This review contains spoilers for Agents of SHIELD.
Agents of SHIELD Season 7 Episode 2
Agents of SHIELD might be giving itself a little wiggle room with its “ripples not waves” time travel rules, seemingly setting up a situation this week in which Koenig’s personal history is actually caused by the team’s adventure to the past, but we’re totally here for it, just as we’re on board with any allusions to big MCU and Marvel touchstones like Erskine’s super serum. There are also several personal journeys that are starting to be explored in “Know Your Onions,” and although these moral and psychological conundrums don’t make for the most exciting episode, the action sequences and Hydra connections elsewhere make up for the navel gazing.
Not that there’s anything wrong with allowing characters time for personal reflection or interesting ethical dilemmas. In fact, one of the most shocking moments of the episode involves Daisy telling Deke to assassinate Freddy Malick, a move which would save countless lives but also potentially play directly into the Chronicoms’ hands leading to a planet ruled by sentient machines. Daisy is understandably focused on the greater good of ridding the world of the need for SHIELD, but the idea that she would see Hydra as the only enemy of the planet given she lived through the Battle of New York seems a bit short-sighted.
Then we have two other team members recovering from trauma they experienced during Agents of SHIELD season six, and Yoyo’s troubles are far in the background compared to May’s. It’s likely that the adjustment Yoyo has had to make after almost shriking our last year and having her arms replaced in the premiere is preventing her from being able to function in the field at the top of her game, but her inability to use her slingshot powers to keep the bottle from breaking felt almost like a throwaway moment. Perhaps the groundwork is being laid for future drama, but sidelining Yoyo two episodes in a row, especially when we’re already missing Fitz, is an unfortunate circumstance nonetheless.
The fallout for May is much more interesting, and not just because we get our first awesome fight sequence between her and the hunter-upgraded Enoch. It was extremely important for Agents of SHIELD to create consequences for its decision to undo the death of yet another character in the series, and it’s such a relief that May wasn’t stuck with something cliché like amnesia or nightmares upon being resurrected. Instead we get an emotionless soldier whose hunger and basic work ethic outweigh any desire to know why they’re in 1931 or who this new Coulson imposter is. Plus there’s the even more compelling mystery: why did she allow herself to be sedated once Coulson and the team returned from the field?
There was a bit of redundancy in the scenes with Mack and Deke aboard the train as their curiosity about Freddy’s delivery of alcohol and its importance to history caused them to snoop several times before discovering the hidden vial. Yes, they (and we) learned that Freddy’s father was a victim of the stock market crash, but the young Malick’s defensive reactions didn’t really tell us anything new. Instead, the train journey reinforces his sense of commitment, makes him just sympathetic enough for Deke to hesitate in killing him, and delays his mission so that the Zephyr and the Chronicoms to catch up. The motivation for this slow storytelling is understandable, but knowing the reason doesn’t prevent the scenes from dragging.
Marvel fans no doubt appreciated the mention of Dr. Erskine and the rise of Red Skull in connection with Freddy’s mission, especially since it reminds us that the existence of Captain America, not just SHIELD, relies on the failed earlier versions of the super serum. But it was Koenig’s reaction to all the future talk that really grabbed our attention. His knowledge of Freddy’s destination forced the team to reveal their futuristic secrets, and combined with the fact that Enoch was left behind, his curiosity about robots in the epilogue would seem to foreshadow a possible origin story for the lookalike Koenigs we’ve come to know over the seasons.
Of course if we’re to believe that large changes to history would differ from what the team remembers about their own past, then this little causality loop would conflict with that notion, but who cares? The so-called tides that will be unpredictably pulling Agents of SHIELD from adventure to adventure promise a variety of time periods to explore and the certainty that Enoch (and perhaps Koenig as well) will be back again, taking the slow road to the future the way he did in season five. It also teases the possibility that other prominent figures in SHIELD history, such as the already confirmed return of Agent Carter’s Enver Gjokaj, may appear. The possibilities; whether for guest roles, character evolution, or historical eras; are admittedly enticing even if this particular episode wasn’t all that spectacular on its own.