Sunday’s Wisdom #295: We Need Hope

“Even the spirits of men and women who would stand up to outright torture can be crushed by enough prolonged hopelessness.”
– Commodore Honor Harrington, Echoes of Honor
Honor Harrington
Series, by David Weber

When Honor says this, she is speaking of something she knows very well. She has had recent experiences which have acquainted her most intimately with what it means to lose hope. And with what it means to be tortured. She was able to come to grips with the latter, but the former? That nearly destroyed her. In fact, she was lost in despair when she found another well of strength within her, namely the resolve to meet her fate, however horrible, as her best self. That was the only hope she had left, when all the rest were lost to her.

Now, in this part of her story, she and a handful of survivors are trapped in a hellish place, with the odds stacked against their survival, let alone their escape. Her intention is to take her people, and everyone else who will follow her, and save them all. She intends to go home. Thus, she carries hope to a people who, like her, have known hopelessness, and for a much, much longer time than she did.

She is very right to be wary, because anyone who goes without hope for too long may never be able to accept it again. And the rejection of hope can be every bit as fatal as misplaced hopes. And why does one reject hope? Because one has lost it, and grown accustomed to lacking it. It’s like if a bone was somehow removed from the flesh, and then could somehow be restored or replaced: the loss was painful, and the restoration could be most helpful, but it’s still going to hurt.

Not everyone can take that kind of hurt. Not even if the alternative, of remaining without hope, is worse.

I’m reminded of something from the show Supernatural, where the two lead heroes are captured and imprisoned. They’re not tortured at all, just locked up in concrete rooms and left there, with only meal times to pass the time. That is the torture which was chosen for them, one which their keeper has seen break anyone: prolonged hopelessness. They simply had nothing to do, and no way out, and these two men, who have faced down monsters of every kind, and suffered losses and pains of every kind, were both broken by it.

I remember a scene from Avatar: The Last Airbender, where an old woman who was once very nice became very nasty instead. The difference? She spent years and years in a prison, barely surviving, and utterly without hope. She managed to break herself out, but she was without hope for so long that she never really regained it. She lost her humanity, her compassion, to the deep-seated hatred, which had its roots in her years of despair.

And I look around today, at the turmoil ripping my country apart. People are so hateful, so vengeful, so petty and violent. I am of the opinion that many of them are simply without hope, and have lived that way for far too long. They’re lashing out, trying to fill the holes in their hearts with… stuff. With things. With bloodshed. With destruction. But without hope, it won’t matter what they tear down or who they destroy. No matter how much they succeed, they’ll never really win, will they?

Many are suffering, and going to suffer in the times ahead. But those who stand tall will do so only if they can hold on to their hope. Otherwise, those without hope are already broken.

Hope is what drives us to improve things, to improve ourselves, to endure, to build, to bend our backs to the labor of saving ourselves and those around us, one day at a time.

Despair is what drives us to break things, as we are already broken, and to leave our souls to rot.

Hope is so small, and so strong, and so fragile, and so stubbornly resilient because we need it. We need it as human beings, as individuals, as communities, as families and nations, and as civilization.

Hope is vital, because it’s lack leaves us always, inherently, bereft and weak.

That’s why villains always try to break it, and steal it, and snuff it out.

That’s why the greatest heroes are those who spread hope wherever they go, through every act of love and kindness.

The world is breaking because people don’t have hope.

And the world is still alive because people do have hope.

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This Week on TV, July 11, 2020

Spoiler Alert!

Despite the gravity of the subject matter, this week’s Agents of Shield was a fairly lighthearted, spoofy homage to the 80’s movies, and robot movies especially. I suppose, as the halfway point of the final season, this was about as fitting as it could get, as Mack mourned his losses, and Deke finally fit in as a stalwart friend, while the enemy (old and new) began to make a comeback that ought to propel us through the final few episodes of the series.

Agents of Shield

Season 7, Episode 7, “The Totally Excellent Adventures of Mack and the D”

This week’s episode picked up exactly where the last week ended: Z-1 is gone, leaving Mack and Deke stranded in 1982, apparently. Deke tries to hit the ground running, figure out what to do, and he also tries to be there for Mack, in the wake of his most devastating loss. But Mack can’t do that right then. He was hurt, terribly, mere moments ago, and he just can’t keep fighting right then. Heck, the Chronicoms’ time ship was destroyed, so the mission ought to be over now anyway. He has lost both his parents and his purpose. So, Mack just drives off, leaves Deke, and everything else, in the dust.

I have no idea how he manages to pay for anything, but, somehow or other, he does. He gets a place, out somewhere remote, and goes into self-imposed isolation. He stops taking care of himself, letting a monstrous beard grow out. He just drinks, and puts model cars together. Alone.

Deke manages to find him, and checks in on him every so often. He managed to get in the door once, trying to get Mack back on his feet, but Mack just quietly got him back out said door and refused to answer it again.

You gotta give Deke props here. He knows what it means to lose his parents, and he has, in his own way, matured greatly since we first met him. He doesn’t give up. He keeps coming back, keeps checking on Mack, keeps leaving bags of groceries at the door, keeps trying to reach him. Months go by, the year changes over to 1983, and he keeps at it. For once, he did something I find to be completely worthy of respect.

…but, of course, he had to be up to his old antics somewhere somehow.

Deke manages to get Mack to come out to a bar to see him perform. Yep. Perform. He’s started a band and is covering a bunch of classic songs that haven’t been written by their original creators yet. He’s got a good set of pipes, and he’s cribbing off a winning formula, so success follows. That would be how he pays the bills, at least.

Mack is, naturally, disgusted and angry. He does not get less so when Deke reveals that the band is a cover. He’s recruited a hodgepodge team of agents which, as a band, can go all over the place, with lots of high-tech “equipment” in tow. It’s not an entirely bad idea, especially as they have reason to believe that the Chronicoms are not all dead. Still, Mack is reluctant, specifically the shouting-match version of reluctant, and his mood still does not improve when he learns Deke is using the Lighthouse as a base, or when he finds a digital version of Coulson still alive, in a way, or when Deke presents a shotgun battleax. He has some good points, but the real problem is that he’s been lingering in his pain for too long.

That pain only begins to fade with the realization the Deke hasn’t just been fooling around, and hasn’t even just been checking on Mack so faithfully. He’s also been looking in on the younger version of Mack, and his little brother, as they’re being raised by their uncle. The woman who tells him about this thinks that Deke is looking after a son that Mack has abandoned, but it’s the fact that Deke is, unquestionably, caring, faithfully, for him as best he can that gets Mack to start opening himself up to the possibilities.

And just in the nick of time, too!

