Sunday’s Wisdom #306: Authority of the Sword

“A blade at the throat has an authority unlike any other.”
– from Ravages of Honor, by Monalisa Foster

This observation is made – skating around spoilers – when one man, with a not entirely inconsiderable position in the government, tried to take an innocent woman to a horrible fate, and literally found the blade of her protector touching his throat. He took that as a “no,” which was apparently a monumental accomplishment for him, and managed to keep his head. Barely.

Authority has long been an interesting concept to me. I still remember learning in college about five basic types of authority, five types of leadership. In order, from the least effective and most used, to the most effective and least used, they were, if I recall right:
Coercive, based on force and punishment
Reward, based on what one hopes to gain
Legitimate, based on official, governing authority
Expert, based on expertise in a given area
Referent, based on pure affection, respect, and trust

Obviously, the “blade to the throat” qualifies most easily under the “coercive” category. It has no qualms based on respect, no reverence of expertise, no consideration for any legal power, no reward to add as an extra incentive… and no care for any punishments that may follow afterward. It doesn’t care how rich or influential or popular one may be. It doesn’t care how invulnerable one has made oneself in one’s own mind. Death is simple in that way.

There are many ways there are to die, and one of them is guaranteed to find you. A sword is just a rather pointed reminder of that.

Yet, even the authority of the sword only carries as much weight as the one who wields it. You never see someone trying to talk or otherwise prevent a weapon from killing them: they always focus on the person wielding it. A sword literally doesn’t care whose throat it may cut, and it has no will of its own. But if the person on the wrong end of it can, in some way, overcome the will of the person holding the blade, then the blade itself is useless in their hand.

The sword, then, isn’t just a reminder: it’s a statement. If one has the will to enforce that statement, that is what makes it useful. That requires understanding that the blade, or any other weapon, isn’t meant for a threat, it’s meant for action. It’s only effective when one fully intends to use it. Ironically, that is the only time one can successfully not use it. Provided, of course, the person at the other end values his or her own life sufficiently. Don’t even get me started on people who are willing to die, that is a whole other discussion.

All of this is very like what we find among animals. They bare their fangs, growl and roar, look as large and dangerous as possible, whatever it takes to issue the primal warning of the wild: Do not challenge me. There is more danger here, more risk of harm or even death, than you want, because, if necessary, I will kill you to keep you from killing me. Go away.

Which suddenly makes me more appreciative of every other form of authority we humans try. The efficient brutality of violence has its natural appeal, and sometimes it is absolutely necessary, and, in truth, perhaps it must always be present in the background. Yet, it is everything else we try that proves our humanity, that we are not just animals.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #305: Stories Teach Us

“Stories teach us how to live, and why.”
– The Storyteller, Arabian Nights

All this time and I have actually never discussed this, one of my most favorite quotes of all time. Go figure!

I love this quote because it speaks to what I love about stories and storytelling, namely, that they present to us lessons and truths and questions that need to be asked, and they do so in such a way that we remember. Stories stay with us long, long after the telling of them is done, and we can always revisit them and learn more. They reflect us, our nature as humans and the world we live in, and they push us. They challenge us without provoking our tempers, and they explain how we can apply the lessons they teach.

The stories we tell are the ultimate vessels of truth, and the ultimate expression of our souls.

That applies to stories which are true, and stories which are fictitious… and, of course, to stories that are a bit of both. 😉

In the miniseries Arabian Nights, the stories that Scheherazade tells her husband each night have a profound impact on him. He is a man who went mad when those he loved and trusted most betrayed and attempted to murder him in the night. It colored his entire perception, and no rational, straight-forward speaking could bring him around, back to reality. But her stories drew him in, each fantastic tale helping him to find his way, to confront the truth of himself, and accept reality again. Thus, he emerged from his madness stable and strong. He applied the lessons she taught him in a climactic battle, but it was the truth he allowed into his soul which saved ultimately saved him and his people, including his queen.

Stories help us process what is real, and emerge with the power of truth in hand. With that power, we become stronger than we were before, and as we rise, we lift those around us as well.

I do not think it is a coincidence that all the great civilizations in the history of the world produced stories, and poetry, and music, and art. Ancient Greece, wherein the seeds of Western Civilization were sown. Elizabethan England, the time of Shakespeare, wherein the hinges of history swung open between the Old World and the New. Ancient Israel, whose religious history was recorded in the Bible, a bedrock of our civilization. And here and now, today, with so many Masters at work as ideas and ideologies clash, and the fate of freedom itself may soon be decided both in tumultuous conflict and backroom whispers and every vote cast. What an exciting time to be alive!

I wonder what stories of today we will tell again in the ages to come. I wonder what our stories will teach others.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #304: A Strong Hope

“Until such time as the world ends, we will act as though it intends to spin on.”
-Nick Fury, The Avengers

One of Nick Fury’s more famous lines ever, it’s a reply to his subordinate, who is directing an evacuation – which rather encourages one to grab only what is most immediately essential – and questioning how important it is to take with them some experimental technology that isn’t useful right then. It’s a reply, an explanation that it might still be very important in the future, and a censure to get the job done instead of wasting time talking about it. It’s an answer that has stuck with me ever since.

For one thing, it’s obviously a choice that he is making, and using his authority to lead others in supporting. The choice is to remember the future, to look after it, instead of forgetting it in the mad scramble of the present. I cannot count the number of times people have made the argument that the future doesn’t matter anyway if we don’t even manage to get there. There is some truth to that, and I rush to clarify that we do need to see to the here and now. That is our first priority, but it must not be our only priority.

We have to balance taking care of the present with looking to the future, without sacrificing either one entirely. It is, as always, a question of balance.

To that end, he is exercising the discipline required to not get caught up in the moment. That can be surprisingly difficult, and even more surprisingly essential. I am recalling a moment from a film which depicts the conflict surrounding George Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware in the depths of winter, to take a force of enemy mercenaries by surprise and defeat them. It is his army’s first victory in over a year, and it was well-earned by the exhaustive efforts of everyone in that army, including their general. Naturally, everyone would feel quite right and entitled to sit down and rest for a moment, just to take that moment to enjoy their victory.

But one is never more vulnerable than they are in the moment of victory, the moment they finally let their guard down.

Washington did not make that mistake. He took his men, and their prisoners, and marched them back down to the river and crossed it again. Why? Because there was still a British army very close by, which outnumbered them by five to one. He did not stop and rest until he had put the river back between them. The scene I recall in the film has his officers questioning his orders to do so, asking if he was insane, and he replied, in essence, “No. Have you?” He kept his eyes open to the future, instead of staying only in that moment. And a good thing too!

