Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Season 5 Episode 6
“Fun & Games”
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD brings Fitz back into the fold and moves forward with his plan to rescue his friends under Kasius’ control.
Fitz being in the future is a great thing all on its own because it brings the entire cast together even if they haven’t been in the same scene quite yet. There’s a real sense of forward momentum with all of the characters working towards the same goal albeit in different ways and in different places.
The beginning of the episode that recaps Fitz’ reason for being there and talking about his cover story with Enoch is really clunky as it feels like forced exposition when both Fitz and Enoch should already know that information. It’s a small thing and somewhat necessary after a short hiatus but I can’t help but feel there was a better way to approach this.
Iain De Caestecker delivers an excellent performance throughout this episode. Fitz is in a difficult position as he has to make everyone around him believe that he’s a rich, morally bankrupt marauder who takes pleasure in the suffering of others. For this he has to channel his Framework persona which can’t be comfortable for him given his feelings on what he did during that time. It doesn’t come up but it’s unsettling to see this side of Fitz even though it’s clearly just an act to curry favour with those around him.
Clark Gregg directs this episode and does a great job building tension in the Fitz scenes. There are several moments where everything stops right after Fitz makes a statement indicating the possibility that his cover has been blown or he has overstepped the mark in some way. Each of these occasions results in Kasius being amused by Fitz and taking even more of a liking to him which is perhaps overdone even if it is effective each time. I like the way a small antagonistic relationship is built between Fitz and Patrick Favian’s Ponarian. It’s almost as if Fitz realises that Ponarian is the biggest threat to blowing his cover so he continues to challenge him for Kasius’ amusement.
The relationship developed between Fitz and Kasius makes for interesting viewing as well. Kasius doesn’t seem to have many people talking back to him because he rules through fear. Anyone who challenges him is generally put to death so it seems that he enjoys someone he considers a peer giving him a hard time. He makes reference to Fitz having a similar mind to him and is constantly amused by everything he says. I found the scene where he convinces Kasius to give Simmons her hearing back most interesting as Fitz accomplishes this by getting right in Kasius’ face about the way he manages his operation and mocks him for the treatment of his servants. It’s a risky move because it could easily go badly but Fitz’ fearless attitude in the face of this situation is handled really well and it’s interesting that Kasius’ respects the fact that Fitz is so open with him.
Prior to Simmons getting her hearing back Fitz has an opportunity to open up to Simmons about how he feels. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before but the rapid delivery shows how long this has been bottled up inside him and how cathartic it is to finally have the chance to say these things. His frustration with back to back life or death situations and constant problems driving them apart comes through clearly here along with his passionately strong feelings for her. It’s a great scene especially with the audience knowing that Simmons can’t hear a word that he says while he pours his heart out. Delayed gratification seems to define their relationship a lot of the time which means a lot of drama can be mined from it. Elizabeth Henstridge also does a great job in this scene with Simmons knowing that Fitz is right behind her but being unable to hear him or communicate with him in any way. This pays off nicely when Simmons echoes Fitz’ proposal after being rescued.
This episode boasted some impressive action sequences at roughly the mid point and at the end. May taking on Ben was impressively choreographed and had some real stakes to it by combining May’s injury with Ben being a character with some development in a prior episode. Both combatants have a connection with Daisy meaning that losing either of them will affect her. Ben’s death proves this as Daisy’s reaction clearly shows that she cared about him.
May’s presence is what indirectly causes Ben’s death as Kasius learns that Daisy had lied about the number of people brought into the future and finds out that Ben was complicit in that lie. Kasius basically kills him to set an example to his other slaves. It’s a very powerful message that deception and disobedience will not be tolerated.
Even though Ben’s death raises the stakes and adds a palpable sense of danger to the situation it also feels somewhat empty. He was recently introduced and there was a strong hint of chemistry between him and Daisy so there was a lot of potential there that will now not be explored. His loss does have meaning because it motivates Daisy for the rest of the episode but the emptiness comes from the fact that he’s an underdeveloped character that was killed off before the audience had a chance to connect with him.