LMD Coulson managed to survive the explosion in some way which landed him in a hard drive. He interacts with people by way of a TV screen, but he’s able to monitor other electrical things, like the power grid. He’s managed to catch the scent of Sibyl, who has also survived in digital form, though he hasn’t been able to nail down her whereabouts.

Sibyl, it turns out, managed to find refuge in another hard drive, whose owner took it to a lonely geek for repair. She made herself known to him, asking for help, and he made her a robotic body. It’s very primitive, being limited to 1980’s tech, which limits how much damage she can do, but, as she builds and arms two more robots, it becomes clear that these primitive robots can kill a man just as dead. The geek who built her body and thought they were true loves is proof of that.

The three robots infiltrate the Lighthouse and attack the agents, killing the band’s cocaine-dealing drummer and the girl he had with him. They’re primitive, but buzzsaws, drills, guns, and, apparently a laser, can still do plenty of fatal damage. Deke’s team has to work properly together, under Mack’s leadership, to win.

That is exactly what Mack needed. He needed time to feel his pain, and he needed the enemy who killed his parents. With Sibyl’s arrival to the Lighthouse, he has a purpose again, and the agents make fairly short, albeit very dramatic, work of the robots.

That’s pretty much it, really. Director Mack is back, Deke is finally accepted for his efforts, they have a team, and they have an enemy to fight. So, they do.

And that’s what they’re doing when Yo-Yo and May show up, operating on a time limit to find Mack and Deke and rendezvous with Z-1.

Unfortunately, though all three of Sibyl’s new robotic bodies are demolished, she remains alive on another hard drive, with a screen of her own. She also, through the use of a fourth robot, smaller, and commandeered from its previous, deceased owner, gets exactly what she was after from the Lighthouse. It’s a glowing device. Not sure what it is, though I would have bet on something like the Teseract once upon a time. What’s certain is this: it’s the means by which she became the Predictor, who can see how potential actions will make new potential timelines.

And she just delivered it to a familiar face: the surviving Nathaniel Malick.

…good grief, can’t that guy just be dead already! He was supposed to be dead already! It was a perfect death we had for him already, all nice and destroyed by the very same power he was trying to steal! Sheesh! This particular Hydra spawn is really not staying down! And why hasn’t he aged since we last saw him?

So, the enemy has been devastated, but is making a huge and terrible comeback from beyond the grave, while the agents are trying to rally and home in on them.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #294: It’s Our Power

“Power appeared to be something that a ruler had, the she held, that she had taken from the people. The appearance was false. Power was something people gave, gave willingly, even if they didn’t know it, even if they resented it.”
– from The Last Mortal Bond, by Brian Staveley

It seemed fitting to talk about this observation, made by a young empress, the day after my nation’s Independence Day. That’s the day we celebrate how a revolutionary idea became a revolution. That idea was that the people who ruled only did so by the consent of the people they ruled. It wasn’t divine right, or right of birth, or any such thing. Meaning, those at the top were not actually “above” the people at the bottom at all.

Everyone was created equal, and entitled to the same rights, which, it was a ruler’s role to secure those rights, just as it was a soldier’s role to fight, a merchant’s role to trade, a teacher’s role to disperse knowledge, a farmer’s role to reap and sow, and a blacksmith’s role to create the tools of civilization. It was a job that needed doing. That was why people gave the ruler their consent to rule them in the first place. It didn’t just happen, it was, on some level, a choice. A contract, even.

And if a ruler, or a government, or a system of governance failed to do it’s job, especially if it turned around and became the oppressor, instead of the protector of its people’s rights, then the people were fully justified – nay, obligated – to turn on the traitorous government, cut ties, even rip it down if necessary, and put in a new government as a new mechanism for securing their rights.

Just like anyone would be within their right to fire an employee who does not do their job, and hire someone else who actually will. Just like anyone would be within their right to leave an abusive job that does not meet their needs, or the terms of any contract, and find a new place to work. Just like anyone would be within their right to end an abusive relationship, or report a violent abuser to the police. These are all contracts, and when one side fails to honor the agreement, the wronged party is fully within their right, and their power, to dissolve the contract and seek something more beneficial.

The key is to remember who really has the power, here.

For some time, I must admit to feeling all but powerless within my country. I see the people in power playing their self-serving games, glutting themselves on the blood and sacrifice of us normal folk. I see masses riled up in anger and ignorance, carrying forward an agenda of destruction. I see corporate interests, talking heads in the media, experts on every subject bought and paid for, and the normalizing of destructive, abusive behaviors in the stories we tell, while everything good and honorable is degraded, derided, and left in the dirt. I see the puppet strings of foreign, unfriendly powers bent on the destruction of our entire way of life.

There is so much wrong, so much bad, so much evil at work, on every side, it feels overwhelming.

But all of those people in power? They don’t really have it. They don’t own it. It’s not theirs. It’s ours. It’s mine. That is my power they’re using, and I don’t like how they’re using it, and I know I’m not the only one.

The people who have power have only our power, the power we let them have, and they know it. That’s why every tyrant is terrified of dissent, because it’s a threat to their grip on our power.

So, the only question is… what will we do with our power?

Food for thought!

And Happy Independence Day, America!

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This Week on TV, July 4, 2020

Spoiler Alert!

Agents of Shield has never shied away from putting its characters through a wringer that even sadists might blanch at. It reaches personal highs and lows of epic proportions. And now, halfway though the final season, they managed to ramp up the pressure, and the damage, in ways that left me with that feeling of…

Oh… s***.

On that note, let’s dive in.

Agents of Shield

Season 7, Episode 6, “Adapt or Die”

The episode begins with Sybil the Predictor conversing with the head Chronicom hunter. He is not entirely pleased with current events, but accepts that the losses they just suffered, in the form of Malick and Insight, are acceptable in exchange for what they have gained, namely a bead on the location of the Zephyr, which, apparently, is actually Z-1, now. I didn’t catch that before. They also have plans in place which will take advantage of how the agents are now scattered, vulnerable, and reckless. They are cracking under the pressure, it seems.

In the Lighthouse, the good news is that General Stoner (I caught his name this time) has not been corrupted by Hydra. The bad news is that May and Coulson are taken prisoner, and her doesn’t believe them. Oh, and the Hydra-Chronicom alliance has afforded the enemy the chance to take over the Lighthouse’s computer systems, initiating lockdown and firing three missiles at Z-1.

With Enoch piloting, Z-1 manages to avoid two of those missiles, but the third one hits. While it doesn’t outright destroy them, it does leave the jet uniquely crippled. The one system most compromised is the one that lets them jump safely through time. It conducts a current from the source of that ability to the field outside Z-1. With that connection down, the next jump will be catastrophic, with parts of Z-1, and anyone inside it, jumping through, and the rest being obliterated.