Finally, there is something very hopeful about this attitude. It’s a forceful hope, a strong hope, rather than a mere wish or a dream or even a choice. It’s a hope that is refined and disciplined, determined and willful, unyielding and uncompromising. It’s the sort of faith that enables one to stand staring into the face of absolute disaster and destruction, the catastrophe of cataclysm, and remain composed, calm, and beyond merely defiant or fierce, but powerful. It gets results. That is the sort of backbone that civilization itself is built on.

It comes to me particularly strongly now, of course, in light of the unending disasters of this year, and the promise that there is more, and worse, to come. Pandemics, shut downs, mask mandates, a nuked economy, massive riots, burning, looting, murders, elections, corruption, propaganda, and more. Heck, at the time of writing this, I can’t even see the sun. I live in a city, in a state, that has dozens of wildfires burning all over the place, and the smoke from them has billowed and collected and saturated the air like a noxious fog. I saw it happen over the course of a few days, where the sun’s light dimmed to an orange, like sunset at noon. I saw the clouds of smoke billow and rise, brown and yellow and black. I saw the sky dim entirely to a grey-white dome, through which the sun was a nearly blood-red hole, dimmer and dimmer, and now it’s entirely gone. There’s light enough, still, to see, but going outside is a bad idea, and we may soon have to flee for our lives, taking whatever we can carry, whatever is most important to us, and nothing else. We are all a bit on edge, as people evacuate, and some wait for the order to evacuate, not knowing what tomorrow holds, not knowing what the next five minutes hold. I don’t know if my job will have us come in tomorrow, or if they’ll keep us home until the air clears and we don’t have to worry about evacuation orders. I don’t know if my workplace is going to burn or not. I don’t know if I’m about to lose nearly everything I own. And that is on top of all the normal pressures of life.

In short, it is a very stressful time, and I am scared. It would be very, very easy for me, right now, to forget about the future and just focus on surviving. It would also be very easy for me to do the opposite, to forget about taking care of the now because I’m so frightened of the future, both immediate and otherwise.

But the world hasn’t ended yet. It’s still spinning, like normal.

So I am going to do my best to keep calm, to balance the present and the future, and to make my choices accordingly. And you better believe I am praying right now.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #303: Forgiving Sorrow

“I was never angry with you. I was sad, because I thought you’d lost your way.”
– Uncle Iroh, Avatar: The Last Airbender
Season 3, Episode 59, “Sozin’s Comet, Part 2: The Old Masters”

It’s one of the more emotional moments in the story, when Zuko reunites with his beloved Uncle Iroh. Zuko is… well, he made some serious mistakes along the way, even turning against his uncle, so he has some understandable trepidation about this reunion. But Zuko barely manages to get his apology out before Uncle Iroh grasps him in a fierce, loving hug. Overcome by emotion, Zuko is bewildered at how quickly, how easily, his uncle is able to forgive his trespasses. But Iroh was never angry, as he says, and now he is proud of his nephew, who has found his way again, restored his honor himself, and rejoined the right side.

I have had reason to contemplate forgiveness lately, and what happens if/when two parts of a soured relationship eventually reunite.

In particular, without going into details, I have recently had to end a friendship that once was very positive, but had slowly turned into something very negative. It is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. So, perhaps I’m just being a little stubbornly hopeful when I think about a future where we might meet again. Maybe I just want to remember what I feel right now – not angry for any slights from my friend, more sorrowful for who my friend used to be, and who they have become – so that if we meet again, I might be able to offer, and ask for, forgiveness, with a clarity of mind and heart.

I suppose I think about what Iroh says here because of what it means to forgive. It means to let go of one’s grudges, one’s anger of what has been done. It means to be honest about what one truly feels (such as being more sad than angry), and why (because we actually care about them). It means to allow someone else to make a mistake, as we all do, and to come back in peace. It means to love them more than our own pride.

I hope I can do that, if the time ever comes for it.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #302: Believe in You

“While it is always best to believe in oneself, a little help from others can be a great blessing.”
– Uncle Iroh, Avatar: The Last Airbender
Season 2, Episode 15, “The Tales of Ba Sing Se”

Uncle Iroh is one of my favorite characters in all of fiction.

In this particular part of the story, he has been stopping to help most everyone in his path, including some children who have accidentally broken a window, and a mother with a crying child, and, at this moment, a desperate man who tries to mug him. Instead of beating the man down (as he demonstrates he could, easily), he builds the man up. He gives him tips, shares tea, listens to him, and encourages him to pursue a dream which would leave him both happier and more honest (and legal). On that last, the man comments that no one has ever believed in him (probably in ways besides those that involve this dream of his).

Thus, Uncle Iroh’s words about believing in oneself, and in having others believe in you. That’s why he believes in this man, because it’s something he can give him, to help him in some way.

For myself, I must confess that it has grown harder and harder to believe in myself. I’ve not succeeded at much in my life, and a litany of my failures rolls through my head every so often. I am certain that I would not have made it this far without the people who have believed in me when I could not.

(…oh gosh, I am tearing up just thinking about it… I think I need to make this one quick!)

I am just going to say thank you to my mother, my friends, and my friends-who-are-my-family. The help that has been given to me, with just a few kind words, a few minutes of listening to me and refusing to let me beat on myself too much, and a little bit of encouragement… it’s real. And it has meant everything to me.

I hope that I have done something similar for my friends, and for others. I hope I have been an instrument in blessing others, as others have been a blessing to me. And I hope that I can keep helping. It’s one of the things that gets me through my low moments.

So, if you’re reading this, I want to say that I hope you can believe in yourself, and, whenever you can’t, I hope you have someone else to believe in you.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #301: Powerful Coincidences

“Coincidences sometimes happen… But when they happen around witches, they aren’t usually coincidences.”
– Sherwood Post, Storm Cursed
Mercy Thompson
series, by Patricia Briggs

I had a perfect quote last week. This week, I make do with a pointed quote.

When Sherwood says this, he is remarking on the connections between people and events which they have been discovering whilst dealing with the latest crisis on their plates. At first glance, there ought to be no such connections whatsoever, yet such keep coming to light as they dig past the surface to find that things are not entirely as they appear to be. He qualifies what he says with the possibility that these really are all coincidental, but in context, given the number and nature of them, what they are and who they surround, it becomes a much more remote possibility.

Coincidences do happen, but they tend not to be entirely coincidental when they happen within the halls of power.

I’ve heard it said that coincidence – genuine coincidence, that is – is God’s way of staying anonymous, and who has more power than Him?

Which is kind of funny (in a way that isn’t funny at all), as it adds another way for the powerful and corrupt to be playing God when they try to cover up their actions by making them look like accidents. Sometimes it’s murder that looks accidental or suicidal, but more often it’s an exchange of favors or money, like government funding or permissions or an evasion of legal consequences given to those who happen to make “contributions”(so much more polite to say than “bribes”) to the politician in question. Most often, though, its the coordinated efforts of people and interests which are seemingly unrelated, and yet align so perfectly towards the same end, because of the puppeteers behind the scenes, and the puppeteers behind those puppeteers, and so on.

