Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 6 Episode 3
“Fear and Loathing on the Planet of Kitson”
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. focuses on the outer space characters as Fitz tries to win his way to a better life and the crew of the Zephyr continue their search for him.
At the moment this is definitely two shows for the price of one. The Earthbound storytelling and the outer space adventures have no current connection to one another which makes it difficult for the season to feel cohesive and find a balance between them. One solution is to have episodes devoted to a particular narrative which gets rid of the potential juggling act but also runs the risk of alienating viewers less interested in one over the other.
This show has varied its tone a lot over the years so diverting away from being hyper serious in favour of a more comedic edge isn’t all that jarring though it does clash with the stakes that have been previously established and leaves the overall tone of the story playing out feeling uncertain as this happens so early on in the season. I suspect the idea here is to take advantage of the utter lunacy associated with being out in deep space and taking the opportunity to tell stories that take advantage of how outlandish the setting can be. The influences can be plainly seen from Star Wars to pretty much any TV show or movie that has gambling as a conceit but the real question is around how well executed it is in the context of this episode using these characters.
The plot where Fitz is concerned is that he and Enoch are wanted for violating the sanctity of the timeline and are cast aside by those they saved in the previous episode left with only a single casino chip to get by. Stop me if you’ve heard this before but the plan becomes winning enough money to get off the planet and return Fitz to cryo sleep to complete his self imposed mission. The plot where characters lose their money, plane tickets or something equally valuable in a game of chance is right at home in a sitcom and it’s hard to deny that this episode feels a little bit like this. It’s an oddly structured narrative as the dialogue suggests that there’s a great deal of urgency to the situation but the episode takes its time to move through the plot which makes it appear far less immediate than the dialogue suggests.
As an artificial life form Enoch comes pre-programmed with knowledge of several games of chance as well as having the ability to calculate odds in a tiny fraction of a second so he becomes the friend with the innate ability to count cards and win the funds necessary to escape the situation. I’m honestly baffled that there wasn’t a scene where the owner of the space casino caught onto their winnings being dishonestly gained and created a problem for them though I’m also glad that wasn’t the case as it would be more than a little contrived.
Instead the episode leans into the established traits of the characters to heighten the tension. In the case of Enoch his ability to conduct complex calculations with ease is countered by his inability to read people so he easily falls for a bluff which lands him and Fitz at square one. Enoch doesn’t even consider the players when conducting his strategy so he’s unable to see the bluff coming despite Fitz warning him against playing that particular hand. Joel Stoffer’s performance completely sells this along with everything else Enoch does in the episode.
Fitz and Enoch continue to make for a fun pair especially in a desperate situation like this. Enoch opens up to Fitz about considering him his best friend. This ties into the realisation that the concept of deception can apply in circumstances he hasn’t considered before when Fitz uses that to manipulate him into doing what he wants. This experience opens Enoch up to different possibilities when it comes to dealing with people and alters him from confidently carrying out his plan to being naive and consumed by self doubt. The idea that Fitz might be using him clearly weighs on him and it’s unknown if such a tactic is beneath Fitz at that point. By the end of the episode there is a more assured grounding to their friendship when Fitz confirms to him that they are “best friends” in the context of this situation. It may not be the reciprocation Enoch is looking for but it’s certainly enough to secure their status is inseparable partners and confirm the shared loyalty.
Even though the episode is focused on Fitz it belongs to Enoch in terms of the major emotional beats. Even though he doesn’t feel emotion it doesn’t mean that he’s disaffected by the situation. The strongest moment comes when he is decommissioned by his fellow Chronicom’s which effectively ends his usefulness as far as he’s concerned. For the first time in his life he has no purpose and doesn’t belong to anything. It may not be emotionally driven but he still feels abandoned. Given everything he’s done for Fitz and his role in the -now changed- future it’s clear that he’s a character worth investing in which makes him worthy of purpose among Fitz and his friends. This creates an opportunity for Enoch to truly become his own person and possibly explore the Chronicom’s in more detail through Enoch’s changed perspective of them. Enoch being an outcast from his people makes him an even better fit for the show and there’s a lot of potential to having him forced into this.
The other Chronicom’s depicted here are less characters and more obstacles to keep ahead of. As I mentioned above there’s no immediacy to this pursuit so the threat level isn’t quite what it should be but the idea of a group of hunters tasked with tracking down those who violated the continuity of the timeline is a compelling enough idea for now. It’s strange that they would be after Fitz as he is the one who belongs to this timeline since he didn’t travel back in time. He may not be following the path meant for him but that’s more the fault of his friends so hopefully this will be addressed in some way.