So, first priority: fixing Z-1! Like, now!

Simmons sends Deke to work the problem at one end while she and Enoch start at the other, the main controls. Unfortunately, the problem with her memory is acting up, and she doesn’t know what to do. So Enoch takes her and performs some sort of procedure, operating on some micro-machine in Simmons’ neck.

It’s unnerving enough to see that when Deke happens on the scene in progress, he fears that Enoch has betrayed them and knocks him out with a charged defibrillator. Simmons is not so happy about this as Deke might have thought she would be, but he made the best call he could, and he refuses to budge on the issue until she explains it.

The little machine in her neck is her own invention. She made it, and Enoch keeps it running, so she won’t remember where Fitz is, because if the Chronicoms get her, they’ll find him, and he is totally exposed in a place where he is somehow able to track their time-jumping escapades. If Fitz is found, that’s it, game over, they won’t be able to keep up with their enemy anymore, which they’ve only barely been managing to do thus far. So, it’s a fail-safe, and a final layer of defense between Fitz and the Chronicoms, just in case the Chronicoms get Simmons.

Fortunately, Enoch managed to do enough of the job that Simmons is able to fix Z-1 and ensure, and, afterward, Deke is able to apologize to Enoch as he finishes up.

It’s a happy moment as Enoch is accepted within the family of Shield’s agents.

Elsewhere, Daisy and Sousa wake to find themselves cuffed, chained, and, in Daisy’s case, unable to use her powers. Nathaniel Malick, who ought to have been fed to Hive some years earlier, makes his entrance. He’s not really Hydra, being not so keen to worship the space-squid that, in the old timeline, his own brother fed him to, but he’s still dabbled enough, he has the connections to access Whitehall’s information. With that, he intends to take Daisy’s quaking power for himself. And, bonus, as he’s not privy to the time-jumping, he thinks Sousa might age more slowly than normal men, which he also wants.

For Daisy, this is like facing her own personal devil. This is what was done to her mother, and even though she survived, she went mad, lost much of her compassion, and eventually became an enemy of both Shield and all of humanity. Nathaniel is of the same cloth as Whitehall, now, like a servant of her own personal bogeyman. And this surprisingly personal monster takes her, and bleeds her, brutalizes her, stopping just shy of killing her, before dropping her back in chains, on the brink.

Sousa, good man that he is, and veteran of a hellish war, steps in and does the only thing he knows how to do for his comrade. He keeps her close, rests her head in his lap, and talks to her. He tells her about another comrade of his, an unmitigated asshole, who, despite his flaws, was there at a moment when Sousa was nearly killed. He talked, and talked, and kept talking, for hours, keeping Sousa awake, reassuring him that they were going to make it. They were going to make it back home. But his friend didn’t make it at all… but Sousa did, so he’s paying it forward, and doing what he can to keep Daisy going, to keep her fighting through this nightmare.

Daisy is probably the epitome of someone who has a lot of fight in her. Even when she’s running away, which she has done several times, she’s still going into another fight. And now, being brutalized by her own personal monster, she still has plenty of fight in her, as Sousa observes when she manages to pass him a shard of glass, which she smuggled to him within the flesh of her own hand.

Yeah. She’s unstoppable.

It makes exactly the right difference, when the guard comes in, and unchains Sousa, unaware that he’s armed. Sousa dispatches said guard, uses the key to unlock all the restraints, and carries Daisy to safety…

…though, a moment of absolutely poetic justice, as just when it seems that Nathaniel Malick has gained Daisy’s powers, and bars their way… those same powers turn on him. See, he doesn’t have Daisy’s experience with them, which means he can’t control them. So, his brand new, stolen power shatters his own bones, as it once threatened to do to Daisy’s, and buries him in the wreck of his own lair.

That. Was. Glorious! 🙂

And, in this experience, Sousa has come fully on board. He has bonded with Daisy, and he has found his place, after having been pulled out of the one he used to have in history. He truly is one of the team, now.

Back in the Lighthouse, May and LMD Coulson strike proverbial gold. The Chronicoms are making another move, but they don’t know about May’s empathic ability, to feel only what others feel. As they’re locked up, and hashing out a few issues between them – like May’s emotionless state and Coulson’s continual resurrections – Stoner is refusing to believe them and intends to lock them up. But one of the agents, high in the chain of command, touches May, and she senses no emotions.

That’s when they put it together: the Chronicoms are upping their game, and in imitation of LMD Coulson. He’s able to imitate emotion because he has the copied mind of the original Coulson, and they have the means to copy minds, too. So, now they’re not just taking faces, they’re stealing minds and skins and personalities. They are, at that moment, taking over Shield’s highest levels within the Lighthouse, and Stoner is up next.

The two of them barely get to Stoner in time, but, on the plus side, they do get to him in time, verify that it’s actually him, he’s on their side now, and, bonus, Coulson finds access to the Chronicoms’ time ship, with lots of sleeping hunters within. He also gets access to the digital space which allows him to talk to Sybil, the Predictor (and kudos on the choice of name, after the oracle of Delphi).

It’s an interesting conversation between this alien creature that believes she and her kind transcend humanity on one side, and, on the other, an artificial intelligence that remembers being human. One sees humanity as being far more limited, and weak, which makes them emotional, and reckless. The other sees humanity in all its mixed glory, filled with the power of sacrifice, including the ability to lay down one’s own life, even while struggling against the death that inevitably comes for us all.

Coulson knows a bit about that. He’s died at least three times himself already. It’s kind of his super power.

Which leaves Sybil a bit nonplussed as Coulson withdraws from the connection, radios May, and blows up the Chronicom ship, with himself at the center of the blast.

That, too, was a glorious moment.

Unfortunately, there is another, less-glorious aspect of sacrifice, and loss. That is the weight of it upon one’s shoulders, and the knife of horrible things done, and tragic losses suffered. One too many losses, one tragedy too personal, one injury too deep, too soon, can break even the strongest and most resilient of men.

Which brings us, sadly, to Mack’s part in this episode.

He and Yo-Yo go to rescue his parents. They get in, navigate their way safely through, bust through a wall or two, and reach them. He’s a bit out of sorts, trying to deal with them, especially as he still remembers all the good times they were supposed to be having, but he’s still good. Father and son are a bit at odds, as the man is in danger, alongside his wife, with two young sons out there waiting for them to come home from getting food for a party, a party Mack remembers. But, all seems well.

They even manage to work well together to open a locked door. They figure out how to do it, and it’s working, until the enemy’s approach interrupts. Mack’s father takes a little injury to his arm, but it’s not bad. Mack fights the encroaching Chronicoms while Yo-Yo and his parents open the door, and he does not do too badly for himself. But he’s still nearly killed before Stoner and May intervene.

