Agents of Shield Season 5 Episode 9: Best Laid Plans Recap

AOS509May&Coulson

Agents of SHIELD gives us another ambitious episode this week, with more clarifying information about this pod’s mythology, a human rebellion, a callback to Tahiti, the answer to the question “Just what is Enoch?”, a daring escape from what’s left of Planet Earth, and a Daisy-Sinara rematch. Deke also sentenced Voss to his fate, and there was some ominous foreshadowing to end the episode. And nearly everyone on the Zephyr suffered from some form of existential angst. You can never forget about the existential angst on Agents of SHIELD.

We begin with an atmospheric shot of two Kree soldiers emerging from a misty red background to try to put down the human rebellion. They’re being lured toward Mack and Elena, who easily kill them. That makes eight Kree that the humans have killed so far.

The rebels are putting Fitz’ weapons cache to good use. Elena tells Mack that she finds his rebel-peacemaker side sexy, but before they can do anything about it, Flint comes down the hall, all business. Having kids ruins your love life, it’s true. He tells them that the entire floor has been secured for the humans.

When Kasius finds out that there’s an armed rebellion, he throws one of his patented temper tantrums. Then he orders his guard to have the doctor awaken the latest acquisition. The humans need to learn that he’s more than an enemy. He’s a god.

On the Zephyr, Enoch is trying to understand Flint’s part in the plan to return home and what that has to do with the monolith shard. Coulson tries to explain, but gives up and tells Enoch that Flint can control rocks. The monolith is a rock.

The team is working to repair the Zephyr so that they can fly it back to the Lighthouse and rescue the rest of their people. After 80 years of being a crashed derelict, it’s not going well. Jemma does have the avionics working.

May is developing a snarky relationship with Enoch. She calls him Metal Man as she insists the Zephyr will fly again. Enoch says that he’s not made of metal. He’s mostly made of plastic alloy, and chronicons don’t have gender.

Maybe they don’t start with gender, but he’s been conveniently wearing the skin of a middle-aged white man for years. He’s taken on the persona of the most privileged group in earth’s culture, not someone relatively gender or class neutral, and has reaped the benefits and risked the biases that presenting with that exterior gives him.

Enoch also notes: “Plastics are quite useful, if not often appreciated.”

And terrible for the environment and the sea creatures, should the earth avoid cracking into pieces like an egg.

Something overloads, and the avionics go offline again. The team is determined to get the Zephyr flying again, despite the odds and Enoch’s predictions of certain doom. May sends him on an errand to get him out of her face. He keeps insisting they leave the ship and spend the weeks long storm in nearby caves.

AOS509Daisy

May finds a stack of Robin’s drawings. She and Coulson look at them together. Coulson asks if May wants to talk about what Robin told her. Out of all of the crazy parts of Robin’s predictions, the part May can’t believe is that she could be a mom. Coulson and Daisy both can. Daisy says May already has her strict mom faces and attitude down. Oh look, there’s one now! After all, Daisy is the original orphan adopted by AoS agents, with Coulson as her dad and May as her mom, so she should know who’s parenting material.

Deke takes a gun and goes to hand out justice to Wormtongue Voss the traitor. Voss starts spinning tales as soon as he sees Deke. Voss portrays himself as the good guy with the sensible plan to save the world, which Deke’s dad was too biased to understand. Deke decides to let him live, but doesn’t tell us why. He may still be playing both sides.

Elena is teaching Flint to shoot, which seems like a smart idea, since Kasius can take inhuman powers away. Mack puts a stop to it, because he’s thinking of Flint as the surrogate replacement for his 8 year old daughter. Yoyo wants to train the humans to be soldiers, but Mack doesn’t think it’s possible.

Kasius’ “latest acquisition” arrives, and it’s Tess, back from her visit to Tahiti it’s a magical place the dead. Good to know they didn’t fridge her, instead they made her either a savior or Frankenstein. Or an Agent of SHIELD. Those three things aren’t mutually exclusive.

Tess brings a message from Kasius, along the usual villainous lines of “Surrender Dorothy.” He’ll set Scarecrow on fire with the push of a button if they don’t give him everything he wants: Flint, all of the children older than 10, everything he needs to keep breeding inhumans, and motivation to bring back the Destroyer of Worlds (Mack and Elena). The entire human population will burn if they don’t comply.