The crew of the Zephyr are dealing with Simmons’ unilateral decision to propel them further into deep space with fraying tempers and dwindling resources because she can’t see beyond her need to find Fitz. Daisy is less than pleased with this and pulls rank on her by making it clear that it wasn’t her call to make before deciding to head back to Earth because it’s the most sensible move to make at this point. She rightly points out that they can’t save Fitz if they end up dead so she resolves to head home and doesn’t open it up to a vote. Simmons demands to stay on her own and all but threatens Daisy when she refuses to let her so there is a lot of friction between these characters that needs to be resolved somehow. Simmons has changed a great deal as a result of recent events and become someone with a lot of edge to her. Her single minded focus on finding Fitz is blinding her to obvious dangers and has her butting heads with her friends while being unable to see that they have her best interests at heart not to mention loyalty to Fitz. Common sense is what Daisy is preaching and Simmons is just unwilling to listen.
As you might expect they are forced to stick around when they are unable to talk themselves out of a mandatory inspection of their ship that becomes more dangerous when it becomes known that they are affiliated with Fitz. Once the inspection excuse is out of the way the Zephyr crew scenes shift to being outright bizarre. Simmons, Daisy and Davis thoughtlessly ingest alien food and start “tripping balls” as Daisy puts it. As great as it is to see Chloe Bennet perform comedy and Elizabeth Henstridge tap into a more goofy persona it doesn’t quite fit with the severity of the situation. Ultimately it provides an excuse to cut through the animosity and remember the fundamentals of their friendship. The reminiscing about their first meeting and the early days in general while under the influence of an alien substance is undeniably fun and frees their interactions from the baggage that has recently built up but that doesn’t prevent it feeling divorced from everything else going on. I mentioned the shift in tone above and this makes it more difficult to lock onto the intended tone for the outer space narrative. The focus here is on creating a fun wacky interlude and it definitely works as one of those but the tension between them will likely still be there once the haze clears.
The reunion between Fitz and Simmons comes a lot earlier in the season than I expected though It looks as if there will be a series of near misses that only serve to further the idea that they are somehow cursed to never have a peaceful life together. The fleeting moment they share is really well done and his near immediate capture works on the level it’s supposed to so hopefully the next time they cross paths will be more permanent. Having Enoch among the Zephyr crew creates a lot of possibilities for this narrative to develop not to mention whatever scenario Fitz finds himself faced with.
Earth is only featured in one scene in this episode. Sarge powers up a mysterious gun with the precious gems obtained in the previous episode and fires a beam into the sky that seems to scan the planet for whatever their objective is. The reaction is best described as underwhelmed as Sarge remarks “seen better, seen worse”. It does little to build excitement and only really serves as a reminder that Team Sarge are looking for something which we already knew.
An uneven episode that manages some strong characterisation but struggles to maintain the urgency with its descent into wacky interludes. Fitz and Enoch remain an engaging pairing and this is definitely a strong outing for Enoch who deals with a lot in a relatively short period of time. As an artificial life form he is best placed to successfully gamble their way to freedom but suffers a setback when he learns that deception can come from unexpected angles such as bluffing during a game. This casts doubt on his recently admission that he considers Fitz his best friend as his mind is opened to the fact that Fitz may be using this to manipulate him. Later on when he is decommissioned remotely by his fellow Chronicom’s which removes his sense of purpose and belonging. He doesn’t feel emotion but certainly feels abandoned and the lack of purpose weighs heavily on him. Ultimately he is able to find some when Fitz assures him that they are “best friends” at least in this situation. Joel Stoffer continues to be excellent as Enoch and this episode opens him up to developing along interesting lines as well as exploring the Chonicom’s who serve as little more than obstacles in this episode. The casino driven plot is reminiscent of a sitcom and follows many of the expected tropes in less than sophisticated ways. It also lacks in urgency despite the dialogue being clear on how little time they apparently have.
The Zephyr crew are at odds with one another after the unilateral decision Simmons made to propel them further into deep space is a less than popular decision. Daisy pulls rank on her which dials up the animosity between them because Simmons is blinded by her single minded desire to find Fitz that she has no regard for the safety of her friends or herself. She’s in a very dark place that may or may not be tempered by a reunion with Fitz. The episode goes about dealing with the friction between Daisy and Simmons in a very specific way by having them reminisce about their first meeting as well as their early days after thoughtlessly ingesting a mind altering alien substance. It’s a lot of fun to watch and the actors do a great job delivering the material but it’s all very superficial and likely doesn’t really solve anything while robbing the situation of any immediacy given the amount of time spent on it.
- a strong and thoughtful character arc for Enoch
- the framing of his realisation that deception can come from surprising places
- Enoch and Fitz continuing to make for an engaging pairing
- the entertainment value of Daisy and Simmons “tripping balls”
- reminiscing about more innocent times
- diminished urgency in both of the main plots
- no real weight to Daisy and Simmons’ drug addled interactions
- over reliance on casino driven sitcom tropes
- the mix of tones not really working
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