Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 7 Episodes 12 & 13
“The End is At Hand” and “What We’re Fighting For”
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wraps up the series for good with a double bill of episodes and a final mission for the enduring team to bring down their Chronicom foes.
This season has been generally a strong final outing for the team with some fun time travel shenanigans, changes to the timeline and a preparation for the end for both the characters and the show itself. The final two episodes may have aired together but they are actually separate episodes rather than a feature length finale as shows used to do so this analysis will cover both but also recognise them as separate entities.
“The End is At Hand”
The first episode deals mostly with the scenario established in the previous episode that ended with the Chronicoms wiping S.H.I.E.L.D. off the face of the Earth -except from the Lighthouse naturally- and the team scattered across three locations. Mack, Sousa and Daisy are on the Quinjet preparing to rescue Deke and Simmons from the Zephyr while Coulson and May hold the fort in the Lighthouse. The problem facing each group is a singular one but they’re all approaching it from different angles with the goal being to bring the family back together.
I’ll get the usual complaint out of the and point out that the villains don’t fare any better than they do here. Sybil once again isn’t really a character. She’s a means to an end that makes certain aspects of the plot happen. The odds of such a small group rescuing Simmons from a ship full of Chronicoms are slim so Sybil makes it possible by saying there’s a higher chance of learning where Fitz is if Daisy rescues Simmons and ordering her soldiers to let Daisy pass unimpeded. It’s a bit of a cop out but is consistent with her probability driven decision making seen previously and makes some sense in context. What she’s actually doing is setting the stage for hew own downfall as she has no real contingency plan in place. I suppose we’re supposed to accept that her predictive model didn’t account for Kora’s change of heart but considering things could be predicted down the words spoken not so long ago it’s a little difficult to accept. I’m not sure what could have been done to make Sybil and the Chronicoms stronger as antagonists but it was too late by this point to fix them. At least her mistake is treated as such and taken advantage of.
Saying that the rescue of Deke and Simmons was too easy wouldn’t be fair but the team also don’t face the level of resistance that they probably should have. Mack and Sousa are intercepted by 6 Chronicoms and reinforcements never show up despite how long they spend preparing their countermeasures. Watching Mack and Sousa MacGyver up a solution is a lot of fun but there was never a sense of urgency or danger associated with their efforts. It seemed as if they had all the time in the world to prepare themselves despite being in the hanger of a Chronicom ship with the odds stacked against them. Of course seeing them dispatch wave after wave of Chronicoms would have been ridiculous but there must have been some middle ground.
Sybil may have managed to get rid of the implant in Simmons’ brain but it’s not as simple as Simmons regaining her memory because it comes and goes as the implant dissolves and then takes a great deal of time for her memories to re-emerge; so long that it’s a good way into the following episode before she remembers everything. This results in some attempts at humour with Simmons being confused about who people are, what they’re wearing and what is actually going on. My mileage on this varied with some of it qualifying as amusing and some of it being fairly unremarkable. I’ve written at length about how tedious the mystery surrounding Fitz and Simmons has been over the course of this season and this is an obvious way of continuing to spin it out as long as possible. In fairness that mystery is resolved fairly completely but delaying the gratification on it further with these sorts of silly antics is an uncomfortable reminder of habits the show ironed out in earlier seasons.
Kora’s change in allegiance didn’t entirely work from the point of view of her character because little has been done with her before this point but the Daisy side of the situation is first rate. Their confrontation in these final episodes was inevitable because they’re blood siblings but what took place was definitely the best version of that. Instead of fighting Kora, Daisy deflects her attempts to attack and tries to appeal to her better nature by doing nothing more than telling her the truth and trying to shift the perception Kora has of her mother’s behaviour. It ends up being enough to confuse her and Malick’s violent outburst confirms what Daisy said to her. Conflict resolution like this is what I love to see because it highlights the heroic qualities of characters. In this case Daisy offers Kora the compassion and understanding she has been missing in her life up until this point which ends up being more powerful than any display of super powers that could be used on her. It’s enough for Kora to switch sides and play her part in the final mission in a way that feels earned and makes sense. It might not enhance Kora much but since Daisy is the point of view character for the viewer it opens Kora up to becoming a better developed character. If only there was time to see that play out.