My point is, we need to keep our eyes open.

That is something we must always do, and especially now, in these troubling times, when so much of our daily lives has been upset so rapidly, and so thoroughly. We need to question why and how things have happened, and are going to continue happening. We need to keep in mind who benefits, and how.

Skepticism never hurt one’s understanding when it came to politics.

Everything is always connected with everything else… but when it comes to politics and power, those connections become much more solid and direct, hidden only behind the veil of “coincidence.”

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Sunday’s Wisdom #300: Good Worth Fighting For

“There’s some good in this world, Mister Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”
– Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

One really wants these “milestone” quotes to be something special, ya know? And I don’t think I could ask for one better, or more timely, than this.

This is the point of Sam’s hopeful speech, right at the resolving climax of the film and a highlight of the entire trilogy. As the enemy encroaches, seemingly unstoppable, Sam barely saves Frodo and the One Ring from being carried away by a black rider on a winged beast. The Ring is wearing on Frodo’s mind and heart and spirit, and so on his body as well, and he is… well, overwhelmed. He doesn’t think he can do this task, so Sam talks about why they need to endure. All is not despair, there is hope for a clear, new day, and the heroes in the stories they tell show, by example, that good can triumph. Indeed, it does triumph, as people fight for it.

But fights, by very nature, tend not to be easy. No, they are long, and costly, and painful. There is loss, and suffering of every kind, in the fight for what is right. It is enough to make anyone falter at some point, whether they’re fainthearted or not.

During the low moments, those filled with darkness, despair, fear, and everything else unsavory to endure, one must remember the value of what one fights for. That is our guiding light, our strength, and we need it most especially when we are in the abyss.

Or when we are entering the abyss, which, I fear we still are. Yes, after all the bad that has happened this year, I fear that there is so much more and worse to come, and soon.

So now, as we enter the dark, now is the time to grip tight to our light, to whatever good we have and dream of ever having, and keep it close in our hearts.

What is my light?

My certainty that there will always be something good to be found.

Many see the world as ugly and terrible, and there is much truth to that. There are horrible things, and terrible things, and sad things all around us, and within our own lives. Those things are not going to go away. But that is not, and never will be, all there is to the world.

There are good things. Happy things. Beautiful things. Wondrous things. Things which heal and help and shelter and build. Things which teach and inspire. Things which offer hope, love, peace, and mercy. Things which shine upon our lives and will transform misery into joy, if we allow it. Family. Laughter. Friends. Community. Good food. Lessons learned. Moments of calm and quiet, and moments of uproarious activity. Patience. Diligence. Hard work. Responsibility. Unyielding resolve in the face of adversity. Passion. Music. Beauty. Talents, refined into skills. Games. Fun. Memories. Legacies of those who came before, and which we can continue. Freedom.

There is, I would say, much good to be found in this world.

And it is worth fighting for.

Fighting to protect, to nourish, to build, to create, to enhance, and to remember.

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This Week on TV, Aug. 15, 2020

Spoiler Alert!

Well. That’s it, then.

Goodbye, Agents of Shield. It’s been a wild ride, and a fun seven seasons.

I enjoyed all the callbacks to the beginning, and the display of how things, and people, have changed so much. And yet, like that old saying, still the same. They resolved everything as well as they could, and tied off as many loose ends as they could.

It has been quite a journey.

And goodbye “This Week on TV,” though that, at least, might… eventually… make a return, if I’m lucky.

Agents of Shield

7.12 “The End is at Hand” &
7.13 “What We’re Fighting For”

The two-part finale had a lot of moving parts which all intertwined, impossible to pull apart as everything came together. So, here’s hoping I can do justice to it!

As the Chronicom fleet rains destruction down on the Earth below, wiping Shield off the map, Mack, Daisy, and Sousa make their final approach to Z-1 just in time for Z-1 to be tractor-beamed into the Chronicom flagship. They wait, very tense, for an expected assault that never comes, eventually emerging to find that, hey, all the enemies left the ship without a care in the world about them. Their mission remains to get Deke and Simmons, though, so Daisy goes off in search of them while Mack and Sousa work on their exit strategy. After Sousa and Daisy kiss, that is. (woohoo!)

Things go very easily for them, for a bit. And when you’re in the heart of enemy territory, “ease” tends to be because the enemy either doesn’t care what you do, or wants you to do what you are doing. Sybil makes it clear that she’s noticed them, and, though their arrival here was statistically improbable, she sees them as impotent, unable to fight effectively, and unable to escape at all. That last is proven when Mack, realizing there’s no need to be quiet about their presence anymore, tries just shooting a missile at the exit, and it has no discernible effect whatsoever.

As for the enemy, the ties that bind Malick, Kora (apparently I got her name spelled slightly wrong), their people, and the Chronicoms together are fraying just a bit. Kora believes in Malick, but doesn’t like his association with the Chronicoms, and really doesn’t like that he killed her mother Jiaying. He manages to spin it, though, with a simplistic insistence that Shield and Daisy are bad, and Jiaying hated Kora and was trying to kill him. Meanwhile, Malick chafes under Sybil’s reins, as she proceeds to make more headway with Simmons than he did, and restrains him from taking out the agents, and keeps him from engaging Daisy.

All of this, because there is a higher probability that Simmons will give away Fitz’s location if they allow her to be rescued, in the company of friends, since her implant is dissolved and her mind is in a fog of forgetfulness. She hasn’t just forgotten Fitz, but everyone, so helping her remember, an cough up the information they want, requires a feather touch, not a hammer. Sybil almost succeeds, but Malick vented to Kora, who’s been twisted around his finger for weeks, and she went off to confront Daisy on her own, arriving just in time to interrupt Simmons’ thought process, much to the Predictor’s consternation.

I recall a military man once said something about fearing the incompetent ally more than the competent enemy. In that light, I find it hilarious how Sybil’s careful manipulations were thwarted entirely by the accident of her pawns not doing something she did not predict! 🙂

Daisy and Kora square off, but they don’t really fight. Daisy just holds her ground, able to defend herself, while Deke and Simmons make for Z-1. They talk, like sisters, and Daisy doesn’t have to keep track of any lies she’s telling Kora, or herself, or anyone else. That’s an advantage of telling the truth, and the truth is that Jiaying may have made mistakes, but she loved Kora so much that she left her home to heal her heart with a healer and a new daughter, Daisy. Malick, by contrast, is a liar, and he’s just using and manipulating Kora to his own ends, telling her things she likes to hear. Kora feels the truth, and it confuses her, because it’s not what she thought it was.

She lets Daisy go, which earns her Malick’s anger, and he casts her aside. Specifically, he stuns her with a Chronicom gun, and has her hooked up so he can take her powers like he took Daisy’s.

