Agents of Shield Season 5 Episode 20: The One Who Will Save Us All Recap

Welp, tonight we learned that Graviton is on the loose and out of his mind in space, the Confederacy is aware of Infinity War and used the T word multiple times, and Kasius senior is definitely smarter than either of the Kasius juniors. In other words, we’re all gonna die, the only questions are when, and whether it will be Daisy, Graviton, or Thanos who does the honors.

Unless someone breaks the time loop or gets their hands on one of those slippery infinity stones. Tonight Fitz practically quoted Spock’s line from Wrath of Khan about needing to sacrifice a few (or one) because the needs of the many are greater. The decision about who the team is willing to lose, or who’ll choose to sacrifice themselves, is coming down to the wire, and bad decisions continue to tear the team apart.

Talbot begins his reign as Graviton by flying himself and Coulson into space on a piece of the Lighthouse floor. Points for style and resourcefulness, Glenn. And for teaching the kids to recycle.

After losing contact with the Remorath in the Lighthouse, Qovas is about to fire on earth when Talbot and Coulson arrive on board his ship. He has his men attempt to take them prisoner. Talbot and Coulson allow themselves to be taken to Qovas, but Talbot and his favorite wingman are definitely not intending to stay prisoners.

Down in the Lighthouse, the team is getting organized after the attack. Jemma predicts that the Gravitonium will cause Talbot to suffer a major psychotic break. The Lighthouse’s systems are still coming back online and it could be hours before all systems are fully operational. The team begin to plan a mission to rescue Coulson.

Mack patrols through the area to see if any of the Remorath are still alive. He finds one who’s unconscious. The alien drinks the odium when he wakes up. He and Mack fight until May puts a stop to it, telling Mack that they need the Remorath alive for questioning.

Mack was going to kill this enemy without a second thought, because he’s an adult, alien man, and Mack has no use for him. Enemies that look like sexy, young women and who are killed based on someone else’s decision clearly deserved to live, according to Mack’s rules.

Or maybe his rule is that only fully human, named characters have human rights. Going back to season 2, that was definitely his philosophy. It would explain his increasingly horrible treatment of his cyborg girlfriend, no matter how much she grovels and explains. Elena’s powers didn’t change her appearance, so he could ignore them. Shiny, metal robot hands can’t be ignored.

Up in space, Coulson asks Talbot how he’s handling having Ian Quinn and Franklin Hall’s voices in his head. Talbot says that they’re a couple of dead losers who just needed a general to straighten them out. Coulson is still worried about how Talbot will cope with all of the gravitonium in his system, but Talbot reassures him that he feels great. The aliens won’t know what hit them, now that they have to deal with the world’s two best military minds. Coulson seems like he’s not sure he’s actually one of the world’s best military minds. He is a fan of Steve Rogers, after all.

Qovas is suitably arrogant and pissed off. He doesn’t want to negotiate with them, after he’s listened to HYDRA’s groveling for years. Talbot takes control of the conversation, and the ship. He kills one of Qovas’ men with the flick of a hand by having a gravity wave twist the alien up and rip him apart. Then he demands that Qovas and the rest of the aliens kneel, or they’ll end of like their buddy. They kneel.

Coulson ineffectually tries to talk Talbot down throughout this, but Talbot ignores him or brushes him off. He’s thinking big, and Coulson doesn’t get it.

Mack and Elena run into each other in the corridor. She asks how he is after the fight and he grudgingly answers her. She tries to touch his cheek with her hand, but he flinches away from the metal, then makes an excuse to leave.

Wow, so much for the guy who said he wouldn’t look at her any differently because of her cyborg parts. He won’t even throw her a bone and make sure she realizes that he’s withdrawing from her touch because he’s hurt and angry, rather that he’s repulsed by the metal. Honestly, I think he didn’t understand that the initial arms would be so crude. I think he thought they’d be as close to lifelike as Coulson’s, so he could just pretend that they were her real arms. He’s always loved killing robots. And he doesn’t care who he hurts with his honesty and stubborn conviction that he’s always right.

The captured Remorath isn’t answering any questions, but he does give them some information mixed with insults when he notices that they have the odium bottle. Then he dies a gruesome death and May orders Jemma to perform an autopsy in order to discover what she can about the substance. Jemma’s not thrilled. May thinks the name “Odium” is stupid.

Talbot has quickly subdued the entire alien ship. Coulson thinks maybe having everyone kneel before him was a bit OTT. Talbot takes offense. Questioning the negotiation and domination strategy of the greatest military mind in the world is not okay. Qovas still thinks Talbot is a bit much and wonders who he thinks he’s saving the world from. He mentions the Confederacy and HYDRA, reminding Talbot and Coulson that Hale must have betrayed them.

