Rather than letting Stargirl have all the spotlight this week, Agents SHIELD went out with a double header! SPOILERS for the final season are declassified beneath.
The team swinging by Area 51 in the 50’s was fun. Robo-Coulson made an old lady cry with the Voight-Kampff test! I was expecting the genuine article, but Jemmacide as Peggy Carter may be even better. (Does the next Mission Impossible movie takes place in the What If … Peggy Carter got the super soldier serum?)
Does the flicker in Coulson’s eye foreshadow this LMD will go haywire? Nah, it just means he’ll have an inner monologue whilst seeing everything de-colorized. Except not only is the episode not shot entirely from LMD POV, even scenes he’s not in are filmed in grayscale! Way to undermine the flimsy rationale for a fun noir homage. They faked Agent Daniel Sousa’s death to maintain chronology & shanghaied him. Sousa got real angry they didn’t know what they’re doing with time travel. He should be relieved he’s not aboard The Waverider.
They time-jumped right past the 1960’s! This is odd because not only was this the dawn of Silver Age Marvel Comics, it was also the height of spy-ence fiction. They blew their window for Jemma Peel! Maybe they didn’t want to do a Apollo episode because they realized they couldn’t top Legends Of Tomorrow? I’m kind of 60’s-ed out after The Umbrella Academy’s sophomore term anyway. At least the seventies have classic navy & white SHIELD uniforms plus more Patrick Warburton.
Coulson’s superpower is dying! Him being resurrected into an LMD is kind of a metaphor for this series being renewed for another two seasons when it already reached its natural conclusion. The Chronicoms changing the timestream seems like it could explain why the show doesn’t line up with the movies anymore, though it would’ve been more helpful before season six started.
I really liked how Fitz explained that destiny can’t be undone even if you have precognitive forewarning because spacetime is immutable. They still managed to make changing events via time travel work with the Time Monolith (Can a new Eye of Agamotto be made from it?) despite this contradiction. Now the the chronal mechanics are yanked even further apart this season based on the equally contradictory branching time travel featured in Avengers Endgame. Even if you can reconcile that this is a different sort of time travel that doesn’t necessarily conflict with other approaches shown, they could’ve explored more of what this entailed.
Season seven continued switching up the title cards to match the time jumps! Hopping around gave this season a fun Legends of Tommorrow vibe… until they got hot stuck halfway through in the 1980’s. To make matters worse, only the first episode in this decade actually felt like the 80’s. The remaining episodes were limited to isolated sets that could’ve been any time. This was an unfortunate side effect of not having enough money to fully exploit time travel, although it seems like it should’ve gotten progressively cheaper to furnish if they kept jumping decades forward. ABC must be quite stingy with the budget if it still struggled despite only being half a season. Considering they were basically filmed back to back, it’s likely the last two seasons were one season’s budget split in twain rather than each getting the standard funding.
Since she said it had taken a long time to develop the new technology & exhibited senility symptoms, I suspected time-travelling Jemma might’ve been using the Infinity Formula to keep herself youthful despite her real superannuated age. It turns out she just has a bio-implant named DIANA (supposedly named Digital Implanted Axon Neurotransmission Attenuator after Elizabeth Henstridge’s wedding ring) to keep her from thinking about the absent Leopold Fitz. It won’t even let her recall her favorite band is Fitz & The Tantrums. Scratch another comics connection they could’ve worked in!
While I wasn’t wild about last season, at least its adversaries had more charisma than Chronicoms. They really haven’t distinguished themselves from basic alien killbots, so they feel like reheated LMDs. They’re most interesting when reduced to makeshift robots than humanoids. If the Chronicoms have such longevity that they say their view of life is a superior long game to humans, why do they seem so anxious to colonize Earth? Why not wait until humans are extinct to claim a replacement homeworld? If they really are that worried about SHIELD, why not pull a Terminator 3 to kill Coulson’s team before they’re recruited? I realize that plan wouldn’t work now that it’s been clarified as a branched timeline, but then why bother time traveling at all when the Chronicoms looked like they were on the brink of victory last year?
