This week’s episode confronts levels and layers of fear and loathing, and the ongoing question of when the solution becomes worse than the problem. How far is too far? At what point would it be better to die with your integrity or identity intact, rather than make a deal with the devil that potentially wipes out everything you thought you were or the good you were trying to accomplish?
These questions have been a core part of the show from the beginning, both politically, with the revelation that HYDRA and SHIELD had been interwoven since the beginning, and scientifically, as the question of the appropriateness of the use of the TAHITI protocol to revive Coulson has been reflected on by many characters through all five seasons.
The question of Fitz’ and Simmons’ genius, and when they need to rein it in for the good of the world, rather than following the science to its logical extreme, has also been with the show since the beginning, and explored in a new way each season. Season 4 seemed like it should be the peak of that issue, with Fitz helping Radcliffe create murderous LMDs and perpetrating genocide and mass torture on inhumans inside the Framework as his alter ego The Doctor.
Instead, we come back around to it again this week, in an even more chilling scenario, as Fitz needs to follow the science in order to save the world, but comes close to losing his own humanity while doing so. Cooperation with HYDRA is also on the table again, this time with SHIELD as a willing participant, with the goal of saving the world from a ruthless invading enemy. And, with the appearance of a Kree in the tag, the ethics and science of saving Coulson’s life using TAHITI or another advanced method, with or without his consent, are an issue once again.
This time, Coulson’s made his feelings on the subject very clear to everyone close to him, but he and everyone around him seem to be operating based on fear as much as on logic and reason. Daisy’s powers are also an important piece of the puzzle, with the science vs fear conflict driving her story as well. Fear anomalies continue to arise, and Hale continues to send surprises the team’s way. The situation is building in emotion and suspense and the team has 1/3 of the season left, about the length of the final pod in season 4, to prevent multiple catastrophes.
The episode begins with a fear anomaly assembling itself, this time into one of Jemma’s fears, a vision of the inhuman Hive possessing her dead boyfriend, Will, while he wears a spacesuit, a combination known as the Astronaut. It’s bad enough running into an ex, but this really is a nightmare. Jemma, Fitz and rando SHIELD guy fight the Astronaut, with Jemma eventually shooting him in the face and dissolving him.
Before the Astronaut interrupted them, Fitz was longing for proper British junk food, and wishing the fear dimension was a wish dimension. Fitz would wish for an extra day between Saturday and Sunday. Jemma would have wished to speak another language, or to have a honeymoon. Or maybe a flying pony. I think she meant to say a unicorn. 🦄
Elena is trying out prototype robot hands by using her mind to move the fingers. So far there are no robot arms, just wires connecting her own arms to the hand prototypes. The mech parts still require a lot of design work before they become amazing prosthetics.
Elena is frustrated by the slow rate of her own progress with the prototypes, and wants Fitz and Jemma to make her simpler arms if that will give her working limbs faster. She just wants to be able to punch things and get back to work. Mack heartbreakingly starts to reach across the table to take her hand as he reassures her, then continues on to tell her that she needs to rest and heal while her SHIELD family protects and takes care of her.
Fitz explains to Daisy, the acting leader, and Jemma and Deke, who compose the rest of the science team, that he can’t use the Gravitonium from the Principia because it’s in a raw form, rather than the compressed, processed form that Deke’s Gravitonium was in. Fitz doesn’t know how to process and compress the Gravitonium, but he’s hoping that Deke has some ideas.
Deke isn’t paying attention because he’s still staring at his grandparents in shock. Fitz bangs the table in annoyance, and Deke says he can’t help. They all discuss how dire the situation is becoming. Fitz says he’ll stay up all night to find the solution if he has to. They decide that Daisy will look for Franklin Hall’s original notes on the Gravitonium.
As everyone leaves to get back to work, Deke yells for Fitz and Jemma to be careful, because he doesn’t want anything to happen to their really smart brains. Once FitzSimmons are gone, Deke tells Daisy that he wants them to be okay, “Because I was just super moved by their nuptials. I’ve become invested in them as a couple. I just want them to, you know, last for like a long, long time.” Welcome to the uncertainty of life as a 21st century fan, Deke! Don’t make me start crying over FitzSimmons again, please.
Daisy’s been watching her monitor, and notices that they’ve gotten a tracking hit. She sends Coulson the coordinates to General Hale’s location. Hale drives right into the trap that is the cloaked Zephyr in the middle of the road. Coulson only gloats a little. May says that you’d think the military would have better encryption on their phones. Uh huh.
