Agents of SHIELD Season 7 Episode 10: Stolen Recap

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After spending last week in a time loop, episode 10 finds the team stranded in the 1980s again. They set up camp in the Lighthouse but are soon visited by Jiaying and Gordon, who tell them what Nathaniel and Kora are up to at Afterlife. Nathaniel recruits S1 villain John Garrett before he’s injured and recruited by HYDRA. While most of the team try to stop Nathaniel from transferring inhuman powers to villainous humans, Deke continues to work on the Zephyr’s time drive.

Recap

The episode opens in the SHIELD bar where SHIELD recruit Young John Garrett is playing darts. Adult John Garrett, who was Grant Ward’s SHIELD SO, surrogate father and HYDRA recruiter, plus S1 Big Bad the Clairvoyant, was played in a tour de force performance by Bill Paxton (Apollo 13, Big Love). Bill died in 2017, but the show pays tribute to him by bringing back the character and casting his son, James Paxton, in the role his dad originated.

Keep the box of tissues out.

Nathaniel shows up at the bar to recruit Garrett for his chaos crew by telling Garrett about his own future. Garrett doubts Nathaniel’s story about his devastating injury, abandonment by SHIELD, and recruitment by HYDRA, but I’m not sure why. Has Garrett met Nick Fury? Or Victoria Hand? SHIELD has never had a problem with leaving men behind. Even when SHIELD was the SSR and HYDRA hadn’t infiltrated them yet.

Nathaniel gives up on trying to teach Garrett past and future history and instead shows off his Quake skills. That gets Garrett’s attention. Deep down, all he ever wanted was to be a supervillain.

The SHIELD team is back at the Lighthouse. Mack is SO OVER this nightmare of a decade. Roxy and the rest of the Deke Squad are still maintaining the Command Center, now apparently and ominously known as Control, but they’ve also been accepted at SHIELD Academy, since Deke’s field promotions didn’t cut it with the rest of SHIELD.

In the 1980s, the rest of SHIELD didn’t (doesn’t? wouldn’t? I give up on the correct verb tense here) know that Deke, Coulson or FitzSimmons exist, so that would make sense. I guess no one explained to the Deke Squad that they were part of a super secret op from the future.

Roxy is happy that Coulson is out of the TV, but she doesn’t have the clearance level for them to talk about that. She hands the Lighthouse keys over to the team and says she hopes to run into them at the Triskelion someday.

Hand me another Kleenex. Just rewatched the Winter Soldier section of S1, too. RIP, Agent Sitwell.

Coulson realizes that the Triskelion shouldn’t have been built yet, but he hesitates to get too pushy with his ideas, since Mack is the official director. Mack tells him not to stand on ceremony, since this is an extinction level event. Just be himself.

Coulson says that the timeline is a mess anyway and they promised to help Jiaying fight Nathaniel. It’s time to use the inhumans to their advantage make good on that.

Sousa, the man from the 50s, is impressed with the relatively intact and well stocked Lighthouse, a 70s era base intended to survive an extinction level event, particularly a nuclear war or an alien invasion. It did, in fact, did survive a combined event such as that, by the way, as shown in season 5. So bravo, Rick Stoner, you have my undying love and I know Chastity misses you as well.

Jemma and Daisy, on the other hand, would really like to live above ground, in the sunshine for a while. Jemma would like a state of the art, 21st century lab, as someone with her credentials ought to be able to command.

Daisy asks if Jemma has a theory as to why the time drive’s jump countdown didn’t start up again after they put the new part in.

Jemma: “The Electrochom Displacement Mechanism did stabilize it, but it is possible the cumulative damage severed our operative receiver’s ability to penetrate space-time.”

Sousa asks if Daisy understood what Jemma said. Daisy did.

It’s not too hard, once you slow it down. Jemma spit it out very fast.

Sousa decides to take a nap. He carries Daisy’s luggage to her room for her, because his new prosthesis is so great.

Jemma notices the growing attraction between Sousa and Daisy and approves.

