Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 episode 4 review: A Life Earned

The cosmic SHIELD saga gets even more intense as an old friend returns and Mack is tested like never before. Spoilers ahead...

This review contains spoilers.

5.4 A Life Earned

Whoa, now that’s an ending. In a week where the future of the Marvel Universe is on everyone’s mind thanks to the Fox/Disney merger, Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD delivers an episode that reminds fans that the present rocks as well. This week, we get treated to a look into the heart and mind of Deke, a look into the damage done to Mack after he left the Framework, a battle that Agent May might not have survived, and the return of an old friend.

Let’s start with Deke. Last week, it seemed like Deke was a d-bag traitor. After all, he was instrumental in Daisy’s capture by Kasius and the Kree. But this week, Coulson learns there’s a little more to Deke than meets the eye. He learns that Deke is the child of parents that once resisted Kasius. So now, all of a sudden, Deke is the son of heroes, a man who is trying to resist his own destiny of resistance – a man just trying to survive while endeavouring to ignore the call to rebellion. That’s some pretty deep character stuff for a dude we’ve only known for three episodes.

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And it gets deeper, as we also learn that the message coming from Earth, the one Coulson intercepted, is being sent by none other than Deke’s father. Well, that’s a twist, huh? Coulson and May find all this out about Deke, but they also discover his betrayal of Daisy. It turns out Kasius wants Daisy’s blood so he can sell the DNA of the Destroyer of Worlds. And Daisy is in deep shit because she is now part of that Inhumans fight club deal.

There are a whole lot of moving parts this week as the Deke and Daisy saga unfolds. Mack is forced to act as a heavy for Grill. Some dude named Gunner owes Grill some credits and it’s up to Mack and Yo Yo to collect. What Mack discovers is that Gunner used those credits to buy a baby because the only way to reproduce in this new future world is to buy a child. Mack has no clue and just knows Gunner is waiting for a package. Mack threatens to crush the package but finds out that Gunner is awaiting the arrival of his kid.

Of course, this all brings up Mack’s feelings about the loss of his daughter, Hope, in the Framework. Really, the most heartbreaking and impactful arc coming out of the Framework was Mack’s loss of Hope. As he beats and threatens Gunner, it seems like Mack, the most human of the agents, is slowly losing his humanity. It’s like Mack left a piece of himself in the Framework and I’m so glad the series is just not letting that emotional thread dangle. The idea of made-to-order black market children also makes this new Marvel dystopia that much more bleak and intense.

Speaking of intensity, we are finally treated to the inevitable Sinara versus May clash. Sadly, it looks like Sinara really gets the better of May. Remember, May is still nursing her bad leg, and Sinara takes full advantage of this during their fight. We all thought May has the biggest grapefruits on Marvel TV, but Sinara takes advantage and while we never see the outcome of the fight, the fact that we do see Sinara cleaning blood off her balls does not speak well for May’s prospects at victory.

Indeed, things look bleak. Mack is emotionally crushed and losing his empathy, Daisy is captured and is being harvested, May is MIA, Simmons is still a deaf servant of Kasius, and Coulson is no closer to finding the message coming from what’s left of the Earth. But there is hope in the form of a masked visitor who arrives on the station as Kasius reveals to the guests that he has Quake’s blood.

Before we get to that reveal, let’s talk about Kasius. I’ve always yakked about Agents Of SHIELD’s villain problem. Last season, AIDA became the first truly effective big bad in the history of the show (I count Ward as a regular that broke bad, not a seasonal villain). Kasius seems like he hates his own people as much as he hates the humans and Inhumans he is in charge of.

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This week, we learn that Kasius plans to destroy the whole station of his abject hatred. I’m sure there’s a back story about Kasius and his hatred to be revealed and I cannot wait to see it. In the meantime, with Daisy and Simmons captured and May defeated by Kasius’ leading lady Sinara, it looks like Kasius holds all the cards.

Until the aforementioned helmeted mystery man arrives, that is. When said helmet is removed, all of a sudden, hope arrives on the dystopian reality the agents are trapped in. Because when the helmet comes off, Fitz is revealed and things finally take a turn for the heroes. Now that’s a cliffhanger. But it’s so unfair I have to wait to see what happens to May.

Somehow, SHIELD has become a really effective sci-fi show with intrigue, drama, and a great balance of different elements that have been established on Agents Of SHIELD. The season has found a great use for the Inhumans (something not even a show titled Inhumans could do), and has found great uses for the entire cast while adding some truly fascinating new players like the Inhuman telepath named Ben who befriends Daisy this week.

Next episode promises to be a big one as we get to see what happened after the agents were taken from the fateful diner. The future of the Marvel Universe may be bright now that mutants will be in play, but this week’s Agents Of SHIELD proves that the present is really damn good as well. 

Read Marc’s review of the previous episode, A Life Spent, here.