Agents of SHIELD Season 7 Episode 4: Out of the Past Recap

CLARK GREGG as LMD Coulson in Agents of SHIELD S7E4

Due to a glitch in LMD Coulson’s matrix as he’s rebooting from the EMP, Agents of SHIELD goes full on black and white film noir in episode 4. The team is still in 1955, dealing with Daniel Sousa and the aftermath of the destruction of Helius Project.

Sousa quickly moves on to his next assignment, transporting an artifact to Howard Stark in Los Angeles. But according to history, this was his last assignment. Once he turned the artifact over to Stark, he was murdered, becoming the first official SHIELD agent to die in the line of duty on US soil (still not letting you erase Bucky Barnes, MCU), and inspiring generations of SHIELD agents with his dedication to duty.

The history books forgot to mention that Hydra and the Chronicoms were competing to see who could get to Sousa first.

Or that there was a ragtag team of dogooders from the future trying to keep him alive.

Recap

Coulson’s opening voiceover:

“Fate. I don’t believe in it. But I know history. I know how the story goes. And when it’s playing out right in front of you, it feels like you can’t escape it. That fate’s gonna catch up to you, tap you on the shoulder, whisper in your ear that your time’s up. And then your story ends. Sometimes the hero has to die, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

We are in a black and white, film noir world with all of the stylistic trappings. Jazz plays in the background that sounds like riff on George Michael’s Careless Whisper. Daniel Sousa walks furtively through the Roosevelt Hotel, until someone stops him and points a gun at his chest. Soon he’s floating face down in the hotel pool in the pouring rain. It’s straight out of Sunset Boulevard.

Coulson’s next voiceover:

“That day started in a fog. My circuits were crossed up. Color had bled from the world and I could hear my thoughts pinging around my head. I could break those cuffs easy, but something told me to hold off.”

Coulson is in Sousa’s office at Area 51, not long after the end of episode 3. He’s just coming back to consciousness after the EMP knocked him out, but his functions aren’t quite back to normal yet. He’s seeing the world in black and white and hearing his thoughts as if he’s narrating his own life.

Wait, doesn’t everyone do that?

Sousa’s on the phone, reporting to his boss that they botched the tech hand off that was his other reason for coming to Area 51. The scientist who held the tech, Niles Lindmore, turned out to be a Chronicom, though Sousa thinks he was a Commie. Or Hydra. He explains that the enemy infiltrated the base and sabotaged the Helius test in a big way.

That report might have repercussions for the future, since it didn’t happen in the original timeline. The 1950s spy and military communities didn’t need an extra reason to be paranoid.

Coulson realizes that it’s July 22, 1955, the day Sousa is murdered in the line of duty, after delivering an important piece of tech to Howard Stark. Sousa’s sacrifice made him a legend to other SHIELD agents and an inspiration to new recruits. Coulson has already heard enough to know that the day isn’t going as it should. He needs to salvage this situation and course correct history.

Hmmm, sounds like Hydra might have cultivated that legend so that no one would ask too many questions about the murder. Or any others Hydra/SHIELD committed in the future for the same reason- Sousa was on to them.

When Sousa gets off the phone, Coulson convinces him that he’s Lindmore’s partner. He discovered the scientist had gone bad, so he stepped in to take over the tech drop. He urges Sousa to get with the program, now, so they can get the tech to Howard Stark as planned. Once Coulson namedrops Stark, Sousa buys into his story.

Coulson: “These aren’t typical times.”

Sousa: “Lindmore would agree, since he melted like the Wicked Witch of the East.”

Coulson: “You mean West. And I can’t answer for Lindmore. I didn’t see it. Now, you want to play Twenty Questions, or should we get this package to Howard Stark?”

I have a feeling Sousa’s Wizard of Oz slip up was a test to see if Coulson was a Russian spy. Captain America gets that reference. If you do, too, you must be a red-blooded, loyal American. Coulson threw in a Twenty Questions reference and Stark’s name to make sure he’d proved his cred.

Sousa is meant to take the train to Los Angeles to deliver the package. Coulson needs to use the phone to contact his people, so they can deliver the package to the train. But Coulson can’t use a dial up phone to call the Zephyr 1, which must only accept satellite calls, so he calls Enoch at Koenig’s bar instead.

He’s conveniently memorized the phone number, which hasn’t changed since 1931.