She wishes she could remember more about the time drive so that she could fix it more easily. Daisy confirms that Jemma doesn’t remember anything about Fitz’s location or what happened during the missing time before she picked up the rest of the team.

Jemma asks why Daisy is so interested, so Daisy explains that Jemma was distraught when her memories began to return. They’re interrupted by Mack calling them to Control.

They’ve decided to take action against Nathaniel. They can’t leave him on the loose in the 80s and they need to protect Jiaying. They can’t let any more of the agents’ parents get killed. Coulson promises to minimize the information they tell Jiaying in order to protect the timeline.

May starts to tell Daisy about Kora, but Gordon and Jiaying teleport in before she can finish. Nathaniel is hunting them.

Nathaniel gives Garrett a tour of his newly revamped version of Afterlife. The timestream/Sibyl has its/her own oracle room, where recruits are brought to see their potential futures, both what they’re leaving behind by joining Nathaniel and what they’re gaining.

Sibyl has been demoted from character to plot device, and barely even that. We had one recurring black female character this season and poof! She’s disembodied, her voice is taken away and she’s enslaved inside a machine. (She was always in the machine, but at least for a few episodes she spoke through an avatar and gave orders.)

Now, a truly useless and obnoxious white man is given superpowers and does the talking for her while we’re told she’s running the show. That kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

How long did it take to get Coulson out of the TV again, vs Sibyl? And Coulson still resents his 1 disembodied episode. Let’s see if Sibyl ever gets a body.

But apparently Sibyl has no need for her own agency. She doesn’t even need a TV screen anymore. Of course not. There are 2 new women of color in town to take her place. We all know women are disposable and replaceable.

Nathaniel introduces Garrett to Dr Grady, another SHIELD reject who went too far, this one a mad scientist whose work was too dangerous to continue. Then Garrett puts his hands in Sibyl’s timestream ports and views the story of his life.

Jiaying wants protection for the inhumans of Afterlife, but she doesn’t trust SHIELD, since she doesn’t know them. She blames them for leading Nathaniel to her people. The team explain that they save inhumans from people like Nathaniel, who is stealing their gifts. He stole his own powers.

They decide that Coulson should go scout Afterlife, since he’s the most durable team member. Gordon will teleport him into a hidden spot, then leave immediately. They don’t want to risk Jiaying’s life. She tells them they have to bring back her daughter, Kora. Daisy is shocked to hear that she has a sister.

When Daisy confronts May about Kora, May reminds her that they were stuck in a time storm. She hasn’t had a chance to tell Daisy about her sister. Then she explains that Kora likely committed suicide years before Daisy was born.

Daisy wants to go with the team to Afterlife, but Mack says he needs her to stay with her mother at the Lighthouse to protect their future. He and Elena will take the quinjet as backup for Coulson and Gordon.

Once Garrett is done with the timestream, Nathaniel shows him the power transfer room, where Li’s powers are being drained and transferred over to another man, Durant. Nathaniel explains that he’s perfected the process so that it’s still painful for the inhuman, but no longer messy.

He introduces Garrett to Kora, who is the only non judgemental inhuman. She agrees that powers should be given to everyone, in the sense that Nathaniel should decide which of his minions gets them, instead of Jiaying and the Afterlife committee deciding who is stable enough to express their inborn genetic code. Power to the people.

The power transfer is almost complete. Li can no longer manifest a burning knife and now Durant can. Nathaniel tells Kora to perform a mercy killing on Li. Kora checks to make sure he can’t hurt her anymore before moving in to kill him, even though he’s restrained. Li says that he should have killed her years ago. She uses her power on his head.

Goodbye, Byron Mann. Better luck next time.

Garrett wants fire powers, too, of course. So cliche. Nathaniel says they need to take his power from SHIELD.

The team weapon up on the flight to Afterlife, but Mack won’t let Gordon carry a gun. Ableist jerk. Gordon could probably teleport that bullet right where he wanted it to go.

Coulson is surprised that Gordon is calm about returning to return to his home. Gordon says it helps that the fight is necessary.