Tess: “Knives are cold.”

Tess’ return to the living was as traumatic as Coulson’s, but the Kree did nothing to shield her from remembering the experience. Instead, they taunted and tortured her to make it worse. Instead of the benign illusion of Tahiti, Tess has been given the illusion that Kasius has been able to bring her back because he’s a god, and she believes him. Flint starts to believe as well. Elena and Mack explain that Kree physiology has properties that can keep humans alive or bring them back to life. They’ve seen it before. It’s science, not a divine being.

AOS509Coulson&Daisy&RobotHand

Coulson is sitting in the Zephyr’s lab with his robot hand detached while he charges it. Foreshadowing? Do they need us to remember that it’s a powered prosthetic limb? Or did they just want to show a cool image?

Daisy enters the lab and tells him that the coms are fixed. As soon as they can take off and get a line of sight to the Lighthouse, they can try to contact Mack and Elena. Coulson says that the first thing they need to do when they reach the Lighthouse is remove her inhibiter so that she’ll have her powers back.

Daisy says she maybe doesn’t want that. Coulson and SHIELD need Quake at full strength. She says they have her, Daisy, as an agent. Do they really want to take the chance that she’ll end the world with her powers? She’s tired of these names, like Quake and Destroyer of Worlds. Maybe she should just be Daisy Johnson, Agent of SHIELD. Coulson doesn’t answer. Daisy leaves the room. After she leaves, Coulson tells himself to get back to work.

That scene, right there, would be why I prefer to call everyone by their human name instead of their code name. It can be dehumanizing to think of them only as their powers and their public images. I’d rather remember that they’re full human beings, first, and people with talents or gifts or powers, second. And Daisy’s proven she’s an effective agent without her powers.

Fitz and Jemma continue to work on the Zephyr’s systems. Fitz gets hit by a powerful shock. It’s difficult for him to work because everything’s been reconfigured. He and Jemma realize that the systems have been redesigned according to Fitz’ design upgrade schematics, which required the use of Gravitonium to produce artificial gravity. Fitz removes a wall panel to reveal the same type of Gravitonium artificial gravity system that was being used in the Lighthouse. We all realize that explains a lot.

Fitz and Jemma figure out that Gravitonium is what’s holding the earth in its unlikely shape, and holding atmosphere on it. It’s also probably what cracked it apart in the first place. The existence of Fitz’ completed systems designs means that they really are in a time loop. It’s a Causal Loop Paradox. They build the designs after having seen the finished products in the future. They go back in time and live through the years that they skipped, with everything playing out so that it leads to Kasius running the Lighthouse with humans nearly extinct.

Fitz becomes pessimistic. He assumes a time loop means they’re doomed to fail. Jemma tells him that what she sees is proof that they get back to their own time.

AOS509Fitz

The gravity storm is picking up steam. The Zephyr is hit by a large building. Daisy thinks it was a hospital. Enoch asks if this is her first time having a building dropped on her. May tells him no. Please, it wasn’t even close to the first. Might not even be the first hospital.

The Zephyr is ready for a flight attempt. The engines blow out as soon as the ignition is started. Enoch insists, again, that they evacuate to the caves.

Mack, Elena, Flint and Tess argue over their next course of action while Mack leads them to a life support access point. He finds a bomb direct wired to the oxygen line. That’s what Kasius means when he says he could burn them all at the push of a button.

The team sends the civilians to the caves. Deke and Daisy discuss his decision to let Voss live, and Deke’s inability to kill people, even when it might be safer for the group as a whole for that person to be permanently gone.

Coulson sends Voss to the caves. Voss argues with him right up until the end, quoting scripture and swearing that his version of history is correct. Deke looks like he’s still on the fence about which side to choose, but the Agents will probably feed him better, for now.

Voss describes the beginning of the apocalypse, as told to him by Robin: “There was a light from the sky. Aliens is what I heard. SHIELD tried to stop it and failed, and brought hell to earth.”

That’s as vague as a horoscope, and as open to interpretation. Guessing it’s already got Voss’ spin on it instead of being Robin’s exact words. Were those the Kree called by the destruction of the inhuman moon outpost? Or the threat Black Bolt’s throne was sending a warning about?