The bar now has an island theme and is called the Krazy Kanoe. Enoch is listening to the sob story of a long-winded military vet when Coulson calls. Coulson breaks the news to Enoch that they can’t pick him up right now. He just wants Enoch to connect him to the plane, and cuts the hard-working, lonely Chronicom off mid-sentence without even a thank you.

Coulson fills in the team. Mack says they’ll visit Lindmore’s house to search for the device, then bring it to Coulson in the lounge car on the 5:10 train to Los Angeles. They assume the Chronicoms accidentally chose Sousa’s scientist contact to use as an avatar.

This technology exchange seems like an event the Chronicom anthropologists would have been aware of, and chosen to use to their advantage.

On the drive to Lindmore’s house, Deke and Elena discuss the sexism and racism they’re encountering in the past. In the future Deke comes from, humans had united against the Kree, so he’s not used to seeing so much identity-based cruelty between humans.

The show seems to have forgotten how much future humans exploited each other anyway and the way they handed inhumans over to the Kree.

Elena says sexism and racism has gotten better over time, just not fast enough. They are both frustrated and angry with their inability to change things for the better, since it’s not part of the mission and could cause too much damage to the timeline.

Elena finds Lindmore’s faceless body on his bathroom floor. The device is hidden nearby, in a briefcase, which she takes with her. Before she can tell Deke what she’s found, Chronicoms find Deke and kidnap him. They don’t even look around the house to see if anyone else is there.

Sousa and Coulson board the train. No one from SHIELD is there to hand off the package with the tech. Elena has gone in search of Deke, taking the package with her.

When she hits a dead end, Elena calls Enoch at the Krazy Kanoe. He’s hopeful that she’s calling to let him know they’re coming for him, but she too cuts him off mid-sentence and asks to be put through to the Zephyr. He gets no thank you or other warm chit chat from her either, after what’s been 24 years for him. Enoch returns to his long-winded customer.

Elena reports on the mission to Mack. He assumes the Russians took Deke, not the Chronicoms, though he should know they’re still in the area, since the Zephyr jumps when the Chronicoms jump.

Coulson: “No one could blame Yo-Yo for putting a person first, the package second, but I was left high and dry and the train was on the move.”

Coulson really means that Elena put him second because he’s not a real person. How many biological lives do he and Enoch have to save before their lives count?

He spots a man on the train who’s napping and has an accessible briefcase, making him the perfect decoy. Coulson tells Sousa he was waiting for his contact to give him the all clear signal (putting his hat over his face to nap). Now they can pick up the (fake) briefcase containing the tech, which they do, and move on to another car.

On the Zephyr, the team are examining the real briefcase and tech, without a thought as to how Coulson is handling Sousa. It’s a seemingly unassuming length of metal with angular ends that reminds me of the Kree Diviner. Jemma recognizes it, saying it’s “the Rosetta Stone of SHIELD. Even the Zephyr can be traced back to this little darling.”

I’m thinking SHIELD has been experimenting on Darkforce and this is a solid form. Cue the Roxxon references in future episodes.

While Jemma is very excited to see the device, everyone else is underwhelmed. Except for May, who shares Jemma’s enthusiasm.

Coulson and Sousa compare notes on their lack of personal lives. Sousa insists on seeing the device, but Coulson tells him it’s for Stark’s eyes only. Sousa says Stark won’t be at the drop. Coulson is disappointed. He was hoping to met Stark in person.

He vamps and explains that his “boss” has only sent him encouraging notes until now, which Sousa admits sounds exactly like that pompous jerk Stark. Coulson defends “big thinkers”, who are sometimes misunderstood by the regular guys in the field. Sousa decides he needs a drink and heads to the club car alone.

As soon as Sousa’s gone, former Chronicop Luke sits down and tells Coulson he wants to negotiate a deal. Luke points out that despite his loyalty to humans, Coulson is more like a Chronicom, with his millennia-long life expectancy and durability, than the fragile, soon to be extinct humans.

If Coulson gives Earth to the Chronicoms, they’ll show mercy to humans.

Coulson turns Luke down without hesitation. Both threaten to escalate hostilities, but Luke points out the obvious- the Chronicoms have a greater knowledge of the timeline and its details- or variations- than SHIELD does. They already know the tech isn’t in the briefcase Coulson’s carrying and that Sousa is supposed to die in a few hours. But they’ve decided to alter the timeline, so he’s about to die on the train.

