With its two-hour finale coming next week, Agents of Shield delivered more intrigue, more emotion, more rising action. The tide is turning in the agents’ favor at last, but, as per usual, it’s going to come down to the wire, and it’s quite a ride to get there!
6.11 “From the Ashes”
The phoenix is probably one of the most famous of mythological creatures. An immortal firebird soaring in the heavens, descending to the Earth only once every hundred years. Some versions say it lays an egg, but others don’t mention that. All versions, however, say it burns itself up entirely, leaving only ashes behind. Then, from within those ashes, there is a spark, sometimes from a hatched egg, as the phoenix rises anew. Thus the phrase, “From the ashes.” So it descends from the sky, burns itself up, dies, and finally gives birth to… itself.
Sarge has lived for a hundred years. He has descended to Earth. His conversation with Izel has left him burning up from the inside, metaphorically-speaking. Now he gets broken down to ash, and what emerges will be… himself.
Who and what that is a matter of discussion, but talk is cheap, as they say. The proof of who Sarge is lies within his actions. To date, those actions have been cold-blooded, duplicitous, and self-serving. Now that the surface of him is crumbling, we know that there are two sides of him, sides which were merged together before but are now coming apart and warring with one another. On one side, the Pachakutiq entity which took Coulson’s form, and on the other, the bits of Coulson himself which Sarge inherited from that form.
It’s like an echo trying to overcome the roar of a lion, which shakes the ground beneath one’s feet, only the echo, so faint at first, is getting stronger. Every time Sarge “dies,” his past grows sharper and clearer, shaking the very foundation of him, and making the echoes reverberate louder and louder. It’s a torturous experience, and the fates of many may hinge on its outcome.
As Sarge’s identity crisis unfolds, Shield handles the crisis threatening the world (and more) as effectively as they can. There’s a lot to do, so the tasks are divided between them. Mack and Yo-Yo try to slow Izel down and notify the other agents of their whereabouts, Piper leads the effort to try and track them, completely ignoring her injury, Fitz-Simmons and Deke are working on a way to counter Izel’s ability to possess them, and Daisy heads things up, while she and May trade off trying to work Sarge.
Things do not go well on Mack and Yo-Yo’s end. Yo-Yo wakes up, free from Izel, to find her metal hands spattered with Mack’s blood. Mack tells her Izel needs to take the Di’Allas to a specific temple she doesn’t know the location of, and Yo-Yo lets slip that Benson would be the only one who might know. Unfortunately, Izel was possessing him, and putting up a fair facade. She calls in Benson, who mentions three possible locations before Yo-Yo is able to signal him that something is wrong. Izel kills the agent who was with Benson, locks Mack and Yo-Yo up, and… well, she displays the one thing that is most dangerous in a sadistic interrogator: creativity.
Benson isn’t afraid of dying, and he’s courageous in the face of being tortured. But Izel has the Di’Allas, which can conjure up anything conceivable, especially one’s worst nightmares. For Benson, that’s the nightmare of losing Thomas, whom he he loved, again. Izel waits just a minute or two for Benson’s emotions to come to a boil of grief, pain, and regret, and then kills him. And promises to do so over and over. I’m not sure anyone could withstand something like that, so one can’t exactly hold it against Benson when he breaks.
Yo-Yo and Mack are able to talk for a bit about their feelings, being locked up, but when Benson gives Izel what she wants, they know they need to make a move. Knowing Izel can’t proceed with her plan without the Di’Allas, they steal the gravitonium sphere, enraging her, but that was just a ruse. The best diversions are ones which cannot be ignored, and Mack uses this one to jettison the containment pod with Benson in it, getting him to safety, where he can contact the Lighthouse and point them in Izel’s direction.
Back in Sarge’s corner, May and Daisy have differing approaches. May wants to try to bring out what’s left of Coulson, but Daisy is certain that’s a fool’s errand. I can see her point, and I probably would have sided with her. The shadows, the echoes of Coulson’s past, those are part of Sarge, but Sarge is, originally, an entirely different entity, not at all Coulson. She wants to see the other side, the core of the entity that took his form, one that Izel both wants to recruit back to her side, and one which she obviously fears. So, she breaks his neck, much to the surprise of the other agents watching through the security camera.
Sarge comes back, once again with clearer memories… and, once again, stronger. The former makes him remembering when he was first formed, with Izel’s song ringing through every bone in his body. The latter lets him overcome Daisy and shove the door straight off the wall. He then proceeds to tear his way through the underbelly of the Lighthouse, both doors and crates alike.
What Sarge said about Izel’s song, however, got Deke thinking. They’re fairly certain that Sarge’s sword can kill Izel, but the bit about the song is the clue for how it does it, and how they can counter her abilities. The blue knives, which kill the shrieking Shrike which Izel sings into being, ring like tuning forks when struck. Harmonic frequencies, that is the key. That’s how the knives work, but disrupting the Shrike’s frequency, and how the sword, which is an upscaled version of the knives, can kill Izel. It follows, then, that they just need a device which projects a frequency that counters Izel’s and voila! Possession power, neutralized.
Deke spent most of the episode trying to be part of the Fitz-Simmons team, not really contributing anything, but he put the pieces of evidence together and came up with what they need. It’s a cool moment for his character.
Daisy, meanwhile, displays her extremes. She tends to be either all-in or she runs away, like she ran away after becoming Inhuman, after losing Lincoln, and after losing Coulson. Now she confronts that loss, head-on, and she’s the only one accepting that Sarge is not Coulson, even taking the sword to kill him with it. If it works on him, after all, and he and Izel are the same, then it should work on Izel, too. And it has to be her, because she’s the only one truly willing to go through with it.
…that is, until Sarge demonstrates the one thing that he never has before, the one thing that truly separated him from Coulson: a willingness to sacrifice himself.
He wasn’t trying to break out. He was trying to find the sword. And he was looking for it so he could kill himself with it.
He has accepted that he and Izel are the same sort of creature, and, just like Daisy, realizes that if the sword can kill him, then it can kill her, too. He’s never shrunk from doing what he believes is necessary, but it’s always been someone else he’s sacrificed, never himself. He’s willing to die, even wants to die, rather than hurt the people Coulson knew, in order to give them a chance at killing Izel. That is something Sarge, as we’ve known him, would never do. But Coulson would.
It’s ironic. Daisy’s determination that Sarge was not, at all, Coulson turned out to be the very thing that brought that bit of Coulson to the surface, overpowering the Pachakutiq part of him that does not truly care about other people. This round of the war goes to the echo of humanity.
So, Shield has a weapon to kill Izel with, they have a device in the works that can keep her from possessing them, they have a bit of Coulson given back to them in their hour of need, and they have coordinates provided by Benson.
Izel, however, has the power of the Di’Allas, and she has Mack and Yo-Yo, and she’s at the temple in question. All she needs, now, is to restore the Di’Allas to their physical form. It has to do with the harmonic frequency thing, the entire temple is built for it, every stone in its place. For her to use the Di’Allas properly, they need to be put back into their previous stone-like form. Mack and Yo-Yo can’t do that, but, unfortunately, their fears conjure up the one person who could: Flint.
Oh, and somewhere out in space, Malachi leads a small coup to take over leadership of the Chronicoms, killing Atara and setting in motion a plan to restore Chronica 2 only after they conquer a planet and turn it into Chronica 3. How much do you want to bet they set their sights on conquering Earth?