Garrett’s change of heart doesn’t work quite as well because he doesn’t have that built in connection to any of the characters. He’s very much a tool that is used for specific purposes and in this episode that purpose is to plant Chronibombs -love it- in the Lighthouse to bring down the final S.H.I.E.L.D. base standing in the way of the Chronicoms plans. He is spotted and dealt with very quickly with his mind being changed by a quick realisation that S.H.I.E.L.D. aren’t abandoning him despite what he has been shown. Coulson’s line about there still being time to be on the right side of history is cheesy but works brilliantly when delivered by Clark Gregg. His unapologetic earnestness never fails to be believable; I’d confidently say he matches up to Chris Evans in terms of ability to deliver dialogue that few would get away. Garret’s change of heart only exists to facilitate a move to the next location and nothing more. This is confirmed by the fact he’s killed within seconds of arriving therefore removing him from the remainder of the events. It does solve the problem of having two characters the team have difficulty trusting but it also reeks of being a plot function rather than a fully developed character motivation though there wasn’t much to Garret’s character to begin with so no harm was really done and the subsequent events certainly didn’t suffer for his absence.
The first of the two episodes takes the time to check in on Coulson and May’s situation on a more personal level. It’s very quick but presented in such a way that it doesn’t need to be any more than it is. Things have changed for both of them as highlighted by May pointing out that she can’t get used to the idea of him as a tech expert with Coulson pointing out that he may be more tech rather than a tech expert though May definitely doesn’t see him that way. They later reflect on how much has changed and Coulson tells May that he likes what she is now while also admitting that he likes himself as he is now. Over the course of the season I’ve written a lot about what the Coulson LMD is in an existential sense. He’s not the original Coulson but is heavily based on him, thinks like him, acts like him, walks like him and talks like him. In every sense he is the original Coulson apart from the fact he’s a technological reconstruction. The abilities that come with his construction such as mastering tech, enhanced strength, enhanced durability among other things have informed his development into becoming a fully fleshed out being in his own right. Of course Coulson being the base of his programming means that this is likely what the original Coulson would be if he could do the same things but we see a move towards embracing the fact that he’s different and taking pride in that. Whether his emotions are real or the result of algorithms is still a difficult question to answer as is what prompts our organically based emotions but as far as the Coulson LMD is concerned those emotions are real, his experiences are real and the person that amounts to is also real. He thinks therefore he is and that has become enough for him. It’s a fascinating existential problem to puzzle through and I love that it has been made part of the DNA of the season.
Having the episode end with different parts being brought to a single location to be assembled by Simmons before Fitz appeared was a great touch. Her returning memories giving her everything she needs to assemble the device and the realisation that her wedding ring is the final piece of the puzzle was a great Simmons as well as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. moment. The emphasis on the word “marry” as she works was clearly building to something like that but it was immensely satisfying when it did and made perfect sense in context. Fitz’ appearance as the payoff to that build-up was near perfect and putting an end to the questions around his mortality was certainly a relief even if it did come at the latest possible point.
“What We’re Fighting For”
The final episode is an exercise in wrapping up as many threats as possible and providing some form of closure on the characters. Enoch’s final prophetic words about the team coming to an end set up a definitive ending for the show that the episode has the unenviable task of delivering. Before that can happen there are a lot of questions to answer and Chronicoms to deal with.
Unfortunately one of my predictions was correct in regards to Fitz and Simmons. I speculated that Fitz’ return would bring with it a great deal of exposition to catch the audience up on where he has been and what he has been up to all season. Unfortunately I was right with the episode crossing the line from show into tell with Fitz essentially spelling absolutely everything out in order to jog Simmons’ memory and inform the team of what needs to happen next. Fitz suggested in “Brand New Day” that since they were building a time machine there was no rush to complete the work and travel back to their starting point so they could take some time to live and reclaim some of what was repeatedly taken from them by circumstance. It turns out that’s exactly what they did though all that amounts to is a quick slideshow of happy memories with no real indication of exactly how much time they took to live before returning to the mission. Neither seem to be any older so it can’t be too long but they have a young child so it’s at least a few years. This feels like a later idea as there has been no reference in this season that Simmons might seem older to those who know her well. It’s a small thing and doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things but it does stand out. It is great to see that Fitz and Simmons were able to steal some happiness in the midst of horrible circumstances but it would have been better to see this play out in more detail. Some of the best episodes in previous seasons have been the format breaking outings where it focuses on one -or a small number of characters- in a confined situation so having that sort of episode this season devoted to Fitz and Simmons living their temporary domestic bliss could have been a landmark in the history of the show and those characters.
