After half a season of teasing variations on the choice between saving Coulson and saving the world, the choice that Future Elena predicted would be their downfall, the Agents of SHIELD have finally reached the end of the line. There’s no question that the final, life or death choice that the agents are left with at the end of episode 21 is the one that she was referring to. Up until now, the team has been split down the middle, with half the team unable to face watching anyone close to them die, no matter what repercussions it might have on the world, and half believing that sometimes a few (or one) need to be sacrificed in order to save many.
Coulson, the potential sacrifice in question, has been making his feelings on the matter clear for months. He intends to die when his time comes and doesn’t want any heroic interventions made to stop nature from taking its course. But we’ve all seen how important he is, not just to the team, but to keeping the world running smoothly. Are there times when one particular person is more important than a random group of people, because of the contribution that one person will likely make to the future? How would that even be decided? How many lives would it be reasonable to trade for Phil Coulson’s life? How many lives might he save if he lives?
These are terrible things to think about, and the reason most of us don’t want to be world leaders. The team has a guideline this time through the time loop, though. Future Elena told them that they’ve always chosen to save Coulson in previous rounds of the loop, and that allows Graviton to crack the world, either while mining for gravitonium, or once he’s reached full power. What would happen to Coulson after they gave the centipede serum to Talbot instead of him is uncertain. Another cure could still appear. Either way, this is their chance to break the loop and take down Talbot.
But let’s start at the beginning, which is devoted to villain monlogues. First, Daisy wakes up in the hands of
Narcisse Taryan Kasius, who wants to make her his new pet disciple. He informs her that an exciting experiment such as herself deserves better treatment than she’s gotten on earth. It’s time for her to forget about her friends. They’re her past. He’s her fututre. I really wanted Daisy to ask Taryan if that line ever actually works on anyone he’s kidnapped.
Next up is Qovas, who tells May and Coulson that he just wants to be respected. And for people to stop pointing guns at him. Guns aren’t even worthy weapons. Except the oversized guns he has pointed at the Lighthouse. He’s looking for an excuse to fire those.
He walks out into the corridor to find Talbot waiting for him. Talbot says that they’ll both have everything they want soon, meaning more gravitonium. Talbot knows someone who can help them find it.
FitzSimmons have reassembled Jiaying’s skeleton and are trying not to think too hard about the fact that it’s Daisy’s mother. Or that they’re using the evil serum they worked so hard to stop. As a distraction, Jemma goes over the way the cure should work:
Jemma: The serum forges new cellular pathways like biological infrastructure. In doing so, it can also carry any element we feed it.
Fitz: Like Jiaying’s healing DNA. Which we could deliver to, say, Coulson’s helix cells.
Jemma: Should work.
Fitz: It’s just, what Yo-Yo says- danger.
Jemma agrees. Fitz has thought about it, and wonders if the answers lies not in letting Coulson die, but in making sure he lives. They theorize that keeping him alive when he was fated to die would break the loop as well. Jemma’s willing to give it a try.
Davis tells Deke the story of how he survived the LMD attack in season 4. The reactions to the story become more amazed, everytime he tells it. I hope it’s going to pay off somehow in episode 22.
Then the Zephyr is attacked by Talbot and the Remorath. They want the Zephyr’s quinjet for a side mission of their own to find the new gravitonium. Deke makes a quick distress call to Mack, who’s watching TV footage of the destruction in NYC caused by the invasion of the Children of Thanos. Talbot kills Agent Kim, then shuts down the Zephyr’s power. He shuts down power in the quinjet so it can’t be scanned ot controlled. Then he uses his gravity powers alone to fly the quinjet, which is full of people.
Coulson and May reminisce about Talbot and what he’s meant to the team over the years. They talk about his current condition, and how they can rescue him from it. Coulson doesn’t want to give up on Talbot. May thinks they might have to. There’s an undercurrent that suggests they’re also having a conversation about their own relationship.