The agents are back aboard Z-1, and now they have an exit strategy, courtesy of Sybil underestimating them. She sent a half dozen Chronicom hunters to take Z-1 and kill Mack and Sousa, but that didn’t work out. Mack used a device we last saw, for the first time, back in the show’s second episode. A small staff/rod jammed against the ground, a stun grenade jumping up out of its end, and everyone who doesn’t duck is rendered unconscious, like a crashed computer. It works on the Chronicoms, and Sousa gets the idea of using the Chronicoms like bombs, inspired by how the Chronicoms themselves did that back when they tried to decapitate early Shield’s leadership. They duct tape them to the missiles, and, once Daisy, Deke, and Simmons are aboard, they shoot the missiles at the doors and blast their way out.

Meanwhile, down below, Coulson, May, and Yo-Yo notice Garrett laying explosives to destroy the Lighthouse, since the Chronicoms apparently can’t quite do that with their usual orbital strikes. They get ahead of him, though, and restrain him with a personalized version of the device they once used to cripple Gordon’s teleporting. Being highly invested in his own survival, Garrett tries to get Malick to delay the explosion a bit, but Malick just writes him off. (My reaction: “Hah!”)

Yo-Yo thinks and moves fast, grabbing all the bombs and putting them in one spot. The Lighthouse gets totaled, but at least it’s not completely destroyed. Even better, nobody dies. Yo-Yo was too fast, Coulson was sturdy, and he shielded May. Even Garrett survived, though that was only because they gave him medical attention. He wakes up grumpy and ready for revenge against those who used, betrayed, and abandoned him. Some things remain consistent, don’t they?

During all of this, there is a signal being sent out from somewhere. It’s an oh-eight-four signal, a message calling Shield to gather somewhere. Coulson is the one to detect and discern its meaning, with his capabilities as an LMD. That and the anti-Gordon cuffs lead to a little talk with May, reflecting on how they and their agents have all changed so much over the years, and it’s true.

Nobody is exactly the same now as they were back then. Coulson lost a hand, thought that was a big deal at the time, and then he died a couple more times before coming back as a robot. May was almost completely closed off, and now she’s gained an empathic ability that now lets her feel the entire world’s loss as Shield dies. Daisy has collected new names and new abilities (and at least one new hairdo every year) since that fateful moment when “Sky” was taken into Shield custody by Coulson. Fitz and Simmons have both evolved, done things they never dreamed they would do. Mack joined up in the second season, and now he’s their Director, leading the charge against the enemy. Yo-Yo came into Shield more slowly (ironically), and now she has more control over her power than ever before… oh, and artificial arms. Deke was a self-serving scavenger, and now he’s a steadfast friend. Sousa hasn’t had much time on the show, and he may never truly change, but he’s now a man out of his own time, with a working prosthetic leg and a developing romance with one of the most powerful women in the world, for whom he is an unflinching rock of support.

Characters, like people, change over time, revealing who they will always be even as they become completely different from who they were before.

It’s an appropriate moment for that reflection.

But back to business!

Garrett blinks the three agents to the coordinates, teleporting into a familiar speak-easy, the first and now last sanctuary of Shield’s agents. And they’re not alone. Immediately, they’re told to put their hands up and surrender by the people in the shadows. Garrett does exactly the wrong thing and gets shot in the head for it. No great loss there. And it’s poetic, given that he’s shot by Victoria Hand, whose bleeding corpse he laughed over in the original timeline.

These few surviving agents of Shield have gathered here because they were called by the signal. Agent Hand, Agent Gamble, and others have inherited legacies, small bags or boxes or other such packages which they and their families were instructed to keep safe at all costs, and to bring to the speak-easy when this exact signal was sent out. The last one to arrive is an old man whose bus broke down on the way, delaying him, and he reveals that it was Enoch and the Koenigs who set all this up. Enoch, it would seem, was not at all idle in those decades of separation from the team, setting all of this up to be activated at the critical moment.

Even after his death, Enoch is supporting his friends. 🙂

The rest of the agents arrive, also following the signal, reuniting in the midst of this harrowing experience. It’s a moment of relief, and May even gives Daisy a hug, which is a new thing, but not at all unwelcome!

Each package contains a separate component to a device which Simmons, in her fugue state, is able to assemble with easy. It opens a secret compartment, in which the device rests beneath a strange machine. Simmons is remembering, including how the agents around her were at her wedding, but there’s so much memory she’s lost access to. That’s why they made this moment subconscious in some way, so she could do it no matter what else happened to her mind. Including when she puts her ring into the top of the device, and activates it.

A light goes up, and a hole is opened in time and space and reality itself as through the rift is drawn a figure, a person wearing a helmet, making his return at last: Fitz has arrived!

He’s overjoyed that their device, and their plan, has worked! …and a little inconvenienced by how Simmons has forgotten him. Crap.

But, he has all the answers! He knows all the moving bits of the plan, to get what they need from an alternate timeline and bring it back to their own!

Yes, they knew that the time-jumping was going to create an alternate timeline, and the agents would be trapped in it, separated from their original timeline. So, Fitz stayed behind as their anchor. They would draw him into the new timeline, and he would then lead them back to their own, fully armed and ready to defeat the Chronicom invasion. The original invasion, the one that sent them on this chaotic mission in the first place.

Small wonder Sybil couldn’t find him! She was in an entirely different universe from him!

Speaking of, Sybil is now pleased to note, as she observes in her time stream, that this is absolutely the last time all of the agents are together in one spot. Daisy comments on that, in the speak-easy, how this is their last mission together, telling Fitz how Enoch revealed this just before he died. That’s a blow, but for Fitz, this is an effort years in the doing, and he rolls with it. What’s worse, though, is that they don’t have the one thing they need right there with them: Kora.

All of this, this entire effort, was to get Kora, who died in the original timeline, so they went back, and onto a different timeline. Fitz had in mind that she and Daisy would connect as sisters, and with their mother Jiaying. Instead, they didn’t connect very much, and Kora is with the enemy. So… they need to figure out how to work with what they’ve got.

But before they go, the team makes it very clear to Fitz that they can’t, and won’t, simply abandon this reality, the people of this new timeline, to the Chronicoms. That comes with a significant reduction in their odds, but they are determined. And, happily, it’s Deke that comes up with the solution.

The device they used to bring Fitz here, and which can take them home, functions like a bubble. It can plug into Z-1, in place of the time drive, to take them back to the time and place and timeline they came from, so, the plan: make the bubble big enough to drag the Chronicoms with them through the quantum realm. Problem: they don’t have enough power. Solution: New York in 1983 does have enough power.

