Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Season 5 Episode 10

Feb 4, 2018 | Posted by in TV
Agents

“Past Life”

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD has the team race against time in preparation for their return to the present day as Kasius accelerates his efforts to stop them.

It feels like the right time for the future/outer space arc to end. Enough time has been spent building the setting, exploring the bleakness and establishing intrigue that will provide the foundation for the rest of the season. Smaller more intense arcs seem to suit this show and there’s no denying that the first half of the season has been effective in bringing audiences something new.

Agents

Kasius contemplates loss

This episode is almost entirely built around the effort to reassemble the monolith and generate enough power to activate it. As such there’s a real sense of urgency built in with all of the characters having their own input into it. It’s the sort of kinetic and well paced storytelling that Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD has been slowly perfecting as it has progressed.

Reassembling the Monolith needs Flint and his Inhuman ability so some work needs to be done making him believe that he has the ability to do this. There’s a really obvious scene where Simmons gives him a lesson on how to go about doing that and she does this by digging into the science of it. Flint learns from her that everything in the universe is made up from basically the same building blocks and his power allows him to feel those so it’s all about understanding how things fit together and making that happen. He learns this very quickly and his first attempt is successful which feels necessary for the plot but also a little quick for the character. There’s nothing that really highlights Flint gaining this understanding so the Monolith reforming feels somewhat unearned. As always more time would fix this so I understand why this played out as it did and appreciate that some attempt was made to help Flint understand what he needed to do.

The other side of that was Flint’s conversation with Mack. It was a seemingly innocuous one that details what Mack plans to do when he returns to Earth which requires clarification for Flint because he doesn’t quite understand what Mack means. The conversation is important because it inspires Flint to make sure he does what he’s needed to do. Understanding the desire to return home is key to him succeeding because it becomes about helping those that he cares about. It’s a great scene that further develops the pseudo father/son dynamic that Mack and Flint have.

Agents

Elena meets herself

The other side of this is using the device on the Zephyr which requires power. Enoch is tasked with fixing that but runs into complications when the Kree attack. Deke offers to provide backup which has him step up as a sacrificial hero. There is mention of honouring his parents in some way as they died believing in the prophecy and now he has a hand in carrying it out.

Deke has been a problematic character but his self serving nature has been consistent and it feels fitting that he would make the decision to sacrifice himself given everything he has experienced. The world he knows is very much dog eat dog where everyone is out for themselves and nobody can be trusted so meeting the time displaced Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been eye opening for him as he realises that people are capable of loyalty and looking out for each other. This is reinforced when Daisy offers to go with him and defend the Zephyr. Deke refuses because he believes that she is incapable of being anything other than good and virtue like that needs to return to the present day because the world needs it. In effect Deke has been inspired by these casual acts of well-being and chooses to do everything he can to help his friends. He has nothing to gain from this and he knows that but does it anyway.

Jeff Ward’s performance in this episode is excellent, particularly in the scene where Deke makes the decision. He is conflicted between determination and terror which comes across clearly and the chemistry he has with Chloe Bennet makes for a fun exchange where they say goodbye in a way that fits their relationship. Later when Deke realises that the only way to accomplish the mission is for him to die offers another great piece of acting from Jeff Ward as Deke accepts the reality of the situation. His death feels fitting for the character and is a satisfying end for him.

Agents

Gathering the materials

This episode also brings us the death of Enoch which proves to be appropriately tragic. Enoch is an engaging character who is actually very simple yet hides a lot of complexity. His workmanlike way of seeing the world is intriguing but there’s also a profound ethical side to the character as he clearly knows what he considers to be the right thing and gives all of himself in pursuit of that goal. This is reflected in the way he offers to use his battery as a power source without any sense of hesitation. The scope of this sacrifice is clear as it means the loss of a being that has endured for over 32,000 years. This is automatically tragic and the sacrifice holds all the necessary meaning. Enoch’s approach to it is really fitting as well. He sees death as a new experience and seems almost excited about it in his own unemotional way. It is well established that he lives for new experiences and death is one that he has always been curious about.

After offering to help Deke is declined Daisy offers to stay in case the destruction of Earth is her fault. Her logic is impossible to disagree with as she can’t destroy the Earth if she isn’t there but Coulson isn’t willing to let her make that sacrifice. The interesting thing is that Daisy has made up her mind and is bent on staying but Coulson makes the decision for her by knocking her out and -almost literally- dragging her home. Both sides of this argument are valid enough as Daisy has the fate of the human race in mind but Coulson wants to keep his family together so selfishly forces the decision on her. This will clearly have consequences as teased by May warning Coulson that Daisy will never forgive her. It could create building animosity between Daisy and Coulson that ultimately contributes to whatever results in the destruction of Earth. There’s certainly plenty to build on here.