Deke finds Fitz doing metal work on the mech and tries to get his attention. He wants to inform Fitz that they’ve captured Hale. Fitz pulls off his welding mask, turns around, and uses the metal mask to knock Deke unconscious. He says, “I’m the only Doctor here.” It’s the Doctor, Fitz’ HYDRA alter ego from the Framework. He removes his coveralls to reveal the Doctor’s customary suit and tie.
Coulson approaches Hale in the Zephyr’s interrogation room. She tries to take control of the conversation right from the start, and it turns into a verbal sparring match. Eventually Hale reveals that she knew SHIELD was tracking her and let herself be caught, because she wanted to talk to Coulson. It was all another set up.
Before that, she twists his words and her descriptions of events to suit her purposes, then admits that she wants his cooperation. She needs him and his team to help her prevent global extinction.
Daisy and Fitz fail to find any notes or information on Dr Hall’s research. Daisy is bizarrely calm about the situation, calling Fitz rude as he becomes urgent and frantic. She tries to calm him by reassuring him that there’s no hurry, saying that they’re all helping watch for fear anomalies, even Yoyo. That sets him off even further, because not listening to the science is a longstanding problem with Daisy.
Two of the security cameras go dark, so Daisy goes to check them out. Fitz stays in the control room and continues to try to think through the problem, talking out loud to himself. Suddenly, the Doctor is there, talking back to him. The Doctor says that Fitz is on the right track, but not quite there yet. He’s there to do the work that Fitz can’t bring himself to do.
Fitz tries to deny that the Doctor is real. The Doctor says he’s as real as the Astronaut, and the world of the Framework that Fitz destroyed. And he’s going to finish what Fitz started. Fitz says that he didn’t start it, that was all the Doctor, and he’ll stop the Doctor. The Doctor says he and Fitz are the same, and Fitz can’t stop him. Plans are already in motion.
The Doctor pulls out a scalpel an examines it in the light. They hear gunshots and Jemma yelling for Fitz in distress. As Fitz runs out of the room, the Doctor calls to him, “We’re not finished yet.”
Mack and Jemma were trying to move Elena to another level for safety from the fear anomalies when a mech attacked them. Elena was bizarrely fussing about wanting more of a say in whether she stayed in the unsafe room or moved to a safe place. Mack was shot in the leg by the mech but they disabled it.
Fitz realizes that the Doctor must have repaired the mech that Mack brought back from the Principia. Fitz becomes panicky, relapsing into the stutter that he had right after his brain injury. Jemma tries to talk him through determining what the Doctor’s after. They figure out that the Doctor was in charge of inhuman experimentation in the Framework. They assume he must have sent the mech after Yoyo, and that Daisy’s the next target. Fitz leaves to find them.
Hale wants to take Coulson to her lair to show him who the real enemy is. I think she might also want him to be her boyfriend:
Hale: I understand you Coulson. I even admire you a bit. But I don’t trust you yet.
Coulson: That feeling is becoming increasingly mutual. You’re not exactly giving off benevolent vibes here.
Hale: Benevolence is not enough. Your charisma and empathy is only going to get you so far. I don’t lose sleep at night worrying about the difficult calls. I do what’s necessary. And yes, sometimes people have to die, but I’m willing to pull the trigger. Are you?
Coulson: If the right person’s on the other end of the gun.
Hale: Then let me point it in the right direction. Let me show you what we are up against. Come with me.
Coulson: No thank you. I don’t like taking orders from back seat pilots.
Hale: But I’ve always been in the drivers seat…Oh, come on. Do you really think that hacking my phone was some sort of stealthy exploit I was unaware of? You underestimate me.
Wonder if she plays the cello. I can’t remember the last time Coulson flirted that hard.
Piper asks May for help removing Hale’s driver from the car. It’s Carl Creel, transformed into concrete, with a bomb strapped around his middle. He suggests that they listen to her very persuasive suggestions.
Next up, Ivanov’s plane lands on the Zephyr and he joins the reunion tour. It’s about time. He’s come to see the benefits of being a head in a jar controlling multiple LMDs, so no worries about the current state of his mental health. He is worried about the whole end of the world thing everyone keeps talking about though, and he’s Team Hale, so he needs them to release her to him right now.
