This review contains spoilers for Agents of SHIELD.
Agents of SHIELD Season 7 Episode 6
Failure is such a powerful narrative tool, mostly because viewers don’t expect things to go so spectacularly wrong even when the heroes are technically winning. Such is the case with this week’s Agents of SHIELD which has Daisy barely escaping with her life and Coulson sacrificing himself, achieving measures of success indirectly despite heavy losses. Even Mack foiling the Chronicom’s infiltration by jettisoning his fake parents is a victory of sorts even though the supposed rescue mission itself was an obvious bust. Such stories make for the perfect season midpoints as the characters face the most overwhelming odds yet, framing what will presumably be their seemingly impossible comeback in the back half.
At first, the Mackenzie family reunion seemed too easy, and Yoyo warning the director that he was walking into a trap by even trying to free his parents seemed to be an unwarranted concern. “Where are all the guards?” viewers might have wondered. “Why were they able to just walk in there and get all the way to the hangar?” Even the trust Mack was able to build with his father by likening the locked door to a brake caliper initially seemed almost too casual, like a misplaced emotional moment while they were on the run. But of course the trap was being laid by Chronicoms posing as Mack’s parents, and there was no way we could have foreseen the ultimate outcome since the doppelgängers weren’t acting robotic.
In that sense, Agents of SHIELD linked its various story threads by slowly revealing discoveries that could be applied across situations, especially with regard to May’s ability to sense the emotions (or lack thereof) of others. Additionally, Coulson’s epiphany about the Chronicoms’ learned emotional response was brilliantly couched within his overdue conversation with May about her disinterest in his LMD resurrection. May’s empathic powers led to Stoner being able to trust his captives as they saved him from a faceless death, but they also resulted in Mack having to watch his own mother’s face as he pushed her out of the plane, a trauma that almost overshadows the victory of stopping the Chronicom ruse.
Thank goodness Sousa and Daisy were on board Z1, though, since their arc was a bit desperate at times. Daisy’s delirious mutterings reminded us that Nathaniel’s transfusions were similar to what Daniel Whitehall did to her mother to steal her powers, but although Quake’s powers were not as stable or restorative, unfortunately for young Malick, the bone-cracking results (and the piece of glass Daisy secreted away) allowed Sousa to carry Daisy off, an escape that would have otherwise been in doubt. And was there something more to Sousa’s decision to stay with the team as a result? Was that a spark of growing fondness in Daniel’s eyes? We would not object!
Sybil the Predictor gave Coulson a similar opportunity when she spoke so openly to him in the virtual interface. The Chronicoms have been victims of their shortsightedness with regard to humanity before, but there’s great ignorance in thinking that humanity’s mortality would allow the immortal sentient machines to wait them out and take over the planet, which Coulson’s inspirational speech does a great job of illustrating. But even if the audience was on board with death being Coulson’s superpower — and the origins of Agents of SHIELD as a series reinforce that idea — no one could have expected his explosive solution to the lockdown and the awakening Hunters.
That unexpectedness permeated this week’s Agents of SHIELD, including the explanation it provided for Simmons’ strange behavior this season. Deke could be forgiven for misunderstanding Enoch’s intentions since his kind is responsible for all their woes. It was unclear even to the viewers what was going on unless they freeze framed the computer display which described what the implant was doing. There was already plenty of tension surrounding the repairs needed to the Zephyr, but somehow even more drama was provided by the reminder that Fitz was somewhere where he could see all of the moves the Chronicoms made.
Whether Deke can keep the secret of Simmons’ dangerous knowledge or the memory surfaces again, there’s a sense of foreboding even before Daisy is seen recovering in the medical pod. In fact, this dread leads perfectly into the biggest shock of them all: that Deke and Mack have been left behind in an unknown era between 1976 and the present! Agents of SHIELD has pulled us deeper and deeper into its time travel tale in season 7, and even though, like May, we have full confidence that Coulson will somehow live again and that Mack and Deke will find their way back to the team, the consequences raise the stakes again and again, week after week.