Fitz also explains the plan and it’s a lot to take in especially for one string of exposition. There’s a lot of temporal shenanigans to bear in mind and various steps to the remainder of the plan to be aware of. In short this entire scenario was engineered so that the team would play their part in engineering this alternate timeline in such a way that the bring together the required elements to solve the problem in the original timeline. Fitz originated from their original timeline and used the Quantum Realm to travel into the one the rest of the team currently occupy. This amounts to the only reference to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe the final episodes provide though it’s not a direct episode. The method of time travel and the creation of alternate realities as a result of travelling to different times are very similar to the rules used in Avengers: Endgame while also strongly suggesting that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes place in an alternate timeline where the snap featured in Avengers: Infinity War didn’t happen but Thanos’ attack still did as referenced back in season 5. It ceased to be -and arguably never was- important how fully this show would tie into the ongoing films supposedly set in the same universe but winks and nods to what is happening elsewhere is always something I’m going to be interested in.
Much of the episode plays out really quickly and can be hard to keep up with at times. It’s good for ramping up the pace and highlighting the urgency of the situation but there’s no denying that it’s information overload. Tying the events of this episode to the end of the previous season by revealing that the team were the people inside Hazmat suits that showed up to remove everyone from the temple was great and the answer to why the temple was destroyed made sense. Returning to their native timeline seconds after they left it makes a lot of sense as the point of the mission Enoch brought to Fitz and Simmons was to build the time machine then return to the moment they left to save the team and everything linked up seamlessly. It’s unknown if this was the plan all along but you’d certainly be forgiven for proceeding on that assumption.
A large chunk of the episode favours plot over character because it has to in order to keep the pieces moving in order to set up the character driven ending but there are moments of strong characterisation peppered throughout. One of the strongest examples is the debate over what to do about the current timeline. The team feel a strong sense of accountability because they played a major part in the significant changes that have occurred and consider it their responsibility to make sure the altered timeline is free of Chronicom threats. Fitz disagrees because he sees the altered timeline as an expendable source of what he needs in order to save their original one which is a very cold assessment of the current situation though it’s understandable when coming from Fitz as it has been well established that he constantly wrestles with an inner darkness that means he is sometimes detached from the consequences of his actions. Not to mention the fact that he hasn’t experience this timeline so has no tangible connection to it. By contrast the rest of the team do with Daisy watching her mother die as well as finding a sister she didn’t have the chance to meet in the original timeline, Mack mourning the loss of the alternate version of his parents and various other changes that have impacted the characters in significant ways. They rightly see the people in this timeline as important and recognise that they don’t deserve to be subjugated by the Chronicoms while they return to a much safer existence. As such they make the collective decision to give this timeline a chance to develop along its own lines and possibly thrive. This also creates measurable stakes for the episode as Fitz points out this is counter to what he had planned meaning there is a significantly reduced chance of success and survival. It’s a great way to introduce jeopardy, a moral dilemma and highlight how heroic the team are all in one conversation while setting things in motion for the remainder of the episode. Fitz delivers the reveal that this conversation is the last time the team would be together in the same room and as a final moment shared in the same physical space it was a strong one.
Deke’s decision to be the one to remain in this timeline is about the best ending we could expect for this character. In a strange way he found his place in that era by plagiarising popular 80s hits and forming a team so he has a real chance to build a life in this alternate 1980s by picking up what he already started. His moment with Mack where it’s acknowledged that Deke doesn’t give up on friends was truly touching and a perfect summary of the unique connection between these two characters as a goodbye. Deke taking charge of the remainder of S.H.I.E.L.D. in that timeline was a hilarious development as well. I now find myself interested in a TV show centred around Deke as part time director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and part time international musical sensation. It would certainly be a unique spin-off with near limitless possibilities.
