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…
On that note, let’s dive in.
7.06, “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.