A mech finds Daisy fiddling with the surveillance cameras and captures her. She wakes up in a makeshift surgical suite, with the Doctor checking her over.
Hale and Creel are brought to Ivanov, and there’s another discussion about who shot who and who programmed which robots. Hale points out that everything leads back to SHIELD in the end, which, honestly, she’s right. Even modern HYDRA sheltered in the bosom of SHIELD, after all. Coulson is just as prone as the next spy to pragmatically team up with former enemies, so I wish he’d stop acting all superior to the people who are teaming up with them when he doesn’t happen to be. We all know he’ll do whatever it takes and work with whoever it takes, he’ll just try to take the high road first.
Hale tries one more time to convince Coulson to go with her so she can show him her enemies and stuff. Maybe have a sleepover. Coulson says he’ll consider it, if his people go free, cause he’s not easy. Hale goes for it. May gets a little jealous, but Coulson reminds her that he’s dying and this is his last chance to play the field. Since they’ve never been exclusive, she allows it. Hale is one lucky dominatrix, with that selection of boys to choose from. I really do hope she plays the cello though.
Daisy is restrained on the operating table, including her head. The Doctor tells her she won’t be able to escape, so she should make herself as comfortable as possible. Daisy realizes that he’s the Doctor instead of the “real” Fitz and starts throwing out insults. The Doctor mildly defends himself as he prepares for surgery, informing Daisy that he doesn’t have many painkillers. He also informs her that he’s restoring her powers.
He pulls out his scalpel, holds her head, and gets started, using the scalpel to cut around the device embedded in her neck. Daisy screams, seemingly more out of anger than pain.
Coulson chitchats on Hale’s plane, as Ivanov plays security guard and she drives, as promised.
Coulson: Speaking of faces, how come your robo warriors don’t have any?
Ivanov: They are merely soldiers. Tools for battle.
Coulson: Interesting. Cause see, I think when you lost your partner Aida, you lost the ability to make convincing LMDs. That’s why Hale isn’t one. And you know what else I think? You’re not the one calling the shots here. What happened, bro? Hale must have your balls in a vise.
Hale: Actually, it’s his head in a jar.
Hale is turning out to be a delightful conversationalist, now that she has a grown up to talk to.
Fitz The Doctor continues the surgery to removes the inhibitor, as Daisy pleads with him to reconsider. She doesn’t want to be able to end the world. He tells her that the rift could be what destroys the world, and she could be the one to save it. Her powers are what’s needed to compress the Gravitonium and insert it into the device, then permanently close the rift.
Fitz comes rushing in to stop them, but the Doctor tells Fitz that he’s just doing what needs to be done.
Mack stands watch at Elena’s infirmary room door. Elena tells him to sit down and get off of his newly shot leg. She can’t be killed yet anyway, since she’s alive in the distant future in the Lighthouse. Mack points out that they’re actively working to change the future, which means her future could change at any time. What then? Elena stoically says that at least they would have broken the loop. There’s really not a lot of mental health to spread around in the Lighthouse at this moment.
Jemma bustles in and tells Mack to get off his leg, so that he doesn’t reaggravate his injury. Bingo! Guess what’s happened to Fitz! She realizes what she just said, and how it pertains to her husband. Jemma tells Mack to stay with Elena, and hurries off to find Fitz and Daisy.
Fitz and the Doctor argue over the Doctor’s plan, the Doctor’s lack of empathy and humanity and Fitz’ inability to make the hard choices. Daisy asks who Fitz is talking to, and when Jemma finds him, Fitz realizes that it’s been him all along. He’s the Doctor. There was no fear anomaly. He was dissociating in order to separate himself from the actions he knew were necessary, but he couldn’t face, especially in his current state of exhaustion. As the Doctor said, the two of them had the whole thing planned out.
Jemma tries to convince Fitz to let Daisy go and work things out. Deke is also there, but he stays silent. Instead, the mech enters the room, grabs Jemma, and points a gun at her. Jemma is shocked. Fitz says that the Doctor programmed the mech to shoot Jemma if Fitz didn’t go through with it, so he couldn’t back out.
Jemma continues to try to convince Fitz to stop, since the surgery is dangerous for Daisy, and could leave her paralyzed. Fitz insists that his science is sound. While there are always risks, this one is worth taking. He doesn’t want to do this, but he has to.