There’s a lot of focus on the Malick family this season. The only reason anybody possibly cared about Gideon Malick was that he was played by the late Powers Booth & was in The Avengers. The Malicks just aren’t that interesting. His formerly deceased brother, Nathaniel, is saved by the Chronicoms from being sacrificed. Nathaniel steals Quake’s powers (using Whitehall’s yet to be tested method that he learned secondhand via literal telephone). I’m disappointed he didn’t really die when their activation shattered his bones & a building collapsed on him. He prevents Jiaying’s older daughter, Kora (not The Avatar), from committing suicide. Kora was never even mentioned previously! Nathaniel & Kora feel like stale rehashes of Ruby Hale & Werner Strucker. (I’m honestly surprised I’d never written in detail how much I appreciated Crossfit Tinkerbell. She was the show’s Shiv.)
Garrett is another villain that owes more to the late Bill Paxton’s charm than the writing. Using a younger version that doesn’t have a history with the team & functions like an idiot lackey doesn’t leave a good impression. Despite casting his son, his performance often feels like mugging without stronger material. Having seen Bill Paxton in 80’s movies, his kid is also too gaunt for the illusion to work.
Nathaniel calls himself an anarchist, but his ethos is fuzzy. He wants to save a bunch of people SHIELD killed & kill a bunch that lived without an apparent goal. I like the idea of the villains being rescued from death better than its execution. Unlike LOT’s Legion of Doom, I don’t have an attachment to any of them. Instead of the uphill battle homaging dead villains brought to life by departed actors, why not bring in one whose actor is still alive like Dr. Whitehall? The Chronicoms could’ve finally hooked him up with a Kraken helmet! (HYDRA’s image problem is that its logo is a kraken not a hydra!)
Although it was filled with plenty of cute 80’s movie Easter eggs, “The Totally Excellent Adventures Of Mack And The D” wasn’t as fun as the title & trailer led me to expect. See you can do a story about binge eating & drinking to cope with survivor’s guilt without it being a fat joke! Mack makes model kits! He’s just like us! He even runs afoul of the dreaded super glue! Stop making Turtle Man suffer! (I finally watched Chopping Mall based on Mack’s recommendation, & it is shockingly not not great.) He’d never been one of my favorite characters before, but Mack may be the MVP of this season. (Henry Simmons got to keep the shotgun-axe!)
Mack now being orphaned as a child doesn’t have any affect on him aside from depression. The problem with this branching approach to time travel is it lessons the tension. Changing the past isn’t as big a deal if it’s not your past. It would’ve significantly upped the stakes if this alteration significantly changed Mack’s memories on a fundamental level.
Deke Shaw making his own bootleg SHIELD team that moonlights as a pre-cover band was a much better gag than his non-starter start-up. He is the most wholesome con artist. The Deke Squad spinoff when? “My heart resides forever in your beautiful clutches, Roxy Glass.” Deke went full Star-Lord with that vintage Walkman.
May’s resurrection conveniently made her an empathic Chronicom detector, yet doesn’t explain her sticking to the ceiling in the season premiere. There isn’t really any obvious causality to explain her empathic powers either. Depowered Yo-Yo is an annoying budget saver. (The writers imply it’s more of a narrative device to explain why this speedster can’t instantly whup everyone.) When Yo-Yo unlocks her power again, she longer has to return to her starting point even though that wasn’t psychosomatic like her depowering?
Quake does Hedgehog Day! Elizabeth Henstridge aced her directorial debut. Drew Z. Greenberg proved time loop episodes aren’t played out yet. Not only was Coulson thirst for a year & a half during his Max Headroom phase, now he’s amusingly cranky that he remember all the time loops even if Daisy gets reset. Enoch’s sacrifice was very tragic. Jemma has a huge emotional meltdown, which teases more angst for Fitzsimmons fans. “As I Have Always Been” was so damn great it made the next episode look even weaker.
“Stolen” had the heroes be oddly ineffective against irritating foes just to drag the story out. Coulson doesn’t do anything to stop Garrett from getting Gordon’s teleportation powers even though it looks like he breaks his restraints easily? Quake knocks Malick down but lets him overpower her instead of finishing the job? Jiaying draining his lifeforce barely slows him? May can’t kill him with two shots to the back? I’d be much more invested in the threat if killing Jiaying early (Dichen Lachman dies in everything) blinked Quake out of existence. It’s a bummer there’s no Cal Zabo cameo.
Agent Daniel Sousa has been plucked out of time & is very content to be a supporting character. He a Daisy also suddenly have an respectful yet awkwardly shoehorned in courtship. I like him better than her other exes (unless Ghost Rider counts), but it just feels weird given the age gap & how little time it had to develop. He’s still the best guy they’ve paired her with.