Mack disengages the bomb, but he can’t defuse it.  He explains his plan to the human leaders of every floor. Mack and Elena will turn themselves in while the people keep fighting. They send Tess back to Kasius, alone but not empty handed. She brings an inhuman DNA sample and a terrigenesis crystal with her, to prove that the humans have taken control of his breeding lab. They’ll destroy his ability to make more inhumans, at the touch of a button, if he doesn’t come to meet with them. Kasius is furious, but he goes.

The gravity storm is getting worse, causing patchy gravity inside the Zephyr. Simmons and May both stop their evac prep to watch Robin’s wooden robin float free for a moment, then crash to the floor. Jemma shouts for the team to remove the ship’s gravity anchors. The upgrades include thrusters that can be used to maneuver in space. The Zephyr just needs to use the gravity storm to float high enough to escape what’s left of the atmosphere.

The last two survivors leave the Zephyr for the caves. A straggler comes in as they’re going out. It’s desert rat Sinara, ready for her rematch with Daisy.

As the team is getting into place for take off, something heavy falls and hits Coulson in the head. Deke exclaims that the resulting cut will surely get infected. He’s a practical guy. And maybe he’s getting a little attached?

It’s time to take off, but first Jemma, Fitz and Enoch list the “If this goes wrong, it’s all over” conditions. The ground anchors refuse to release the Zephyr before they can even get started. Daisy goes to release them manually. Deke follows, in case she needs help.

Elena and Mack wheel a cart with the important elements from the breeding lab to the meeting point, and continue their familiar squabble over how much is too much violence in a struggle for freedom and justice. Elena notes that Flint isn’t much younger than she was when she started fighting.

Mack wants his kid to be a sheltered suburban kid. Why is this always the TV ideal, even in apocalyptic conditions, when it makes much more sense to teach survival skills? There’s no Ivy League college left for Flint to get into. Winning at life means being the best fighter, the best forager and the best negotiator. Maybe eventually the best hydroponic gardener, if they win self-sufficiency.

Everyone is surprised when they come face to face with Kasius. Elena and Mack thought Kasius would look different, more intimidating, less like a space mime. Kasius recognizes Elena, probably from whatever happened after the vision when she went to fight him. Was she his first inhuman? Is she the mother of the inhuman breeding program? He doesn’t show any recognition of Mack, which is just as interesting.

They trade the typical insults, threats, and speeches about their own superiority back and forth, while each threatens to detonate their bombs. The breeding lab cart is wired with bombs and Mack holds the detonator, while Kasius holds the detonator to the bombs that started out attached to the oxygen lines on the human floors.

AOS509YoMackFam

Eventually, Flint shows up, and Mack asks if it’s done. Flint indicates that it is, and asks if he gets to fight now. Mack looks at him like he’s nuts. The threats escalate, and Kasius pulls out his special blue light up detonator. Elena makes a run to try to grab it, but there’s a barrier in front of Kasius like the one used in front of spectators during fights in the crater. She’s thrown back onto the floor. Kasius gloats.

Mack makes a fake sounding threat to blow up the cart. Kasius brushes him off, saying it’ll merely be a set back. He detonates the bombs on the human levels. Everything shakes. Kasius realizes his bombs have been moved, and that Mack and Elena kept him talking as a stalling tactic while the work was finished. In the confusion, Tess runs from Kasius to join Mack and Elena.

Kasius immediately figures out their plan. They moved the people up to higher floors, and blew up the connections, so that he can’t get to them. He becomes furious, assuring them that they will pay. Elena tells Kasius that the humans all worked together to win their freedom. Mack tells him that the fight has just begun, and blows up the breeding cart with a massive fireball. Kasius is protected by his forcefield. Mack, Elena, Tess and Flint escape.

Kasius says a few interesting things during the stand off. He threatens to kill them, revive them, then kill them again, over and over. He’s perfected the use of the TAHITI method on humans. He must’ve had access to those SHIELD files.

He also says that he made a deal with the humans long ago to trade inhuman lives in exchange for human lives. He’s always been able to count on humans turning on each other. Seems in line with everything else in this universe.