He pulls the inhibitor out, which has wires about a foot and a half long that must have run down her spine, then unstraps her and gives her a shot of adrenaline to jumpstart her powers. He talks her through the procedure for sealing the rift, which she does successfully. She doesn’t appear to have any complications from the surgery.
Daisy tells Fitz that she’ll never forgive him. He says that he suspects that she won’t be the only one.
Later, Jemma visits Fitz in his isolation cell. She asks how long he’s been seeing hallucinations of the Doctor.
Fitz: My mind’s been through a lot. Been hearing him for a while now. Since we left the Framework. Only just started seeing him.
Jemma: It’s your injury acting up. You used to see me too, when I wasn’t there.
Fitz: You were my conscience.
Jemma: Then what was he? You had a psychic split, but that dark persona, that’s not you.
Fitz: It is me. It’s not an apparition. It’s not some evil doppelgänger. It was me.
I’ve always felt that the Jemma hallucination was Fitz’ strength as much as she was his conscience. Either way, the Doctor forced him to do what he knew was right, but didn’t have the strength to do with his conscious mind in its current state. Just because something is unpopular in the moment doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice. Ask any parent. It’s not a coincidence that this episode also talks about what great parents they’ll be.
Jemma wants Fitz to talk to Daisy and Mack, to work toward getting them to forgive him, but he doesn’t feel he deserves forgiveness. She picks up on the similarity to what he said during their wedding about not deserving her and asks if that’s what he means. Fitz says he still believes that doing the surgery on Daisy was the right thing.
Jemma agrees that changing the timeline is going to require harder choices. Fitz asks where that leaves the two of them, and Jemma says she doesn’t know. Neither does Fitz.
Having the mech hold Jemma at gunpoint was the truly extreme part of the plan, and that will take a while to get past. The surgery was necessary to save the world. The mech was old, broken and potentially unreliable. Telling it to aim at Jemma was an unnecessary risk.
Otherwise, there’s a lot of unnecessary guilt and blame going on here. It was a horrible thing to have to do, and traumatizing for Fitz as well, because he’s a good person. But this is the bottom line:
Was Fitz supposed to let 7 billion people die so that Daisy didn’t have to feel uncomfortable? That’s utterly ridiculous.
Jemma leaves Fitz in the isolation area. There’s been a window between Fitz and Jemma, and the camerawork does a cool thing with reflections, making it look like each one moves away but actually toward the other one, signifying that they’re fine. This is just a rough patch. Jemma herself is ruthless, after all. Never forget the woman who survived Maveth by hunting strange water creatures with her bare hands.
Jemma sits in the hall and tries to process everything that’s happened. No matter what else, the happiness of their little SHIELD family group is shattered, and the others may never trust her husband again. Her husband’s mental health is currently in a fragile state, and they may need to make some changes in their lives for his sanity’s sake, if the world survives.
Deke joins her. She tells him that she feels like Fitz is losing himself and she’s losing him, too. Deke sits next to her, and tries to comfort her.
Deke: You haven’t lost him. You know him better than he even knows himself. He’s complicated, and he’s stubborn. That’s why you let him win arguments sometimes, right? He can be a real baby when he’s sick, so that’s why you’ve got to take care of him. And he’s always got the weight of the world on his shoulders, so he needs you there to help lighten the load. Oh and he loves his prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches that no one can make right except you.
Jemma: How could you possibly know all of those things?
Deke: Because my mom used to tell me about her parents all the time. She always spoke about her dad with so much love and admiration on her face. Said that he was the best man that she ever knew. So I know that you can help Fitz, and I know that you two are gonna be okay, because the steps you take don’t need to be big…
Jemma: They just need to take you in the right direction. You’re our grandson.
Jemma leans over and vomits. Pregnant, or stressed out? There was that one time on the Zephyr, back in the future, when they were in their lab, working on the time travel machine, and realized they had some alone time. Doubt they had any protection with them.
Hale teleports into a room with Kree writing. A Kree man, listed as Qovas, complains that she’s late and has come empty-handed. He says that if she wants a seat at the Confederacy table, she must prove herself. She says that the final piece of the puzzle is within reach, and she’ll die before allowing herself to fail. He throws out a few more threats, then suggests that if she faces failure, she follow Kree tradition and drink the Odium, so that she can go out in a blaze of glory. He ends with, “Hail Hydra.”
