Set-up is important. How did our characters get here? What are their reasons for doing what they're doing? Etcetera, etc. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5 Episode 3 encountered one of the downsides of serialized storytelling: necessary set-up.
That's not to say this was a bad episode. Not at all. But I couldn't help but feel that most of it existed solely in service to future events: Character X needs to be here, Character Y needs to be there, and so on.
I will say this: "A Life Spent" was chock-full of quips, so you should definitely stop by our Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. quotes page for a rundown of some of the more notable.
Mack: You were all pinned to the wall, flailing around like a bunch of hungry hungry hippos!
Coulson: Huh. In my mind it was cooler than that.
Coulson was on fire in this episode, actually. Since his first appearance in Iron Man, I've enjoyed Clark Gregg's deadpan wit. He also gave Coulson a believable moment of self-doubt when confiding in May about the likelihood of their return home.
Indeed, the initial rush of survival had worn off in this episode, and Team Coulson found themselves settling into their new roles.
While Coulson, Yo-Yo, and Mack got to "enjoy" the most difficult physical labor under the thumb of Grill, it was Simmons who endured the greatest emotional horror.
As in the preceding episode, the eerie smoothness and grace of Kasius and his posse contrasted the utter ruthlessness and cold brutality of their way of life.
It did seem a bit odd that Simmons couldn't see the twist coming, though, that poor Abby wouldn't get some sort of happy ending. It's not like Kasius is a kind and generous slave-owner, after all.
That said, the fight between Abby and Lady Basha's champion was fairly well-orchestrated if a tad predictable in execution.
Coulson and company, meanwhile, spent a lot of time cracking rocks towards the start of the episode, and it bogged things down ever so slightly. (Again, this was set-up. Show, don't tell and all that.)
One thing that bugged me a bit was their insistence that they wouldn't kill Grill's henchman because it would be unethical; instead, Yo-Yo framed him for stealing the gun... which resulted in the man getting killed anyway.
While one could attempt to argue they didn't know that the guy would be thrown out to be eaten by the Aliens of Death, one might also recall that our heroes are well aware of the rather unjust and downright unfriendly way of life in the Lighthouse.
Yo-Yo: Humans aren’t allowed to have guns.
Coulson: Except for murder sports, apparently.
Now, Yo-Yo wasn't on the ship, nor was she part of the whole "let's not kill the guy who totally wants to kill us" discussion. Still...
Then there were Deke and Daisy!
Daisy: How could I split the world apart? My powers aren’t that strong! I am not that strong.
Deke: Maybe not yet, but you will be.
Daisy: And how do you know that?
Deke: Because Planet Earth went from smooth to chunky, and Quake is the one who did it!
Daisy: And you don’t think I’d *remember* that?
Deke: Well, actually not, according to the multiverse theory…
Deke mentioned a couple of times that he was playing "the long game." While we're clearly supposed to hate him for his betrayal of Daisy into the hands of Kasius... didn't he just essentially get her exactly where she wanted to go? Right to Simmons's side?
If it turns out that this interpretation of Deke's actions is correct, I want a cookie! In any case, the writers and actor Jeff Ward have done quite a good job of muddying the waters and making me very sympathetic to Daisy.
Kasius: So this is Quake, Destroyer of Worlds. How is it possible she's here?
Deke: The important thing is... she's yours.
Daisy [to Deke]: I'll kill you... I swear...
Deke: Sorry, sweetheart. I'm just playing the long game.
In terms of summary, this episode was more necessary than enjoyable, though it definitely had its high points. Yo-Yo is pretty much awesome in every scene she's in, and her super-speed skill is used to great effectiveness here.
It also provided some nice character moments (Coulson and May touching hands, Simmons's bubbling joy at teaching Abby), as well.
I'm not sure how long this story arc will last, but something tells me that they won't be stuck in the future forever.
A few final thoughts and observations before I turn the discussion over to you, my friends:
- The giant fragment of that was bouncing radio signals was tagged "616," which most Marvel comic book fans will tell you is the multiverse designation for the main continuity of the comics. (The Marvel Cinematic Universe is 199999.)
- How is there any sort of survivable environment on the surface? The planet is in pieces, remember. There shouldn't be any way for it to hold an atmosphere, protect from solar radiation, maintain a livable temperature...
- Both Deke and Kasius referred to Daisy as "Destroyer of Worlds," a phrase that comes from the Bhagavad Gita and was famously quoted by J. Robert Oppenheimer after the first atomic bomb tests.
- Abby's power of molecular control greatly resembles that of Paul Bettany's Vision from the MCU films. If given enough time, perhaps Simmons could have taught her to fly, too.
What did you think of "A Life Spent"? Is the dystopian future too much of a downer? Will Team Coulson ever make it back? Let us know in the comments section below!