After that, it looks like smooth sailing, as Stoner gets them out and covers their tracks. The men even get to enjoy the thrill of their jet together. But then Mack’s father touches May, in a human gesture of gratitude… and she feels nothing from him.

The Chronicoms didn’t just take Mack’s parents to use as leverage. They hedged their bets, just in case the agents managed to take out Insight and survive their counterattack. They knew, humans being emotional, that Mack would rescue his parents, and move Heaven and Earth to do it. So they did something even more cruel: they stole his parents skin and memories, impersonating them, turning what he would rescue, and take to Z-1, into a Trojan horse.

Mack doesn’t want to believe. Who would? But the horrible truth is proven. Mack’s parents are dead. And he, with the assistance of May and Yo-Yo, have to destroy the things which wear their faces. He takes down the one impersonating his father, at least momentarily, and they open the ramp to send it out into the sky, to the ground far below. The one impersonating his father is harder to deal with, and pleads with Mack not to do it. It uses his mother’s eyes, her face, her voice, to plead with him… trying to destroy him.

And it works.

Not that he spares the Chronicom. I would probably be so enraged that I would throw it out with the words, “FOR MY MOTHER!” But it’s still his mother’s face, her face. He throws it out, yes. But… something in him finally breaks. He breaks so thoroughly that he can’t even turn to Yo-Yo. He just sits until they time-jump. Then he walks out. Takes a motorcycle. Gets some fresh air.

Deke comes to check on him, knowing a little of what he’s going through, when Z-1 jumps again. And Mack doesn’t even try to make it back.

He is broken.

He is destroyed.

He is gone.

The Chronicoms failed to destroy Z-1, or infiltrate it. They failed to take over Shield. They failed to take out the agents’ strongest warrior. And they took their first severe loss in the form of the time ship and the hunters within it. Sybil is pretty much the only recurring Chronicom, outside Enoch, which is still standing. And yet… and yet

They still managed to devastate their enemy in an entirely different way.

They have neutralized Shield’s leader, destroying his resolute will by targeting his very heart and soul.

Mack is down. He and Deke are stranded somewhere in time. Daisy is terribly hurt. LMD Coulson is gone, his fourth death on this series. The leadership of the agents has been devastated. Simmons is having to suppress her own memory, while Fitz remains in serious danger wherever he is. Z-1 is operational, but still damaged. Yo-Yo just saw the man she loves suffer something hellish that she can’t help him with, and now he has left, and she has been ripped from him.

In short, with a half dozen or so episodes to go, the agents are being stretched awfully thin, and the enemy isn’t done yet.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #293: We Are All Closed-Minded

“A person could be anything she wanted… so long as what she wanted to be came off the menu of choices approved by the planet’s social – and economic – consensus, and everyone was so damned smug about how superior their ‘open-mindedness’ was to all those other, backward planets.”
– from Echoes of Honor
Honor Harrington
Series, by David Weber

Allison Chou is the mother of the series main protagonist, Honor Harrington. She grew up on a world which was famous – or, rather, infamous – for how supposedly liberal and non-judgmental it was. This most obviously involves sexual mores, but the overall idea was that everyone free to do whatever they want, and be whatever they want. That sensational, scandalous reputation, however, was really very relative. In essence, they had options available which other peoples, from other worlds with other cultures, would never dream of, but they still had their own cultural norms, and their own definitions of what one ought to do and be, and their own rigid outlooks.

That was not the same thing as simply giving everyone actual carte blanche with their own character.

And, of course, all things being relative, the “liberated” people of this world looked down their noses at all those other peoples. Yet there wasn’t really any difference between them, outside exactly what they were being closed-minded about.

Now, I rush to add that these weren’t “bad” people. They were just… not so different from others as they thought they were. They subscribed to a different template, perhaps, and had different options on their societal menu, but they were just like everyone else. Including how they would react to those who failed to conform to their way of doing things.

It doesn’t matter what the culture is, people react similarly to whatever is, to their mind, a deviation from it.

Friction, anger, pity, disappointment, sneering, hostility, rejection, fear, confusion… and, occasionally, patience, tolerance, acceptance, and even support.

There is no such thing as a society which is either open-minded or closed-minded. There is only a varying, often shifting, percentage of how many individuals – whether they be “liberal” or “conservative” or anything in between – are choosing to be either at any given moment.

That comes home particularly true to me now, as I see a society divided over so many issues, with everyone convinced that they are the open-minded one and everyone who disagrees is closed-minded.

I suppose that makes everyone closed-minded, in a way, and demanding of conformity. I’ve certainly done it, even if I haven’t realized it at the time, and I have often regretted that. Alas, all I can do about the past is try to do better in the future. But I digress, slightly.

My point, and my hope, is that we need to become aware of when our calls for liberation become a call for conformity. We need to watch ourselves, and humble ourselves with the knowledge that we, too, can become the everyday tyrants of our respective cultures and values.

Let’s try to refrain from insisting that our menu of lifestyles is the only one which can be allowed.

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This Week on TV, June 27, 2020

Spoiler Alert!

Things actually manage to take a turn for the even-worse on Agents of Shield, building us up towards the halfway point of the season and the series grand finale beyond that.

Agents of Shield

Season 7, Episode 5, “A Trout in the Milk”

The agents find themselves in 1973 – props for the intro homage, by the way – and, lacking any current intel, their first objective is to get their feet back under them. Deke and Simmons stay on the Zephyr, while Mack and Yo-Yo go check out the Lighthouse, and the rest, Coulson, May, Daisy, and Sousa, go to retrieve Enoch, who has waited so patiently for forty-plus years. But even these simple tasks do not go so well.

Sousa, it must be said, is doing as well as anyone might hope, for having been taken from his life, and his time, and whisked away on a time-jumping mission with the entire world at stake. His is the freshest perspective, though also the most raw, for what he has lost, and he is deeply principled. So, he is the one questioning everything around him, from the advances in technology, to the changes in clothing styles, to the underhanded methods the agents sometimes use, to ethics and reliability of this time-hopping approach, with consequences that seem to become more and more devastating as things go on.

That last is courtesy of the Chronicoms’ interference. There are just a few hints of it, at first: Enoch isn’t at the bar, and no one has seen him in over a year; the Lighthouse isn’t abandoned after all; the Director of Shield at the time, who we recognize from the agents’ Lighthouse tour in the fifth season, isn’t the Director yet. No, things go from bad to worse and worse and worse when it turns out that Wilfred Malick didn’t die three years ago, as he originally did, with both of his sons still alive as well, and he’s the Director, now. Even worse, the infamous Project Insight is underway four decades early. Oh, and Daisy and Sousa manage to find a list of Insight’s targets, including all of Hydra’s (and the Chronicoms’) enemies, including the future Avengers.