The antagonists didn’t get any better for the final episode but as obstacles that complimented the situation they worked better than previously. Sybil and the Chronicoms were a formidable force that stood in the way of success and Malick was a super powered problem for Daisy to deal with. There was a personal stake in the latter as Malick was the one to kill Jiaying but for the most part he was a loose end that needed to be tied up. In general the action was excellent in these last two episodes with some truly stunning visuals and fight choreography. I particularly enjoyed Daisy and Malick’s duel of the Quakes though the end of it left a lot to be desired as Daisy’s sacrifice was immediately undercut by her being brought back despite being on an exploding ship and floating in the cold vacuum of space. It doesn’t add up that Kora could do nothing to save Jiaying after having her neck broken but could bring Daisy back after being exposed to the vacuum of space. The sacrificial moment wasn’t necessary in the context of the moment and since it ended up having no impact there was no need for it to be there.
Defeating the Chronicoms by using May to give them a huge dose of empathy was a really creative solution. It’s a bit of a catch all resolution but it takes advantage of their artificial construction and turns them from enemy to friend in an instant. It’s a lot more satisfying than simply blowing them all up and is a reminder of May’s significant progression as she is instrumental in an emotionally driven solution which is a far cry from the person she was back in the beginning of the show. Similarly the hug she and Daisy share is another example of that. May’s role in the conclusion was unexpected yet excellent and perfectly in keeping with what she has become.
The show ends with an extended epilogue of sorts set one year after the events of the finale where the core team get together using holographic avatars to catch up after being separated. Nobody dies but their lives have taken them in different directions. Mack is still the director based on a Helicarrier, Elena is a top agent in charge of her own team and still in a relationship with Mack, May is an instructor, Coulson’s taking some time to figure out his place and Daisy is travelling the stars enjoying being in a stable relationship with Sousa while getting to know her time and universe displaced sister. Fitz and Simmons are retired -or semi retired in Simmons’ case- living happily raising their daughter. It’s a very happy yet bittersweet ending as the team dynamic no longer exists with everyone in new positions that fit with them as characters. S.H.I.E.L.D. as an organisation has been restored to its original monolithic glory without the widespread corruption. The team being responsible for making S.H.I.E.L.D. the organisation it’s supposed to be is the most fitting possible ending. It shows that their efforts were worthwhile and they’ve become a significant part of something greater in their own unique ways.
As for the final moments they share together as a group, they’re an excellent reminder of what work so well about this show. The actors have such natural chemistry and the relationships developed between the core group of characters are so deep that they could be sitting around talking about nothing and I would still find it engaging. They’re all likeable and shine when together so ending the show on that was absolutely the right choice. Simmons vowing to make a conversation like that an annual tradition highlights that they will always be connected and reinforces the depth of those connections. Going forward in time by a year to show the characters in very different places delivers on the promise of the team not surviving the final mission and reinforces the theme of change developed throughout the final season. Life is all about change; there are positive changes, negative changes and changes that are hard to define. The team splitting up to go onto different roles qualifies as being hard to define or bittersweet as I said before. That dynamic they shared is gone but has changed into something else and doesn’t diminish everything they’ve been through together. One way or another nothing lasts forever and it looks as if the characters have adapted to that realisation well. The final takeaway is that nothing lasts forever but that’s ok.
A strong appropriately bittersweet ending to an excellent show. The two episodes highlight the strengths that the show has, focuses on the characters and delivers an ending worthy of them. The visuals and action throughout the two episodes are excellent, they are both full to the brim with incredible character moments and the ending feels both appropriate and satisfying. Having the team be responsible for turning S.H.I.E.L.D. into what it was supposed to be and taking assignments that fit their characters was a fitting end and the final scene they shared together where they take stock of their lives but still celebrate the connection they all share was wonderful. It ties nicely into the theme of change developed through the season and explores the idea that life is about changes in different forms with the characters adapting to the realisation that nothing lasts forever well.