The fight between Daisy and Sinara was really impressive from a technical standpoint as well as an emotional one. Even though Ben’s death didn’t have the heft that it needed it still clearly affected Daisy who blames herself for it. In the past she might have retreated into herself and been consumed by self loathing but she has developed to the point that she takes more affirmative action in the face of loss and looks to avenge him by killing Sinara. She doesn’t kill her because escaping is more important and uses her victory to give Fitz and Simmons the opportunity to escape but Daisy is clearly out for blood and isn’t going to back down which adds a real sense of emotional weight to the fight as Daisy has a reason to fully commit to beating Sinara.
The escape sequence is impressively chaotic yet easy to follow. Fitz is really badass in the way he casually takes people out with his Icer weapon and Simmons slitting Kasius’ throat. He definitely survives but Fitz, Simmons and Daisy are able to escape and hopefully this will give the show time to explore the so far underwhelming strained relationship between Kasius and his brother Faulnak (Samuel Roukin).
Coulson and the rest of the team have a far less interesting story in this episode that also includes the unceremonious death of a character. Tess has always been interesting and the way this episode was developing her as a mentor of sorts for the Inhuman Flint (Coy Stewart) was really compelling stuff. Her death was definitely a shock as it seemed like she had so much more to give to the show but it feels like she was killed off for the sake of provoking that reaction. It’s another death as an example to others which is effective enough and reminds us of how brutal this future is for Humans that disobey but robbing the viewer of further exploration of this character makes very little sense.
Flint is an interesting character so far even if the beats he follows are familiar. The extended sequence showing his place in this future and how he uses his wits as well as the relationships he has built to make sure he can eat was a really succinct way to establish his resourcefulness as well as show his connection to Grill. The fear he shows after living through Terrigenesis and facing the prospect of having to fight in Kasius arena works really well and Elena’s almost maternal instinct when it comes to dealing with him creates an interesting dynamic. With the death of Tess it’s clear that she’ll take on something of a mentor role for Flint though it would have been interesting to see more development of his pre-existing relationship with Tess.
The best thing about these scenes is that there was some levity to them which seems to be rare at this point. I really enjoyed the group discussion about Tacos which highlights the differences between the two time periods as well as the simple things that the characters are missing while further developing their bond in really organic ways. It’s good to be reminded that these characters are very much a family and are able to comfort each other like this.
Grill’s death was really satisfying and the scene where he punishes the team was nicely done. I like how uncompromising Grill is and that he really doesn’t care where the team are from. Their disobedience is the most offensive thing to him and he takes great pleasure in delivering the punishment. The way he threatens Flint is really tense and exciting as well leading to the satisfying moment of Flint realising what his ability is and using it against Grill. It’s about the right time for Grill to be killed off and it increases the urgency as the team are now no longer living in relative obscurity so action has to be taken very soon. It looks like the end is approaching for this particular arc which definitely feels about right.
A compelling yet flawed episode that excels in the handling of Fitz dealing with Kasius but is less effective in dealing with character deaths and the story outside of Fitz, Daisy and Simmons. The death of Ben is effective because of how it affects Daisy but it’s also a missed opportunity since the character had a lot of potential. It does show how Kasius keeps order and using Ben as an example of what could happen to others is a very powerful motivator. This also gives Daisy motivation to take affirmative action and avenge him though not forget that escape is important. Fitz is handled really well in this episode uncomfortably channelling his Framework persona to curry favour with Kasius. This creates a lot of tension as it’s never clear if it will work or not which is leaned on a few too many times but still works well.
Introducing Flint and killing Tess is a confusing choice as Tess still had a lot of potential as a character. Flint is really good so far even if the beats of his characterisation are familiar especially when it comes to Terrigenesis. The moment he gains control of his powers and uses them to kill Grill is really satisfying and makes a good exit for Grill as a character who has served as a capable antagonist pretty much since the beginning. These scenes also boasted a rare moment of levity which was refreshing to see. It now looks like we are at the point where plot needs to move quickly which feels about right at this stage.
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up.
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.