Talbot visits Creel in the hospital. He reveals that he’s been changed by the gravitonium, and says he can help Creel learn to cope with the voices as well. He swears he can make everything better, Creel just has to join him. Creel doesn’t understand what that means yet. Talbot produces gravitonium from his hand, and has Creel touch it, waitng for Creel to turn to gravitonium himself. Then Talbot absorbs Creel into himself, giving himself another gravitonium boost. Creel is the 4th person Talbot’s absorbed, leaving 4 more to equal the 8 shown inside him in Robin’s drawing.
Taryan continues his pitch to Daisy, telling her she’s won the golden ticket to his chocolate factory and he’ll fill her world with pure imagination and all of the everlasting gobstoppers that she can eat. He won’t ever let anyone else be mean to her again. She just has to live with the other Oompa Loompas in the factory forever.
Daisy’s been offered golden tickets once ot twice before though, so she recognizes a raw deal when she sees one, and tells him to shove off.
Daisy: Look. Yeah, some people have given me a hard time. Humans are complicated. They disagree. Sometimes it comes to blows. Only sometimes it’s a person who risks everything for their friends, even though she lost her limbs. Hypothetically. We fight, ok? But not with a lack of respect, and that’s something I don’t think you’re quite understanding.
I think she just forgave Elena in the middle of all that. Maybe there’s hope for her and Fitz.
Taryan isn’t impressed by her speech. He says she’s going to be part of his collection, whether she wants to or not. She tries to use her powers, with a great one liner set up, but they’re gone again. What is it with these power mad Kree?
This time, she’s actually unconscious, and still on Qovas’ ship. Taryan is somewhere else, and her consciousness is being projected to his location using an Astralscope. Her body is still fine, with full use of her powers.
Jemma finishes isolating the essential components of Jiayling’s DNA. Mack visits the lab just as she’s informing Fitz. Fitz stiffens up and won’t even look at him. Mack immediately wants to know what they’re working on. Fitz tells him, but keeps his back to him. Mack decides this experiment is okay. Fitz asks Mack what he wants, while Jemma looks at the two of them and tries to figure out why they’re being so weird.
Mack explains that Talbot has gotten out of control and is racking up a body count. He wants them to fix the machine so they can get the gravitonium out of Talbot. Fitz scoffs, “Something else that needs “fixing”. Mack gets angry, again, and tells them that this is their priority. If Talbot isn’t stopped, nothing else matters. It’s a wonder they ever finish anything, with the SHIELD leaders constantly rotating and coming through to give them a new priority every few hours. Fitz tells Jemma that he and Mack will work out their issues.
Coulson and May use Coulson’s high tech prosthetic arm to scan the walls of their cell. They find the circuit panel and work out a way to use it to escape. Before they can enact the plan Deke arrives to rescue them. He figured after what happened with Talbot, and losing Agent Kim, he’d better find them.
Mack and Elena watch Talbot absorb Creel on the hospital security footage. Mack tells her about Isabelle Hartley, and how he eventually learned to forgive Creel for killing her. Elena notes that he has an amazing capacity to forgive. Mack senses that she’s hoping he’ll forgive her, and blows her off. She says that Talbot may have to be stopped for good. That stops Mack in his tracks. He turns and tells her that he’s now the only agent who’s qualified to make that call.
Let me remind everyone again about the violent mutiny against the true leaders of SHIELD that Mack helped lead in season 2, and the way he lied to everyone for months. His judgement is not as infallible as he thinks it is, and he’s not overly honest or good. This saintly Mack is a huge retcon. He’s the guy who kidnapped his old friend Lance Hunter, and kept him chained to a bathroom sink drain pipe, lying on a bathroom floor, in the dark, for days. All because he thought Hunter was getting close to discovering the mutiny plan. Not to save the friggin’ world from certain destruction. All Elena did to him was lock him in Fitz’ comfy cell for a couple of hours.
Speaking of which, isn’t it about time for Deathlok to show up and save us? Shouldn’t Trip be revived and pull out his bag of his grandfather’s tricks? Man, I’d love to see Trip with his past SHIELD knowledge and sense of humor, and Deke with his future SHIELD knowledge and sense of humor, pal-ing around.
