to non-mutants, like Quicksilver. The Superior’s head is controlling those Superior bodies from an undisclosed location. He might not be tootin’ around on a Thanos-chair-inspired-head/body suit, but it’s the implication.
The Superior also did something else: He went full Ultron. Never go full Ultron. At the beginning, The Superior was talking to someone and got tired of talking to himself and went to go deal with Coulson and May. He was talking to himself: another Superior LMD. Despite The Superior hating Inhumans and non-humans in general, he seems to be embracing his new disposition rather well. Aida had every opportunity to go full Ultron but had another goal in mind: she wanted to get rid of the strings on her, but become as human as possible. Ultron wanted to be perfect. It looks like the Superior (the name gives it away) now has a similar goal. With how this episode turned out, though, Aida may have jumped the gun a little bit.
6. I repeat myself a lot, but the character development on Agents of SHIELD is tops. TOPS. Look at Piper. She joined the show as one of the lowly red-shirt agents that May was training when SHIELD was re-formed. Since then, she has continuously reappeared at the most opportune times, and continues to not get red-shirted When was the last time a predominately background character has survived while being the perfect cliché fodder, and where she feels like one of the team? I’m hard pressed to think of another example.
7. May is a tank as it is. She is the Cavalry, after all. But it’s something else when she has a little help. In the Framework, Fitzler gave her some Hyde formula to help her go toe to toe with the Patriot. Last night, she took some adrenaline for a similar boost. Every time it reminds me of Berserker May, and I remember that I want her to get that stick as a personal weapon. Dr. Strange got the Eye of Agamotto; why can’t May have the staff? She earned it. Plus, it would cut down on all the juicing. Anyway, May was putting in work against The Superior. Coulson had to get creative, but May doesn’t need to be creative. She’s just a tank.
8. Yo-Yo went full Rick Grimes. She plugged herself into the Framework to go get Mack, and woke up in a war zone with no fucking idea what happened to get her in that particular room. Yo-Yo was strapped down in what appeared to be some laboratory. Given the state of things, it looked to me that she was on the docket of things to do for Fitzler before his untimely exit. Fitzler was experimenting on Inhumans so Aida could pick and choose which powers she wanted to install in the real world. To me it seems like Yo-Yo was going to be added to that list fairly soon.
Yo-Yo might be able to snap Mack out of it, but I don’t think she’ll be able to bring Hope back with them. The Superior destroyed his underwater submarine base, and that’s where Aida’s body machine was located in the real world. I believe that the machine was destroyed, so now there is no way to print a new Hope for the real world. If Mack leaves, he’s going to have to lose his Hope a second time. But, stay with me, what if Yo-Yo decides to stay with Mack?
9. In the Framework, Aida made one change to everyone (two for Fitz because her lady boner was insatiable). In doing so, she created fake lives and fake memories to support the context of the Framework. When Fitz and Aida were talking on the beach, Fitz remembered meeting Aida on the first day of SHIELD academy. Aida reminded Fitz of all the computer love they got all over the computer sheets. Coulson knew where they were because he remembered his fake memories of being a history teacher. And May knew the powers Aida has because of her memories of working for Hydra. Everyone that was plugged in by Aida remembers their Framework lives and real lives, and are working on sorting through them.
Which tells me two things: Fitz had two childhoods: One where he was raised by his mother and one where he was raised by his father. Fitz now knows what it would have been like, and no longer has to wonder. Also: Mack will have memories of the past 10 years with Hope, as well as his real life memories of losing Hope a few days after she was born. Removing Mack from the Framework will be utterly devastating not just because he is leaving a digital kid behind, but because he will remember her from the past 10 years. He will have lost a newborn and a 10 year old. I couldn’t imagine.
10. Aida got her wish: She’s a real life human (certain restrictions and modifications apply), and she got her choice. Now she’s experiencing all of these emotions for the first time, and to her, they’re all dialed up to 11. I’m 32 years old and have had these emotions my whole life, and I’m still working on figuring it all out. Aida has had them for all of a few hours and cannot compute. I feel you, “girl.”
Props to Fitz trying to help her through those emotions, and trying to apply cold logic to their application. When Aida Gordon’d them out of there and to the beach and beach house, she was overcome with fear. Fitz used the logic that Aida was used to to help her focus on empathy and realize that the Team also was fearful of dying, and that she should use her powers to help. For a moment, she listened. Props to Fitz.
11. That leads me to the meat of the episode: FitzSimmons. FizSimmons is the rock of the show. They are each-others’ lobster. Ward couldn’t keep them apart. The Universe wasn’t expansive enough to keep them apart. Brain damage wasn’t enough to keep them apart. What’s a little computer simulation and Fembot going to do? It was devastating to watch Fitz and Aida talk in the
honeymoon suite containment room and Fitz seemed to be convinced that Simmons would never take him back. But then I literally CHEERED when Fitz said there was only room for his heart for one, and when Aida tried to say “me” Fitz jumped in with “her.” FUCK YEA, FITZSIMMONS LIVES.
Aida’s emotional freak-out was crazy to watch because it was done so well. She went from 0 to 11 in no time at all. Aida is new to this whole “human” thing, and thought that she could choose Fitz and that he would choose her. NOT SO, ASSHOLE.
But all of that lead to the most heartbreaking scene in the series so far for me, and no words were spoken whatsoever. Fitz was sitting in the containment pod, and Coulson and Daisy walked past him. Simmons walked in and sat down, and (I shit you not I’m getting teary just typing this) just looked at him with tears and put her arm on his shoulder. The whole time Fitz sat looking at us (INTO MY VERY SOUL) while trying to hold back the biggest sadness ever. When Simmons put her arm on him, he couldn’t hold it and GOD DAMMIT STOP CUTTING ONIONS SOMEONE DID THE SAME THING IN GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2! Sorry. That scene was the most heartbreaking one I’ve seen on television in a good long while, and Iain De Caestecker fucking sold it. Then Simmons started crying and I knew they were going to be okay, but damn. That scene alone deserves an Emmy.
12. MOTHER FUCKING GHOST RIDER!