I’m highly disappointed that Fitz didn’t wish for a fully trained helper monkey from the hypothetical wish dimension. This can definitely be listed amongst his stress symptoms.
The Confederacy was the Kree organization the Kasius’ father belonged to, and the Odium was the poison that Kasius drank to make himself fight stronger just before he died.
The writing in this episode was a little off for most of the characters, but I’m going to put it down to the fear dimension getting to them. The episode writer, Matt Owens, has written three other episodes, so he should know what he’s doing.
The mechs match Schmidt’s HYDRA army from Captain America: The First Avenger. So maybe their look isn’t completely because Ivanov can’t make convincing LMDs anymore. Maybe there’s still more going on here.
What Happened to Fitz? Character Analysis and a Look at Team Dynamics
The reasons why Fitz dissociated and released his Doctor side to cope with what he knew he had to do are complex. Some of them have to do with his values and his relationships with the team, since they are his family. We’ve seen many times that he tries very hard to stick to his values and follow his idea of a good person, but he has a temper and takes betrayal very personally. Fitz is the type of person who is only close to a few other people, but he will do literally anything for the few in his inner circle. He struggles with how much loyalty he has a right to expect back, and what to do when someone fails him.
In the beginning of the season, Lance Hunter lived up to Fitz’ expectations, displaying the kind of loyalty that Fitz would show himself. Fitz and Jemma have done the impossible for each other over and over, which is why we’re all big fans, just like Deke. Coulson never gives up on anyone on the team, which is why he inspires such loyalty. But Fitz has felt betrayed and abandoned by Daisy in the past, even though he counts her as one of the people that’s like family to him.
Now they’re in a situation where Daisy is being self-absorbed once again. She refused to come back to the present day. Coulson had to force her. She refuses to try to get her powers back, even though they are short on protection for the team and the eam needs her in that way. She’s chosen to believe what’s essentially a legend without any direct evidence, and to continuously risk the team because of it.
It’s not surprising that Fitz would assume that Daisy would say no if he asked her to let him remove her inhibitor. She wasn’t taking the threat seriously, even when he’d explained that they were running out of time, over and over. Had he asked her first, and given her the chance to say no, he could have lost any opportunity to remove the inhibitor and motivate her to do what needed to be done.
I can’t really blame him all that much, given how intensely stubborn she’s been. Since Daisy and May are planning to force potentially painful, life altering medical procedures on Coulson against his will, I don’t think Daisy will actually have a leg to stand on when she eventually complains about being violated.
Fitz had to choose between giving Daisy her powers back vs the end of the world, and no one was listening to him. If I were Fitz, I would have done the same thing, and I wouldn’t have had to call on another personality to do it. Being a mom makes me badass enough. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta suck it up for the greater good. (Hmm, that might become my new motto.)
Fitz himself has been through hell. If we look back, this dissociative split has been building up for a long time. We saw him hallucinate Jemma when he was highly stressed and isolated in season 2, after his brain injury. The Doctor personality was one long Framework hallucination, which since then has been sitting in his head, ready to fight for dominance at any time. Being hooked up to the Framework can’t have been physically good for his brain, then being frozen for 70 years, thawed, and traveling by monolith add to the physical insults his brain has had to cope with.
He’s probably been hit in the head and iced or rendered unconscious in other ways here and there as well, and every time adds to the damage to his nervous system. That’s all going to make his grip on reality more tenuous. He grabbed his head several times this episode, suggesting that he was having migraines, which don’t cause hallucinations, but do affect mood, vision and concentration. Then you add in the extreme lack of sleep, and Fitz’ physical risk for mental health issues looks pretty significant.
Plus he’s been on the go since the LMDs took over SHIELD. At some point, he was replaced by an LMD and forced into the Framework. His mind was manipulated in a way that constitutes the worst kind of mental torture, as he betrayed himself, everyone he cared about, and everything he believed in. Then he was brought out of the Framework by Aida, his kidnapper/torturer, came to his senses, and flooded with insane amounts of guilt. But he couldn’t deal with his feelings, he had to save the world and everyone he cared about from his psychotic girlfriend/kidnapper/torturer/creation. Because he has the guilt of having helped create Aida to carry around as well.
No sooner was that settled than he faced arrest, while everyone else he cares about disappeared. So his time in jail wasn’t a break. It was time in isolation, which is used for torture, and definitely not good for Fitz. It was time for him to agonize over the fate of Jemma and the team, and feel useless. It was time to stew in his guilt.