Look, I HATED Gordon in earlier seasons, but this isn’t that guy. This guy was driven to become that older jerk by the way inhumans are treated in the world. Mack and Coulson are helping Afterlife for their own purposes, but don’t actually care if Gordon dies on this mission. And on top of that, they’re both acting like he’s an incompetent coward.

It might be a good thing for this paternalistic version of SHIELD to die out. Personally, while I’ll miss the show, I’m ready for the recent attitudes to end permanently. Without Fitz to humanize them, the team are becoming insufferable.

And they can’t seem to understand how time travel works without him either, no matter how many changes to the timeline occur and how many time remnants don’t disappear or lose their memories. They will never win the war without him, because they don’t understand the war they’re fighting. They will just chase the enemy in  circles forever.

Jemma finds Deke working on the time drive. He wouldn’t mind staying in the 80s, but he knows the others consider the early 21st century home. He’s grateful they’re still alive. Jemma mentions that Enoch saved her and Fitz once before, at the end of season 6, when they were pinned down by the Chronicoms.

Deke is trying to make Enoch’s sacrifice worth it by figuring out why the time drive isn’t communicating with Fitz anymore. Jemma wonders if the drive has been working independently, without communicating with Fitz, all along.

Deke: “I thought you said he was controlling the jumps?”

Jemma: “I thought he was, but consider the logic. We followed wherever the Chronicoms went, they dictated time and place. The Zephyr could have been preprogrammed to follow.”

Deke: “But we took out the Chronicoms.”

Jemma: “And the drive was damaged in the process. Every jump since then has been a malfunction.”

Deke doesn’t understand why Fitz hasn’t helped them. It dawns on him that Jemma is scared that Fitz is dead. He hasn’t answered her messages in months. Maybe the implant is blocking her bad memories.

Deke won’t even consider it. He’s going to keep working and when the time drive is fixed, they’ll find Fitz.

Mack tells Gordon and Coulson to find where the prisoners are being kept at Afterlife. If they aren’t back in 30 minutes, he and Elena will follow them inside. Gordon plans to jump into an abandoned section of the facility.

As soon as they arrive, Nathaniel ices Gordon. Sibyl predicted where and when they’d arrive. They take Gordon away, while Coulson tries to convince Nathaniel that he’s working for the wrong team. But Nathaniel knows that Deke killed Freddy, so that disqualifies SHIELD as good guys in his mind.

And anyway, he’s a free spirit who hates hierarchy and structure. He’s all about anarchy! Chaos! Except not at Afterlife, which seems to be under his very strict hierarchical control. But once he’s done transferring powers from the people he doesn’t think deserve them, because he doesn’t like them, to the people he does think deserve them, because he has a use for those people, then, seriously, it’ll be anarchy all over the place!

They reach the power transfer room, where Garrett is ready to receive Gordon’s powers. Kora is there waiting. She and Garrett snipe at Coulson, who isn’t even the Coulson who committed all of the crimes and died all of the deaths they’re angry about.

Nice Loki reference, though. Coming soon to a Disney+ channel near you. Keep on paying.

Meanwhile, back at the Lighthouse, Sousa loves his new leg, but hates the new look in Fascism. Don’t we all, buddy.

Daisy tries to explain Jiaying’s history and powers to him. She has long life and good health, fueled by her ability to drain the life force out of people with a touch. Sometime in Jiaying’s next 10 years, former Nazi, current Hydra scientist Daniel Whitehall will experiment on her to the point of vivisecting her.

Whitehall successfully steals Jiaying’s powers based on his experiments. Daisy’s father Cal finds a nearly dead Jiaying and nurses her back to health, but she never fully recovers, either mentally or physically. She needs to drain one person a year to stay alive and becomes hardened and unable to trust people. Daisy is born after Jiaying’s recovery. Both of her parents are too psychologically damaged for her to ever have a relationship with them, even as an adult.

Sousa, straightforward, innocent soul that he is, tells Daisy that she should absolutely jump on this second chance for a relationship with her mother. He’s lost everyone and he sure wishes he could talk to some of his people again. How can she pass up her chance to spend more time with someone who left her totally traumatized?