Why couldn’t the Chronicom fleet simultaneously destroy all the SHIELD bases from orbit before? Apparently The Lighthouse was built to withstand destruction by all external forces, which begs the question: Why didn’t SHIELD construct all its bases like that?
Nathaniel’s plan is spelled out better in the end, for better or worse. He wants Chronicoms creating chaos so he can swoop in to save the Earth. Then he can rule it just like every generic supervillain. Never trust a rich “anarchist!” He betrays Garrett & Korra as soon as they’re inconvenient. This smug dummy still thinks the precognitive Chronicoms wouldn’t snuff him out before he can enact his scheme. At least the actor’s odd voice is a point in the character’s favor.
Black Lightning’s Major Sarah Grey pops up as one of Malick’s commandos, Kimbal, much like how Agent Piper was previously Supergirl’s Agent Vasquez. Malick implies he’ll give her Kora’s powers, but he gives them to himself. Katy O’Brian is never seen again.
Sybil the Chronicom Predictor has DIANA dissolved so she can get confirmation about Schrödinger’s Fitz. Now she’s the audience stand-in! This causes Jemma’s memories to get all goopy like I expected of Mack & Quake. Daisy & Deke fail to get Jemmacide a costume as promised. In the two-part finale’s most creative moment, deactivated Chronicoms are duct-taped together around missiles to make a big hole in their mothership.
Garrett gets amusingly trapped like a numbskull & has to fruitlessly call Malick for help. He’s killed by young Victoria Hand in a cute bit of karmic irony. (Legion’s Rachele Schank plays her instead of Saffron “my name is either a sentence or two nouns” Burrows.) “The End Is At Hand” is an apt pun title for the penultimate episode. Enoch gave time machine parts to assorted SHIELD agents decades ago. Luckily those agents or their descendants survive the Chronicom onslaught & bring these items to the safehouse for Jemma to reassemble. That brings Fitz in Deke’s old Xorn helmet to them. He says they can telport back to their original timeline through the
Microverse Quantum Realm & stop the Chronicoms using Kora. They don’t debate saving the inhabitants of another timeline because they’re big damn heroes. They’ll be taking this timesline’s Chronicom fleet along too, but won’t they just have to deal with another invasion once their Izel destroys Chronica-B? Deke stays behind to operate the device & possibly becomes Director of SHIELD.
Back in 2019, it turns out the time travel team already met themselves whilst disguised in hazmat suits in the previous season finale. Sibyl thinks she vaporized the Zephyr but it just popped back to an alternate 1931. Yo-Yo slow-mo punches through a hallway of Chronicoms! Aboard their mothership, Coulson tricks Sibyl into opening system access so Melinda “The Cavalry” May can make a badass entrance through a conveniently placed skylight! (The ageless Ming-Na Wen worked in that line!) He uses Kora’s energy to broadcast May’s empathy to all Chronicoms so they catch feelings. This makes them all decide to become friendly & cease the invasion. It’s lovely they avoided genocide, but it also seems like too abrupt a win. This still doesn’t resolve the underlying issue of the Chronicom diaspora.
Even if Nathaniel has more experience with vibrational powers, I still doubt he’d match Daisy for fighting skills. Once he remembers he also has Kora’s powers, Quake busts open the ship to kill them both. Her sacrifice was a surprising end. Then they undo it but fishing her out of space & having Korra zap some energy into her. Wasn’t Kora’s energy destructively volatile?
Fitz’s plan to save the world requires both May’s new power & Kora, both of which he wouldn’t have known about. A possible explanation is that he just looked up how the issue got resolved while he was was in the future. So why did he not instruct Jemma & Enoch to fetch Kora directly? So much of the time travel mission ended up being irrelevant! Kora is a pretty weak plot device to resolve every problem, especially since she’s mostly defined by her gullibility that allows her to shift allegiances to wherever the story requires.
Agent Piper has become an increasingly larger part of the team as seasons go by so it feels unfair to exclude her until the end. It turns out she & Flint have been guarding Fitz & his secret daughter in the original timeline’s 2019. (I was kind of hoping he’d be tucked away in the year 2099.) For her reward, Jemma makes her an LMD of Agent Davis D. Davis, the man who Izel killed for stealing a space-pen.