Sousa meets an attractive woman in the club car and strikes up a flirtation with her. As they amuse themselves, several of Freddy’s goons clear the regular passengers out of the car. Sousa notices, and is ready for the ensuing fight, but he’s outnumbered until Mack, Daisy and Coulson pop in to help out.

Sousa is grateful for their help, but he’s still suspicious, especially when Coulson’s briefcase pops open and there’s clearly no tech inside. Mack introduces himself and Daisy by their real names and says it’s time for Sousa to visit their lair.

They take him to the Zephyr, but remain in period clothing and refuse to tell him what organization or time period they’re from. He’s impressed by the Zephyr, but still insists they hand over the package, immediately.

When May is introduced to Sousa, she becomes disoriented and nearly swoons. Jemma takes her to the lab for an exam.

Sousa is unimpressed by the tech and says he thinks Howard Stark would be more impressed by their flying headquarters. Coulson says their budget is also off the books.

Is that a hint that Tony Stark still pays for SHIELD? I guess would it be Pepper now.

Mack tells Sousa that now they need him to help them find Deke. Sousa says that normally, he’d asume the Russians were the kidnappers, but this time is different. He’s still hesitant to reveal his biggest secret, but finally says that Hydra has infiltrated SHIELD. It was in his report to the CIA.

He thinks he’s dropped a giant bombshell, and is floored when the others simply confirm that his theory is correct. They won’t tell him how they know, just that it’s classified. Coulson realizes that Sousa was killed by Hydra, not Russians, because he was about to expose their presence in SHIELD.

Coulson guesses that Freddy Malick is now Sousa’s superior in SHIELD. Sousa says he’s the only one who knew about the meeting with Lindmore.

Deke is brought before a much changed Wilfred “Freddy” Malick. He’s a full grown mobster now, instead of a cute kid who could go either way. Freddy doesn’t recognize Deke, since it’s been 24 years for him, instead of a few days.

Deke pretends he was in Lindmore’s house because he was a toaster salesman who wandered in. Freddy shoots and kills the goon who mistakenly grabbed Deke. Deke is shocked at the change in the kid whose life he once protected.

Mack and Coulson begin to weigh their options for Sousa’s future. They’ve been down this road before.

Mack: “It’s easier to let a bad man live than to let a good man die.”

Coulson: “That’s catchy and I wish I’d said it, but Agent Sousa’s sacrifice was an inspiration to others in SHIELD.”

Mack: “Like yours was for the Avengers.”

Coulson: “Well, let’s not oversell it.”

Mack: “It’s a fact. It’s also a fact you got a chance to fight another day.”

Coulson: “I did, but if Sousa lives, we don’t know what impact that will have on history.”

Daisy sits with Sousa while he tries to process the extent of Hydra’s infiltration into SHIELD. He doesn’t want to believe Malick could be Hydra, anymore than the team wanted to believe Grant Ward or John Garrett could. In a show of growth, Daisy takes a turn at stopping an agent from killing Malick too soon.

Sousa: “Hydra took a lot of good people from me. This is a fight I’ll wage alone if I have to. I’d give my life for it.”

This is a fight Daisy was waging alone when we met her, as a hacker in the back of a van. She’s periodically gone back to waging it alone over the years. She understands exactly how he feels.

Coulson: “A great writer once said, ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ Deke could now attest to that.”

Freddy points his gun at Deke and prepares to fire. Deke says, “You don’t have to do this, Freddy.” He reminds Freddy of their past together, when he was ordered to kill Freddy, but he didn’t and then he saved Freddy’s life for the Chronicoms. He speaks calmly and gently. Freddy lowers his gun and apologizes for forgetting Deke. He lets Deke go, but says his debt to Deke is paid.

Jemma can’t find anything physically wrong with May. Elena enters and tells Jemma that May had a panic attack at Area 51. They all agree that’s a strange symptom for May. May explains that she’s been feeling blank and then out of control emotions suddenly wash over her.

Deke calls Enoch at the bar. He’s excited to speak to Enoch and tries to engage in conversation, but Enoch is a sensitive soul with a tendency toward depression and abandonment issues. He rejects Deke before he can be rejected and instead puts the call straight through to the Zephyr. Then Enoch turns to his long-winded customer, saying that he must now accept he is alone in the world, as he has always been.