It can work. It will work. But it requires someone to stay behind. Sousa volunteers, but Deke shoots that down very quickly. He, unlike Sousa, can actually do the technical work that needs doing. Also, he wants Daisy to be happy, which he sees happening with Sousa. …and, he kind of has it made in this timeline. 😉 So, he’ll stay behind and take care of things here, while the rest go on, never seeing him again.

And with that, everyone leaps into action! The agents add the device to Z-1 and fly straight for the Chronicom ships, while the agents of this timeline follow Deke’s lead and rig up enough power for them to succeed at taking said ships with them. It’s close, but they do it. Deke and Mack say their farewells, one faithful friend to another, and activate the device. And it works perfectly! Z-1 drags the Chronicoms into the quantum realm, towards its original timeline.

Malick is unhappy about this, as he was this close to RULING!… er, saving the world!

Heh, his mask is finally off! He doesn’t actually represent chaos, he just represents himself! It’s all a power-grab, and his fancy appeal to anarchy is just window dressing, as is his supposed loyalty. He just wants to be the one in charge, and he is ticked off that he’s not going to be.

Sybil tries to reassure him, but Malick doesn’t buy it anymore. Yeah, there’s already another Chronicom force invading the world they’re going to, but, as he says, nobody knows the future anymore. Which, Sybil seems to agree, as her past experience with the agents has shown her that they beat the odds, and they’ve beaten her before, despite what she can see, so she’s actually a bit unnerved and single-minded in her drive to destroy the agents now.

As for the agents themselves, they get filled in on the big picture by Fitz, as he helps Simmons remember it.

Back in last season’s finale, Enoch told them that they must alter the course of their lives, and it will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. It turns out, he stole a copy of the time stream while he was undercover as another Chronicom, and that is how they know everything they know about the past, the present, the future, and alternate timelines. Fitz studied it, at risk of losing his mind, and found out what they needed to do to get what they needed to stop the Chronicoms. That came after teleporting onto the jet with Piper and Flint, who creates a bit of the time-traveling monolith for them, leaving them in the jungles of South America as they took the Zephyr and went to another star system, called Alya, to hide and learn and prepare.

While there, they lived their lives a little bit, but also got prepared everything, including the implant, the machine that lets them travel across timelines through the quantum realm, a stealthy, time-drive updated Zephyr, etc. When all was ready, they returned to the same time and place that they left Flint and Piper (who realized they must be messing with time again). They had a containment module ready for Fitz, to propel him through the quantum realm when it received the signal from the device Enoch built and Simmons assembled in the new timeline. They set Piper and Flint to guard it, stressing its importance, to the point where Simmons was desperately sincere in her promise she made: if they guard it well, then they can ask anything of her.

After that, Simmons and Enoch went to the temple, and we know the story from there.

With everyone caught up with what’s already happened, Fitz moves along to what they need to do now. They have one shot at stopping the Chronicoms, which are now two invading Chronicom forces, so they can’t afford to make it up as they go now.

Upon arrival, the agents split into two teams.

Mack, Daisy, May, and Coulson stay on Z-1, going straight to their most stealthy silent running, waiting for their moment.

Fitz-Simmons, Sousa, and Yo-Yo go to the temple. They are the figures in hazmat suits which assist Simmons and Enoch in getting team the medical attention they needed, digging out a piece of a monolith, and getting the team onto Z-1 to go time-jumping. Future selves helping past selves become the future selves… you know, time traveling gets very confusing at times.

In orbit, the moment comes when Sybil, intent in her desire to destroy Z-1 and the agents aboard, immediately fires on the past version of Z-1 the moment it’s spotted. It vanishes and the missiles hit the temple instead, with no trace of Z-1 detected. But the moment their attention is drawn elsewhere, to the Z-1 below, May takes the Z-1 in orbit and infiltrates Sybil’s ship, with a bit more success than last time. At the moment of the explosion, with the old Z-1 away to create a new timeline in the past, Fitz is transported away, so he can bring them back.

With the past secured, they look to the future. May, who used to do nothing but fly the plane, has done it again at a pivotal moment, getting them exactly where they need to be at exactly the right time. The team below heads back to the Lighthouse, retaking it, whilst Sybil fumes about the uncertainty of her victory. Her instincts, born from her experience, are proven correct as her ship is boarded and conflict ensues. May heads off on her own, Daisy fights to keep their entrance and exit secure, even as Malick comes for her, Mack goes for Kora, and Coulson faces down Sybil.

The Lighthouse is retaken below, with Yo-Yo doing most of the heavy lifting courtesy of her speed. They take the central HQ area, lock it down, with Fitz and Yo-Yo standing ready to open fire whenever the Chronicoms hammer the doors back open. Fitz is busy readying the base to receive something, and Simmons… seeing Sousa and Yo-Yo talking about Daisy and Mack, she remembers everything. Most of all, she remembers what they’re fighting for.

Sybil is happy at the chance to strike down Coulson, the man who became a machine that struck her down, hard. But he’s calm, and confident, because they’ve already won the war, no matter what Sybil thinks. Fitz and the others have already retaken the Lighthouse, after all, he says. And Sybil, in her lust to destroy Fitz, the common denominator in every scenario of her defeat, and to destroy the agents who have caused her so much grief, she simply orders every hunter under her command to invade the Lighthouse and kill them. After which, she intends to “reassign” (or “brainwash”) Coulson.

But… that’s a trap. And she fell for it.

She just sent every hunter, all of which she can command simultaneously, an order to gather together in one, single spot. And she used her authorization to do it. Now, they can do something very similar, to all the hunters on the ground, all at once.

And what comes next?

Melinda May, the Cavalry, dropping from above to lay Sybil out cold, soon followed by all the other Chronicoms in the room as she and Coulson annihilate them.

Mack arrives with Kora, weak from blood loss, in his arms. She’s not at her best, but she has enough juice left to stand up and do her part: increasing the power of the signal they send to the Lighthouse. Coulson gets her on her feet by telling her that they’re fighting for the very thing that gives them strength. She hears what he means, and stands up, ready to do her part.

It is a very tense moment, as everything preceding has led to this. Daisy is fighting Malick, her family’s personal bogeyman, as an army of hunters converges on the Lighthouse HQ, bashing against the doors with mechanical strength. Fitz finishes his part, getting something in place to receive the signal, and high in orbit, Kora shines, empowering a signal. May is the one to put her hands in the controls, and a beam of light shoots down.

The Chronicoms have demonstrated how they can mess with their people’s heads, and Sybil would have brainwashed Coulson with glee. So, they use that same technology to give the Chronicoms something new: empathy. May’s gift, to feel what others feel, is transmitted down to the Lighthouse, which is lit up in a brilliant whiteness, catching all of the hunters within it.

And in the darkness and silence which follows, Yo-Yo asks the renewed Chronicoms if they are friends or enemies.

Answer: “Friends. As we have always been.”

