Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Time Travel and YOU

This week’s episode of Agents of SHIELD dealt with *gasp* time travel. If you’ve been watching this season and this Pod so far, you know that something related to time has happened to this team, so that really isn’t a spoiler. If you haven’t been watching, what the hell, man? GET TO IT. This is io9. We do the work.

SPOILERS LIVE HERE. YOU CAN DREAD THEM, RUN FROM THEM, BUT THEY STILL COME.

I love this damn show. I watch it every week, but with the Friday airing time, it’s been tough to watch it on the night it airs. I’ve relied more on DVR to keep up. My reviews are more sparse, and I have a feeling they will keep being so. Kids are gettin’ older, job is gettin’ more time-consuming (who would have thought being a lawyer meant I’d have to work), and this old man (32!) likes to sleep every once in a while. SoI have somewhat of a solution: Instead of doing a full summary each week, I’ll do one every few weeks, and tackle bigger events / revelations the show throws at us. Deal? Deal. We met Flint, whose Inhuman power is to control rocks, right after being confronted with a fractured Earth. I think we all know where this is going.

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However.

This Pod has dealt heavily with time travel. The team was thrust from the past to the future, to do something. I’m not quite sure what that is yet, other than maybe train/convince Flint to put the Earth back together, and to get back to their own time, to prevent the Earth from fracturing in the first place. But that creates a problem: Why waste time with Flint when they can either (1) bring him back to help prevent the problem in the first place, or (2) leave him there, and then go back and prevent the fractured but whole Earth from fracturing, negating whatever good he does in the future. Unless they plan on taking him back (which, after May’s last line this week suggests), 110% of their energy should be in getting back.

But.

How does time travel work in the MCU? Can they be thrust to a future, see some calamity (such a fun word to say), go back to their time, and then prevent that calamity (see?) Or, as Fitz suggests, is time a constant, something that cannot be changed?

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For the most part, the MCU is fairly consistent when it comes to time shenanigans. Back in Season 3, in Episode 3.15 (Space Time), Fitz is explaining the essence of time to May and Simmons, and he says:

“How do you... How can I explain this? Right. We’re 3D, yeah? Okay, but imagine... imagine we lived in a 2-dimensional existence... flat, just like a piece of paper. We wouldn’t be able to conceive of three dimensions, of... of... of a... a cube or anything that’s not 2-dimensional, okay? Yeah. Right, so, we flat paper people would perceive this 3-dimensional cube as many separate 2-dimensional moments. As time passing... the point on the line traveling through space and time.”

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He also says “Yeah, it’s just sitting there. There’s no future. There’s no past. It just... it just is. And nothing you can do will change that.”

Time isn’t something that we as three dimensional beings can perceive. We cannot comprehend it’s true form, as it exists outside of our three dimensional world. Time is a constant, and does not change.

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We also know that time is a rate. Logically, time is the rate at which change occurs. We have seen this in the MCU as well: in Doctor Strange, the Eye of Agamotto (the time stone SPOILER OOPS) allows Dr. Strange to manipulate the apple, and later Hong Kong, by changing the rate of change (for the apple, from seed to decay; for Hong Kong, from Dormammu to, well, Hong Kong) of a place/object/person. Dr. Strange was able to manipulate the apple, but, was not able to change the apple’s “destiny” towards decay. He could turn the “clock” back and forth, but the outcome (seed or decay) was unchanged. Fitz was right.

We also know that time loops are possible, thanks to Dr. Strange. Dr. Strange created a time loop to torment Dormammu. When Dr. Strange was in Hong Kong, he was able to rewind and fast forward the destruction caused by Dormammu coming into this dimension. However, he used the time stone to create a time loop, to break that cycle. Had he not gone into Dormammu’s dimension and bargained bargained bargained bargained bargained bargained bargained bargained with him, he only would have been able to re-set Hong Kong or move it forward, with no impact on the outcome (regular Hong Kong or destroyed by Dormammu).

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In Agents of SHIELD this week, we saw Fitz in a flashback potentially confirm a time loop. When freaking out with May, Fitz complained that they had tried time and time again, to no avail, to change things.

What we know is this: Something happens, Quake gets off of a Quin-Jet, the Earth fractures, May gets a group of survivors to the Lighthouse, they live out their days there, the Kree come, Fitz and Simmons get married, they work on a time machine, someone makes it work, and the team is called to the future, where they find a way back, but Quake destroys the Earth anyway, and they escape to the Lighthouse, and so on. The flashbacks suggest that their trip from the past is part of this loop.

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But, in Dr. Strange, the time loop was created by the time stone. Here, the loop was created by the Pamplona Monolith. I’m not suggesting that the Pamplona Monolith is as powerful as the time stone, though, which with the MCU’s use of time to date, is within the rules.

What I am suggesting is that this time loop is and always has been part of the rate of change. This time loop is part of the natural “flow” of time, and Fitz’s statement back in Season 3 is still correct. Time isn’t changing. If Dr. Strange were to use the time stone to rewind, and fast forward, the rate (from the diner to the team appearing in the future) would happen no matter what.

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The trick will be getting out of the loop, and I think that’s where the brief mention of the multiverse comes in. The team is going to go back in time. They want to stop the Earth from fracturing, but their immediate predicament is escaping the time loop. Once the loop is broken, then they can go about saving the Earth.

Remember: Dr. Strange did not stop Dormammu in this dimension. He had to create a time loop in Dormammu’s dimension, and make him agree to not attack our dimension in the first place, avoiding the destruction being caused. Time in our dimension was unchanging, and unless an external source manipulated it, remains unchanging. Dr. Strange didn’t change anything in this system. He convinced an external source to stop infringing on ours. Therefore, from the point of view of Hong Kong, if Dr. Strange was to rewind or fast forward, it would appear that time had changed, knowing what happened before. However, so far as the system (our dimension) is concerned, nothing changed.

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So: The team is going to have to find some external influence to help break the time loop. Do they know anyone with experience operating in multiple dimensions? And doesn’t Coulson have a debt to pay to a certain flaming skull?

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