Hopefully a friendly Koenig will show up at the bar before Enoch hits the self destruct button.

Mack guesses what’s been going on with Deke before he’s told. He asks Deke to wait for them to come get him.

Sousa gets antsy, because they’ve landed and it’s almost time for him to meet Stark’s man. Mack calls Daisy out of the room for a brief consult. He explains to her and Coulson that he’s decided to save Sousa’s life. They’ll have someone else make the drop.

Mack: “Let’s make some waves.”

Mack’s priority has always been to save lives. This is an excellent way to enact that vision.

Jemma, Elena and May figure out that May is only overwhelmed by emotions when she’s close to people who are having intense feelings. She’s developed the ability to sense others’ emotions when she’s physically close to or touching them. May tells them that when she touched Sousa he felt confused but he also felt an urge to run.

Before they can stop him, Sousa steals a motorcycle and the tech, then leaves the Zephyr to make the drop by himself. The team are determined to save him, so they take off after him in the quinjet.

Sousa waits for his contact in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel. Freddy’s goon is in the shadows watching. When Sousa’s contact, the desk clerk, goes on break, they meet deep in the labyrinth of hallways in the back of the hotel. Sousa loses Freddy’s goon before he makes the hand off.

A few minutes later, the goon watches Sousa stumble into the pool and die. He calls Malick to tell him that Sousa’s dead. Malick is satisfied that Sousa won’t spy on Hydra anymore.

In voiceover, Coulson explains that he and Mack caught up with Sousa moments after the hand off. They iced Sousa and quickly got him out of the hotel, once Coulson switched clothes with him. Coulson let Malick’s goon shoot him, then stumbled out to the pool and pretended to die.

Since he’s an LMD, he can float face down indefinitely. Daisy and Jemma show up to act as temp morgue attendants and collect “Sousa’s body”.

Back on the Zephyr, Jemma monitors Coulson as he dries out. His inner monologue fades to static and he turns to see May walking toward him. By the time she fills up his vision, the world is in color again and his inner monologue is gone. May holds his wrist, then says she gets nothing (emotionally) off of him. She drops his wrist and barks at everyone to buckle up, because they’re taking off. He tries not to show that internally he’s going through an Enoch-style emotional meltdown.

Elena and Deke decide that the next time they have the chance to change the sexist and racist status quo of the historical culture, they’ll do it.

The jump alarm goes off. Everyone is on the ship but Enoch, who is 3,000 miles away. Daisy and Mack wish they didn’t have to leave him behind, but assume he’ll be fine, since he’s a Chronicom. They’ll get him on their next stop. Nobody calls Enoch.

When Sousa wakes up, Coulson is waiting for him. As the resident expert on surviving death, going into hiding and continuing as a SHIELD agent, he gives Sousa the run down on his new reality, with no more secrets. Sousa takes it pretty well, once he understands that he’s still working for SHIELD, he historically died anyway, and the team are time travelers who faked his death and brought him along.

It’s almost like he already has experience with time travelers. And body snatching robots. From outer space. Or maybe just Howard Stark.

Coulson: “You’re alive literally, but to anyone not on this plane, you were killed at that hotel. I’m sorry. Welcome to life after death.”

That, um, sounds like Dr Strange should have said it. Like we’re going to discover during the last episode that the Zephyr has been purgatory all along, and this version of Coulson isn’t an LMD, he’s from another dimension.

BUT WHERE’S FITZ? If his plane is purgatory, shouldn’t he be in it, with his wife and his favorite sandwich?

Sorry, sorry.

The Zephyr is, in fact, traveling on another plane of existence, as they are experiencing time in a unique manner that will leave them with altered memories and unable to return to their original timelines/life as they knew it. They are time fugitives at this point, with nowhere to go home to, until the war ends. Jemma has said this, but it hasn’t been articulated or emphasized very clearly, as illustrated by the fact that the others think the war will be over when they unexpectedly jump home and everything is exactly how they left it.

They maintain this belief, even as each of them makes their own little ripples in time in order to make the world a better place or serve their needs in the moment. None of them have thought through what ripples to waves really means.

They were also all probably declared dead when the temple was destroyed, so they’re all technically enjoying their umpteenth life after death. (Remember that time they all died in and around the Framework? And went missing in the future for most of a year? Maveth? Good times.)