Coulson goes to Hale in her cell. She confesses to telling the Confederacy where the Lighthouse is. She’s still mourning Ruby, and trying to figure out what went wrong. She’s realized that she was a puppet for HYDRA, even though that wasn’t her intention.

Coulson tells her that she can still help them. There’s a new Destroyer of Worlds in town, and he could use her help. Talbot isn’t happy to see her, but she shares valuable information that the aliens aren’t quick to part with, so he accepts her as part of his team.

Next Talbot wants to meet the other Confederacy members. Qovas tries to reject his request.

Fitz laments how long it will take to fix the wiring in the Lighthouse just as Deke gets everything up and running again. He used to tinker with the wiring in the place when he was a kid. Fitz goes for the high 5, but Deke won’t, because it’s so uncool. He says Fitz should be embarrassed about trying to make that move. He’s better than that.

Deke laments that he’s still in the Lighthouse, not a SHIELD agent, and not completely sure what he’s doing there. Fitz points out that he does have family there, but Deke says that’s not quite the reason he stays. At that moment, Daisy radios in for permission to land, and it becomes obvious why he’s still there.

When Daisy gets back, Elena’s waiting to confront her about the 2nd half of her mission, which wasn’t part of Coulson’s orders and kept her away during the battle. Daisy isn’t willing to listen anyone who disagrees with her at all these days, never mind during a confrontation, so it quickly becomes a physical fight, and before long both are using their powers.

Elena calls Daisy out on her hypocrisy about following orders. May breaks up the fight, and coincidentally gives the standard answer to any criticism of Daisy or May’s decisions these days: They are helping Coulson, and that is not an action that can be questioned. Elena can either join them, or get out. REAL SHIELD agents believe in preserving life in the short term, no matter the long term costs.*

Qovas and his men have given Talbot a beard trim and haircut, plus new clothes. Now he has the complete Graviton look. He offers to get Coulson a superhero sidekick costume, but it’s not really Coulson’s style. Talbot leaves Coulson in charge, and gets a last few pointers from Hale before he and Qovas are off to meet the Confederacy.

All six members are waiting, and aren’t happy that Qovas has brought an intruder. They see no need to renegotiate the terms of their deal with earth. Talbot informs them that they’ve been negotiating with the wrong people. It’s time for them to talk to earth’s mightiest hero- him.

Talbot has definitely always wanted to say that.

Deke visits Daisy in her quarters. She’s depressed. She’s got her mother’s skeleton in a duffle bag, her bed is inexplicably full of lemons, and everyone she cares about dies. Deke blames the lemons on Fitz, says everyone he cares about dies too, and he’s smart enough to just move on past the skeleton in a bag.

He says she seems like she belongs there as part of SHIELD, whereas he’s spent his entire life in the Lifehouse, only to travel to the past and still be stuck there. He feels like he can’t escape. Daisy says that she’s glad he’s still there.

Deke says that he feels like they’ve gotten closer, and he’s been wanting to tell her something. She says that he really doesn’t want to get close to her, then lists all of her loved ones that have died. He stops her when she gets to Lincoln. Who’s Lincoln? Why, Lincoln Campbell, the one untainted boyfriend she’s ever had. He died for her, in fact. She’s still in love with him, even though he’s been dead since the end of season 3, which must be 1 1/2 years ago, at least, in show time, but it makes my head hurt to try to figure it out, with time jumps, the Framework, time travel, and time loops.

I have to say, I’ve liked Deke since the beginning, but I like Luke better for Daisy’s boyfriend. She needs someone to be her rock, and Lincoln had a steadying influence. I thought Deke and Daisy could have a Han and Leia dynamic, but she’s too emo to keep playful banter up for long. We can find someone else to be Deke’s girlfriend. Too bad Ruby died. They could have gotten used to the world together while they flirted dangerously. No one else ever appreciated her dark sense of humor, but Deke just might have.

Oh right, Deke had something to tell her. He changes direction, and instead of confessing his feelings for her, says that FitzSimmons are his grandparents. Daisy thinks it explains a lot, especially since he and Fitz are both such special people.

The Confederacy have issues with a human expecting to be taken seriously, disrupting their established procedures, and showing up without an invitation. For his part, Talbot thinks they act like a bunch of Democrats. Talbot asks who’s in charge. Supposedly they are all equal, but a Kree says that a green alien named Crixon is the wisest and most respected among them. Talbot promptly sends out some Gravitonium tentacles and absorbs Crixon into himself. Now he’s the wisest and the mightiest. And there’s an opening on the council.

