This Week on TV, July 18, 2020

Spoiler Alert!

Agents of Shield only has a few episodes left, and they’re still setting up their ultimate showdown of agents vs bad guys. The final mission is easily the biggest doozy of them all. I am sad to see it ending, but, man, am I enjoying the ride! 🙂

Agents of Shield

Season 7, Episode 8, “After, Before”

So, it turns out that while Z-1 may have been properly fixed, after that missile hit a couple episodes ago, the time-traveling engine itself got a little damaged. It’s jumping them again and again, faster and faster, covering less and less ground with each new jump, without any direction but in a mathematically predictable way. The first errant jump took them from the 70’s to 1982, and then to 1983, and then a few months later, and then a few weeks… now it’s down to a couple of days. But, that’s outside Z-1. Inside it, they have about twenty minutes before it jumps within a jump, which will completely destroy the plane and everyone on it.

There is one way to prevent this: turn it off.

In this instance, however, the time engine has an energy field cycling around it very, very fast, so, to reach in and pluck out the necessary piece of it will require someone moving very, very, VERY fast. Yo-Yo’s the only one who can do that, and her abilities aren’t working right. So, they need to get her abilities working right, and to help an Inhuman, they need Inhumans. They have to turn to someone who was an enemy, which they ultimately destroyed, but who is still alive and doesn’t know a thing about them in 1983: the Inhumans of Afterlife, led by Daisy’s mother, Jiaying.

A quick conversation with LMD Coulson, who is still being rebuilt, and Mack approves the mission. They’ll move Z-1 in Afterlife’s direction, to rendezvous as close as possible, but May is taking the quinjet and Yo-Yo ahead, to hopefully get her speed back.

So, on Z-1, we have the agents trying to save the plane and, even more important, save each other. Under such circumstances, Mack bears the weight of command with his usual strength, Sousa gets parachutes ready and apologizes to Simmons for how he took out his frustrations on them right after they saved his life, Simmons gives Sousa a prosthetic leg and records a message for Fitz, Daisy and LMD Coulson are a pair of physical invalids after the one was brutalized by Nathaniel Malick and the other blew himself up and is being rebuilt, and Deke and Enoch are in the background trying to help.

Meanwhile, May and Yo-Yo arrive at Afterlife just in time to witness Gordon and another Inhuman, a knife-teleporting man of Asian descent named Lee, or Li, bring a young woman back Afterlife after she tries to run away. Things are fairly tense between the two parties, one of which knows what’s going on and can’t entirely tell the other and is operating under a time constraint, while the other doesn’t know what’s going but needs to. Jiaying is interested in knowing how Inhuman powers can be taken away, and how they might be restored, but not for the most obvious reasons.

The young woman is Cora, a new Inhuman, with unstable, dangerous powers that she can’t seem to properly control. She’s a danger to everyone around her, and Inhumans deal with that, in accordance with their laws, in exactly one way: death. If they can’t figure out how to save her, then they have to kill her. That’s why Jiaying wants to know how to take away Inhuman powers, as a means to save her daughter.

Yep, Cora is Daisy’s half-sister.

It makes perfect sense, of course, for the long-lived Jiaying to have had more than one lover, even spouse, over the course of her long life, and thus to have had more than one child in her time. And how better to make things ever more personal and painful for the agents than to toss in, among everything else, a sister that Daisy never knew about, who was dead, and who is, in this time, alive? …and becomes an enemy?

That’s getting slightly ahead of things. Back to May and Yo-Yo.

Yo-Yo and May don’t share many details, but Jiaying is wise and observant. She notices that May can sense other emotions, which, apparently, she can do without touching them now, but which connection is strengthened by touch. She also picks up on what might be Yo-Yo’s real problem, but waits until the test results come back to share them. And she’s right: there is nothing physically wrong with Yo-Yo or her abilities. It’s something in her head, something psychological, which her experience with the shrike may have exacerbated, but did not create. And since May can feel what Yo-Yo feels, she may be the perfect person to help her, to guide her, as Inhumans say.

They try meditation, but that turns out just awkward for the both of them, so they go to therapy via sparring. And that gives them some breakthroughs, as May knows how to push Yo-Yo with each blow. The moment the shrike went down her gullet, for instance. Or when their friend in the future, Tess, was killed and publicly displayed (though later brought back to life). Or when she killed Ruby. But most of all, her fears and pains are rooted in a moment from her childhood.