Kasius figures out the details of their plan very quickly, as if he’d heard it before, once the bombs go off.

Sinara is waiting for Daisy after she gets to the cargo hold and releases the anchors. Deke hangs behind Daisy at first. It’s not clear why, other than to keep us suspicious of his motives. As the ship lifts off, bales of something stored on shelves fall on Deke, knocking him temporarily out of commission.

We get some great CGI views of the ship and the storm. The ship slithers out of the crash site it’s been settling into for decades, and is then tossed recklessly through the atmosphere, coming perilously close to a giant funnel cloud.

Sinara engages Daisy, telling her that Kasius misses her. Daisy is taken unaware at first, but soon holds her own as they fight, the unpredictable gravity allowing them to use every part of the room. It’s a hand to hand battle, since Daisy is without her Quake powers, and Sinara isn’t using her telepathic balls. They’d probably be too difficult to control predictably in the fluctuating gravity.

The two women do use the weak gravity that sometimes turns into zero G, floating and propelling themselves when it makes sense. Daisy has the home court advantage, since this is still essentially the Zephyr that she left behind in the 21st century. Sinara eventually pulls out a knife, telling Daisy that Kasius wants her alive, but, oops, accidents happen.

Deke has made his way into the cargo hold, and, not having the sea legs for a rolling, shaking, flying ship with ever-changing gravity and two fierce warriors flying around above him, has opted to crawl. I can’t blame him there. Deke is the fast talking, fight with schemes and words guy, not the action-adventure guy. He’s slow motion chasing a case containing grappling hooks across the floor that he can use to help Daisy.

He finally grabs the case and the hooks, just in time to use them to stop Sinara from stabbing Daisy with the knife. Sinara turns her attention Deke, who, like I said, is not a fighter. He goes down fast, but he distracted Sinara long enough to give Daisy a chance. Daisy runs upstairs to break off a piece of metal railing she can use as a weapon. Using the weak gravity, Sinara propels herself through the air toward Daisy. At the last second, Daisy sticks out the pipe so that Sinara is impaled on it and dies.

Or passes out. Or is mostly dead, waiting to be revived by Kasius. All of the talk this episode about killing people then bringing them back can’t just have been for the benefit of Kasius’ enemies. If there’s one person he’ll use it on, it’s Sinara. Then they’ll follow the team back to the 21st century.

After a rough, nausea inducing ride, the Zephyr finally reaches the altitude necessary for using the thrusters. May starts them up, and the ship settles down. They aim toward the Lighthouse.

Daisy raises Mack on the coms. He wants to know what the plan is. Coulson asks if Flint is with them.

Jemma and Fitz coach Deke, who is definitely their grandson, through breaking the monolith shard in half with a hammer and chisel. It kills Deke to damage his family heirloom that way.

One of Kasius’ guards brings him news, but Kasius cuts him off before he can speak. Kasius has just emerged from a room we’ve never seen before, wiping his hands. A doctor in a blood stained lab coat waits outside the door.

Kasius: Let me guess. The Destroyer and her friends are heading here in an old SHIELD aircraft.

Guard: Yes, but how do you?

Kasius:Are they nearing the landing pad?

Guard: It appears so.

Kasius: Ready a squad. We will meet them there, and finish this, once and for all.

Guard: Kasius, apologies, but how did you know?

Kasius: They have a seer telling them what’s to come? Well, I have one of my own.

Yikes. That can’t be good.

AOS509GirlFight


 

This episode felt like it was setting up the ending to the Future Lighthouse in Space arc. At first it seemed like a waste of time to put so much effort into saving humans who are part of a hopefully obsolete future, but I realized that they may well play an important part in the big escape, since so much was made of everyone working together. Elena saved Flint from the Kree after terrigenesis, which meant he was around to save the humans from the Vrellnexians, then insist on and lead this rebellion. That’s a huge change from the way the timeline would go if the SHIELD agents weren’t there.

I’m not liking the “Coulson is only human” motif we’ve got going this episode, with his robot hand removed and powerless, him getting hit in the head and possibly infected, and both Voss and Enoch forecasting death to him. Then there’s the fact that he wasn’t in any of Robin’s visions, and he’s cheated death before. With the Tahiti methodology back on the table, they might have him refuse to be brought back a second time. Tess really played up the pain and terror of going through the process.