What could go wrong? It’s not like Daisy will have to realize all over again that her mother didn’t love her, get punched in the gut when she discovers how much Jiaying loved her sister, hope for a moment that things could be different between herself and Jiaying, and then watch her mother die a second time, right?

Toxic family relationships in a nutshell right there, folks.

Yeah, maybe let’s not take Sousa’s relationship advice anymore, ‘kay? Sometimes, being left to always wonder “what might have been” and “if that person really has changed” is actually better than finding out, trust me. Been there, done that. Just let it go and move on with your life. It’s rare for people to change very much. It’s only our perception of them that changes. Or how much of themselves they reveal to us.

When the half hour is up, Elena prepares to zip into Afterlife to check on Coulson and Gordon, but Mack stops her. He’s figured out that they captured Gordon, which means they’ll be ready for her, too. He tells her to guard the quinjet while he goes in.

Thank goodness Mack overruled her. I love Elena’s confidence, but I can’t handle watching her have anything else terrible happen to her. You just know Nathaniel is itching to get his hands on her speed.

In the power transfer room, Garrett suddenly realizes that his face might end up looking like Gordon’s and panics. That leads to him teleporting out of the room with his eyeballs intact, so all’s well that ends well. Coulson and Kora spar over murder, justice and raising difficult children. Kora has difficulties with seeing the nuances of a situation- so typical of someone with fire powers, am I right?

Garrett learns the word “teleport”, then takes Nathaniel to find a female someone that he’s looking for.

Sousa provides moral support for Daisy when she goes to see Jiaying. For some reason Daisy thinks that Sousa’s offer to go with her, something any decent friend might do, is something amazing and old fashioned, which makes me sad for her life. Jemma, Fitz, Deke, Lincoln and Mack, just off the top of my head, have all tried to be that kind of friend to her, but, with the exceptions of Jemma and Mack, she’s pushed them away.

Anyway, it’s time for the mini Dollhouse reunion. They don’t really let Sierra and Victor drop the personas they’ve taken on and be themselves, unfortunately. But it must have been an uncomfortable reunion, since he’s dating her daughter now. No wonder he hung back, then left.

Victor immediately spills that Daisy has powers and has been to Afterlife. Daisy explains that Jiaying trains her in 30 years. Jiaying recognizes that Nathaniel has the same powers, so Daisy explains that he stole her powers. Jiaying realizes that Nathaniel used his knowledge of the future to lure Kora away.

Daisy asks more questions about Kora. Jiaying says that Kora was a shy, sweet little girl. They were inseparable until Kora went through terrigenesis. Kora couldn’t control her power and refused Jiaying’s help. The Afterlife “others” wanted to get rid of Kora, but Jiaying knows she’s still good inside. Jiaying tells Daisy that she used to think her long life was her greatest gift, but she was wrong. Kora is the best thing that ever happened to her.

Daisy is floored. This is the mother who abandoned her at birth and tried to kill her multiple times, until Jiaying had to be killed to stop her violence. Jiaying notices Daisy’s reaction and asks about it. Daisy says that she didn’t know her mother when she was a kid. When she did meet her mother, she wasn’t who Daisy had hoped for. Jiaying says that sometimes trying to do the right thing comes out all wrong.

Yeah, it was a little more serious than that, but nice try.

Nathaniel and Garrett teleport into a Lighthouse storage room. Garrett finds a Deke Squad t-shirt and says he’s a fan. Nathaniel tells him they still have a job to do. It requires splitting up.

Coulson and Gordon have been dumped in one of the Afterlife cells. Coulson is preparing to bust his way out, but Gordon is sure that the doors are too strong. He uses the last of his strength to teleport Coulson into the hallway. Then he either dies or passes out again. Coulson assumes he’s dead and leaves him there.

May runs into Garrett in the Lighthouse hallway. He recognizes her from the timestream of the future. She tries to fight him, but he teleports a few feet when she gets close. He monologues for a minute and forgets he can teleport, so they have a short fight before he remembers that he can jump out. Then he’s off to find whichever one of the women he’s kidnapping.

