Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 7 Episode 11
“Brand New Day”
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gears up for the end of the show with a large scale threat to the timeline and a plan to be unpredictable.
The end is nigh and the characters know it. Among Enoch’s dying words to Daisy was that the current mission would be their last and the team would no longer exist after it. This knowledge that the end is soon at hand for the team -and by extension the show- forms part of the basis for this episode with a great deal of time spent reflecting on what that might mean.
It’s on Daisy’s mind and she finds herself in a scenario where she has a lot of time to think about it so she ends up having a really meaningful conversation with Mack about how terrified she is of the prospect of the team being no more. It has been well established that she has found a family among this team and doesn’t want to see it torn apart. She can’t imagine a scenario whereby they all become colleagues that might see each other once in a while. Her emotions are very much on the surface and she has a very open discussion with Mack about it. Mack’s perspective is that change is inevitable and it might be time for them to go their separate ways after being through so much together. Up until Enoch’s prophetic words Daisy had been convinced that they would be together as a team forever and to have that not be the case is difficult for her to accept. Part of growing as a person is accepting that relationships, circumstances and life in general is subject to change. In effect this season is about how something that seemed rigid -i.e. the timeline- can be changed and it’s difficult to predict whether the alteration will be a good thing or not. Daisy is afraid of an uncertain future that doesn’t have her found family in it and isn’t shy about articulating it in this episode. Her conversation with Mack where he’s much further forward on the road to acceptance than she is by virtue of who he is and what he has experienced is great because it highlights these things while also being an excellent character moment.
They also discuss the growing connection between Daisy and Sousa. It’s not something Daisy is fully aware of even at this point but Mack and the others know her well enough to have recognised some signs that indicate there’s more to their interactions than being mere colleagues. His reaction to her confessing that they kissed in an erased loop is priceless and such a natural character moment that is followed up brilliantly when Mack talks to Sousa about his intentions for Daisy. He clues Sousa in on the fact that Daisy is interested in him and will come at him full force once she realises it. It’s very much a “dad talk” that Mack gives Sousa that promises violence should he do anything to hurt her which seems strange at first coming from Mack as he always seemed like more of a brother figure to Daisy though his concern could be read as brotherly even if it skews towards the fatherly end of the scale. It’s still great and Sousa conducts himself as well as he always does in any scene he’s in. His observation that Quake is a really hilarious codename before teasing Daisy about it later is pitch perfect as well. Taking the time to have these quiet moments and having a story reason for it was a great decision as it allowed the characters to interact meaningfully while maintaining the flow of the story.
The idea of things coming to an end is raised in a different way through Coulson and May in their discussions about how to deal with Kora. Part of their conversations reflect on how different they both are since they both met and since the team was formed. What is being suggested in the subtext is that they’re drifting apart. It’s not a sinister observation; it’s just part of life and how relationships change naturally over time albeit in a far more unconventional way in the case of these characters given the situations they find themselves in. I’m sure the end of the team will be more dramatic and emotionally crippling than a simple case of them drifting apart to the point that they barely see each other any more but the fact that the internal dynamic has been changing without any of them really realising it is really compelling and feels very real as people don’t usually notice that a core relationship has changed until after it has already happened. The major difference here is that there’s an awareness that the end is coming and Daisy can’t imagine how such a thing could happen.
Coulson and May’s interactions were excellent in this episode. His suggestion that she be the one to interrogate Kora is a good summary of how both characters have changed this season. May is less than comfortable with her current state of emotional openness but Coulson’s observation that she has always managed to find the good in people points out that she’s always had an emotional affinity even if that has changed significantly recently. The approach may be different but the skills are the same. Her two major conversations with Kora are very different because May’s objective in both cases are very different. In the first conversation she intends to anger Kora so that she might drop her guard and reveal why she actually wanted to be brought to the Lighthouse. Kora tries to do the same by bringing up the Inhuman child she killed in the now legendary Cavalry incident which ends up backfiring and causing her to release her anger in the form of her powers which cuts off most of the power to the base. The second conversation is about showing Kora that she made a mistake when backing Malick by showing her Jiaying’s body. It’s a touching moment with a strong performance from Dianne Doan as Kora transitions from denial to acceptance and finally anger as she comes to terms with the fact that her mother is dead and won’t heal from that. She’s not prepared to accept that Malick would do this and ultimately she ends up finding a way for it to be justifiable by continuing to believe that her mother stopped loving her.
With a little more time and effort, Kora could have been a really interesting character as on paper she’s the perfect mirror for Daisy. Kora’s reaction to thinking she lost her mother’s love after being confined because Jiaying was afraid she was dangerous was to want to take her own life because she felt so rejected. In the original timeline, Kora had nobody to make her feel wanted so saw no other way out where Daisy had her found family to help her after realising that her mother was a less than ideal parental figure. Daisy had everything that Kora needed and Kora is understandably resentful of that. It makes sense that she would gravitate to Malick given what he promises he and the support that he appears to offer her as well but it doesn’t seem to be a story that the writers were interested in telling to any significant degree. This episode is the most time spent with Kora since her introduction so if anything was going to endear her to the audience then it would come from her scenes here. The elements are certainly there and it’s easy to see how they could develop but there’s a lack of time. The brief scene that Kora and Daisy share does outline the potential development opportunity that exists because of their different circumstances but it ends up being more of a teachable moment for Daisy to realise that she has to do everything in her power to save her sister; her sister in this case being Simmons. This conversation is the catalyst for getting that section of the plot moving and emphasises how important Daisy’s found family is to her. Blood isn’t enough to ensure loyalty as far as she’s concerned as evidenced by this realisation.