Taryan yammers on and on about how Daisy’s in his power and he knows how to push her buttons and torture her so good, or whatever. But he’s overplayed his hand by giving her too many details of her physical situation. She’s not going to be held back by another inhibitor. He may think that he’s determined her future, but she knows his future, too. He has two cowardly sons who both die by being stabbed in the back.
She tells him that she comes out of this stronger than he knows. She’s the Destroyer of Worlds.
She bows her head and concentrates, clenching her hand to focus her powers. Back on Qovas ship, where she’s being dragged down a hall, the Astralscope cracks, and Daisy wakes up, already fighting. We’re back in business.
Guessing this is where the Destroyer of Worlds legend started among the Kree, no matter what happens next week.
Meanwhile, Fitz and Jemma have an ominous conversation:
Fitz: I don’t see a way to reverse the effects of the gravitonium on his system. Or even neutralize it. How are you doing? Give me some good news?
Jemma: Well, I’ve finally got the compound right. It should only take a few days to synthesize. It’s funny, isn’t it? The centipede serum was part of our first mission, and now it’s the key to curing Coulson. We’ve come full circle.
Fitz: Just in time for the end of days. You ever think it would be Talbot?
Jemma: I don’t want to think about it. He was one of the good guys.
Fitz: I don’t know what he is anymore, but he needs to be stopped even if that means…
Jemma: Even if that means finding a terminal solution? I mean, if there are no other options, we could try the odium.
Fitz: How do we get him to take it?
Jemma: Drinking it might not even be strong enough. We could use the centipede serum to deliver it straight into his cells.
Coulson, May and Deke wander the hallways of Qovas’ ship trying to find Daisy and a way out. Coulson and May can’t believe that their alien expert can’t read the ship’s language beyond a few numbers. He reminds them that they lost his true love. Coulson tells him to do his best.
Within moments they find a pair of Remorath. May is ready to fight, but Daisy makes her dramatic entrance by quaking them offscreen.
Mack and Elena try to figure out where Talbot has gone. Mack uses some strategic thinking, and figures out that Talbot wants to prove himself to his son.
Talbot arrives home just after SHIELD calls to warn his wife. Carla nervously watches her husband with their son. Talbot proudly tells his son that he’s a super hero now, with his own costume and powers, just like the Avengers. He offers to take George flying, but Carla thinks she and Glenn should talk first. She sets off his temper and he throws her against a wall, then pins her there while he talks to George as if nothing’s wrong.
Qovas sends out Remorath to find and kill the humans, and then send Daisy to Taryan.
The space team argues over a plan. It’s mostly agreed that Coulson and Daisy will go back to the Lighthouse on the Zephyr, while May and Deke will stop the missiles that are aimed at the Lighthouse, then use the teleporter. Coulson argues with this plan and May goes off on him just as the Remorath come around the corner to attack. Coulson sticks his arm out and activates his holoshield, cool as can be, then grabs May and makes out with her, while the shield blocks enemy fire.
You know he practiced that move in the mirror at home. Daisy and Deke stare at them with their mouths hanging open. When the kissing is done, Coulson says he thought that might shut May up. She smiles and moves toward her mission. Coulson says he doesn’t want hear a word from Daisy. She still sneaks in a “Hot Lips”.
The Talbot family reunion continues to go downhill, since mom now lives on the wall like a spider. Talbot brings up her cooperation with Hydra, but Carla says she didn’t understand what was happening. He says the only way he can trust her is if she joins him, and reaches out his hand. Maybe he’s going to end the world by absorbing everyone, one at a time.
She’s saved by Mack, Elena and their back up arriving. Talbot goes outside to greet them, and finally gets a chance to use his superhero stance for reals. Then he tosses a couple of cars in the air to show that he means business. The geniuses of SHIELD fire their guns, with bullets, at him, because they can’t figure out that a guy who can manipulate cars can probably do the same thing with bullets. Talbot effortlessly stops every bullet with his mind and fires them back at the agents. Good thing they have the cars, which are now on their sides, to hide behind.