Mack and Fitz get the Zephyr’s Gravitonium engine running, then have a chat.

Fitz: Mack, I just wanted to apologize, for locking you up, before. It really wasn’t my idea. I actually had…

Mack: You went along with it.

Fitz: Yeah, we were trying to get ahead of the problem.

Mack: By having YoYo execute a kid?

Fitz: Things got messy. But, I mean, it was the only way that YoYo…

Mack: When does killing become the only way? We’re SHIELD. Aren’t we supposed to be better than that? None of this would’ve happened if you would’ve just said this invincible nonsense wasn’t real. But instead, you and Simmons lit the match, and now Yoyo’s responsible for a girl’s death.

Fitz: I’m sorry Mack. I really am. But it’s not that simple.

Mack: Simple is how you live a good life. Not with your theories, or prophecies. It’s following the Good Word and doing the right thing every time, simple as that.

Mack spits the words “theories’ and “prophecies” out as if they’re poison, insulting everything that makes Fitz who he is. Up until this point, Fitz has been acting like his old, uncertain self, stuttering and allowing Mack to interrupt him. He was trying to repair their friendship and making a sincere effort to apologize. That’s beginning to change, as he grows more confident in his argument, and realizes how intolerant Mack is.

Fitz: No, not always, ’cause their are lots of instances in history where it was necessary to sacrifice the few in order to save the lives of many.

Mack: Of course you’d say that.

Fitz: Ruby was dangerous. And it got complicated. And that is just the way it was. So, I’m sorry if that doesn’t fit whatever narrative that you’ve built for yourself.

Mack: You need to look inside yourself and figure out what kind of man you want to be. ‘Cause lately, what you’ve been? It needs fixing.

You mean Fitz, the kind of man who saves the team and the world over and over, is the one who needs to be fixed? Don’t think so. Even in the Framework, he saved the woman he loved and was a devoted son. Outside of the Framework, he and Jemma have forgiven each other many times over and made their relationship work. As soon as he left the Framework he did begin a lengthy period of self-examination. He’s thought about what he’s been through and what it takes to survive. Mack is the one who refuses to see the truth and is intolerant of people who don’t live up to his standards.

I really, really hope we’re not supposed to be accepting Mack as the conscience of the team right now. He may speak for the Christian faith, but he’s also very prejudiced and narrow-minded. This is the guy who created a shotgun axe so that he could chop off heads more easily, then turn around and shoot his enemies. He has no problem with killing certain kinds of people. His speeches about the evils of killing are some of the most hypocritical lines ever spoken on this show.

Stay strong, Fitz. Don’t let him get to you.

Jemma is busy dissecting the Remorath who took the odium. The odium reached every cell in his body, then made his heart explode. Daisy interrupts her with the centipede serum and her mother’s skeleton.

Jemma: Where did you get that?

Daisy: What matters is that we might be able to save Coulson by combining that with my mom’s DNA.

Jemma: Oh, Daisy. This feels like we may be crossing a line.

Yep, a line straight into HYDRA and Nazi territory. This is the type of human/inhuman experimentation Fitz was doing in the Framework and Whitehall did for decades. Where are all of those SHIELD voices of reason now, to moralize about this situation? Not to mention, this serum made Garrett insane.

Daisy: Then we cross it. Are you just willing to let Coulson die?

Jemma: It’s not that simple. There are moral implications.

Daisy: This isn’t a morality debate. It’s just a question. Are you willing to let Coulson die, yes or no?

Jemma: No.

Daisy: Good. Then get to work. This is your top priority.

Der Führer has spoken.

With Zephyr One space ready, May, Daisy, Deke, and Davis take off to go rescue Coulson.

Talbot is still at the Confederacy gathering place with Qovas and Kasius senior, who introduces himself. Kasius sr tells Talbot that the Confederacy never intended to honor the deal they made with HYDRA, mainly because the threat to earth is too big for them to fight. And now the threat is here. Thanos has arrived. Talbot wants to go join the Avengers to fight Thanos, but Kasius sr cautions him that it’s a lost cause. Although…

Hale and Coulson enjoy the view of space and the earth from Qovas’ ship until Talbot returns. Kasius sr told him about additional deposits of Gravitonium that they could mine and infuse into him, making him invincible. Then he could be “The Shield” and  beat Thanos.