Enoch’s legacy lives on in the restoration, and empowerment, of his people not as conquerors, but as the friends to all which they used to be. They did, after all, step in to save the agents, and help the agents save the world, back in the fifth season. They were changed, not entirely of their own will, by what happened to their homeworld. Now, they are themselves again… with a little bit of something new. 🙂

It’s an interesting solution, and much more humane than simply destroying the Chronicoms. It felt a bit like it came out of left field, but I rather approve of it. Instead of killing the enemy, they literally shared a little bit of humanity with them.

And that just leaves a few enemies and their ships on the field. In answer to which, the agents retreat and leave Daisy to do her thing. Though Malick may be the single foe most suited to fighting her, she absolutely holds her own against him until her team is safely away. And then she does one thing Malick couldn’t comprehend: kill him, and the enemy fleet, even at the cost of her life.

…of course, standing at ground zero of a massive explosion that rips several powerful, radioactive ships to tiny pieces, she comes out of it practically unscathed except for the exposure to the void of space, which Kora’s warmth heals her of. I’m not going to lie, I would have cried if Daisy died, but saving her quite that easily felt a little like a cop-out, ya know? Still, I suppose I can’t really complain.

In the end, the threat is thoroughly ended, forever, and the agents move on with their lives.

We only got a small hint of what Deke’s life was after he stayed behind, when the agents asked if he was in charge now, and he said, “Yes.” He became the head of what was left of Shield, it would seem, and we can only imagine what he did after that. 🙂

As for the rest, they have all gone to follow their own paths through life. They are parted, but they arrange to be reunited every year by way of a virtual conference, courtesy of super-advanced tech. The venue for their personal Framework is the speak-easy, with seven seats set out for them.

Yo-Yo is the first one who has to go, as they wind it down. She is on a mission with Piper and an LMD Davis. That was Piper’s chosen reward: to have her best friend back, so he can raise his kid and be her buddy. It’s funny, how the LMDs were a menace for an entire season, and completely annihilated, but now there are two running about like it’s nothing. But Yo-Yo is used to this now, and gets on with the mission at hand at super speed.

As for what Piper did to warrant this reward: she guarded the module, which had more than Fitz in it. It had the daughter which Fitz-Simmons had while they were in the Alya system, and they named her Alya. She is what they fight for, what all the agents fight for, the very thing that gives human beings their strength: family. And so, Fitz-Simmons enjoy their happily ever after as a family.

Simmons still works, of course, but Fitz is retired and living his life.

Mack is apparently still the Director of Shield, and he is currently overseeing things from atop a helicarrier.

While May teaches at Shield’s new academy, the Coulson Academy, including Flint as one of her students. She comments on how teaching leaves her more exhausted than any fight she’s had with demons, robots, or anything else. Heh.

Daisy is in space, with Sousa and Kora on her crew, leading Shield’s space-based ventures, perhaps as part of Sword. She and Sousa are moving along in their relationship. He has his old-time quirks which clearly endear him all the more to her. Things are good, though she lingers last of all, missing her time with her surrogate family most of all.

And can I just say: she has another hairdo. That makes for a new one every single year, and she makes all of them look pretty dang good! 🙂

Finally, there’s Coulson. An LMD now. He’s welcome anywhere his old friends are, but he’s taking his time, reassessing his existence, always contemplating the idea of turning himself off. But for now, he’s seeing the world, going places he’s always wanted to go. And what better way to do that than with his ride, the new and improved Lola.

As the pilot episode, and the second season finale, ended with a car leaving the ground and going off to new adventures, so does the series.

The End.

And goodbye.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #299: Life is Not Safe

“Life is not safe. A man might spend his whole time on earth staying safe in a basement, and in the end, he still dies like everyone else.”
– Thomas Hao, Frost Burned
Mercy Thompson
series, Patricia Briggs

Thomas Hao is a minor character when he is introduced, but he plays his part in the novel’s climax. When he says this, it is to a man who is a bit upset at how his wife put herself in danger when she might have avoided it. She explains that she couldn’t allow an evil man to do as he wished, or she would have felt just as bad. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, after all, is for good men and women to do nothing. To stand aside. To try and be safe. Hao offers the above words in support of her explanation, because, as much as the man he is speaking to wants only to know that his wife is safe, alongside everyone else he loves, he has to accept that there is no real safety in the world.

Even if one were, somehow, improbably, able to avoid every single danger in the entirety of the world, eventually they would just die anyway. Life is thus, by very nature, inherently unsafe, because it ends. Always.

That speaks to me especially strong right now. I’ve commented on life and death before: how it makes us all equal, in the end; the importance of our choice in meeting our fate; how there is such a choice, and it echoes in how we live before we die; more recently, how the cycle of life and death is always there. This, however, speaks directly, and at an appropriate moment, to how we kind of just need to learn how to deal with it.

Death is simply a fact of life.

It’s scary, because so much about it is unknown, and we have the ability to think about the things we don’t know. And it can be very painful, both to endure the death of a loved one, and, eventually, when it happens to us, as it will. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.

That’s something we’ve forgotten, I think, especially in the more advanced of Western cultures. We grew up on Disney, among other things, which always presents death as something dire. It’s the well-deserved fate of the villain, and a tragedy when it happens to someone good. Somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost our ability to accept death, and as it’s fact of life, refusing to accept it at all does not serve us.

Now, I’m not going to say that we shouldn’t try to stay alive, or save the lives of those around us. No, not at all. The reality of death is part of what gives life so much value. But it also gives value to not just staying alive, but to living well and happily. In that sense, it is actually quite possible to take the virtue of valuing life too far, and make it a vice.

I am reminded of a story about a very rich man, who was very selfish and stingy and valued his wealth above everything else. One night, he dreamed that a voice told him, “Someone will inherit you before you die.” He took that to mean someone would come and take his wealth from him while he still lived, and he spent the entire night (and then some) rushing all around, trying to make sure everything his money was invested in was secure and safe. That got very tiring very quickly, so he sold everything he had (which was a lot) and invested the entire sum of money it was worth into a single precious, massive jewel, which he clutched tightly to his person as if his very life depended on it. Then… he tripped, and the jewel, with all the wealth it represented, slipped from his grasp and into a river. It was eventually found by a very poor man, who was suddenly not very poor anymore.

The rich man valued what was his, and that is not a bad thing. But he valued it so much that it consumed him, he made a foolhardy decision, and lost everything as a result.

It’s good to value life, but it’s possible to value life too much.

One need only look to any coward for proof that one can value one’s own life too much.

Sadly, it can be taken even further.

I look around and see people panicking over a virus, and that panic does not serve us. I see people willing to go to extremes, without questioning, in order to preserve the lives of others. That is not a bad thing, to care for others. But even this – yes, even this most noble of all virtues! – can be overdone, and turned against itself, as people follow rash, ill-informed decisions (driven by an agenda they know nothing of) which can and will have (and is already having) dire consequences, far worse than the virus itself would ever do.