Sousa realizes that he’s not in Kansas 1955 anymore and asks when they are. Coulson says they’re in the process of determining that. They tune in a 70s song on the radio. I have a feeling it’s prophetic.

Luke the former Chronicop stops by for a visit with Freddy. He was left behind to be Freddy’s Chronicom adviser in their fight against a common enemy. Luke tells Freddy that SHIELD will destroy everything he’s built. He mentions enemies from the future and Freddy thinks of Deke. Or does he recognize Luke from 1931, now that the memory has been brought to the surface? Luke confirms Freddy’s suspicions, then says they can stop SHIELD, if Freddy does exactly what Luke says.

Luke still looks skeptical. He’s never been big on trusting strangers or handing over control of his life to someone else.


Commentary

The tech they brought Stark will turn out to be important in the future. This could be an opportunity to have John Slattery guest star as Howard Stark in one of the later decades, between the 70s and early 90s. They could theoretically save him and/or his wife as well, though it looked like the Winter Soldier killed Howard pretty thoroughly. In some version of the comic books, Maria Stark was a scientist in her own right.

Maybe this season really is about building Nick Fury’s super secret, back from the dead SWORD team, coming to Disney+ Fall 2021 😉. SHIELD has been on its way to space, one way or another, since they realized Daisy was part alien and Coulson was brought back using Kree juice.

Coulson’s “Past is never dead” quote is from Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun: “The major theme of Requiem concerns spiritual redemption for past evil deeds through suffering and the recognition of one’s guilt.”

That could be foreshadowing for a new future for Freddy Malick. There’s still enough good in him to make Sousa believe he’s a good guy and to repay his debt to Deke. Gideon Malick was devoted to his daughter, which probably means that Freddy also has a devoted side. And his memory of the time Deke saved him has been triggered. Does he remember that Luke was one of the guys who was shooting at him?

How long would it take the Zephyr or the quinjet to travel 3,000 miles? 10 minutes? They could have sent someone for Enoch if they’d cared enough.


New Powers, Potential Soulmates and Strong Emotions

May and Coulson, the psychic and the one person she can’t get a reading from, are now Edward and Bella from Twilight. One of the first reasons Edward was attracted to Bella was her talent for closing her mind, which is very restful to a psychic who’s bombarded by other people’s minds all day. Just in case you were wondering whether May and LMD Coulson might eventually become close. And Edward brought the color into Bella’s world. You saw what May did for Coulson.

Sometimes soulmates just recognize each other. Maybe that EMP turned LMD Coulson into a real boy. I suspect that May is now immortal, in addition to being an empath, since the Chronicop made such a deal about Coulson living forever. Besides highlighting the irony of an immortal Coulson, of course. This Coulson is the one May was meant to spend eternity with.

[Now that I’ve said that, he’ll melt in episode 10, in another grand sacrifice. That would be so cliche, though. Really. Hasn’t Coulson dying been done to death?]

There are mixed messages happening here, regarding death, regret, growth/redemption and the ability to move on. LMD Coulson is pictured as Joe Gillis, the dead body in the pool in Sunset Boulevard, who learns too late that corruption can’t be undone. Unlike Dorothy, he can’t return to Kansas. Then there’s the Wizard of Oz references, in which Dorothy does go back to Kansas. She’s able to return because she’s resisted corruption while in Oz.

But though Coulson has resisted corruption through his many temptations, his sensory experience in this episode the opposite of Dorothy’s. He normally lives in a world of color and has lost the ability to see the full spectrum of experience. Like Dorothy, he knows what he’s missing, but doesn’t know how to get it back. Until May walks in and returns the richness of life to him.

Coulson quotes, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” May died in the line of duty at the end of season 6, after visiting the other realm. She’s returned transformed. LMD Coulson has “died” in the line of duty in these last two episodes, in addition to all of his remembered deaths as OG Coulson. He was also briefly Ghost Rider, which is probably the closest he’s come to corruption. Yet even the Ghost Rider demon is fighting for the greater good.

Neither of them are the people they were at the beginning of season 4. Those versions of them are gone for good. But they are still them. Sooner or later, he and May have to come to terms with who both of them are now.