When Coulson questions the wisdom of this plan, mentioning how unstable Gravitonium is and worrying that it might become too much for Talbot to control, Talbot turns on him. Quinn and Hall have obviously been whispering in his ear like Lady Macbeth, waiting for the right moment to get their revenge on Coulson.

Coulson tries to convince Talbot not to trust Kasius the Older, but Talbot has complete faith in that straight shooter he just met. Talbot’s way beyond listening to nuance and reason, which has become a theme tonight. Coulson told him they should form diplomatic ties, so he’s formed diplomatic ties. End of story.

Qovas sees his opening and backs up Talbot and the Kasius family. With his yes men in place, Talbot Graviton goes full megalomaniac and forces Coulson to kneel before him.

Tonight’s CG budget is blown on sending the Zephyr to space, and it’s an exciting moment for all. Daisy holds Deke’s hand during the rocket burn. Maybe they’ll progress to a kiss by the end of next season.

Down in the lab, Jemma congratulates Fitz on the Zephyr reaching space because of his design. He didn’t get to be in Control to watch the launch, and tries to pretend he’s okay with it. It seems like a bad move to keep the engineer away from the launch. What if something went wrong and the minutes that it took to get him up to speed were crucial? These people all need to remember how to be professionals and set personal feelings aside.

Jemma’s still working on combining the centipede formula with Jiaying’s DNA. Fitz tries to understand what she’s doing: ‘So the centipede formula is functioning as what- some sort of catalyst to unleash Jiaying’s regenerative properties?”

Jemma says that’s what Daisy hopes. Fitz asks if Jemma thinks that’s a good idea, and Jemma says it’s better if they don’t talk about it. Then she gives Fitz the equipment to extract a sample for her.

Back in space, Graviton reports that Quinn is telling him how they originally found Gravitonium. The Zephyr docks with Qovas Graviton’s ship while cloaked, but is immediately discovered. Graviton thinks Coulson mutinied and contacted SHIELD behind his back. Hale says she told Coulson not to do it. Graviton has reached full paranoia and is sure that Coulson and SHIELD are his enemies. Actually, they probably are, now, or will be soon.

Daisy and May storm the bridge, even though they have no idea what the situation is on Qovas ship. Graviton responds to the threat by using Coulson as a hostage. He doesn’t trust Daisy at all, probably because of Quinn’s history with Daisy, since Talbot didn’t have a problem with her. Hale says that she trusts Daisy, because Daisy was trustworthy when they were dealing with Ruby and the Gravitonium.

Hale: When Ruby was infected with Gravitonium, [Daisy] tried to help.

Graviton: Infected? Ruby was weak. Gravitonium wasn’t intended for some itty-bitty little girl. It was meant for a hero, strong enough to handle it.

Or, in other words, Quinn and Hall didn’t understand or respect women well enough to know how to manipulate Ruby, so they made her unstable and got her killed. A military man like Talbot is Quinn’s specialty though, so he’s doing whatever they want him to do.

Hale tries to get Talbot under control using the compliance training mantra. It seems to work for a moment, but he’s just playing with her. As punishment, Graviton levitates Hale and kills her. Daisy quakes him in retaliation. He throws her against a wall with the flick of a finger, knocking her unconscious. May pulls her gun, so Graviton threatens Coulson to get her to surrender.

Qovas asks what Graviton wants done with them. He says they’re prisoners of war, to treat them accordingly. As he’s dragged away, Coulson yells, “It didn’t have to be like this!” Graviton replies, “You were always the enemy, Phil. Only now I have the clarity of mind to see it.”

Kasius sr receives a gift from Graviton, since he doesn’t get to claim the earth and its riches like he wanted. Quake, Destroyer of Worlds, is his consolation prize, and he can’t wait to take her home.


I hope Coulson was yelling “It didn’t have to be like this!” to his own people as much as he was to Graviton. So many mistakes were made in this episode. Future Elena was justifiably pessimistic about their odds of changing the timeline.

I wonder if the earth is destroyed when Daisy, or an alien, kills Graviton and the gravity wave he releases is so huge that it cracks the earth into pieces. The aliens who are manipulating him into looking for more Gravitonium definitely won’t be interested in letting him absorb more of it. They’ll want it for themselves.

Can we hope for a Luke Mitchell guest spot? And maybe Hive? Did someone rescue them from the quinjet in space just before the bomb exploded? If Blindspot gets cancelled, and Agents of SHIELD doesn’t, can Lincoln come back??? And some version of Grant? O-M-G, they’ve probably been Kasius senior’s inhuman slaves since season 3! Or maybe the Kree killed Hive and TAHITI’d OG Grant. Please, please let me have this, Marvel.