The revelation that Coulson is dying is intriguing as it’s as yet unclear what ails him or where he got it from. It’s possible that this is the consequence of his deal with the Ghost Rider or it could be something else entirely. This is something that will clearly become important in the coming episode and there’s a lot of potential to explore.

Agents

Flint shows what he can do

Coulson’s illness comes to light in a conversation between Elena and her future self. A future version of Elena is the seer that Kasius referenced last week and the encounter surprises Elena greatly as you might expect. Very little time is spent on this but the time spent is used really well. Future Elena gives enough information on her back story to set up the tragedy of her character. The notion of being repeatedly killed and resurrected is horrifying to contemplate and Natalia Cordova-Buckley does an excellent job portraying Future Elena as someone completely broken by this experience.

The purpose of this conversation is to confirm the suspected time loop that has been teased in one way or another over the past few episodes. Future Elena talks about remembering being where her past self is and hearing the exact same words which indicates that nothing can be changed. I really liked how Future Elena would jump from almost being hopeful that the future could change to being certain that it couldn’t. There’s a particularly effective point where it seems that she’s almost about to suggest something that can help then settles on advising her past self to spend as much time with Mack as she can. This conversation is just cryptic enough to hint that changing things might be possible due to Elena’s confusion over whether she is being warned that there’s nothing she can do or not. The only concrete warning is about Coulson with the suggestion that the selfish decisions that he makes could be a big part of what happens. It’s a really powerful scene that increases the level of intrigue massively and puts Elena in a unique position over the coming episodes.

Kasius meets his end in a way that feels fitting for him. Up until the point of his death he is crazed and grief stricken after discovering the body of Sinara. At first he wants nothing more than to resurrect her despite being told that it might not be possible before transitioning to simple revenge. He’s a character who has effectively lost his hold on the Humans and is doing everything he can to remain relevant. His mission changes to making Earth fit for his father to invade which will almost certainly come into play in the present day set portion of the season.

Agents

Round One – Fight!

Ultimately Kasius decides on revenge and takes a drug that gives him a burst of superhuman strength that he decides to use on Mack because he happens to be there. He kills Future Elena in front of Mack which gives him all the encouragement he needs to want to kill Kasius. The fight doesn’t go terribly well for Mack because of Kasius superior strength but he refuses to give up and keeps taking punishment. It’s a great sequence and the arrival of Simmons to deafen him in the same way he did to all of his slaves was a great example of poetic justice followed by Mack running him through with his shotgun axe.

Mack’s reaction when Elena arrives just after the fight is priceless. The combination of confusion and relief feels like the perfect reaction and their comfortable embrace is a great showcase for the strength of their relationship. This episode is great for characterisation and moments like this show that.

Even if the past is impossible to change -which it definitely won’t be- the episode ends on a hopeful note with Flint and Tess piloting the trawler full of survivals. The Kree threat has ended, the Humans are free and there’s a hint that Flint’s powers might be able to reform the Earth which feels a little extreme in terms of his power level but considering we’ll likely never see how this timeline progresses the positive result for those left there is encouraging.

Agents

Hope for the future


Verdict

An excellent episode that wraps up the outer space future arc nicely. The episode excels in characterisation with fitting ends for both Deke and Enoch as well as hints for what will be explored in the coming episodes such as Daisy not forgiving Coulson for forcing her return to the present day. Flint’s the key figure to the return to the present and the two scenes preparing him for what he has to do are great. Simmons gives him the means to understand what he needs to do and Mack gives him the inspiration by reminding him of why they want to return.

Elena meeting her future self made for a great and appropriately cryptic scene that hints at the futility of trying to save the world without ever confirming that nothing can be done. The hint that Coulson’s selfish decisions are at least partly responsible is intriguing and Elena having that knowledge sets up her role in everything. Kasius deciding on revenge feels fitting and his fight with Mack is great with an excellent example of poetic justice when Simmons uses the thing that deafened his slaves against him. The episode ends on a hopeful note for those staying in the future suggesting that there is still hope for the Human race even if the team fails to stop Earth’s destruction.

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