About the only mercy there, as May finds out through conversation and her emotion-imitating touch with the should-have-been director, is that he is still a good man, and Insight needs another three years to launch.

Such mercy tends to be short-lived, however, when dealing with time travel.

And if the ability to change the future isn’t enough, Freddie Malick has a keen memory of the past. Knowing that familiar faces from his past were coming back to his future, that is particularly smart. He recognizes Coulson, and the Chronicoms have him and May dead in their sights, until Daisy holds a gun on Malick’s ought-to-already-be-dead son, Nathaniel. Sousa doesn’t like the hostage-taking, and he’s thrown for another loop when he sees Daisy’s quaking power, but it gets them out of a hairy situation just in time for Enoch to arrive back on the scene and whisk them all back to the Zephyr.

Unfortunately, the Chronicoms’ understanding of humanity is increasing more and more, and the incident with Malick putting his son’s life before everything else teaches them a lesson. They apparently have more control over the time-hopping than the agents do, and they use it effectively, shuffling the agents forward another three years, to the day Insight launches, allowing them an obscene amount of time to prepare.

I’m reminded of a game of chess. The side that can predict what the other side will do has a tremendous advantage. Even more, if one can base those predictions on one’s own moves, moves which corner the opponent and force their hand to move in the way one wants, so much the better. That is what the Chronicoms did. They made one move, and forced the agents’ hand. They have to stop Insight, so they will. And when they do, the Chronicoms are ready.

That is something that Chronicoms are better equipped for: taking the long way around and preparing for their enemy. It’s a huge advantage, which they are using quite well. Sousa has the right idea, I think, in leaving him behind the next time they jump, so he can fight Hydra and the Chronicoms as the years pass, instead of leaving them all at their enemy’s mercy.

Speaking of…

The Lighthouse is now home to Insight’s launching pad, and they need it to be abandoned, so they plan to flood it. Daisy hacks the security cameras and the various doors, going back to her roots, with Sousa watching her back, as Simmons guides May and Coulson through the Lighthouse to their target location.

Unfortunately, Nathaniel Malick gets the drop on Daisy and Sousa, stunning them both with a Chronicom gun. He takes them, and, according the post-credit scene, intends to do with Daisy as Whitehall did/will do with her mother. He wants her power, which he caught a glimpse of, and intends to take it by using Whitehall’s approach of butchering her and transplanting her organs into himself. All things considered, I don’t really fancy his odds of surviving the procedure anyway, but I think we can all agree that it would better to avoid the attempt.

With Daisy out of play, May and Coulson have to improvise. They run into the would-be director again (I’m sorry, I can’t remember his name), and try to convince him to help. But he seems far too quick on the uptake, and May can tell he’s not really coming around to their way of thinking. I have to wonder if Hydra managed to corrupt him, as they have so many others, or if there’s some other explanation for it. Either way, they knock him out and take his access badge. They reach their target and set the explosives, but before they get the job done and get out, the agents find out the Chronicoms’ next move.

They learned from when Malick, one of the worst examples of humanity, risked everything in order to save his son. This is something which the Chronicoms do not comprehend, but they use it. Knowing that the agents will want to destroy Insight, they have two prisoners locked away where they will drown if the agents flood it: Mack’s parents.

Mack makes the only choice he can, at the moment. He aborts the operation, letting the Insight rocket take off. Still needing to stop that rocket, they take the Zephyr and pursue, firing a missile, destroying it. They stop Insight, at least for the moment, but, and this was what the Chronicoms wanted all along… launching that missile reveals the Zephyr‘s location. It’s still cloaked, but they know exactly where it had to be, and that it’s still very close. That is what the Chronicoms wanted: a chance to take out all of the agents pursuing them in one shot. Nathaniel took Daisy and Sousa, May and Coulson are captured, and now the Zephyr is revealed.

All of this while Deke and Yo-Yo go to apprehend Malick, who refuses to cooperate but is just a little too slow to reveal his leverage. Deke shoots him, killing him in cold blood. That’s one thing made somewhat right, one choice… not undone, but perhaps slightly rectified. But it was brutal and cold, which speaks to how far the agents are being pushed by this time-hopping madness.

Everyone’s dealing with their issues while trying to save the timeline, and the world. Sousa was just taken from his life, and he’s angry about it, and all the answers he wanted are very long and complicated; Deke was angry about everything Malick did, which he might have stopped back in 1931; Yo-Yo has lost her speed, though Mack tells her that he abilities have never been what defines her; Mack had to weigh the world against his parents at a crucial moment; May has to deal with how she may never feel anything of her own again.

Oh, and Enoch is keeping a secret. A secret that involves Simmons, whose neck is hurting and who is slipping in some way, like forgetting things without him… and whose neck has a tiny, glowing symbol underneath the skin.

She’s a machine, I think.

I remember how she said that they have to be careful with who knows what, in case the Chronicoms capture any of them. Perhaps Enoch and Fitz-Simmons took that to the extent that they have a fake Simmons, an LMD or some such, instead of the real one, in order to add one final barrier of security if things go wrong. Or maybe it’s something else. Either way, though, the secrecy of it does not sit well with me. The agents are in the fight of their lives, and they need to be able to trust one another absolutely. Secrets are not conducive to that, especially not at this juncture.

And I can’t help but wonder if it’s connected to how it was Simmons all but whispering in Mack’s ear that they needed to stop Insight, when his parents were being held as leverage. Something is very unsettling about that. Has Simmons been pushed by this ordeal, the way Deke is being pushed, or is it something else?

So, the agents are very much out of their depth, severely disadvantaged, being pushed hard in the ultimate high stakes mission. They are scattered, divided, captured, targeted, and their own people are keeping secrets from them. The enemy is winning, by a wider and wider margin.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #292: A Father is There

“Any man can have a child. Only someone who’s around to raise them well can call themselves a father.”
– Babenon Dosal, aka The Gentleman, Critical Role
Campaign 2, “The Mighty Nein,” Episode 85, “The Threads Converge”

I am going to rush, first and foremost, to add the obvious qualifier that we are talking about fathers who aren’t taken from their children involuntarily, which is an all too common tragedy in this world.

And, another qualifier, I would stipulate that “raising them well” means doing so voluntarily, to the best of one’s ability, without neglect or abuse coming into it… which is also all too common a tragedy.

With that said, however, I thought this was an excellent quote to share for Father’s Day, precisely because it speaks to how it is a man’s choice which defines him as a father.

