This review contains spoilers for Agents of SHIELD.
Agents of SHIELD Season 6 Episode 5
There were many things to like about this week’s Agents of SHIELD episode, including its clever title, “The Other Thing,” a phrase which Sarge used when he uncovered May’s love for Coulson and which Coulson used in May’s flashback to refer to his fatal condition. In fact, the flashback to Tahiti was itself a highlight of the night. And despite a welcome reunion for at least part of the team, there were parts of this episode that left narrative gaps and expected us to leap across them, specifically with regard to the monoliths and Sarge’s back story. There’s a fine line between being mysterious and being confusing.
That’s not to say there wasn’t any intrigue at all. It certainly raised an eyebrow or two when both Sarge and Coulson were found to have used the same aphorisms including “Every dream is someone else’s nightmare,” and, “The tick of the clock is only getting louder.” It doesn’t so much matter that we have no idea what that coincidence means; it only matters that May recognizes it, and her expression indicates that she intends to use that information to her advantage or at least hold it close until she can figure out what it says about Sarge… or perhaps even Coulson in some way.
It was also a great choice to have Sarge try and recruit May, especially now that he’s missing Pax and Jaco, and the writers set up his need for new soldiers even before they got separated. As usual the tightly-choreographed fight scene that acted as May’s initiation test created just the right amount of excitement to allow her to realize what those back at the Lighthouse are also discovering: Sarge is trying to stop these creatures, not create them. Unveiling this fact in parallel with Benson and Mack’s investigation had a nice flow to it, and the build-up to Coulson’s talk of shrikes and a mysterious creator was well-crafted.
Agents of SHIELD attempted a similar parallel between Jemma’s description to the Chronicom supervisor of the time travel monolith and the examination of those in the archive in the Lighthouse, but it didn’t work quite as well. Yoyo’s recognition that the crystalline structure of the shrike were the same as the the makeup of the stones in storage seemed a bit of a leap, and Benson’s arbitrary conclusion that if the crystalline material can manipulate space and time, perhaps it can also govern life and death was completely out of left field.
Benson himself has been portrayed with admirable subtlety thus far by Barry Shabaka Henley since anyone more effusive would feel like an attempted replacement for Fitz and Simmons. The worries Yoyo expresses about it all being too much for him kind of reminds us that he was hired to take over the SHIELD Academy, not perform alien forensics. On the one hand, the tragedy of his lost husband and his resulting alcoholism gives him a nice bit of back story and explains his sympathy for Yoyo having lost Keller. On the other hand, his background status in the group keeps us from really caring all that much during his scenes; his understated nature is a real double-edged sword.
It’s much more fun to watch Davis and Piper snipe at each other, and the look everyone gives Davis when he quips, “Dropping aliens is what I do!” was delightful as was Piper calling him a “whiny bitch.” Meanwhile, the introduction of Sherri Saum as Enoch’s Chronicom former supervisor, Atarah, gave us a lot to think about in an episode crowded with revelations. The force that destroyed her home planet sounds a lot like what’s going on with the shrike on Earth (another nice parallel), making it seem like a handful of daggers isn’t really going to do the trick, but perhaps Sarge’s plan to take out the creator will be akin to Arya Stark taking out the Night King to defeat the entire flock.
It was a bit of a surprise to find that the Chronicoms wanted the secret to time travel to save their planet after we were told that their original reason for capturing Fitz was because he interfered with the timeline, but apparently it wasn’t to punish him for meddling but rather to get him to do it again. The fact that the time machine that returned our team to the present in season 5 was created by an aged Fitz and Simmons that no longer exist was mind-bendingly cool, and although we may have wished for the couple to have returned to Earth with Daisy on Zephyr One, at least they’re together in captivity.
We’re left to wonder why Enoch betrayed his “bestie,” and the epilogue depicting Fitz’s outrage was heartbreaking. But perhaps the Chronicom, upon realizing that a version of himself sacrificed his life and succeeded in avoiding the extinction level event, realizes it’s time to recede into the shadows again. In any case, the stage is set for an exciting shift as we near the midpoint of Agents of SHIELD season 6. Ending the episode with Mack wondering why Fitz and Simmons didn’t return on the Zephyr One and Daisy wondering who May was able to capture was a great way to frame the partial joining of the two storylines, which was reflected elsewhere with varying degrees of success by the parallel narratives in “The Other Thing.”
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Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter (@mikescifi). He co-hosts our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast and coordinates interviews for The Fourth Wall podcast.