Her father owed a debt to a very bad man, and in Mexico that means, “Get your women and children to safety.” She was sent to her uncle’s home, but the bad man found them, and sent a minion. Her uncle couldn’t pay the sum, but the minion decided to take whatever was there. That included a familiar crucifix necklace, which belonged to Yo-Yo’s grandmother. She was hiding, but when the man turned his back, she sneaked out, took it, and hid herself again. The man noticed when it was missing, and her uncle placed himself between her and this dangerous man. He paid for that with his life, as the man killed him, then grabbed the rest of his loot and ran.

Yo-Yo has blamed herself for that, ever since. Her uncle might have lived if she hadn’t taken the necklace back, if she had just stayed hidden… if she had just stayed still.

So, however fast she’s moved, she has also always stayed still, bouncing back to wherever she was before. And now, with more failures, and losses, and mistakes weighing on her conscience, the incident with the shrike gave her some excuse, on some level, to not move at all.

It’s progress, but the job isn’t done yet. And, of course, they are interrupted by a crisis boiling over… and the intrusion of their enemy.

Cora managed to get free again, but this time she ran away in order to kill herself. She ran into a large, empty space, with a stolen gun, fell to her knees, pointed the gun up under her chin… but before she could pull the trigger, it was vibrated apart.

And there he stands, tall, dark, and powerful: Nathaniel Malick.

In full possession and control of Daisy’s quaking powers, which he now has more experience with mastering than she herself has. He has an army with advanced Chronicom weaponry, as well as all the knowledge, with its accompanying power, provided him by that device which Sybil gave him. And here he has come, at the moment Cora would have succeeded in killing herself, to save her. He talks quite well, an an intriguing, persuasive manner. He speaks of how he was supposed to die, too, but didn’t, and made something more of himself. He stands there, now, intent on defying all the whims of “fate,” taking even that power unto himself. His “friends” arrive on cue, on their way to Afterlife. What they’re going to do, they will do, it’s already happening… and he invites Cora to join him in doing it.

It is very persuasive, to be told that you are important, that you can do what you want and revel in it, free from previous ties, especially when one has been helpless and knowing that death is coming. Suicide was Cora’s way to take control of the one thing left her: her death. But now Nathaniel offers her so much more power, so much more control, and freedom in the anarchy he intends to unleash.

She joins him, and they take Afterlife. They take the place, and all the Inhumans within it, with exception to Gordon and Jiaying, who May and Yo-Yo manage to get out. They promise to fight together against their mutual enemies, but first they have a crisis of their own to solve.

And that brings May and Yo-Yo back to Z-1, just in time for the grand finale. The decision has been made to abandon ship, especially when Yo-Yo shares that she doesn’t have her speed back yet. But as everyone runs for the jet, a moment with May, something she says, sparks a connection in Yo-Yo’s mind.

They call her that because she always bounces back, but Yo-Yo doesn’t know if she can… and then she realizes she doesn’t need to.

All this time, she has, in fact, been holding herself back on some level.

When she realizes that, she finally lets go, and commits, wholly and entirely, holding absolutely nothing back. And that does the trick: her speed is restored. She runs to the time engine, reaches in, pulls out the appropriate part, and voila! It’s done!

Everybody breathes a sigh of relief!

LMD Coulson’s body is finished, and now he needs to charge up, which… well, it’s a moment that he hasn’t had to deal with yet, highlighting how much closer he is to a thing instead of a person.

Daisy goes into the healing pod, with Sousa keeping vigil at her side, with his new leg. (I know I am not the only one who ships the two of them, and I’d say they fit together fairly well)

Basically, the agents are finally able to stop and take a breath before they’ll plunge right back into the overall crisis.

…until the time engine activates itself again, with no apparent warning or cause and no time to do anything about it, and the plane vanishes with everyone all complacent aboard it.

So, Coulson is back (again), Daisy is in recovery, Sousa no longer needs to limp, Mack is a proper Director again, Yo-Yo is back and even better than before, May is getting used to what she does now, Enoch and Deke are trucking along… and they’re all just suddenly gone.

Leaving Jiaying, Afterlife, and the Inhumans in a tight pinch as a powerful enemy has entirely overcome them and intends to do to all of them what he did to Daisy, and what Whitehall did to Jiaying. Oh, and Cora, who punches with fire, apparently, is on his side now.

I notice that this seems to the be season of enemies that just won’t stay dead. Nathaniel was supposed to be dead, but he’s alive now, and ought to have quaked his own bones apart and died, but he’s back. Sybil was reduced to binary code when Coulson blew up her ship, but she returned in a new form and is still destroying her enemies. And now Cora, who was going to be killed and tried to kill herself, is still alive, and leading the charge against her people.

Only a handful of episodes left now, and I have no clue whatsoever what is going to happen or who is going to survive. Also, when and how are they getting Simmons and Fitz back to each other?

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