Then he went to the future, where he saw more grim, gruesome things, and now he’s dealing with a group of people who are being stubborn about trying to fix things.
How could he not break down, given the build up to this point, and faced with the difficult decisions, and then actions, in front of him? He had no reserves left, physically, mentally, or emotionally, so the toughest part of himself stepped in to carry him through the worst. It’s not a permanent dissociation, but it might have served to integrate the Doctor more firmly into the rest of his personality- basically to toughen him up more. Fitz discovered that he couldn’t always count on his team, and had to be able to function on his own, to step up in ways that might make him unlikable. The rest of the team won’t want to admit it, but that’s what they asked of him by leaving him mentally isolated with very few resources. Just like when he hallucinated Jemma in season 2, there may have been people around him, but no one what giving him what he needed and asked for.
Obviously most of the team were busy with their own crises, and I’m not blaming them. The one person who I think should have done things differently is Daisy. As the acting team leader, she handled Fitz and the rift situation badly for the entire episode.
The team leader has to pay attention to what’s going on with each team member and try to understand the basics of their situation. Instead, Daisy shut Fitz down at every opportunity, and dismissed his concerns. She assumed Fitz was overreacting because she wanted him to be, which is ridiculous. His job is to be accurate about these things, and being condescending doesn’t help anyone in any situation.
Fitz has been saying since the rift opened that it would eventually spread and take over our dimension if they couldn’t close it. He’s been saying since he came up with the idea to use Deke’s Gravitonium that it would only hold for a short time, then the entire world would be in danger again. But Daisy’s so stuck on the idea that the world ends because she quakes it that she won’t take any other danger seriously.
Allowing the fear dimension to swallow our universe would have broken the time loop, there was that advantage, but it seems like they could find a better way. Fitz was at the end of his rope because his band-aid wasn’t holding, and no one else was taking the problem very seriously. They’d forgotten already what the fear anomalies were capable of, didn’t realize that an army of them would come through if the rift split wide open, and were too focussed on the future or their own personal problems instead of the here and now.
They rest of the team is also too confident in Fitz having superhuman science abilities. He usually has a partner working with him to bounce ideas off of, whether it’s Jemma, Mack, Aida, Radcliffe or a short term partner. Increasingly, he’s left alone to figure out how to save the world. This time he repeatedly said that he’d hit a brick wall and hadn’t slept, but no one stepped in to brainstorm with him or help with science suggestions. He asked Deke, Daisy and Jemma for help, both in the group meeting and individually, if you pay close attention, and they all got distracted with other things and blew him off.
Coulson has taught Daisy a lot of things, but he hasn’t shown her how to keep going when her own problems threaten to overwhelm her and she wants to freeze up inside. He hasn’t shown her how to take a step back from herself and objectively look at what the team needs during those situations, then rally everyone and start delegating. He’s depended on her natural sensitivity and intuition rather than teaching her how to manage and assess people, especially during times of crises, which ought to be required for a SHIELD team leader.
Since SHIELD fell in season 1, Daisy has had repeated bouts of depression and questioned her commitment to SHIELD, from spending time with the inhumans in their enclave, to being in Hive’s thrall, to going on the run out of guilt. She’s never truly committed to putting the needs of the group first, or to routinely following orders and working cooperatively with her team the way a leader has to, so that it’s second nature in a crisis.
So now Fitz is crumbling, and she doesn’t understand why, even though it should be obvious. She tells him verbally that he doesn’t have to carry the weight of the world, but the entire team’s actions, especially hers, Jemma’s and Deke’s, have said that he does.
Fitz noted during the space arc that no one was appreciating the lengths he went to when he came to rescue them. It’s happening all over again, as they expect him to quietly and effortlessly save the day, with no resources or help. Meanwhile, when he wasn’t being the Doctor, Fitz reverted to his season 1 frustration mannerisms, in addition to the irritability we saw in episode 13. He’s currently the forgotten child of the SHIELD family, the hero who keeps the family going with little thanks or attention, the family member who thinks that they’re never good enough and don’t deserve the rest of the family, while the family never bothers to disabuse them of that notion. Another child (cough*Daisy*cough) always has a bigger problem that has to be dealt with.