Babenon Dosal, more commonly known as “the Gentleman,” is the father of one Jester Lavorre. He was a man of humble means who fell in love with a lady, Marian Lavorre, much sought after by many men of much greater means. She loved him, too, and, with the benefit of hindsight, that ought to have been enough. However, he wanted to prove himself worthy of her, so he went to sea to find his fortune, hoping to return to her a wealthy man, and marry her. But his ship ran afoul of pirates, and then he made himself useful in such a way that he became entwined in their criminal community. Eventually, he found himself on the wrong end of a dispute and barely escaped with his life, and by then he’d become a wanted man throughout the region, including the city his beloved lived in, and going back would have ended with him on the gallows. So he went far inland and built himself a little empire in the criminal underworld. Yet, for all his success, and all the pleasures he enjoys, he knows, not so deep down, that his time is limited. All life ends, and his kind of life tends to end with his “disappearance,” his body in a gutter, or his neck on a chopping block. He knows that, and he lives with it.

So, when he learns that he has a daughter, and one who is such a vibrant, strong young woman as Jester, his first instinct is to push her away, to keep her and her mother as far as possible from the danger which will eventually destroy him. He believes that is all the good he can possibly do for them now. And, even more, he knows now that his mistakes cost him any chance of raising his daughter, so, as he sees it, he does not deserve to be her father. No, he maintains that he isn’t, because he wasn’t there.

To be a father, he knows, is more than just… well, it’s more than just getting a woman pregnant. It’s more than being the male half of that equation. For lack of another way of putting it, fatherhood is being a father.

It’s being that man who works and provides for the child out of sheer, overwhelming love. It’s being that man who teaches them, watches over them as they learn to walk, to talk, to count, to think, to feel. It’s being that man who builds them up, day by day, as patient and long-suffering as any mother. It’s being that man who shows them what is right and wrong by example, both in what they say and what they do. It’s about being that man who tells them bedtime stories, sees to their little cuts and bruises, encourages them to run, to dream, to fly, and to get back up when they fall. It’s about being that man who puts in the long days and long nights seeing to their necessities and comforts, sheltering them when their hearts are broken, and protecting them with everything they have.

Fatherhood, like motherhood, is the choice to love wholly and unconditionally. That includes the choice to be there, whatever it takes.

I am lucky to have a father who was actually a father. He is my dad, and I love him, and I am thankful for him.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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This Week on TV, June 20, 2020

Spoiler Alert!

So, Agents of Shield is trucking its way through the final season, and they managed to both do and not do precisely what I thought they would, while also doing something else entirely… so it is and isn’t what I expected, but might have expected, but couldn’t expect… you know, I think I’ll just dive into it, now.

Agents of Shield

Season 7, Episode 4, “Out of the Past”

When LMD Coulson got knocked out by the EMP at the end of last episode, his system got a little fried. He became colorblind, and he started thinking in an internal monologue. It makes for a neat little homage to the classic noir style of the time, and it fits pretty well, too, with the tragedy of an unavoidable, unstoppable fate: the death of a hero.

I remember back in the first season, when Daisy (then known as Sky) first visited Shield’s academy for a case. The agents were familiar with it, of course, but there was a moment when they stood before a wall, a memorial to all the fallen agents of decades past. It was Simmons, I recall, who said something about how they could trace Shield’s history through those names. There were several such names included from the days of the SSR, but after SHIELD was formed, the first name, the very first agent of Shield who fell in the line of duty, was Daniel Sousa.

The story goes that Daniel Sousa, a living legend who was the friend of living legends, a capable, upstanding man who saw wonders and horrors, who lost friends in the never-ending fight to save the world, was murdered by Russian agents mere moments after successfully handing off a piece of crucial Shield tech to be delivered to Howard Stark. A nice story, and one which would inspire generations of agents for decades to come, especially since he was such an upright man, who set an example worth following every day of his life, an example which was only highlighted, not created, with his death. But that’s just it: it’s a story. Stories may usually have elements of truth within them, but that does not make them true.

We figured out right quick, and it hit LMD Coulson soon enough, that Sousa wasn’t killed by Russians. He was killed by Hydra. The very first agent of Shield to die in the line of duty was killed by Hydra, just like so many other agents in the decades to follow. They have literally been killing Shield agents from the very beginning, and even before then, when the SSR fought them.

How much of history was made, and therefore must be preserved, through those murders, each and every one? How much of history depends on the death of Daniel Sousa?

Enough that LMD Coulson, upon waking up to find himself cuffed and alone in a room with Sousa, knows that history is already going off course, because today is the day he dies… and he’s not on his way there yet. So, Coulson finds himself having to get history back on track, by taking Sousa towards his death.

He comes up with a story quick, to the effect of himself being Sousa’s “contact,” trying to get the device in question to him, so they can both get it to Howard Stark together. He was investigating a leak which turned out to be the scientist (the one the Chronicom was impersonating) at whose house the device in question remains, alongside a now-faceless corpse. Coulson manages to get a call through to the Zephyr by way of Enoch, and get them on the train while his team goes to retrieve the device.

Pause a moment for Enoch. He has been a bartender for twenty-four years, just waiting to rejoin the team. He has been doing that job for a couple decades, and he is now, at this moment, enduring the self-pitying tale of the guy at his bar. For most of the day. All he’s able to do is keep the line of communications intact, which, it’s a vital job, yes, but he’s waited for so long to reunite with his only remaining friends, who are engaged in a time-traveling war with his own people, to whom he is a pariah. The day brings home to him that he has no one. He is alone. And he has been alone for a very long time.

That is a crushing blow for anyone, and I do not much like where that may soon lead him.

With Enoch serving faithfully and without complaint, the team is able to communicate somewhat. Coulson takes Sousa to the train and, as things go awry, manages to improvise his way towards LA, and the fateful moment of Sousa’s death. As for how things go awry, that would be when Yo-Yo and Deke went to get the device from the dead scientist’s house. Yo-Yo succeeds without incident, but Deke is ambushed by a pair of intruding thugs who think he’s the scientist, and they take him to their boss: Wilfred Malick.

That down-on-his-luck boy in a freight car has become a stone cold killer – as evidenced when he kills his incompetent underling without batting an eye – and a leader of Hydra. Oh, and he’s Sousa’s superior officer in Shield. Sousa shared his suspicions with him, and that, as expected, is the real reason Sousa is about to be killed. But apparently he believes in repaying debts to people who save his life, as Deke did, so, once Deke makes his identity known, he lets him go instead of killing him.

On the train, Coulson is approached by the lead Chronicom, and they make an offer. In exchange for letting them have this world, the Chronicom promises that the humans the LMD cares about will be protected. Coulson refuses, even under threat of an escalation that takes the conflict from being “neat” to being “messy,” much as the real Coulson would, but the Chronicom believes that his perspective will change as he watches all of the humans dear to him grow old and die as the centuries wear on and on and on.