The slowburn romance of Coulson & May was no resumed to the dismay of Phillindroid shippers. May didn’t trust this LMD was really her dead boyfriend, although her inability to sense his feelings might’ve ironically been a boon considering how she struggled to adapt to her new power. I expected her to overcome her robophobia if both survived. It’s odd they prioritised giving Daisy a brand new love interest over mending this relationship. It’s not like they couldn’t do both. They don’t say Phil & Melinda won’t get back together eventually, but it’s frustrating if you prefer definitive outcomes in a finale. At least Mack & Yo-Yo are a couple again.
Coulson, May, Mack, Quake, Fitzsimmons, & Yo-Yo have a hygienic hologram meeting one year later where there is still no reference to The Snapture. May is now teaching at the Coulson Academy, presumably for future SHIELD agents. Mack is still Director of SHIELD with Yo-Yo, Piper, & Davis serving under him. Fitzsimmons retired to raise their daughter, Alya, rather than risk being separated again. Quake, Sousa, & Kora are doing space missions, possibly for Nick Fury’s SWORD. Quake still hasn’t achieved her comic book destiny of becoming Director of SHIELD or rocking a pixie cut. To echo the end of the series premiere, Coulson ends the series by flying off in the souped-up Lola Mack gifted him. Everybody gets a happy ending!
Although Enoch said this was the last mission they would all be together, the door for reunions is still open on the technicality that Deke stayed behind. The fact that the rest are back in the original timeline means that I’ll still whine about these characters being snubbed from appearing in the movies. (You hear me, Black Widow?) Since we’ve seen Mack is still operating SHIELD aboard a Hellicarrier, it’ll remain egregious if they don’t pitch in for future cinematic crises. If Marvel Studios really wanted to never use them again, they should’ve left the whole team in the alternate timeline.
For a time travel victory lap, I was expecting more famous faces from the past. Although Grant Ward overstayed his welcome, I’m shocked they didn’t visit him, Tripp, & Izzy Hartley in the past. They could’ve spent less time in the 80’s to squeeze them in. Lance Hunter, Mockingbird, Deathlok, Snowflake, & some Koenigs should’ve at least cameoed in the finale. This is just like Gotham not making good on its promise of more Firefly, Mr. Freeze, & Man-Bat in its final season. Also Scott Adsit does not appear despite being a canon SHIELD agent in the Deadpool comics.
Remember how great season four was? We got LMDs, Robbie Reyes, Gabe Reyes, Eli Morrow, Johnny Blaze, Patriot, The Darkhold, Made Hydra, Nitro, & possibly a Red Guardian. Not only that, each of its arcs was awesome. Marvel & ABC were supporting it enough that it could finally achieve its potential without having to directly tie into new movies. Its greatness is a double-edged sword because the show could never measure up afterwards. The series performed so well that season that Marvel wouldn’t let it play in its toy box anymore! The comics aspects were much more important to me than the movie bits.
The writers were originally cleared to use MODOK, but then Marvel Studios rescinded it. In addition to Squirrel Girl, the axed New Warriors show would’ve had Keith David as MODOK. Why won’t you let us have nice things, 2020? Will Patton Oswalt’s MODOK cartoon for Hulu suffer the same fate? Chekov says that if you reference Griffin in season one & Hellcow in season two, you must show the audience Griffin & Hellcow by season seven! This is Stilt-Man all over again! (Don’t tell me Marvel Studios has big plans for those three elsewhere!)
Thus ends ABC’s Agents of SHIELD … for realsies this time! Overall the final season was better than the penultimate season but not as strong as most of the preceding. I wish it had more unique adversaries & explored time travel further. This show struggled meeting expectations, especially with infighting betwixt the film & TV departments of Marvel Studios stabbing it in the back. (WB meddling has hampered DC shows too, yet they still seem to have a deeper well of wonderment to draw from.) It’s very difficult to evaluate it on its own merits when I’m so familiar with the untapped potential from the source material. Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, & Jeffrey Bell had an arduous task making a Marvel show where they weren’t allowed many movie or comics elements.
Rather than being the flagship MCU television show, it became the underdog. While it had its ups & downs, on the whole Agents of SHIELD was more enjoyable that Marvel’s supposedly more prestigious Netflix offerings. (Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger deserves to be resurrected!) I would’ve been content to stop at five, but fortunately my attachment to the characters & cast overcame the wobbliness of the two bonus seasons. Even with all the stumbling blocks thrown at it by the entities that should’ve been supporting it, the fact that it still had seven solid seasons is a marvelous achievement.