The reminder that Coulson’s first death inspired the Avengers to win the Battle of NY was meant to remind us that LMD Coulson isn’t just the sum total of Coulson’s professional experiences.* He’s all of Coulson, including his emotional experiences. More than ever, he’s in the position Steve Rogers was in when he came out of the ice and into a whole new world. Steve was the same inside, but the world saw him differently. He had to spend years working through his emotions and cognitive dissonance while building a new life. [Which he then walked out on, in a nonsensical film ending, but let’s not go there.]

Coulson has had his ups and downs, but a version of him is still here, fighting and loving.

His emotional wiring is more Chronicom than LMD.

Seriously, kids. LMDs have a tendency toward world domination, but Chronicoms are just looking for love and appreciation. Chronicoms are all Mr Spock at heart, pretending they have no emotions, but marshmallows on the inside. If Earth invited them to share the planet and said each Chronicom could become a cherished part of their own human family, it would be the happiest day of their lives. If they were also given a gold star and a “Good job!” at the end of every day for their professional achievements, they’d probably never complain about anything again.

But if Chronicoms don’t get the love and attention they need, they’re like the worst jilted lovers, out for revenge or falling into the depths of depression. (They say Enoch is unusual, but they’re all emotional. Most just hide it better. Luke makes an emotional appeal to Coulson when he tries to negotiate a deal, rather than offering him power or wealth.)

May now has the burden of sensing emotions, other than Coulson’s. And in addition to sensing emotions, May reacted especially strongly to Sousa and to the scientists in the Area 51 lab- all people who were fated to die if SHIELD hadn’t intervened. It could be that they were all people who were panicking and afraid, but May wasn’t overwhelmed by Elena’s fear when she was being strangled by the Helius project cable, probably because Elena was certain to be saved in every timeline. I think May can sense imminent death as well as emotions, and is only overwhelmed when she senses death.

Did Sarge know she’d return from the spirit realm with powers? Does she have them because she has a Ghost Rider type of entity inside her? Not Ghost Rider, but another spirit, maybe not as demonic. That would open up the story for a Robbie Reyes visit, another of Daisy’s also rans.

Daniel Sousa is so totally Daisy’s type: polite, respectful, devoted, ruggedly handsome, a bit controlling and secretive, dangerously intense, and committed to his cause to the point of being suicidal.

And Daisy is his type: brunette, gorgeous, powerful, independent; still getting over the dead, blonde, heroic, superpowered love of her life who went down with his ship to save the world from Hydra and its maniacal, physically-altered superpowered leader, who was in the ship with him at the time; destined to be a leader but not there yet; as dedicated to SHIELD and eradicating Hydra as he is.

It will be a missed opportunity if these two don’t at least have a fling that helps them get over their exes. I need to hear the conversation where they realize Lincoln and Steve died the same way. Then Peggy poured Steve’s blood over the Brooklyn Bridge, into the river. Daisy had already sent the terrigen crystals into the ocean. Peggy created SHIELD, Daisy created and guided a wave of new inhumans.

Will they bring back time remnant Lincoln for Daisy, will she and Sousa end up together, or will Sousa decide he’d just be making the same mistake all over again?

*We’re also going to relive some portion of the Battle of NY in a future episode, so that we can see how Daniel Sousa/Enver Gjokaj happened to be there as a uniformed cop. Just work with me right now- I’m thinking through a different piece of a layered puzzle. We’ll probably discover the Avengers have known Coulson came back to life since just after the battle ended, and that will explain how/why Tony Stark has still been funding SHIELD for all of these years.


Has Fitz Been Erased? And Is SHIELD Finally Going to Address Its Past as a Front for Hydra?

The last two episodes have had no mention of Fitz. Jemma has seemed much happier than she did in the first 2 episodes, too, as if she doesn’t remember or miss Fitz any more. Not even a mention of how her husband and lab partner would have enjoyed the vintage Area 51 lab as much as her and how much she’s looking forward to telling him about it when the war is over.

Did they accidentally erase him or his involvement with SHIELD from the timeline? Something they changed in episode 3 with Helius and the lab might have made a big difference as to whether and when Fitz joined SHIELD. It could have affected how he and Jemma meet and the course of their relationship.

I don’t think I need to mention the Framework here, where a small change turned Fitz into a fascist. But his life was just as likely to go in the opposite direction. As a teenager, Fitz wanted to stay a lab rat, working on experimental devices. Jemma pushed him out into the field. Without her, he probably would have worked on more projects that were purely engineering and done less cross discipline collaboration.