A solution that is worse than the problem is no solution at all.

It is possible to value life so much that, like the rich man clinging too tightly, we end up losing everything we hoped to protect.

Even though all we want is for people to be safe.

But life is not safe.

It never will be.

It literally cannot be.

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This Week on TV, Aug. 8, 2020

Spoiler Alert!

In one week, I will be saying goodbye to This Week on TV for I-Have-No-Idea-How-Long.

There have been summer breaks, week-long breaks, and Holiday Droughts, and the immense gap between seasons, but I’ve always had something to look forward to, as something was always returning. Some of the shows I’ve commented on, I followed from the very beginning of this humble blog of mine. Others were added partway. I’ve actually been doing this long enough now that I have seen shows come and go, and others have simply changed from what I enjoyed to something else.

Basically, I’ve been doing this from the very start of the blog, and it feels… well, it’s a parting of ways, with all the memories of the past, and the future is unknown. Maybe we’ll meet again. Maybe I’ll find something else I like to comment on, in due time. Or maybe not. Who knows?

So, I’m feeling what all the fans of Agents of Shield are feeling, doubled.

There is one final week ahead, with a two-part finale to the series. Seven rip-roaring seasons behind us, and all of it coming down to this.

This week, the final setup was complete at last. All that’s left next week is… everything.

Now let’s dive in.

Agents of Shield

7.11, “Brand New Day”

The episode followed three basic plotlines.

One was centered on Malick on Z-1, as he delved into Simmons’ brain for the much-coveted information on Fitz and his whereabouts, and I finally gained renewed hope that Fitz might still be alive after all, and might even survive the show, but only because… well, in a way, things might be even worse than him being dead.

Another plotline centered on Daisy as she pursued her enemy to save her friend, thinking outside the box, and gaining quite a bit of personal growth along the way.

A third was in the Lighthouse, and actually hinged on Daisy’s sister, Cora. We’ll start there.

It begins with Z-1 getting away, as, being a spaceship, it simply flies out into space, above the satellites that would track it. Daisy, feeling more than a little emotional after the ordeal with her mother, storms straight at Cora upon her arrival, in Shield’s custody, and nearly rips the woman’s head off while demanding answers. Daisy backs off only when Mack orders her to, which allows Cora her chance to ask to join Shield.

As Cora presents it, there’s no reason they can’t work together. She fits a good part of the profile: young, troubled past, powerful, and capable of killing. That’s what she offers, advocating for a world made better through the deaths of those who will do terrible things.

It’s what they started out wrestling with in this season, how they had to preserve the timeline, even the parts of it they didn’t like, such as Hydra. They refused to kill Freddie Malick because of the timeline, and because he was just a kid riding in a freight car when they met him, before he did terrible things… things like, say, help Shield infiltrate Hydra, betraying and killing Daniel Sousa, Shield’s first fallen agent. They managed to save Sousa, sure, but Freddie did all those other terrible things, and even more, as the timeline was changed and he had an extra three years of villainy… until Deke shot him dead.

That’s not all Shield has done, but it can’t be denied, it’s a big part of what Shield has always had to do: kill, to protect.

It’s what May did in Bahrain, when a young girl with power went crazy and out of control. They revisit that, when May talks to Cora, in relation to how Lee was going to kill Cora as well (not to mention how Cora was going to kill herself).

So, the offer of a list of names that Cora would help them kill is surprisingly tempting, even persuasive, but that’s just not who the agents are. Even more, the proof that they’re in a new timeline is all the more reason to refuse. Cora mentions Grant Ward, for instance, and all the damage he did to the agents personally. But Coulson remembers the Framework, a world where they saw a version of Ward that was good and heroic, because he had the right influence in that one. Meaning, if they’re in a new timeline, then everyone actually has a chance to do something better, instead of worse.

And while all of this is fascinating and compelling… it’s also a distraction.

Cora is, in fact, a Trojan Horse.

She has a little connection with Daisy, but, in that moment, lets slip that Sybil has predicted something about Daisy herself: she’d never leave her sister to fight alone. And that clues Daisy in. Sybil’s predictions have never actually been certain, have they? It’s always a question of percentages. That’s because humans are unpredictable… and, even more, they can choose to be unpredictable. So, Daisy realizes they need to be unpredictable, act against their usual natures, because their usual natures are what Sybil can predict.

With that in mind, Daisy makes to head off alone, but Sousa accompanies her, going off-book a bit himself in the act (though, having seen Agent Carter, I’d say he is perfectly capable of coloring outside the lines a bit… he just only does it when it seems necessary, instead of by reflex). And then Mack accompanies the both of them, a trio heading out into space with the threadbare resources a single jet has to offer them, to rescue Simmons and Deke.

But we’ll get to that in a moment.

Cora is a bit antsy, wanting her sister and getting May instead. May, in classic form, riles her up to see what she can do, but that backfires. It might even have been predictable, in the way Sybil is able to use. With one surge of power, she knocks out the Lighthouse, taking down their firewalls and allowing Sybil back into their computers.

Sybil mocks Coulson, wanting him to squirm a bit, but it turns out he’s suddenly become a genius with computers. He can understand what’s going on, bits and pieces anyway, within the computers, so he’s able to combat her, but only slows her down, and sees she’s looking at communications for some reason. Then, to get Coulson off her back, she unlocks the cell doors, letting prisoners out. There’s only Cora and two captive guards, but the two try to kill Yo-Yo, and Cora is much more of a threat. She dispatches one of the guards (Durant, I think his name was) as an argument against trying to go back to the original timeline, and she does it without blinking.

She hesitated when she killed Lee, but she didn’t hesitate this time, and she’s advocating killing. Whatever Malick did with his weeks with her, he certainly removed any restraint she had as far as killing is concerned. He is, after all, this dark and powerful man who showed her how to use her power as she saw fit. He liberated her from a prison she didn’t know she was in, and made her into her “true self,” on his puppet strings. So now she thinks she knows who she always was, and believes that she can’t be anything else, therefore no one else could be either. She wants to her mother that, who she is.

That’s when May takes her to see Jiaying’s body, and tells her the truth: Malick killed her, because she put herself between him and Daisy.

It’s devastating to Cora, who lashes out, almost kills May, but the truth of who Malick is, what he really wants, and what he really does… it’s more difficult to believe the bad of someone who we believe has done us good, and Cora is no exception to that. Her faith is shaken, I think, but she still goes back to Malick the moment Garrett comes to get her, and stands with him as he sets the world on fire.

I think Cora is pretty well lost, but I also think she could be a danger to Malick as well, if the coin toss in her own head comes up the right way.