Deke and May storm the bridge just as one Remorath is telling the other that Qovas has ordered the missile launch. Deke gets in a Remorath kill this time, using his belt. They get to work reprogramming the missile and teleporter targets. Deke accidentally turns on the navigation system first, and grabs the data card to keep for later. May removes the embedded knife from one of the Remorath to use as a weapon.
Elena uses her powers to try to get George away from Talbot, or to grab Talbot, it’s not clear. She’s repelled by Talbot’s gravity field. The team won’t be using Elena’s powers to inject Talbot with the serum.
Talbot tells his son that he’s a good guy who’s going to save the world, even though he looks like a bad guy to George right now. George should keep watching the news, so he can see his father become a hero! Then Talbot uses his powers to fly away.
Daisy and Coulson board the Zephyr and fight off a couple more Remorath. Coulson’s hand is injured and bleeding, but he tells Daisy the wound is no big deal. He just needs a few stitches. Daisy teases him about making out with May. Coulson says she’s probably having the time of her life right now.
May and Deke are almost done programming the teleporter when Qovas shows up. He and May have an epic knife fight while Deke runs back and forth between them, finishing up with the teleporter. He gives May a nod to tell her that he’s done, so she shoves Qovas toward the launch button. He smugly tells them that they’ve sealed their fate, and pushes the button.
As the missiles launch toward earth, then turn back toward the ship, May smugly says that she told Qovas that she didn’t need a gun to stop him. Qovas asks how, and Deke says it’s because he knows zero. Then they grab hold of the teleporter, and make their exit just in time.
Daisy and Coulson watch Qovas ship explode and check to make sure that May and Deke made it back to the Lighthuse. Jemma tells him about Talbot. Coulson realizes that they have to take stronger measures against Graviton.
Then Daisy notices that his hand is bleeding profusely, and he passes out.
Back in the Lighthouse, Coulson is still unconscious. The entire team is together. Jemma gives them all the news that Coulson will survive this wound but his condition is worsening and accelerating. It will take a few more days to prepare the serum. Mack asks about a solution for Talbot. FitzSimmons explain the ovid/serum solution which will likely kill Talbot. They just need more centipede serum. Daisy explains that there is no more centipede serum.
They realize that they can either save Coulson, or save the world.
Gravitonium appears to be fantastic for the hair. Talbot’s is now thicker, darker, and more lustrous, with bright, white streaks to give him a distinguished, powerful air.
If they could get the gravitonium out of Talbot, would the people come, too? They all seem to be alive in there.
Remember that time that Daisy wouldn’t let Jemma finish analyzing the odium to see what it’s made of? Do you suppose Jemma ever went back to that and finished it? Because I’ve always wondered if it’s derived from gravitonium. Drinking diluted liquid gravitonium would be really bad for you, but you’d probably have those gravity powers for a bit before it ripped your body apart. However, if you took the refined liquid gravitonium and mixed it with centipede serum, well, that would be a perfect supersoldier serum, wouldn’t it? With someone as full of gravitonium as Talbot, it might be just the boost he’s looking for, or might put him over the edge and turn him into a huge bomb. It could be that the part Elena warned about was getting the centipede serum to begin with.
For those keeping score at home, SHIELD now has a ship capable of space travel, and a navigation program to guide them through the known universe. The Remorath went everywhere, right? An FTL drive is the only thing missing. So many spaceships have crashed on and near earth, they’ve got to be able to scavenge and retrofit one. Or Fitz can whip one up during the hiatus.
Coulson, May and Deke make a joke about all of the halls on Qovas ship looking like the same hall- they probably are all the same set, shot from different angles and with different lighting. Sort of like the Lighthouse’s minimum number of hall sets.
Let’s look at that instaclassic shield/kiss move one more time:
Images courtesy of ABC/Marvel.
Sorry this is late. The final third didn’t save, and I had to rewrite it when I went back to edit it. Stupid finicky Comcast internet. I’ll do another editing pass through later, but here’s the recap itself.