I feel like I’m attacking Daisy in this essay, but that’s the way the current arc is set up. I’m actually fine with her, she’s just not ready, and possibly not suited, for leadership. She and Coulson are putting their own fears before everything else, jeopardizing everything, especially the team. As the emotional center of the team, Fitz shows it first when the team’s dynamics become unhealthy. Coulson is their leader, but Fitz is their emotional glue, working to hold them together, and eventually cracking when the strain gets to be too much. Daisy is more of a head than the heart. She’s always trying to decide whether to stay or go, with one foot out the door despite saying that she’s all in. She’s better as a covert agent than a leader at this point. Mack is probably best suited to be the new director at the moment.
Were Episodes 11-14 the Fear Dimension Mini Pod and Is It Done Now?
The space/the future arc ended in episode 10, not quite halfway through the 22 episode season, but making the time in space a little long for the first pod in a season split into thirds. The showrunners said they were only doing two major arcs this season, future space (Broken Earth? Have I seen it called that?) and whatever we’re in now.
But the end of this episode also feels like a breaking point, and would be a good point to end a second mini pod. In the last 4 episodes, we’ve exploded monoliths and a Chronicom (I think Noah’s going to come into play again at some point, at least in spirit), opened a rift in space-time to let fear in, dealt with the team’s greatest fears, brought out their darkest secrets, reconfigured and reestablished relationships, brought back old characters from SHIELD and beyond, established new relationships within and outside of SHIELD, established a new SHIELD headquarters that’s really an old SHIELD headquarters, and set up storylines for the foreseeable future that are fully grounded in the entire history of the series. It’s been an ambitious four episodes, particularly since they’ve been close to being bottle episodes. All hail the AoS writers.
As of the end of this episode, the formerly united team is emotionally shattered but united in their desire to save the world, the team leaders are mentally strong but physically failing and grooming reluctant new leaders, the fear dimension appears to be reliably closed for the foreseeable future (though not so closed that it can’t open up again as needed, this is TV, after all!), the team has internal secrets and obstacles to overcome, but none seem completely insurmountable, while the larger issue has become more clear: Hale is preparing for something that’s coming from space, and is acting as an even less savory Nick Fury, trying to gather earth’s mightiest warriors to work together. The Avengers are already busy with something else, as usual.
The team has been stuck in the Lighthouse since their return to earth because Mother Hale has been hunting them. That also conveniently saved the production a little money so that they can have a big finish to the season. If the team cooperates with Hale, they’ll have more resources to fight with, and presumably come off the Most Wanted lists. The Lighthouse and Mother Hale’s Home for Powered People will still be frequently used sets, but the agents will be able to get out of the Zephyr and the parking garages more often.
This is a turning point in the story, with Coulson held by Hale and the decision about whether to work with HYDRA having an impact no matter which way it goes, Ivanov having finally revealed himself, the entire team at personal turning points for various reasons, and the fact that HYDRA and the Kree have just been added back into the mix.
The short respite with mostly just the team in the Lighthouse and occasional scenes with Mother Hale and her minions is over. Money has been saved and the necessary set up for the future has been done. It’s time for the Agents of SHIELD to start the third pod and get back into the action.
Why Couldn’t It have Been a Wish or a Dream Dimension? Multiverse Theory According to Deke Shaw and a Little Wild Speculation
Multiverse theory says that every possible outcome of every decision exists in some universe somewhere. As Deke explained it in S5 Ep3, A Life Spent:
“Not according to the multiverse theory. You probably never heard of it, but in quantum physics, there’s a theory that for every universe there are infinite parallel universes. So in my universe, you destroyed the planet. Maybe that just hasn’t happened in…”(Daisy slaps him and asks if that happened in his universe or hers.)
In other words, there are infinite webs of branching timelines, crisscrossing over each other. Some have only recently branched off from each other and are so similar as to be virtually indistinguishable. Some would be nearly unrecognizable because they split apart so long ago. Occasional coincidences would make some more similar than you’d expect, even though they split apart long ago. Those would be universes like the fun nearly identical but evil universes every scifi show has to do eventually.
When similarities happen, very different universes draw closer to each other and sometimes overlap. Accidents that cause doors between the universes to open are then more likely to happen.
That would explain why we have a fear dimension close by right now, and why that’s what opened. The end of the world is distinctly possible, and the extreme fear and destructiveness in both timelines would draw them together.
