This Week on TV, Aug. 1, 2020

Spoiler Alert!

You know the thing about ending a series, and knowing it’s ending well ahead of time? You get to take everything you’ve built up, and systematically nuke it all. It’s like when kids build houses and castles out of blocks, and then knock ’em all down! There’s nothing quite like it, ya know? And that’s what Agents of Shield seems to be doing right now. They’ve built everything up, and now, after the deep breath of last episode, and with only one more episode between this week and the climactic series finale… it’s time to knock it all down!

Agents of Shield

7.10, “Stolen”

Now that the agents are out of a time storm and back in action, it’s full-on, outright war between them and their allied enemies. And it’s an intriguing clash, as Nathaniel Malick has seemed to make chaos itself his cause, pursuing anarchy above all. Many of Shield’s previous enemies have stood for various kinds of order, as has Shield itself, though Shield, in its purest form, has stood for order in the service of freedom. Hydra pursued order in service of its own power, Jiaying and the Inhumans tried to make a new order in service to their traditions, Hive tried to sacrifice individuality itself for its order, the Watch Dogs very much wanted order instead of chaos, and so forth. But Malick wants to overturn all order, especially the order of his own inevitable death. I can’t help but think that he wants to gain the Chronicoms’ longevity for himself, but once that’s done, I imagine their alliance would immediately shatter, anarchy vs enslavement, with the agents fighting both.

But that’s getting slightly ahead of things.

In this episode, both sides go at each other, recruiting new allies and invading each others’ strongholds. Both sides achieve their immediate objectives, but Shield gains less and loses more, in a round that goes decidedly in Malick’s favor.

Malick recruits none other than than the 1983 version of John Garrett, the final big bad of the first season. And can I say, I just find that constant smile of his annoying? There are smiles that display happiness, and good feeling, and there are smiles that are all about one’s own self-importance. Garrett’s smile is definitely the latter kind. It’s very obnoxious.

Being all about himself, the young Garrett is easily brought into Malick’s fold. He just reveals that things won’t go well for him in the future, including a little tour of such on Sybil’s part, and voila. Oh, and he promises him more power, including an Inhuman power and immortality. The theft of Inhuman power is demonstrated, as Lee, with his materializing blades, is sucked dry, his power given to one of Malick’s people. And then Malick has Cora finish him off.

Cora has an interesting moment there. She’s obviously enjoying the feeling of not being under anyone’s thumb, not needing to be afraid, and not feeling like she has to die to protect everyone else. After nearly killing herself, and gaining some sort of control of her power, that has got to be nothing short of euphoric. She likes what Malick has sold her. But when it comes to killing this man who would have been her executioner, she hesitates. She doesn’t actually hate him, I think. She even agreed with him, in a way, that she had to die. She might have chosen something different… until he speaks again, and snuffs out that sympathetic spark. She burns his head after that.

Over in Shield’s camp, the agents reclaim the Lighthouse, turned over to them by Roxy as she heads off to join the actual Shield of the day, alongside the rest of the crew that Deke brought in. With no more time-jumping going on, the agents have a chance to dig in and stand their ground, here and now, against Malick and Sybil. LMD Coulson takes a partial lead in things, which prioritizes fighting Malick and rescuing the Inhumans being held in Afterlife. So, they send coordinates to the watch Yo-Yo gave Jiaying, and, poof! She and Gordon arrive almost instantly.

So, Malick got the first season’s final villain on his side, and Shield gets the second season’s final opponents on their side. It’s unusual, and Shield tries to not reveal the future too much, for obvious we-were-at-war-and-we-killed-you-both reasons, but there it is. Oh, and Daisy, who is staring at her mother as she once was, learns that she has (or had) a sister, which she knew nothing about before. And it may well be that, without Cora’s death, her suicide, Daisy may never have been born at all. I mean, in the original timeline, Cora committed suicide, so it would be understandable for Jiaying to leave Afterlife after that, and do charity work, too. That’s what brought her and Cal together in the first place, which resulted in Daisy.

Of course, that also led Jiaying towards Whitehall’s brutalization of her, with the resulting madness and hatred of Shield and Hydra both, which led to her trying to kill Daisy, which led to her own final death.

The future is a door that can turn on very small hinges.

