Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 6 Episode 2
“Window of Opportunity”
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. develops the new Earthbound antagonists, continues to work on the new team dynamic and checks in with Fitz in outer space.
Parking the search for Fitz plot in the previous episode for one focused on what Fitz is up to at this point is a strong decision as it allows this plot to move forward rather than languish in the potentially futile mission for a long period of time. With a far shorter running order than usual the storytelling has to be tight and shifting the focus is certainly one way to do this.
It turns out that Simmons was right about Fitz journeying to the place his cryo pod was made so that he can refreeze himself but first he has to deal with an unexpected detour where he finds himself enslaved on a ship and putting his engineering talents to good use repairing it. As we join him he is under constant suspicion from those he works with until he is eventually outed as being a Human. For whatever reason Humans -or Terrans- aren’t very well regarded in the interstellar community despite having only recently joined it in fairly limited ways.
In actuality, Fitz’ current arc is around finding redemption. Attaching this to him at this point is a really good idea as it serves as a natural reminder that this version of Fitz hasn’t had any character development prior to him being frozen. All of the lessons and personal realisations gained throughout season 5 haven’t happened for him so there’s a lot of ground to cover. It’s more than likely that he will go off in a very different direction because the situation is far different which presents different challenges. Basically he’s trying to atone for everything he did during his time in the Framework. His moral barometer is defined by whether he will be able to look Simmons in the eye after carrying out certain actions and he decides that he can’t let the crew of the ship he’s on be jettisoned out an airlock because the right thing to do is help those who need it. By contrast Enoch is willing to let himself and Fitz be enslaved while everyone else is airlocked because he is committed to the mission of ensuring Fitz makes it to his desired time period in order to help his friends. His lack of emotion and programmed survival instincts mean that he will choose the path that is in line with the success of his mission even if lots of people are hurt or killed as a result. Together they make for an engaging pairing as Enoch has plenty of skill and knowledge where FItz can act as the conscience.
Not that Fitz is bereft of skill. His engineering expertise is what puts him over the top and encourages Viro (Paul Telfer) to favour him over the others. He also arranges Viro’s defeat though tricking him into airlocking himself. It was a really perceptive gamble on Fitz’ part to understand Viro well enough based on a brief conversation to know that he doesn’t value anyone except himself. This is yet another example of how far Fitz has come since the early seasons. The end scene where the Zephyr shows up just as Fitz and Enoch leave strains believability to the extreme. It’s somewhat forgivable because the focus remains on the characters and how they connect to a given situation but given the size of outer space it’s difficult to accept that they would miss each other by seconds. Hopefully the reunion won’t be drawn out for too long as such plots can get tedious.
After a mystery driven introduction in the previous episode, the small group of new villains are given plenty of screen time in order to flesh them out. It’s clear from very early on that they have spent a lot of time together and work well as a unit. Their conversations are natural and there’s a clear long cultivated rapport that comes across. The observations they make about Earth suggest that they have visited a lot of worlds and are well practised in sussing them out very quickly. Sarge talking about being able to tell a lot about a culture through their currency and the dismissive way he regards combustion based technology shows that he regards Earth as being somewhat primitive even if it is rich in resources that they need.
There is also a sense of conflict between them judging by the differing reactions to the death of their comrade who ended up becoming part of a wall. Pax (Matt O’Leary) is especially frustrated which indicates how close they were though that’s about all we get from Pax. In general they are largely defined by core memorable traits which does help with identifying them at this early stage though comes across as fairly shallow all the same. Jaco (Winston James Francis) only seems to be defined by not being Pax so far and Snowflake (Brooke Williams) is a bloodthirsty killer who justifies her actions due to her obsession with reincarnation. The actors do a lot to imbue them with personality but we will need more if we are to truly invest in them.
Sarge is understandably the most interesting of the bunch because of his resemblance to Coulson. Clark Gregg must be having a blast with this new role as it gives him the opportunity to play basically everything that Coulson wasn’t. He lacks any of Coulson’s compassion or empathy and there’s nothing about him that could be considered approachable. They share some common traits such as loyalty and devotion to the mission at hand. The reason for the resemblance remains a mystery but it is revealed that he shares Coulson’s DNA which suggests a connection beyond the resemblance. Based on the use of portals and talk of different worlds my money is on this being a multiverse situation with Sarge being Phil Coulson from another reality who has a completely different background. This would explain why the word “Coulson” sounds familiar to him.
