Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Season 5 Episode 5
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD goes back to the past to explore what Fitz got up to after the rest of his team were taken.
Fitz being absent from the show this season has been a burning concern both in and out of universe. Other than a vague postcard promising that Fitz is on the case there has been no movement on explaining what happened to him outside of a teasing appearance at the end of the previous episode.
This episode brings even more answers than were expected but I’ll get onto that. It turns out that Fitz was captures by the United States Military seconds after the rest of his team were abducted. It’s basically what the team were expecting in the season 4 finale except their arrival was later than the other party looking to take them.
Fitz spends 6 months in prison working on theories that explain the rest of his team vanishing from the face of the Earth. This serves as both an engaging character story for Fitz as well as a way to explore how the present day world works after the events of last season. S.H.I.E.L.D. has been disavowed and defunded as an organisation with the agents involved now wanted fugitives. More focus is given to Daisy than anyone else because her Life Model Decoy murdered Talbot in full view of many witnesses. Since the existence of LMDs is a bridge too far for some people Daisy is the one at fault and bringing her to justice is a priority for some.
Seeing Fitz isolated in prison for an extended period of time makes for entertaining viewing. I’ve talked in the past about how Ian De Caestecker has grown into this role and how far the Fitz character has come since the early days of uniform irritation back in season 1. This is a great example of how this character has matured and been shaped by his experiences. He does everything he can to remain focused and hopeful but his performance tells us that the hope is slowly dwindling. The extended montage of him researching, exercising and yelling at various football matches illustrates this perfectly. As the montage progresses his yelling becomes far more pronounced indicating that it’s an outlet for other frustrations. Ian De Caestecker should be commended for his performance here considering he spends so much of his screen time in the early part of the episode alone.
When he does interact with the Military characters his demeanour is more impatient than anything else. He knows how much trouble he’s in and clearly doesn’t have the patience to deal with all the red tape associated with his situation. His focus is on finding his friends and to do that he needs resources. The interesting thing here is that Fitz is actually in control of the situation as he gets everything he wants in his cell and has his captors fooled into thinking he is dedicated to helping them thanks to the small morsels of information he gives them.
Fitz is also dealing with his own personal demons while being imprisoned. When asked about the events of last season he confesses to being responsible for Mace’s death showing that he is willing to be honest with his captors and using that as leverage of sorts because it means that they trust him enough to supply the materials he needs.
This episode gets high marks for continuity in mentioning Fitz’ earlier brain damage and other issues he has experienced. The mention is framed as concern on his part as he’s worried he blacked out and was responsible for his team’s disappearance. Lieutenant Evans (Zibby Allen) is there to reassure him that he wasn’t responsible which pushes that aside though shows that Fitz is still struggling with self loathing and mistrust of himself. It’s also a good indicator of how long he has been interacting with Evans thanks to Zibby Allen’s performance showing compassion and familiarity. They’ve clearly been interacting for long enough to establish something of a relationship and this manifests with Evans showing sympathy for Fitz. It’s a very small moment but I found it notable as a very small and effective piece of characterisation.
Fitz’ self defeating nature comes into play later in another way when he talks about paying for his sins. The other episodes this season have dealt with the other characters processing the events of last season in some way and this continues here with Fitz feeling responsible for this whole situation. He seems content to be in prison and pay for what he sees as his crimes but that can come after he has solved the lingering mystery. How this will play out when the team return to the present day is unknown but the layers given to Fitz are really compelling.
After 6 months of relentless research and theorising Fitz has nothing concrete so has no idea what happened to his teammates. The frustrates his captors as well as himself as he wants to know where they are and what happened to them. This frustration isn’t allowed to linger as rescue comes from a welcome source in the form of Lance Hunter who hasn’t been seen since he went on the run with Bobbi in “Parting Shot“. Thankfully losing these characters wasn’t the death of the show but they’ve been missed all the same. Having Hunter come back to help Fitz was a really nice touch and organically gave Fitz someone to interact with over the remainder of the episode.
Some time is spent catching the audience up on what life has been like for Lance Hunter since he went on the run. It’s pretty much what you would expect and the teases of his other adventures makes the lack of the now dead spinoff show involving Bobbi and Hunter even more of a tragic loss to the entertainment world. Bobbi’s absence is explained as being a symptom of their tumultuous relationship. They’re great together but clashing personalities is a big problem form them and they have to be apart some of the time. It works as an explanation that is true to the characters gives some life to the absence of these characters since Hunter is the one delivering the information.
Hunter has everything planned out in an appropriately haphazard way that also fits with his character. He has always been very competent but a little slapdash in his approach which usually makes things really interesting in a show that can sometimes be very clinical in the way plans are formed and technology is used. The contrast of his high tech watch remote controlling explosives and the beat up RV serving as an escape vehicle was a nice touch and Hunter’s general ability to react to changing circumstances makes for some thrilling spy based antics.