And he would have had a pet monkey, since working solely in the lab doesn’t involve as much travel as field work does.

The team remembers the alternate timeline that Deke came from and Deke is still there, so I’ve been assuming that they’re currently outside the normal timestream again and if the timeline changes, they won’t lose memories of previous timelines. But we don’t really know much about time travel in the MCU. In the films, characters involved in changing the timeline do seem to retain their memories of both timelines.

The most difficult part about the absence of any mention of Fitz is that he’s currently just a memory of future events- his birth won’t even happen for decades. The 21st century is like Schrodinger’s cat right now, with the potential to change multiple times as the time war continues.

Small changes/ripples in 1931 or 1955 could echo into large waves by 2020 and make the world a very different place. As long as the Chronicoms predict that future SHIELD/Earth can still beat them, they’ll continue the war, even if the timeline has changed in other ways. And the Chronicoms won’t care about the condition they leave the timeline in when when they’re done, win or lose. Now that Enoch has been benched, SHIELD doesn’t seem to have any way of detecting timeline changes, other than chance encounters with anomalies.

Once Enoch rejoins the team, he might be the one to notice if changes have affected his bestie Fitz’s future. We saw the team treat Enoch as callously as they’ve treated other members in the past, which has led to unexpected issues before. Fitz has been underappreciated and had too many expectations placed on him in the past, which helped lead to his breakdown in season 5.

Deke was treated as an unwanted outsider for all of season 5, even after they realized he’s FitzSimmons grandson, leading to his departure to travel the world. He wasn’t there to help with Sarge and the shrike because Mack didn’t consider him part of the team, despite Deke’s many sacrifices for them, including his life. Unexpectedly time traveling instead of dying doesn’t negate the fact that he expected to die when he sent the team back to the present.

Now Enoch and LMD Coulson are both receiving the same treatment, with the justification that they’re not as human as the others.

The implications of that sentence are ugly.

Enoch also sacrificed his life for the team and Coulson is working with them against his initial wishes, because he wants to help save humanity. They are both at least as valuable as the other team members. They certainly have as much humanity and have as much right to life.

So did all of the inhumans who were treated with suspicion and prejudice, including by the current director. SHIELD as a whole and this team specifically have a long history of insensitivity that probably started with the combination of Peggy and Howard soldiering on while masking their grief at the start of the organization and the cold influence Hydra had on SHIELD for decades. SHIELD’s past as a front for a fascist organization and how that affected its internal policies has never been fully addressed, despite the show’s track record with casting diversity.

Hopefully that’s one of the directions this season is headed in, between May’s new empathy, Deke and Elena’s new pact to confront prejudice when they see it and the addition to the team of a firebrand for justice like Sousa, who died because he followed the evidence where it led and didn’t turn his head away, as so many other SHIELD agents must have done over the years.

Sousa is the current replacement for Ward, Hunter and Lincoln, all of whom were morally ambiguous at best. I have my issues with Sousa’s personal life, but he’s not corrupt and he doesn’t switch sides. He’s willing to put his life on the line to fight for justice for all.

Meanwhile, Fitz is SHIELD’s most morally ambiguous character, but he’s also always been the heart of the team, with his unwavering love for Jemma and loyalty to SHIELD at its emotional core. After he sacrificed himself for Jemma, he was used to show SHIELD sticking by an agent who became severely disabled in the field, as he made his long, slow fight back. Then, he was placed in an altered reality where his father and an LMD controlled by the Darkhold influenced him into becoming the worst possible version of himself.

Once he exited the Framework, Fitz was horrified by what he was capable of and has been working through those issues ever since, through both atonement and self-awareness. He seemed to have largely worked them out by the end of season 6, having spent from season 4 onward facing the repercussions of building weapons of mass destruction, the Framework, etc. Jemma also spent some of season 6 facing her inner demons, often literally.

Maybe that’s why Fitz is missing now. When things have gone terribly wrong, some of the others have a tendency to place the blame on Fitz’s science or on Daisy’s inhuman nature and never own up to their piece of the blame. Stuck in the past, with Fitz out of the mix, Elena’s powers down, Daisy rarely using her powers, the Coulson LMD following orders without argument and Mack in charge, the team will have to face their inadequacies as humans, with only humans to blame.

