The final season of Agents of SHIELD is in its endgame now, with only four episodes left until the adventure ends. However, the latest episode is one of the series’ best, oscillating like a broken time drive between comedy and heartbreak. The Agents of SHIELD time loop episode also marks the first directorial outing for Simmons herself, Elizabeth Henstridge. It surely is a challenging episode to start with, but she did a masterful job. In fact, if Comic Con at Home were not kicking off in earnest today, I feel like this episode would drive the geek discourse for a few days.
The Agents of SHIELD time loop episode is a perfect encapsulation of the show’s journey as a whole. A time loop episode is a staple of sci-fi TV shows, so much so that it’s almost a cliché. Thus, it might be easy for people to dismiss this episode as a silly bit of filler padding out the final 13 episode run. Yet, Agents of SHIELD is no stranger to being unfairly dismissed. Throughout the entire first season, which was neither groundbreaking nor awful, critics and Marvel fans dumped on the show as if it was nothing but a mistake. The most cynical said it was a kind of cash-grab or charity offering to Clark Gregg, whose Phil Coulson died to give the Avengers something to avenge.
Yet, once Captain America and the Winter Soldier blew up the SHIELD organization, the show truly began. The central characters tried to do the job the agency did, but without the Avengers and as wanted criminals thanks to lingering HYDRA influence in the halls of power. The series moved further away from trying to keep apace with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, becoming its own triumph.
The Agents of SHIELD Time Loop Episode Keeps the Concept Fresh
Image by Mitch Haseth via ABC
There are certain conventions of time loop stories that this episode of Agents of SHIELD use and others it subverts. For example, we enter the story in media res. We see Chloe Bennett’s Daisy Johnson going through what seems like her first loop. Yet, when she awakens Coulson, now an advanced robot called a Life Model Decoy (lol comic books!), we realize this isn’t her first loop at all. One of the best conventions of the time loop episode is a series of hilarious deaths for the characters in the loop. Yet, writer Drew Z, Greenberg made the inspired choice to have death erase Daisy’s memory. The first scene we see of him explaining things to Daisy gives us a frustrated and funny moment amidst a very serious situation.
They do have a montage of failures, however, that does hit all the right comedy buttons. When the crew figures out what is preventing them from succeeding in fixing the loop, they routinely get their butts kicked. Later, the same group of characters making us laugh make us cry, as one of them meets their ultimate fate. (Maybe? Again, comic books!) There is also an interesting moment with Simmons, hinting that the secrets she’s keeping (even from herself) are devastatingly bad.
The performances in this episode are exemplary, however Joel Stoffer’s Enoch is the real star of this episode. Stoffer plays the millennia-old artificial lifeform in a way reminiscent of Brent Spiner’s early take on Data. Yet, through his monotone delivery and sharp, robotic movements, he’s able to convey powerful emotion, playing both for laughs and tears at various points in the episode.
Finally, the Daisy and Coulson pairing works just as well as it did (if not better) than when he was human and she was called “Skye.”
There’s Always Time for a Little Romance, Even In a Time-Loop
Image by Mitch Haseth via ABC
Okay, this will be a light spoiler though its one that the show telegraphed for the past few episodes. Enver Gokaj’s Daniel Sousa is a new addition to the team. He previously spent two seasons playing the love interest for Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter in her eponymous series. Since the ending of Avengers: Endgame filled up her dance card, Daniel Sousa is left aimless and loveless in the MCU’s past. At least, until Daisy came along. The two of them share a kiss, sending “Sousy” shippers into a frenzy of GIF and music video making joy. Yet, if I am reading my time loops right, the kiss happened in a loop that was reset, meaning that only Daisy remembers it.
For fans who care about such pairings, the Sousa and Daisy match-up is inspired. They’ve only been together for about six episodes, but their pairing still feels both inevitable and earned. There may be some, uh, “Cartsa?” (“Souter?”) shippers out there upset, but if you’re interested in Peggy Carter’s lovelife you can’t be upset that she ended up with Cap. (Shout out to all the disappointed “Stuckys” out there.) This doesn’t feel like the kind of thing that’s headed for a happily ever after, so they are stuck with (to steal from 12 Monkeys) a “happily ever now.” In fact, given what we’ve heard from Simmons and Enoch, there’s more heartbreak on the way.
The time loop episode of Agents of SHIELD could have been a fun romp to break up the tension in their final season. Instead, it was both that and a powerful episode with big moments for a lot of characters. These last four episodes will be a roller-coaster ride.
What did you think of the Agents of SHIELD time loop episode and/or the final season so far? Are you happy about the “shipping” developments? Tell us in the comments below, along with all of your thoughts and theories about what will come next.
Featured image via ABC.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.