Fitz and Hunter always had a good relationship which comes through nicely here. Their bickering over favourite football teams and their performance quickly reminds the audience of the camaraderie between these two characters and the back and forth between them never lets up from there. Fitz is more measured and analytical where Hunter is more reckless and impulsive which makes for a natural dynamic. Together they are able to make the situation work for them and find answers as well as create unique scenarios such as using Ferrets to distract a base full of soldiers.
Hunter’s presence also allows for some really compelling bonding moments; the most effective being when Fitz doubts his relationship with Simmons since circumstances continually force them apart leading him to believe that the universe has it in for them. It links back to Simmons talking about being part of a system much larger than herself and flips it in a darker direction when Fitz theorises that the system is out to get them. Hunter provides the counter to this and comforts Fitz by reassuring him that he and Simmons are so perfect together that any sentient system wouldn’t get in the way of that. Of course it’s all speculation but it does allow for a pessimistic and self defeating perspective to contrast a more optimistic one which makes for entertaining character interactions.
Fitz and Hunter working together very quickly leads them to answers to questions that have been lingering since the end of last season. It turns out that the mysterious bald alien is named Enoch (Joel Stoffer) and has been on Earth for a long time observing Humanity. Some might associate him with the Watchers though I very much doubt that this is the intention. It seems more likely that he is an MCU riff on the Rigellian Recorders though that’s just speculation on my part.
Regardless of what Enoch is it’s his role in current events that is most important. The most striking thing is that his actions aren’t in any way malevolent. His part was very clear and it was only a small part in a much larger plan. The Monolith that sent the team to the future wasn’t Enoch’s doing; all he did was make sure the team were there at the nominated time. Enoch talks about the prophecy and that he is only allowed to interfere when an extinction level event is at play but other than that he doesn’t know an awful lot.
Despite the abundance of information from Enoch there is still a lot about him that proves mysterious. We know he has been sent to Earth to observe but we don’t know why that is and there are hints that his involvement in history hasn’t been quite as passive as he claims so there’s a lot to explore there. Joel Stoffer delivers an engaging deadpan performance throughout. The way he says the word “Unknown” is very distinctive and the right level of comedic while still being ominous.
His main function is to facilitate the journey of Fitz into the future to rejoin his friends. Helping making this happen is the wife and daughter of future predicting Inhuman Charles -seen in “Spacetime“-. Charles’ daughter Robin (Lexy Kolker) has received similar powers to her father and predicts the future through drawings. Enoch sees these drawings as being prophetic and uses them to guide his actions. Since Fitz wasn’t pictured in the drawing that guided him to the rest of the team he was left behind. This changes when one of her drawings shows Fitz and basically gives him the permission to act on it.
Reintroducing Charles’ wife Polly (Lola Glaudini) and daughter Robin was a nice touch from a continuity point of view as it allows the episode to sneak in a reminder that Inhuman powers aren’t always beneficial to those who receive them or the people around them. In this case Robin may be able to predict the future but she now lives inside her own head and her mother struggles to remain positive though stands by her because that’s what mothers do. It’s a tragic tale of the loss of innocence where Robin is concerned and connects to the prediction that Daisy is the cause of Earth’s destruction in the future.
The only way to send Fitz into the future is to freeze him which brings an excellent reference to The Empire Strikes Back that makes for a perfect goodbye between Hunter and Fitz. Now that Fitz is active in the future and apparently has a plan as well as an ally in the form of Enoch it appears that the team can now work on getting home.
There was a lot of really strong content in this episode but it had its problems mostly in the execution of the final infiltration sequence. It wasn’t bad as such but it felt like it was far too easy and made the Military personnel seem incompetent that they couldn’t see what was going on. Hunter and Fitz’ faces should have become known to everyone on the base once they had broken out for a start and in general the soldiers should have been more competent than they were. It’s a minor niggle and Fitz defending the Zephyr against waves of soldiers was really badass.
An excellent episode that provides some great content for Fitz while featuring the welcome return of Lance Hunter. The Hunter/Fitz dynamic was always entertaining to watch and that doesn’t change here. The contrast between Fitz’ analytical personality and Hunter’s more reckless one makes for fun viewing and they have very meaningful conversations about their lives in general. Using their team-up to deliver information on Enoch and the circumstances of the team being sent to the future while leaving some mystery to it works really well and allows the plot to move forward organically while keeping focus on the characters.
Fitz alone in prison being driven progressively more insane was handled really well with an excellent performance from Ian De Caestecker. His self loathing personality and self defeating attitude is explored in interesting ways and the growing frustration is excellently visualised. Using Charles’ daughter as the predictor of the future is a nice touch as it shows the loss of innocence that can come with unwanted powers as well as the effects it can have on those closest to them. The only real problem the episode had was that the final infiltration scene felt a little too easy meaning that the soldiers came across as incompetent but other than that this was a great episode of television.
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