May was also a high ranking SHIELD agent in the Framework, but she hasn’t worked through her issues. Maybe giving her empathy now will be part of her atonement for her actions in the Framework and the regrets she has from her real life.

Maybe when Deke and Elena begin to protect strangers who are persecuted because they’re different, they’ll notice how infrequently the teammates receive equal protection and why. Maybe they’ll notice the effort put in to save Sousa, who wasn’t a member of the team, that wasn’t given to Enoch, who is.


Out of the Past and Time Remnants

Out of the Past is a critically-acclaimed, classic 1947 noir with great cinematography and acting and a completely convoluted plot, which definitely makes it a good title for an Agents of SHIELD episode. Characters fall in love, take on false identities, frame each other for murder, lie to and betray each other. Even the happy ending is a bit suspect.

The femme fatale, who betrays both of her boyfriends, is at the center of the story. Daisy was framed as the femme fatale in Sousa’s 50’s noir. She’s had convoluted relationships with men in the past.

But this season’s real femme fatale is currently keeping herself far in the background. Tamara Taylor’s Chronicom Predictor Sibyl doesn’t seem to be in complete control of the rest of the Chronicoms, but she is a strong influence on the direction of the war. I wonder if she will also become a character with complex motives who acts against the wishes of the other Chronicoms.

The ancient Sibyls were Greek and Roman prophets. The Cumaean Sibyl betrayed the god Apollo after making a deal with him, and was then punished, but she also got immortality out of the deal. She went on to have many other adventures with the rich and powerful of the ancient world.

The Sibyls’ predictions were given in riddles which needed to be interpreted by priests. As they wandered the Earth, they often acted as tricksters when they made deals with the powerful men who tended to be their clients. They weren’t anymore easily understood or controlled than the Chronicom predictor is.

Chronicom Sibyl is the last of her kind and isn’t fully sharing her plans with the other Chronicoms, all of whom present as aggressive male hunters. What happened to the other predictors? How many were lost to Sarge and Izel and how many are gone due to the hunters’ impatience? Sibyl may blame the hunters for the loss of her sisters.

SHIELD is assuming that she’s trying to stop the formation of the agency or end its existence, as if she were dropping a bomb in time, but the way she was playing with her cat’s cradle lightning streaks and the subtlety of the ancient stories about Sibyls suggests that she will work like a weaver, pulling a thread like Freddy or Fitz from the story.

I think SHIELD and the hunters are misinterpreting the results Sibyl hopes to get from each time period.

Sibyl is able to predict how the SHIELD team will react to her machinations, and they’re playing into her hands. Freddy’s interactions with SHIELD/Deke in the 30s and 50s made him open to dealing with a Chronicom. But they also increased both his opportunism and his sense of loyalty and debt to those who are loyal to him.

The Helius debacle might have changed something about the focus or procedures of the SHIELD science program. If SHIELD became more paranoid because they thought they’d been infiltrated by multiple factions, Fitz’s engineering studies might have been moved out of the academy and into a secure location. If Fitz and Jemma never became close, then he never became a field agent. Without Fitz in the field, SHIELD potentially loses everything he’s developed there, including the Zephyr 1 and LMDs. The team are all potentially time remnants at this point.

But Predictor Sibyl may also be playing a long game, letting the hunters keep fighting until they slowly dwindle in number, and then repairing the timeline so that SHIELD can win Earth back. The hunters who wanted to conquer Earth were originally a rogue band within an otherwise peaceful and friendly species who could have used peaceful means to find a new planet. SHIELD could still help them do that, if the hunters are overthrown and the anthropologists and predictors take over again. They just need to be reprogrammed.

Sibyl may even be steering them back toward the MCU Prime timeline, hopefully rejoining long after the events of Infinity War and Endgame.

Or maybe Fitz, Piper and Flint are busy being dust right now. Maybe the “considerable amount of time” that Jemma and Enoch were gone was the time while everyone was dust and she picked up the team not long after they reappeared.

Next question- what is the piece that has to be put back in place for AoS to rejoin the MCU timeline? Do they have to undo Phil’s resurrection by Project TAHITI? I think I’d rather they stay in a separate timeline.

Prediction- One of the guest appearances will be by someone related to the Netflix MCU. Maybe a younger version or a relative of someone will show up in the 70s or 80s.

Agents of SHIELD embraces the 70s.

Image courtesy of ABC.

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