For the moment, though, the Chronicom has called Malick and brought Hydra onto the train to kill Sousa then and there. He’s clever and a capable fighter, though, and didn’t even actually fall for the pretty face they sent in as a distraction. But he’s outnumbered and surrounded, and saved only by the arrival of Daisy, Mack, and Coulson. They get him off the train and to the Zephyr, as everyone reunites… except, of course, Enoch.

As everyone manages to get back together again, there is a moment of decision. The agents have just seen what happens when they let a bad man go, in the form of Freddie Malick, but is it in them to let a good mad die?

Yo-Yo doesn’t much like leaving the unpleasant parts of history be, and now that Deke has had an instant lesson in such himself, he doesn’t like it either. We already know Daisy would change things in an instant, and LMD Coulson simply follows the decision made by the Director, Mack. And Mack decides that they’re going to save Sousa.

Unfortunately, while Daisy, Coulson, and Mack are deciding that, and Simmons, Yo-Yo, and May are discovering that May has lost all ability to feel emotion, but gained the ability to feel what others feel when through her sense of touch, Sousa is left alone, in LA, with the device he needs to deliver, and he makes tracks.

Sousa makes it to the hotel, and history is on course. He loses the Hydra agent tailing him, makes the hand-off to the concierge, and meets his fate… except that the agents of Shield are there, swooping in to whisk him out of history, using Coulson as a body double. In the eyes of history, he dies that night, and he has lost his entire life, but he’s still alive, and able to fight the good fight.

The next thing they all know, they’re transported through time again, all except Enoch, to… the 1970’s, I believe, based on the music.

Well, actually, there is one other Chronicom left behind, besides Enoch. This one, the leader thus far, has been left behind to assist Malick and Hydra. So, it would seem that, true to their promise, the Chronicoms are going to make this fight messy now, by joining with Hydra.

So, the agents have meddled with history, albeit in a creative manner, after seeing firsthand what happens when they refuse to meddle. That opens the door to doing so again, and less carefully. Which is what the Chronicoms have been trying to do, and what they’re doing now by joining forces with Shield’s single worst, deadliest, and most enduring enemy. Something tells me things are, indeed, about to get a whole lot messier.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #291: Forgiving Grudges

“There’s not a lot to be gained from holding grudges. You know, it feels like poison inside of you. How much better would it feel if you could just… be clean?”
– Jester Lavorre, Critical Role
Campaign 2, “The Mighty Nein,” Episode 92, “Home Is Where the Heart Is”

It’s amazing how family drama can follow us, haunt us, even define us, for our entire lives.

In the case of Beauregard Lionett, she was raised by parents who made themselves miserable despite getting everything they wanted, and when Beau’s rebellion, as she sought something happier down paths which were self-destructive, proved too much for them, they sent her off to undergo brutal mental and physical training in an order of monks, complete with a slap to the face when they were dragging her away, out of her home. It was probably that slap, last of all, which sealed all the pain in her heart. Now, years later, she finds herself having to confront that pain, and her family, for the sake of the people who have become like a new family to her.

Beau’s dear friend, Jester Lavorre, takes her aside as this is happening, and helps her, reassures her, and shares a quiet, gentle strength with her. She doesn’t try to tell Beau what to do, or push her to forgive her father, but advises her to listen to the man as she would listen to her friends, with open ears. That’s when Beau asks how Jester was able to so quickly forgive her own father, after the man had apparently run off and abandoned the woman who loved him and their daughter, and had pushed Jester away when she tried to get close to him. That was soon explained, as Jester’s father had made mistakes which would seriously endanger her and her mother, and he thought all he could do for her was keep her out of danger by pushing her away. Still, that’s a lot of baggage, as much as Beau’s and she managed to let it all go and love her father anyway.

So, how did she do it?

Jester answers that her father seemed quite earnest when he explained himself, and then, more to the point, there was no benefit in holding on to that grudge, that pain. It would just poison her soul, and she didn’t want that. She wanted to be free of it, so that’s what she chose.

Beau obviously wants something like that, to forgive and be free of the pain, but is having more difficulty in doing so. Still, she takes a good first step in that direction, by letting herself feel her sorrow, and let the tears flow with her friends all around her.

There is something to be said for that. Indeed, there is much to be said for that!

I would say that forgiveness can be vital to the well-being of our soul. As Jester says, the pain of past offenses can be likened unto poison within us, and holding on to it makes us sick inside, like the rot of corruption, and we are left… unclean.

Worst of all, we sicken our souls and gain nothing whatsoever for it.

I mean, what is there to be gained if our soul, any part of it, is left to rot?

If there were nothing else to be said – and there is much which can still be said – then that alone would be enough to make forgiveness the wiser, more beneficial path to take.

And I have to wonder, if forgiveness helps us all so immensely as individuals, then how much better would the world be if we were all more forgiving? If we held fewer grudges, kept less malice and hate in our hearts? If we just let go of our pain, instead of holding on to it and letting it drive us to violence on a widespread scale, how much more peaceful would our world be? How much more prosperous would we be?

I think, quite a bit.

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This Week on TV, June 13, 2020

Spoiler Alert!

Agents of Shield

Season 7, Episode 3, “Space Commies From the Future”

Shield’s time-hopping adventures continue as they drift along in the wake of the Chronicoms’ trail, taking them slowly forward and back to the future! …I mean, back to the present! 😉

Next stop, the fifties!

Which, I think the fifties gets something of a bad rap today because of how it precedes the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. But, that’s just the thing. It precedes such immediately, which means that the roots of civil rights were finding rich and nourishing soil in this era, just before they would push upwards and blossom in the light of day. Say what you will about the imperfections of the day. As many as there were, and as bad they were, they drove us forward towards something better.

But that’s neither here nor there, I suppose.

This week, the agents meet Area 51!

The agents just learned a new lesson: being transported in time and space means they can’t rely on the ground still being right under them when they arrive. However, their autopilot keeps them from crashing and, with the exception of a young couple who flee the scene in terror, their arrival is completely unnoticed.

Of course, now that the Chronicoms are aware that the agents are on their trail, they’re aware that the agents have probably followed them here as well. Interestingly, there is one of them which appears to be able to see not just the past and how it might be altered, but the specifics of how those alterations will change the present/future. For instance, a more hot-headed, destructive Chronicom, the one that advocated simply killing all of the agents back in 1931, would have done so in such a way that this seer of theirs, this “Predictor,” I think it was, states definitively would have left alien tech scattered around and thus resulted in the formation of Shield that much sooner.

Now, that is a subtle, potent ability. The chance to change the past is enough, but to actually know, with certainty, what will happen afterward? That is a huge advantage, and one which cannot be overstated. Which makes the Predictor the linchpin of the Chronicoms’ efforts.