Or will this be another time when Daisy hopes for Lincoln but gets Grant, just like in the Framework?

With their ability to revive people, Kasius senior’s minions could have been snatching up dead powered people for years, reviving and enslaving them. Who knows who we might catch a glimpse of?

I won’t believe the skeleton is Jiaying’s until Jemma confirms it. Even then, it could belong to a close relative of Jiaying, so that the DNA would match. I still believe Jiaying is either in hiding, or up in space as a Kree slave. She definitely still had backups on other planets. (Altered Carbon joke.)

This half of the season is an exercise in taking each character to their logical extreme, until there’s no logic left, just singleminded determination toward a selfish goal that started out as a noble cause. Elena wants to save Mack, the team, and the world, but hasn’t been able to find the words to tell everyone about what her future self said, or the conviction to make them really listen. Instead she’s become reckless in an attempt to avoid thinking too hard about what’s coming.

Mack wants to pretend the world is a good place filled with good people who will follow the golden rule. When bad things happen, he’s decided it’s karma for the negative energy someone is putting out into the universe. That way, he never has to face hard situations that are filled with nuance.

May and Daisy are in denial about Coulson’s health and have shoved everything else to the side, convincing themselves that he’s the key to everything, and taking themselves out of the real fight in the process. They’ve stopped looking at the big picture. Because of them, almost everyone spent a large part of the episode doing nothing but trying to save Coulson, either from Qovas or from his failing health. Trying to break the loop or figure out the alien enemy were forgotten due to the obsession with Coulson. SHIELD is turning into a cult based around him.

FitzSimmons are so desperate not to lose each other again that they put their relationship and each other above everything, even saving the world when they have the opportunity. They’ve let their fear of losing each other consume them so that their judgement is skewed. Along with Elena, they are also too invested in their theories of the future, becoming arrogant and reckless with the certainty that they can’t die yet. On the other hand, they are among the few characters who still try to think their actions through and examine all of the angles and consequences using a layered belief system. The choice between loyalty to SHIELD and doing what they know is right is coming up more frequently with every episode.

Deke just wants to get out of the Lighthouse and maybe have a seminormal relationship with the girl of his choice. Without modern identification his options are limited. He really needs to cozy up to the Candyman a bit. He’s a survivalist who’s only just starting to realize that he can now do more than simply survive.

Coulson wants everyone to get along so that he can relinquish control and die in peace. Or he thinks that’s what he wants. I don’t think he actually wants to die. In the meantime, he’s going to pretend as hard as he can that missions are working out and the kids are getting along fine without him.

Everyone is poised to lose someone significant to them when the end of the world comes, and to blame themselves for their pigheadedness. Fitz and Elena were also both told by older mentors tonight that they’ve lost their way, become terrible people, and don’t belong in SHIELD.

Daisy came close to saying that to Jemma when she forced Jemma to put aside the legitimate SHIELD research Jemma was working on, in favor of the “humanitarian” mission of saving Coulson. No discussion of the ethical implications of what they were doing was allowed. Daisy implied that Jemma was a bad person for even hesitating. Jemma will be forced to violate Jiaying’s corpse (~bones), and then to put even more alien DNA into Coulson against his will.

Fitz, Jemma and Elena are poised to either leave SHIELD at a crucial moment, or to sacrifice themselves because they’re the only ones on the ground who are taking the very real threats seriously and watching all of the important elements. In Robin’s future flashbacks, Jemma was dead, so it could be her who makes the ultimate sacrifice. Deke could have a different grandmother, and Fitz could have passed on the stories of his beloved first wife.

We could also be looking at another pass through the loop next season before the team gets this right.

What did you all think of the episode? Are you Team Save Coulson, Team Invincible Three, or Team Simple Life? Or maybe Team Get the Team Back Together? Do you think Graviton, and Glenn Talbot, will be dead by the end of the season? What’s your prophecy?


*Infinity War SPOILERS———–

The inability of the characters in both the film and the TV show to make the sacrifice play is definitely not a coincidence. I feel like it’s been hammered home so hard and led to such losses in both situations that it must be going to lead to the Avengers and SHIELD learning Mr Spock’s lesson.

Both the Avengers and Coulson’s SHIELD agents have the issue of having grown so close that they feel like a family, so they can’t make clearheaded decisions in battle about acceptable losses any more. If you can’t accept that sometimes, in order to win, some of you have to lose, you end up playing a defensive game rather than taking the chances necessary to win.


Images courtesy of ABC.