If Coulson dies, does Ghostrider get him for a while, according to their season 4 deal? Could he spend the second half of the season playing with Robbie Reyes in some alternate dimension?

Kasius’ “seer” has to be one of the agents who came forward to this time and made it far enough through the 2nd part of the loop to be captured by him in the Lighthouse after the earth fractures. It isn’t May, because she’s with Robin until the end. It’s unlikely to be an inhuman, because there seems to be extensive torture involved, and Kasius has better uses for inhumans. Fitz told us in one of Robin’s visions that he’d seen Jemma die. It’s unlikely to be Fitz, because we know he was cloistered away, working on his inventions. That leaves Mack and Coulson as the two most likely options, with an outside chance of Elena. Kasius seemed to know her well, but I think he used her to start his breeding program and study inhumans. It’ll turn out that all of the inhuman children are descended from Elena.

During the Lighthouse vision when Elena was determined to fight Kasius and the Kree, even if it meant death, she said that Mack was gone, and he wasn’t coming back. She didn’t say that he was dead. I think he was captured and enslaved, then tortured for information when Kasius discovered he was an Agent of SHIELD. He was killed and brought back to life until he’d say anything to make it stop. Mack probably told Kasius about the team’s trip to the future, but Kasius thought it was nonsense, until he heard part of it that was specific enough for him to remember, years later. Now he’s revived Mack, Elena, or Coulson, whichever one it is, to get the details of the story from them.

 

It’s time to think 4th dimensionally about time travel, kids! We’re basically following Back to the Future rules, except Marty was never stuck in a time loop. Whatever changes he made while time traveling did stay made, no matter what time period he went to, since time tended to assume he’d be put back in his original place eventually. He did have a bit of a loop in the first movie, when he went back early to stop the Lebanese terrorists from killing Doc. Doc had already saved himself by wearing the bullet proof vest based on Marty’s warning letter from 1955, so breaking the historical time pattern was possible.

I don’t believe Back to the Future ever talked about fixed points in time, or there being certain events that can’t be changed. We don’t know yet if that will figure into Agents of SHIELD’s version of the time-space continuum or how it might complicate the group’s escape from the future. I still think that Robin was keeping them artificially stuck in the loop until she could figure out how to get them all out alive with the earth intact. It wasn’t a true repeating loop with no escape, like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Cause and Effect.

Robin was looking for the equivalent of Doc Brown’s bullet proof vest and it took many times through the loop, trying out slightly different variations each time, to get to the point where she’d taken the timeline far enough forward that she found Flint, and found a way to rescue him. Flint is the equivalent of Doc Brown’s bullet proof vest. Doc took a convoluted route to wearing the vest. He told Marty not to give him future spoilers, tore up Marty’s warning letter, then relented and taped it back together, but still had to figure out a way to protect himself on his own. Robin’s prophecies work the same way. They’re difficult for her to see, difficult to interpret, and risky to enact. There’s nothing about them that’s certain.

But the vest saved Doc Brown’s life, even though he broke the rules of time travel when he wore it, and made the next two movies possible. Flint will break the rules by leaving his own time period and saving the world, making the future of Agents of SHIELD possible.

There’s also precedent for Flint, and whoever else comes back, staying in the past instead of disappearing when the timeline changes. Doc’s girlfriend, Clara, was able to leave her time period and travel for years, even having children, long after the age she was scheduled to die at in her own time.

Tess’ sweater looks cozy and I want one. If there’s a Fashions of Agents of SHIELD site, someone point me to it!

I hope Enoch is recycled properly when he’s retired from use. Plastics kill sea creatures and take thousands of years to break down in the environment. But does he have a recycling symbol on him?

I’m not sure what definition of robot Enoch’s using, but nothing about him being plastic instead of metal stops him from being a robot. Neither does having a sophisticated artificial intelligence operating inside him. We can argue for robot rights, as I did with Aida, but they aren’t biological lifeforms, or lifeforms at all according to our rules. They are very complex machines that have taken on a self-aware consciousness, or are able to accurately mimic one. Which is it? That’s the eternal question for both humans and androids.

 

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