As for Daisy, she has the quietest times during this episode, but also one of the best. After taking off and heading into space, she, Mack, and Sousa are standing over the world in a tiny space, trying to conserve enough air, life support, and power to get them to Z-1… but there’s enough of a wait that they have some pretty good moments.

Daisy and Mack talk about the end of the team. He’s more accepting of it, which is what she needs: a rock-steady best friend helping her find the peace she needs to stand on her own, with or without the team around her. They’re her family, and nothing changes that, especially if, assuming they all survive, they can communicate with each other at any time. The world is vast, but it’s gotten a lot easier to bridge the distance between us all. (shame more people don’t do that)

Daisy grew up alone, and then she gained a family with the agents, and she’s afraid that she doesn’t know who she is without them. But Mack knows, she knows who she is, with or without anyone.

…which leads to a certain look in Sousa’s direction, Mack notices. She confesses that they kissed in the time loop, and he doesn’t remember that part.

I have to smile. They’re in space, saving their friends and the world, and they’re still gossiping about their lives, and the future. Yeah, they’ll be all right, even if they part ways. 🙂

Then Mack has a moment with Sousa. He frankly asks about Sousa’s intentions while Daisy is napping in the back. Sousa is honorable, so he doesn’t have any such intentions as of yet, but… well, Mack advises him to get some intentions. He explains that Daisy has been hurt, so it’s good to see her willing to open up and risk her heart again, and he’s glad that it’s Sousa, a good guy who he likes. But, that said, neither he nor anyone else on the team will let anyone else hurt Daisy again. Just something that Sousa ought to keep in mind if he wants to date Quake.

Which gives Sousa an opening, and he takes it, making a little fun of the name the media dubbed her with, making her (and Mack) smile a bit just before the fireworks go off and crap hits the fan one last time.

And that brings us back to Malick. His hunt for information makes major headway but is ultimately… unsuccessful.

Diana the implant works, blocking Malick, or at least slowing him down. With Simmons placed in the brain-scanning pod, he dives into her memories of Fitz, but all he’s getting, at first, is those tender moments which are classic Fitz-Simmons’ moments to the fans, including when they were underwater or reconnecting in the lab after a separation, that sort of thing.

Malick ups the ante, then, having Garrett bring Deke in. Deke’s solo rescue mission was aborted when Garrett caught him right at the start, so Malick interrogates him. First he has Deke beaten, but that doesn’t break him. Then he tortures Simmons, quaking the base of her skull in an obvious threat meant to torture Deke emotionally, but Deke still doesn’t break… not before Malick notices the implant, anyway.

So, he tries to get it out… only to find that Simmons made it so only she could use it (or authorize its use, I suppose). This leaves him increasingly frustrated, as the champion of chaos has gotten used to an order where he gets what he wants. In anger, he dives into Simmons’ memories with her, picking up where the last season left off.

Fitz-Simmons followed Enoch into the endeavor where they would build a time-traveling ship to combat the Chronicoms. Simmons’ side of their efforts progressed much more quickly, but Fitz reasoned that there was no rush. Following that, however, there was a desire to forego the battle and simple live their lives.

I seem to recall something similar in the fifth season, where they saw the end of the world and had to deal with a time loop they had to escape. It took Fitz almost his entire life to make the time machine that they used to travel back, after having been sent forward, to save the world. In that time, too, if I remember right, he wanted to give up for awhile, not rush it, and just live a little with his wife. But, in the end, he got the job done.

It took a long while, though, and I don’t think building the entirety of Z-1, alone, would have made it any quicker of a task.

So, now I ask myself… if we assume Fitz is alive, then what happened to him? Where is he, really?

And if it took so long, then why has Simmons not aged much at all?

Ok, new theory: Fitz finished the ship over the course of decades, and, with time machine included, sent it back to pick Simmons up and send her on her way with the rest of the team. And as for whatever else he was, or is, doing, it is somehow pivotal to the war with the Chronicoms. And, at some point, Fitz-Simmons knew it was going to happen this way, and made a very painful choice.

What is something so painful that it can compare with losing Fitz, and make Simmons so distraught as we saw in the time loop, but doesn’t actually kill him?

The clue, and the answer, come just as Malick is closing in on his location in Simmons’ memories. All at once, they’re standing in the white room of the Chronicoms mental prison, with furniture, but no surroundings. Maybe they did that, used the Chronicoms’ own technology to give themselves more time to work with, or maybe that’s just part of what was happening. It could only show Malick what she was remembering, after all, and soon enough…

…she forgets.

Enoch acted as a failsafe in case anyone tried to remove the implant, but the implant was, at some point, modified to act as its own failsafe if Simmons’ mind was ever so deeply invaded. It was Fitz who pushed Simmons towards this, but at some point she consented to it, and now all she is left with is an empty white room. What she remembered in the time loop was this decision, the decision to burn everything she remembered of him, to forget even as she wept so bitterly, whispering, “I don’t want to forget,” over and over, so fast, so desperate.

Malick storms off in a rage, killing a subordinate over a tiny infraction, growling that they’ll just have to see if it (Fitz) really makes a difference in the end.

Deke is relieved to surmise that he didn’t get Fitz’s location… but Simmons doesn’t know who Fitz is anymore.

…I think that might be the single greatest loss of the entire show, and the worst blow Fitz-Simmons has ever suffered, even after seven seasons of being put straight through the ringer over and over and over.

At the end of the episode, Dasiy, Mack, and Sousa are closing in on Z-1, and they see the arrival of the Chronicom fleet.

Cora rejoins Malick, even knowing he just killed her mother, and kisses him as the ships rain fire down on the Earth below, at his direction. Sybil had sent a signal to them some time ago, and they’ve modified their hunters in accord with her instructions, and now they’re here to take what they want (which, I didn’t realize they’d need to, this still being the past, presumably before their homeworld’s destruction, but ok).

Coulson has seen that what Sybil was after was the location of every singly Shield base in the world, and she just fed the coordinates to her fleet in orbit. The Triskelion, the Hub, the Sandbox, the Fridge… they try to warn all of them, but all of them go silent mid-sentence. All of Shield, ever base, every installation, everything, wiped out within minutes.

They never knew what hit them, and they never had a chance.

It’s a new day, bathed in the blood of the old. New lives, Malick promised, by ending so very many.

The agents are now probably the only agents left in this new timeline the Chronicoms have made. All the rest are gone, including the new recruits of Deke’s crew, who just barely went off to the Triskelion to join the real Shield. Peggy Carter, too. Nick Fury. Everyone. All of them. Dead.

So… heck of a way to clear the board, and leave the agents standing alone, with no secret aces left (except, possibly, Fitz), against an entire fleet in this timeline, and an old timeline they may or may not get back to.

Then again, maybe that’s why the team ends, because they leave their original timeline forever and are stuck in one that has no Shield for them to belong to anymore.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

One more week.

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