And this one, evidently, is going to be a lot less subtle, and much more direct and brutal, than their previous plot to kill Freddie Malick while he’s still languishing in obscurity, and thus cripple Hydra’s development, and thus prevent the formation of the SSR, and the later founding of Shield.

No, this time they’re just going to use a really big bomb to blow up a lot of people. Very straightforward.

Oh, and to make sure they don’t leave that alien tech around to make things inconvenient for them later, they’re going to use something Shield has been researching at Area 51, called Helias.

The agents catch on to a part of this fairly quickly, so they abduct and impersonate a gentleman, Joe Sharpe, I think it was, who works as an accountant sort of fellow for the Department of Defense. He is a very dislikable fellow, being… well, an arrogant, insufferable prick, and typifying the racial prejudices of the day besides. He loves his country, though, or at least his country’s greatness and glory, and he does not roll over easily for what he thinks are a bunch of Communists. They expected him to, but, well, he fought in World War II and knows a great deal about interrogation. He may just be a pencil pusher now, but he wasn’t always. Of course, he still manages to let slip a vital clue just in time: Helias doesn’t work… because they don’t have a proper power source for it.

Deke recalls how Enoch, a Chronicom, managed to power the time-traveling stone, sending all of them back the past/present, which indicates that that have a potent power source within their bodies. Particularly since Simmons just barely stated how the agents don’t have enough power to open another path to the past again. If a Chronicom can power that, then they’d have no issue powering Helias, so long as said Chronicom is willing to die doing it.

While the interrogation is going on, Coulson impersonates Sharpe and infiltrates Area 51 alongside Simmons, who is impersonating the very greatest of her personal heroes, Agent Peggy Carter, and loving every minute of it. They work their way through as many of the staff, and a bus full of visiting guests (whom Mack describes as early movers and shakers of Shield, which makes them the Chronoicom’s real target) by fairly simple, if unorthodox, expedient of testing their quick, less rational reactions. There’s a lot of people, though, so it’s slow going, and the process is not hastened by the arrival of someone who actually knows Agent Carter, and who we know from the Agent Carter show: Daniel Sousa.

I really like Sousa, ya know? If there was one thing about the ending of Avengers: Endgame which I didn’t fully appreciate, it was how Carter didn’t end up with Sousa after all. They were pretty great together, and with how both Carter and the Captain had moved on… well, I suppose it was romantic in its way, but I really liked Sousa, and I liked when he and Carter were together.

He clearly still wants to look his best for his old partner, friend, and flame, and takes it in stride when he finds Simmons instead. By which I mean, he arrests her and Coulson and investigates the matter. Cue the arrival of Daisy on the scene, posing as a CIA agent. And this is where I really begin to be afraid for one of my favorite characters: he has suspicions about Hydra infiltrating them since the end of the war.

Back in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Cap tries to refute the computerized brain of Arnim Zola in its claims that Hydra has grown like a parasite within Shield for decades. Surely someone would have noticed! To which Zola simply replies, “Accidents happen.” And shows the pictures of Howard Stark and General Chester Philips. We know Howard and his wife were murdered and their deaths were made to look like an accident.

And we know Sousa is dogged enough to pursue his suspicions even if it gets him killed.

And apparently he tried alerting someone at the CIA, which we can reasonably assume has also been infiltrated by Hydra by this point. Perhaps he was looking for some outside help, but he may have just signed his own death warrant by trusting the wrong people.

Obviously, we, the audience, don’t want that to happen. We don’t want a man as good and capable as Sousa to be murdered by Hydra. Nobody in their right mind wants that. Which is why I suspect that this is exactly what’s going to happen, provided Sousa even survives his encounter with time traveling agents and robots. It lends even more weight to the argument when it’s people we actually know, even our favorite heroes, who are up on the chopping block of Hydra’s ambitions.

Daisy and Deke argued about that very sort of thing. He resents that she ordered him to commit murder, to kill a young man who was barely more than a kid at the time. She argues that killing Freddie would have saved countless lives, but she doesn’t really know that. What she knows is that Hydra has killed many, many people, and she wanted to prevent that. So she ordered Deke to do it, and expected him to obey, which he may well have if Mack, their superior officer, hadn’t countermanded her order, if only to not do the Chronicoms’ job for them.

Deke has clearly grown, as he’s finding his way, and he’s no longer the same man she first met in the future… more to the point he doesn’t want to be, and good for him.

But the argument gets all the more powerful as it gets personal, doesn’t it? If Sousa is killed by Hydra, then it certainly gets a whole lot more personal, and less abstract, doesn’t it?

So, knowing that they just signed off on all of Hydra’s murders, how do they deal with it when they’re interacting with Hydra’s victims, including people we know and respect? They’ve had to deal with friends who were actually enemies, and they’ve had to deal with friends who have been murdered, but now they’re interacting with people who will be murdered. How do they deal with that?

For the moment, however, they have to save people from the Chronicoms, and deal with everything about Hydra later.

On which note, while Daisy springs Coulson and Simmons (and leaves Sousa locked up), May and Yo-Yo take a more straightforward approach, now that they know the enemy intends to make an explosion which extends for miles around. They walk in wearing gas masks and gas everyone, non-lethally. All the humans are affected, while the Chronicoms aren’t. They find one, but it gets away, because Yo-Yo’s speed is kaput (she can only watch things in slow motion now) and May… collapses.

The void of May’s emotionless state is, I suspect, a coping mechanism, as it usually has been. But the crowd and the panic presses against her, and there is a crack through which pours her fear, her own panic, all the distress she felt in her most recent ordeal. She falls down, panicking, unable to breath. A small, and very short, version of a panic attack. Yo-Yo gets her out, and she gets back on her feet.

So, they’ve both been traumatized by last season, and neither of them wants to talk about it as they pursue the Chronicom who is on their way to become the power source of an activated Helias. The two women fight their enemy, but said enemy is precise and brutal, as Chronicoms are, and all they do is buy a little precious time.

Just enough, as it happens. While LMD Coulson fights another Chronicom, in front of a released Sousa, Daisy and Simmons jury-rig a functioning EMP which knocks out Helias, and takes out both Chronicoms, who burn away and dissolve. Unfortunately, it also disables Coulson, who is quickly taken in by a wondering Sousa, who has seen some weird things in his day, but never yet anything quite like this.

So, the agents are currently scattered and divided mostly throughout Area 51, which is run by Shield, with Coulson falling into Shield’s hands, while we have no idea what the Chronicoms are up to in response, and we know Hydra has been busy infiltrating Shield, and everywhere else as well.

On a more humorous note, Mack and Deke drop a freaked-out Sharpe into the middle of the desert and send him to town screaming crazy things about alien commies from the future. Heh.

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