Little is known about their objective but there is a strong suggestion that it’s destructive. The video Benson unearths shows devastation on another planet that they’ve visited and the focus on gems that have power generation properties suggests that they may be looking to destroy Earth for resource gathering purposes. Based on the available evidence they don’t seem to place any value on the lives of the indigenous life so this could be a severe problem that is difficult for the team to overcome.
Their objective for the purposes of this episode is to get their hands on some of those sought after gems which leads them to rob a jewellery store. Here we see how coordinated and practiced they are at executing operations. The portal from the vault of the store to their cloaking enabled truck was a really cool effect and they represent a tangible threat to the team with combat skills to rival May along with the clear tactical knowledge of Sarge. This makes for an excellent proper introduction to this small group of antagonists as they represent a measurable threat, remain mysterious while gaining development. If this momentum can be maintained then they are likely to become something special.
Naturally fighting an enemy with Coulson’s face takes it toll on the team. May in particular finds it hard to deal with because she watched the real deal die not so long ago and is still working to make her peace with it. This causes her to regress somewhat such as walking back her advice to Elena from the previous episode and issues a warning against the consequences of a workplace romance. She is so affected by seeing the face of Coulson once again that she focuses on the negatives associated with the loss rather than positives associated with the time they had together. Whether this will result in a return to the May of old who keeps an emotional distance in service of the mission or if she will come to realise that personal attachments actually make her stronger remains to be seen but this works well in the context of this episode and gives the conflict with Sarge’s people emotional heft.
With so much going on in the episode the newer additions to the cast are unfortunately relegated to the sidelines. Keller’s connection to the agent that died last week isn’t given enough time to breathe nor does it hold any real weight as he was firmly in the background before he was killed. With more work this could have helped create an emotional pillar while also serving as a mirror of Sarge and his men mourning the loss of one of their own. In theory it connects the two teams through how they deal with loss but in practice it doesn’t land because the loss to the S.H.I.E.L.D. team is all but meaningless.
Benson fares a little better but gets lost among the plethora of elements at play. I do like that he pushes back against anything less than total transparency but backs down when realising the reasons behind it are intense and personal. This tells us that trust is still being built but he does have a lot of respect for the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. and what it can represent. He still brings something to the table but the show is struggling with all of the plates being spun and the new characters are suffering as a result.
An excellent episode that develops the new antagonists nicely while retaining a great deal of mystery and delivers a strong Fitz centric plot. Moving the outer space story from the Zephyr to Fitz is a really good idea as it keeps the plot moving rather than being bogged down in a potentially futile search narrative. Fitz being motivated by what will allow him to look Simmons in the eye when he sees her works really well and the reminders of the Framework naturally bring in the fact that this version of Fitz is an earlier one without the lessons and revelations from the previous season. Ultimately he uses his technical skill and intelligence to find the most efficient way of dealing with Viro. All of this sets up a redemption arc that starts off as being compelling and begins what could be a series of fun adventures though the ending scene where the Zephyr misses Fitz by literal seconds is a bit much.
Sarge and his team are developed significantly in this episode though are fairly superficial in their characterisation for the most part. This is fine for this early stage as it helps them be identified in very clear ways. They also have a lot of personality and a natural dynamic as a group which really helps them be immediately engaging. The robbery set piece is also a lot of fun and shows how formidable they are as a threat. May’s reaction to seeing the face of Coulson after watching the real one die not so long ago causes her to regress and walk back her advice to Elena about workplace romances. Whether this means a permanent regression or not remains to be seen but it’s a reasonable reaction to what she has experienced and offers strong emotional grounding. The new characters suffer from the plethora of elements at play which makes the mourning scene near the beginning less than effective despite being mirrored by Sarge’s team. Benson fares better but still doesn’t have enough time to fully cement himself in the team dynamic.
- developing Sarge and his team while retaining their mystery
- their natural and lived in interactions
- showing them to be a formidable challenge
- May’s reaction to seeing Coulson’s face
- switching the outer space action to Fitz allowing the plot to keep moving
- Fitz’ redemption arc and the sophisticated reminder that this is an earlier version
- the new characters being buried under the plethora of events
- the Zephyr missing Fitz by seconds
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