This review contains spoilers for Agents of SHIELD.
Agents of SHIELD Season 6 Episode 7
Sometimes a few well-written character moments, kick-ass action sequences, or surprising plot twists can save an otherwise lackluster episode of Agents of SHIELD, but unfortunately, although there was both heartfelt and witty dialogue in “Toldja,” there wasn’t enough of what makes this show great to compensate for a stagnant story this week. In essence, Mack and his team learned that saving shrike-infected victims is problematic, and Fitz and Simmons got momentarily trapped in a much less fun revisiting of Kitson, both of which did little to move the story forward. Even the guest stars lacked a certain panache.
That’s not Anthony Michael Hall’s or Karolina Wydra’s fault; their roles as Mr. Kitson and Izel merely followed very predictable and unremarkable paths. The gambling kingpin did a fine job of describing his family history and explaining why he couldn’t allow the scientists to leave unpunished, but he mainly prompted funny lines from Fitz, reacting with sarcasm to his “handful of slaves and a dream” speech, and from Enoch, who, upon learning he’ll be sent to the brothel, humorously responds, “I do not know what I am feeling.” After that, Mr. Kitson quickly fell prey to Izel’s low-key threats as she offered to buy the Terrans from him. Seems a bit of a wasted cameo.
Izel herself seems pleasant enough, and her mission to Earth to get back something that was taken from her does offer a bit of mystery. But her demeanor is strangely lacking subterfuge, and although we may be meant to trust her, a tad more intrigue would have gone a long way towards giving her rescue of Fitz and Simmons a little excitement. Even they didn’t seem all that concerned about the guillotine contest, either while it was happening or after it ended. The fact that they end up on the same ship Fitz came in with adds to the feeling of stagnation in this episode, leaving only Enoch’s surprisingly poignant departure to give us a nice sense of completion to the space arc.
One might argue that Sarge’s method of battling the shrike by killing their human hosts required the SHIELD team to at least try less drastic methods, especially given the horrible manner in which Keller died, but it does mean that there’s not much forward progress in this storyline either. Plus tracking down and capturing two possessed people is one thing; curing them is another. And although the shrike’s explosive defense mechanism might have been anticipated, putting two of them together in the same containment chamber really seemed like a recipe for disaster, even though that chamber has certainly held some powerful creatures in the past — Lash for example — without breaking.
Despite the predictable failed attempt at an alternative solution, the back-and-forth between Mack and Sarge was still appreciated, because even if it turns out that Mack is mischaracterizing Sarge’s disregard for life, the guy did shoot Agent Fox. Similarly, the assumptions that Yoyo makes about Jaco being a born fighter were enjoyably foiled by his stories of being the runt of the family who taught his brother how to bake, even if the mercenary was simply buying time before he could break out his flame breath. The fact is Sarge’s way may be the only way, and his titular “toldja” feels like it will lead to a concession of that fact. It’s an understandable development, but it also makes the episode feel like it was as useless for the viewer as it was for Mack’s team, despite some fun moments along the way.
Deke posturing for Daisy, for example, brought a welcome bit of levity to the situation. His dialogue walked a fine line between obvious boasting and casual conversation, and Jeff Ward nailed his delivery. On top of that, Daisy deserves kudos for showing admirable restraint in allowing him to show off his vintage ’88 Air Jordans and talk about “we innovators.” Her revelation that they found Fitz also brought us an enlightening argument between Deke and Mack, which not only confirmed a multiverse explanation for Deke’s continued existence but also brought into question whether Mack screwed up by not telling Fitz’s grandson about his grandfather’s death.
But well-written scenes like this weren’t enough to overcome the plot deficit in this week’s Agents of SHIELD. In addition to the main story marking time while character expectations are reconfigured, everyone’s motivations felt less intense than they should have been, from Simmons lamenting not having any puffies to make Kitson more exciting to Daisy bowing out of the mission because of not wanting to see Coulson’s face. Although Daisy and Mack have an insightful conversation about their ability to compartmentalize, their muted reactions kept the audience’s emotional investment low in a story that could have used an energy infusion.
Will the shrike’s aversion to cold come into play moving forward? Is May correct that using Sarge’s curiosity about Coulson might give them leverage somehow? What does Izel want, and will the galactic cell phone Enoch gave to Fitz come in handy? These are questions that “Toldja” does present in an enticing way, and anticipation is still high to see where things go in the second half of the season. Hopefully once everyone is back together, a more unified battle against the shrike creator will present itself as a new conflict to raise the stakes and increase the excitement for what has so far been a very innovative story.
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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.