Fitz finally appears in this episode in Simmons’ memories that are being accessed by Malick. Some of these are scenes that we’ve already seen but some are new material taking place in the relative seconds before they reappeared at the end of the previous season. Enoch also reappears which is great to see though these scenes do very little to make up for how tedious the mystery has been before this point. Even though Fitz appears there are few answers though there’s a few things to speculate one. Their interactions are excellent at avoiding clumsy exposition through them discussing things they both know about without explaining them in detail. For example, blood work is referenced but no explanation is given for what that blood work relates to though the implication is that it’s not good news which adds more weight to the “Fitz is dead” theory. Whatever happened is something that Simmons needs to forget in order to be able to function which we’ve already had a taste of and Fitz more or less forces this on her because he needs her to carry on for some reason. It’s good that exposition is avoided but this is another episode where answers aren’t given which leads me to think that somewhere in the final two episodes there will be a raft of exposition that feels clumsy.
Despite that it was great to see Fitz and Simmons share a couple of brief scenes together. It was a strong reminder of their excellent dynamic and played out well in the time that was available. Fitz’ suggestion that they actually have as much time as they want since they’re building a time machine so they could take a breather and just have a life together before they need to save the team. Coulson and May are referenced as inspiration for this as they are direct examples of making the best use of any time they had together however brief it might be. It’s a sweepingly romantic idea and very in keeping with Fitz’ ongoing desire to ignore what the universe seems to have planned for them. Hopefully there will be plenty of Fitz and Simmons in the final two episodes and answers that don’t feel clumsy or tacked on.
This episode deals heavily with the changes to the timeline and ends with a very significant change when the Chronicom fleet wipe out S.H.I.E.L.D. from orbit. Other things are referenced such as the people that need to die in order to make a better future. Grant Ward is the case study example and Coulson mentions that Garrett was the one who shaped him into the monster he eventually became though Kora counters that by promising that Garrett finding him is the best of a bad bunch of outcomes. According to her information killing Ward prevents a great deal of suffering though Coulson believes the right circumstances mean that people can change as he has seen a version of Ward not tainted by a brutal upbringing. Hopefully Ward will be seen before the show ends in perhaps a new context.
Daisy directly questions whether the original timeline is still out there and if it’s possible to return to it. It’s a question that is impossible to answer but with each passing episode it seems less likely that the original timeline can ever exist again. This is something that will most likely be answered in a definitive way as it’s essentially what the whole season has been about. Things are certainly at their darkest as the episode ends so it’s unknown what will be next.
As I mentioned above, Kora didn’t really develop into the engaging and complicated antagonist the episode seemed to think she was and the rest of the villains are still a problem. Malick doesn’t really seem like much of a threat despite being able to poke through Simmons’ memories and Sybil isn’t much more than an obstacle that needs to be dealt with. Coulson realising he can read code and becoming a computer genius thanks to his artificial nature was a great touch but Sybil isn’t anything more than words on a screen for most of the episode. Those words make things happen but she never feels like a presence. The rest of the Chronicoms are formidable in the sense they have a lot of resources but as with Sybil there’s no identity to them. It looks like these are the villains we’re stuck with and the show has largely nailed the characterisation of the main cast which is the most important thing but it would be good to have engaging villains to throw into the mix.
An engaging episode that addresses the prospect of the end of the team in a complex and thoughtful way. Giving the characters time to slow down and consider what is ahead for them while making it an organic part of the story was a really nice touch and allowed for some really strong moments between Mack and Daisy who both have different perspectives on the apparent certainty of the team coming to an end once this mission is over. Mack understands that change is inevitable where Daisy struggles to accept that the family she has found will be split apart. Life is change and as addressed by Coulson and May people often don’t realise they’re drifting apart until it has already happened. Mack and Daisy’s conversation about her feelings for Sousa is also great with excellent follow up when Mack warns him of dire consequences if he should hurt her. Sousa teasing Daisy about the Quake name was great as well. Coulson and May’s interactions were also excellent however brief. May’s conversations with Kora were the opportunity to add greater complexity to Kora who had a lot of potential but they don’t quite accomplish that. They do manage to emphasise that May has always been able to emotionally encourage people even if her methodology has changed significantly.
Fitz finally appears in some flashbacks set during the period before they went to save the team at the end of last season. It’s great to see them interact again but the mystery surrounding them remains frustrating. Their interactions are bereft of clumsy exposition but also unfortunately bereft of answers at the same time though there is strong evidence to potentially support the “Fitz is dead” theory which would be unfortunate and there’s a high likelihood of explaining everything through clumsy exposition in the final two episodes. The mentions of how much the timeline has changed throughout the episode are interesting and set up the conflict for the final episodes while also offering questions about what becomes of someone like Ward when circumstances are changed. Unfortunately the show still has a major villain problem with Kora failing to become complex, Malick remaining shallow, Sybil being little more than words on a screen and Chronicoms that are formidable yet faceless. It looks like we’re stuck with these which is a shame as the show is doing so much right with the core characters that it’s jarring to have such weak villains.
- the quieter moments involving various configurations of Mack, Daisy and Sousa
- Mack and Daisy’s differing yet equally valid perspectives on the team coming to an end
- great Coulson/May interactions
- May realising that she was always good at emotional encouragement and adapting to what has changed in her
- seeing Fitz and Simmons interact once again
- skilful dodging of exposition in the Fitz and Simmons flashbacks
- a shocking ending
- ruminations on the changing timeline and the possibility to returning to the original one
- the Fitz and Simmons mystery remaining tedious
- wasting the opportunity to allow Kora to become complex
- weak villains all round
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