- excellent action and visuals across the two episodes
- creative solutions to problems
- using the characters really well in the context of the situation
- wrapping up most of the plots in a satisfying way
- the final team conversation
- a strong bittersweet ending that embraces change and has the characters look to their future
- too much exposition when Fitz returns
- a lot of moving parts to the plot in the final episode that can be hard to follow at times
- the villains remaining underwhelming
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Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
I watched the first episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on my 26th birthday which is also when it began. When a show I love that I’ve been following since the beginning ends it makes me think about the path my own life has taken in the years the show has been a part of it. Since that first episode I’ve moved house four times, started a blog that later became this website, started a podcast, taken a few trips and weathered the many ups and downs that life brings. It’s fairly obvious to say that I’m not the same person I was back in 2013 because nobody remains the same over the course of 7 years but TV shows are a big part of my life so I find it makes me feel very reflective when one comes to an end.
This show has had a profound effect on me in many different ways as it has progressed. Like most I found the first season to be problematic as empty references to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe seemed to take precedence over engaging storytelling but I stuck with it through this difficult early period and was rewarded when the show shifted gears through its connection to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It still wasn’t at its best but it was the first opportunity for it to truly find its own identity. There was plenty of trial an error but eventually it did and for me it became defined but a lack of fear to explore wacky ideas. Reframing HYDRA as an alien worshipping cult was a risky plot but it certainly paid off and allowed Brett Dalton to continue testing his acting ability. Other ideas such as the Matrix like Framework, Life Model Decoys replacing characters, a trip to a dark future, Inhumans, a version of Ghost Rider and so many others mostly paid off as intended while continuing to evolve the show. The production team weren’t afraid to try outlandish things and fully embrace the comic book source material to come up with some truly unique stories and situations.
Through all of this was the characters taking us on this extended journey and none of it would have worked without them. Coulson was a great addition right from the beginning. Taking a beloved ancillary character from the movies, literally resurrecting him and allowing him to grow in ways beyond imagination was a masterstroke. Clark Gregg never failed to be engaging and Coulson in his various forms is endlessly complex. Skye/Daisy started off as the rebellious recruit who might betray them at any second and evolved into a super powered agent so far removed from those beginnings. Her development was organic and other than the difficulty changing Skye to Daisy in the episodes following that transition I have no complaints about how she was handled. Fitz and Simmons were characters I could not stand in the beginning. They were very much the children of the team and the constant attempts at humour were really grating for me early on. They both matured very quickly because of what they were routinely dealing with and ended up with the strongest interpersonal dynamic on the show. It was a joy to watch their relationship grow. Mack was always honourable, dependable, personable and commanded respect. His evolution from mechanic/field agent to Director was handled really well. On the surface it might seem like he had the least growth though that’s unfair as I’d say he became the best version of himself. May changed a lot from the stoic badass who was seemingly unstoppable in a fight. Despite her best efforts she became part of the family the team formed, forged an incredibly complex relationship with Coulson and had strong connections to everyone around her. Her comfort level with her own emotions was her major throughline and paid off magnificently. Elena was a great addition that tied into the appearance of Inhumans. She dealt with a lot over the course of the show, her relationship with Mack was strong, complex and realistic and her development followed a distinct path that was always engaging to watch.
There were other characters along the way that also stood out. Ward was a significant and interesting addition, Bobbi and Hunter made their mark in many different ways, Triplett was endlessly charming, Mace was a fun presence, Deathlok was sympathetic while being tragic in his own way and so many others. The point I’m making is that the show both created and adapted a plethora of great characters that each fed into the show in their own unique ways. The villains were often hit and miss but the core characters and those around them were always strong so that more than made up for it and will end up being the enduring legacy of the show.
As for my personal feelings on it now that it’s over; I’ll definitely miss it and would love to see the characters repurposed in other projects down the line somewhere. I see no reason why Daisy couldn’t turn up in a future movie or Disney+ series for example or have Coulson play a part in something at a later date. Any of them could be a part of a future project even though it has been all but established that they occupy their own timeline. There are few shows that affect me on a strong emotional level and this is one of them. It’s rare for me to be moved in really profound ways but there are a few moments that managed to profoundly affect me. The “Spy’s Goodbye“, Coulson telling the team that he’s dying and the final moment he shared with them before going off to meet his end in peace are examples of such moments. The final bittersweet conversation shared by the team in the finale numbers among them. There’s nothing left to say but goodbye Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – you are my favourite live action Marvel TV show and will most certainly be missed.
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