Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Season 3 Episode 15
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD tackles the idea of changing the future when Daisy has a vision of terrible things happening.
Prophetic visions are nothing new in sci fi and fantasy. Most shows have had knowledge of future events be the focus of a story and it’s always a difficult thing to do. When predictions of the future are given then the actual predicted event has to be cleverly handled to either surprise the viewer or show them that some things can’t be changed.
This show promotes the idea that the future is fixed and can’t be changed. Daisy saw the future so that makes it an objective fact according to Fitz. He gets into a long explanation about how we perceive time -or the 4th dimension- in 3D so it appears as if there is a past, present and future but our perception is a limited one. He explains it better using a pile of paper and a black line. It’s an explanation that needs to be added to the classic temporal explanation mechanism along with Doc Brown’s chalkboard masterclass from Back to the Future Part II or the scene in Looper where Bruce Willis explains the whole thing to Joseph Gordon Levitt. The long and short of what Fitz says is that knowing about the future doesn’t mean that it can be changed. I very much doubt that is going to be the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe stance on time travel because that makes it impossible to adapt some notable comic arcs but for the purposes of this episode the future can’t be changed and the characters have to come to terms with that fact.
The whole thing is executed fairly well with a sense of inevitability to the whole thing. Daisy had the vision so she finds it more difficult to process than everyone else and is determined to make sure that things play out differently. It’s a natural reaction and Chloe Bennet delivers a great performance as Daisy goes through the motions that lead to the event. She grows more frustrated as the episode progresses especially since her training has taught her that being prepared for something is the most important thing when it comes to defending against it. Being told something is inevitable goes against everything that she is learned so she does everything she can to prepare as well.
Coulson is on a similar wavelength that has him work to prevent it too. Instead of Daisy going on the mission he’ll send May so that things play out differently right from the beginning. Anyone who has watched TV before will know that something will prevent May from taking Daisy’s place and the whole thing will start to come true but I’ll come back to that later.
I really like the idea of rehearsing everything that Daisy knows about to shave precious seconds off the mission and increase the changes of a different resolution. It’s a practical way to react to future knowledge and allowed for a great sequence that showed the team working together in a way that we rarely see.
The mission itself plays out exactly as Daisy saw it but the interpretation was incorrect. She didn’t get the full picture from her vision so what she thought was snow turned out to be ash, the blood on Lincoln’s face wasn’t caused by a lethal blow and Coulson doesn’t shoot Daisy. I liked the twist with the mirror so that Daisy would see Coulson apparently aiming a gun at her but it turning out to be his reflection. It was very clever and had the whole thing instantly make sense. It also gives Daisy hope as she realises that she was wrong about that so could be wrong about other things.
It all ends with Charles being the only casualty though Daisy does have another vision that shows her the flashforward depicted in the midseason return. She is clearly involved in that event but we don’t have any more insight into what might be happening. Judging by the misinterpreted vision that filled this episode I’m inclined to think that it won’t be anything like it seems. Then again the purpose of this episode could be to make the audience think that and then have the event be exactly what is expected which could mean that Daisy is going to die before the end of the season. I hope not but I wouldn’t rule it out.
The Inhuman with the ability to see the future, Charles (Bjørn Johnson) was a really good character in his all too brief appearances. Johnson played the weight of Charles’ power nicely and the tragic nature of his life since becoming an Inhuman came across perfectly. He is a man who just couldn’t take it any more so left his family to free them from experiencing what he sees. Every time he touches another human being he is shown their future and it’s a lot to take in so his desire to isolate himself makes sense. Daisy’s conversation with his wife showed the effect that has from the other side so the tragic tale has a lot of balance to it. Could this show Daisy that the whole “birthright” argument isn’t as simple as she wants it to be.
Lincoln echoes the theme of fate established by the visions by saying that Inhuman abilities manifest for a reason. Everything Raina said came true but that knowledge allowed Daisy to stop Jiaying so something good did come from it. He believes that this is the same thing and that reason will become clear. The way he talks is almost spiritual and Lincoln definitely shows more personality than he ever has in his brief scenes. It’s good that the character is finally progressing. Just as a quick aside – with Raina and Charles freely seeing the future does anyone remember when the idea of the Clairvoyant actually being able to do that back in season 1 seemed ridiculous to everyone? How far we’ve come!
The last minute complication that stopped May going on the mission was really clumsy as Andrew’s sudden appearance seemed completely random. I guess that was the idea but it felt out of place in an otherwise focused episode. Considering the fuss she made over the servers tracking Lash I was expecting him to appear just before she entered the building which would have somehow prevented her from completing the mission. He could have attacked her or maybe she let her emotional attachment to Andrew get in the way and she leaves against orders. It would have been a far better way to handle it than Andrew showing up to give him a chance to say goodbye before Lash takes over completely.
Andrew and May’s final scenes together were handled really well from an acting point of view. The discussion of regret and what they would change does tie into the overall theme of fate that the episode explores and it shows that they perceive their time together differently. Andrew wouldn’t change anything as he values what they had but May would rather they never met so that none of these horrible things would happen to him. Isn’t hindsight a horrible thing? I also like Andrew’s insistence that he felt like he was part of something greater and Lash was doing everything for some unclear reason. Andrew seems to be gone now so I’ll be interested to see how the show handles Lash in the coming episodes. It’s only a matter of time before he escapes again but what will happen when he does?
The exploration of the relationship between Malick and Hive was really interesting. Malick tries to remind him of the promise that was made to help take over the world but Hive can’t understand that desire since Malick has near infinite resources already. He taps into the root of Malick’s desire when he realises that he craves true power since that’s something he has never had. Hive uses taking a life as an example as there is no greater power you can have over someone than watching them die in front of you and know that it was you that caused it. It’s a debatable view but Hive clearly believes it and Malick seems to agree with him.
Malick is given an experimental exoskeleton that lets him experience that power for himself. Before that point he had never directly taken a life because he was easily able to order others to do it so it’s a clear shift in the way he thinks and sees the world. In general Malick is starting to see that things aren’t the way he thought they were as Hive’s plan doesn’t seem to match what he was promised and this really concerns him. Whatever vision of the future he has visibly terrifies him and makes him want protection. Does he see that Hive kills him or something worse than that? I like that the question is left open and becomes one of the mysteries to carry through the rest of the season.
It’s interesting that Hive carries around the prosthetic hand that Coulson used to kill Ward. That memory is something that seems to have had a profound effect on him and has caused him to have a vendetta against Coulson. Hopefully the antagonistic relationship will be explored in interesting ways.
Brett Dalton continues to deliver an excellent performance as Hive. He has Ward’s memories but is something else entirely. Dalton’s detached performance is really eerie as it shows how single minded he is in his quest as well as human emotion being beneath him in a lot of ways. He may dress like Neo from The Matrix but his threat level can’t be denied and the fact that he seems to be gunning for Coulson only increases the urgency. I got the impression that this mission was a near miss but they probably won’t be as lucky next time.
An excellent episode that mostly focused on the idea of the future being impossible to change. There was a sense of inevitability to the story that allowed Chloe Bennet to deliver a really good performance as Daisy refused to believe that she couldn’t do anything. Hive is proving to be a great villain who isn’t all he seems to Malick and his vendetta against Coulson should prove interesting in the coming episodes. Andrew randomly showing up to ensure that May couldn’t go on the mission felt a little contrived but was a good opportunity for a well acted scene between the characters. There is definitely lots to chew on in this episode and it all flows well
- the exploration of fate and inevitability as ideas
- a powerful performance from Chloe Bennet
- well executed action sequences
- Andrew’s contrived appearance to get May out of the way