May tells Daisy to take Jiaying someplace safe, so Daisy slowly walks Jiaying through the main corridor of the building.

If she was going to do that, why didn’t she just shove Jiaying into the Control broom closet, so she’d at least be out of sight???

Oops, Nathaniel somehow found their hiding place in the middle of the hall.

Coulson at least peeks around the corners in Afterlife before charging ahead. This is the caution that multiple deaths brings you. Still not enough though, because Mack sneaks up behind him, and let’s face it, Mack doesn’t tiptoe.

Coulson fills Mack in on the situation. Then Elena zips in before Mack can finish saying her name, which is the coolest thing in the episode. I’m loving Elena the full on Speedster. She fills them in on the Lighthouse situation, so now we’re all up to date.

Mack and Elena get the hostages while Coulson goes for Kora.

Nathaniel tells Jiaying that Daisy is her daughter. She quickly remembers what Daisy has already told her about her mother. Nathaniel helpfully fills in the rest of the gaps in Jiaying’s future, as I did above. Except he mentions that Cal kills Jiaying.

That provokes Daisy into quaking him, as it was meant to. He critiques her form, while quaking her back, only harder. He points out that he’s the big brother now, since he took the long way to their current year and Daisy time traveled. He’s now had his powers for longer than she has.

Daisy stands there and lets him quake her, throwing her backwards down the hall. Jiaying uses her own power on Nathaniel, sucking out his life force while telling him to leave her daughter alone. Her tosses her off, then quakes her into the wall and snaps her neck, killing her the same way she died in the future.

He turns to kill Daisy next, but she’s sufficiently emotional now to power up completely, and she’s not just Name Brand Quake. She’s also Name Brand Gravitron, while he’s just a cheap knock off.

Before Daisy can do anything to Nathaniel, the writers take a cheap way out by having May shoot him in the shoulder twice, thus saving him to fight another day. It also saves their special effects budget from having to show Daisy actually using the full force of her powers for once.

May runs off down the hall and Daisy goes to her mother, who is really dead, despite the fact that it still doesn’t makes sense given her stated healing abilities. She had just fed on Nathaniel’s life force, after all. She even has the juice to heal herself.

The plot holes just get wider, since May didn’t bother to kill Nathaniel the Time Waster and has left him in a convenient place for Garrett to pick him up when ready. Sousa, on the other hand, is blithely wandering the halls with his gun swinging loosely at his side, complaining because nobody’s introduced him to Garrett.

But it’s okay. Garrett grabs Jemma, who was walking behind Sousa, then introduces himself. Once again, Sousa is an AMAZING bodyguard. Jemma apparently can’t handle or even carry a gun anymore and no one can use a radio. Sousa definitely subdued that wall though.

Fitz and Davis must have been the only ones who understood how to use proper stealth during an invasion of the base. The rest think they’re supposed to make easy targets of themselves while not even swiveling their heads as they walk.

I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, but I can’t handle sheer stupidity. I don’t know what went wrong with the writer and director for this episode, but somebody should check on them. It’s hard to believe these are the same characters as the ones we watched fight in seasons 3 and 4. Is Thanos going to jump out and tell May to “Go for the head” next?

Coulson finds Kora waiting for him, because of course Sibyl predicted everything that’s happened. She’s ready to meet Daisy. Coulson ices her.

Mack, Elena and Coulson load the inhumans onto the quinjet. They’ll disappear after this and end up somewhere off camera with the other off camera inhumans, their leaders now dead.

Garrett and Nathaniel bring Jemma to the Zephyr, then steal the ship. Deke is still on board. He’s been working on the time drive with his headphones on through everything. He feels it when the Zephyr takes off and pulls down his headphones, so he finally hears May radioing him. She tells him the Zephyr’s been hijacked.

Good to know that the team is so organized that they made sure Deke knew he was under attack and should protect the ship. As always, so impressed with Mack’s leadership. He’s really helped the team bond and grow closer. So close that they can’t even count off to make sure all members are accounted for.