I have a feeling that whatever Deke was about to say before Daisy’s well-timed slap and the question of why was it a fear dimension will come up again. Deke sounded like he was about to explain branching timelines, which I made an attempt to explain in the episode 13 recap. He started to say, “Maybe that just hasn’t happened in your timeline/universe yet.”
I wondered when episode 3 aired how he knew about the multiverse theory. Now we know it must have been handed down from his grandparents as part of the solution to fixing the time loop. He just needs to remind Fitz of the theory in the present day. I think they’re making the problem harder than it has to be. They’re friends with Ghostrider, a dimension hopper, after all. He could take a look at the worlds where the earth doesn’t crack, and tell them what’s different.
Now a little wild speculation from Metacrone– Recently at WonderCon, someone asked the showrunners how Infinity War would affect Agents of SHIELD. This is Jed Whedon’s answer:
“The movies blaze a path. When ‘Doctor Strange’ came out, it introduced us to magic, which gave us Ghost Rider. When [‘Guardians of the Galaxy’] came out, we were introduced to space.” Without giving too much away, Whedon continued, “We are waiting for [‘Avengers: Infinity War’] to come out so it can open a new playground for us.”
Notice he specifically mentioned Dr Strange and space. I think the new playground is going to be the ability to jump dimensions and possibly through time. Based on everything they’ve done this season and last, and what the last several movies have done, overcoming death by existing in alternate states and dimensions are huge themes, as is using magical science to bend reality, especially by playing with physics and time.
Coulson isn’t going to completely die, he’s going to transform, maybe into a new Ghostrider, but probably into something cheaper to show on a weekly basis, like someone with Dr Strange’s sorcery powers. Coulson will be aided by a sorcerer from space and/or the future. Jonathan Pangborn was able to overcome his disabling injuries using his powers. Coulson could do the same, and have some power left over to help the team. Having the ability to open portals would be very useful all by itself.
If Coulson is going back to the movies for a while, he might be transformed in Avengers 3 or 4, then return to Agents of Shield, after he’s been dead on the show for some amount of time, or he might be dead during a hiatus.
Slight Spoilers for Infinity War- More Wild Speculation, This Time About Mother Hale’s Team and the End of the World
Mother Hale’s Home for Powered People seems to be shaping up as the AoS stand in for Thanos and his “children”, with Hale coercively collecting powered villains for her team who live side by side with her “daughter” Ruby. We found out this episode that Ruby’s been with Hale since she was a little girl, but we still don’t know if they have any actual biological connection, or if Hale is a powered person herself.
From the Supergiant page on the Marvel Wikia:
Supergiant was a member of Thanos’ Black Order; she was a mentally unstable omnipath and telepathic parasite who seeks out intellect and devours it. In the search for Thanos’ son, Supergiant and Corvus Glaive laid siege to the Jean Grey School and easily dispatched of the X-Men. They left after realising that Thanos’ son was not there.
When the Black Order seized Wakanda, Supergiant was left in control of Black Bolt, whom she would mentally order to activate the bombs the Illuminati hid in Wakanda’s Necropolis. When the Illuminati arrived to save Black Bolt, Supergiant used the Inhuman King’s ability to defeat the heroes. Upon activating the bomb, Supergiant was faced by Maximus, who had the trigger. Maximus triggered the bomb, but also used Lockjaw to transport Supergiant along with the bomb to a distant uninhabited planet, where she perished in the explosion of the bomb.
AoS could be planning to use a modified version of Supergiant’s control of Black Bolt/Quake and the bombs/Gravitonium as the threat to the world.
There are 4 other members of the Children of Thanos, plus Thanos’ adopted assassin daughters, Gamora and Nebula, who will all be in Infinity War. If AoS is doing some vague version of this storyline, it will use replacement characters for the most part. They do have easy access to Maximus, Lockjaw and Black Bolt though.
Supergiant could be one of General Hale’s enhanced team members hidden behind the other three doors, or Ruby could be her stand in and use a method other than telepathic abilities, such as straight up coercion or seduction. We don’t actually know much about Ruby and her powers yet, so she could be a telepath.
Either Quake or Black Bolt could crack the world, and either Maximus or someone else, like Shield engineers Fitz and Deke, could send Ruby and a bomb to a safer place for an explosion. Maybe Coulson, as I theorized above, will be able to teleport by then, and will be the one to move the evil doer and the world-ending weapon off-planet. Or maybe the giant puppy will save the world.
Images courtesy of ABC/Marvel Studios.