Nathaniel tells Jemma that according to Sibyl, only Fitz stands between them and victory. They’re going to force Jemma to bring them to him.

I think it’s become pretty clear that the only way SHIELD will win is if Fitz becomes actively involved again. This episode was pathetic.


Commentary

I think it’s become pretty clear that the only way SHIELD will win is if Fitz becomes actively involved again.

I haven’t particularly minded Nathaniel before, but now I’m done. He’s become annoying, time wasting filler. It’s clear that his story isn’t going anywhere. “Sibyl” is the mastermind who’s using him to keep SHIELD busy while she musters her troops and carries out her plans behind the scenes. The fact that we don’t get to see Sibyl, the actual villain, who was played by a talented actress that I enjoyed watching (Tamara Taylor), actually carry out any diabolical plans, makes Nathaniel ten times more annoying.


Where Is Enoch When We Need Him?

Or is Enoch actually the problem?

From this episode:

Deke: “I thought you said [Fitz] was controlling the jumps?”

Jemma: “I thought he was, but consider the logic. We followed wherever the Chronicoms went, they dictated time and place. The Zephyr could have been preprogrammed to follow.”

Deke: “But we took out the Chronicoms.”

Jemma: “And the drive was damaged in the process. Every jump since then has been a malfunction.”

This is how Jemma vaguely explained the Zephyr’s time travel in S7Ep1, The New Deal:

Deke: “And we can jump to any time we want?”

Jemma: “Not quite. It’s complicated. Even I barely understand it.”

Mack: “Alright, well give us the basics.”

Jemma: “There are critical launch windows leading to specific points in time and space. Fitz called them Tides. The Chronicoms took one and we followed them here.”

Daisy: “Yeah, but why 1931. I mean SHIELD won’t even exist until the 50s.”

Jemma: “Truthfully, we never expected to go back this far. I have no idea what the Chronicoms are up to or how to find them.”

Deke: “Well, that’s not great.”

Elena: “So we’re not prepared for any of this. We’re flying blind?”

Jemma: “We’re flying on auto-pilot and we’ve prepared the best we could.”

Various things were briefly said in other episodes as well, that added up to the explanation that the Zephyr’s jumps were tied to the Chronicom’s jumps. The Zephyr was drafting behind the Chronicoms’ timeship whenever they jumped, and landing wherever they landed. Fitz set it up to be an automatic process that would continue until the time war ended.

I expected the Zephyr’s time drive to malfunction when Coulson exploded the time ship, because it was tied to the Chronicoms’ timestream and time drive all season. Sibyl knew this, too. That’s why she was perfectly happy for him to blow up the time ship. In the long run, it hurt SHIELD more than it hurt the Chronicoms since SHIELD doesn’t have FITZ available to make repairs.

I have understood this method to be the time travel process all season because that’s the way it was explained, even if the explanation was vague and given in pieces. It seems that Jemma’s memories have deteriorated to the point where she can’t remember how the process works.

For some reason she thinks Fitz was controlling the jumps, even though that kind of direct contact with the ship would expose his location. Jemma and Fitz communicating on strategy and the projects he was working on in his own battles against the Chronicoms would be different, and more easily encrupted, from him controlling the ship’s last minute jumps.

So what happened? Did the writers change their minds mid season about what Fitz and the Zephyr were doing? Did they explain things badly in the beginning? Did the switch happen when they jumped timelines? Did they jump timelines when the timeship exploded?

Or did Enoch change the programming on Jemma’s implant to change what she knows/how she remembers time travel mechanics? Did he make protecting the implant his #1 priority, rather than stopping the other Chronicoms, since Fitz is always his priority and protecting the implant is protecting Fitz? We saw how far he was willing to go to protect the implant. Did he take it so far that it became detrimental to the team outside of the time loop?

There’s no point in trying to make sense of this, since they already had Daisy tell us that the writers weren’t going to bother making their time travel make sense. And we already know they’ll probably never clear up the linear progression, since they jumped timelines in S5 as well and never clarified when they left the MCU timeline.


Image courtesy of ABC.

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