Sousa, strong and steadfast as he is, sees how Daisy is conflicted by the sight of her mother as she once was, and urges her to talk with Jiaying. Spend a little time with the better version, the one that was lost in years to come, the one that was truly murdered in Whitehall’s lab. And Daisy actually listens to him, which speaks volumes for her regard of him. So, with his support, Daisy approaches Jiaying, and tells her a bit of her story, including how she never knew her mother (whom she does not name) growing up, and then found a mother who wasn’t who she thought, and who even hurt her, very badly. Jiaying, fresh off her failures with Cora, can only offer an observation, that sometimes trying to do the right thing comes out all wrong. That’s what she tried to do with Cora, and what her future self tried to do when she led her people against Shield, and, both times, it quite definitely turned out wrong.

Elsewhere, Simmons is entertaining some awful suspicions, much like I did at the end of last episode. Daisy reveals how, in the moment when she had no implant, and her mind was clear, she was utterly devastated by something she knew. Going through the possibilities, Simmons starts putting some pieces together. They haven’t heard a thing from Fitz for the entire season, and every jump they made before the malfunction that sent them into a time storm was directed by the Chronicoms. The countdown hasn’t started up again since they fixed it, and every message she’s sent to Fitz has gone unanswered. She doesn’t like what all of this intimates, and Deke is flatly in denial about the most likely possibility, that Fitz is dead, and Simmons is hiding that truth from herself.

As for the mission itself, it goes to pot pretty quickly. Mack and Yo-Yo hang back in the jet while Gordon teleports LMD Coulson in to scout ahead. The scouting half of the team is immediately ambushed, as Malick has the time stream device and it let him anticipate their arrival. Gordon is stunned with a blast, taken and drained, his teleporting power given to Garrett. LMD Coulson waits for an opportune moment before making his escape, to rescue the Inhumans, but before he can even try to bash the door down, Gordon spends the last of his life getting them out of said room. He nearly killed Mack, Coulson, and Fitz in the second season, but his younger self gives his life helping the agents save his people.

The rescue mission goes well after that, with Yo-Yo’s speed in play, and the guard lightened as Malick goes after what he wants elsewhere. Cora doesn’t resist either, though LMD Coulson ices her anyway. They rescue everyone who’s still alive and take prisoners of their own, but they still lost Gordon, and they lose even more before the end.

Malick and Garrett’s invasion of the Lighthouse goes decidedly in their favor, despite how Garrett was getting his butt kicked by May before he slipped away. Malick finds Daisy and Jiaying, pushing them emotionally with the full, uncensored version of their story, until Daisy shuts him up with a furious vibration blast. He returns that favor, sending her flying, and is so very cocky that he doesn’t even have his guard up. Jiaying pounces from behind as he passes her, defending her future daughter, as any mother would. She almost finishes him, I think, but Malick gets one hand up, and breaks her neck.

In one timeline, she died trying to kill Daisy, her own daughter. In this one, untouched by trauma-induced madness, she dies defending her.

Malick has very good reason to run away scared at that point. He may have stolen Daisy’s power, copied it, and spent more time with it than she has, but she is still the true and original Quake, the Destroyer of Worlds (though that is a misnomer), and seeing her mother (her real mother) killed like that, in her defense… well, Hell hath no fury like a woman, even when that woman can’t make earthquakes. That’s the sort of thing that makes any man interested in his own survival run away in expeditious retreat.

So, he runs. And I really hope, after messing with her and her family and her personal timeline so much, that Daisy has at least some part to play in his utter destruction. But that’s not quite yet.

For now, Malick wins a resounding victory, when he and Garrett steal none other than Simmons, and make their escape in Z-1. Deke is somewhere aboard it, but he’s the definition of outgunned here.

So, the agents rescued the Inhuman prisoners, and took a few of their own, including Cora.

While Malick and his company killed Lee, Gordon, and Jiaying, took the powers from Lee and Gordon, took Z-1, and took Simmons. They took her because Sybil’s use of the time stream shows that every single scenario in which Malick and the Chronicoms lose, Fitz is always involved. He is the one common factor in every defeat, which makes it suddenly more sensible for Simmons to have used the extreme precautions she did in guarding him, not just because he’s important, not just because she loves him, but because he’s the linchpin to the whole thing.

…by that logic, however, he has to still be alive, in some form. So, what did Simmons remember that left her so devastated? Is it that she has already experienced Fitz’s death, or, somehow, something else? I have no idea. But we’ll find out soon enough!

For now, as the endgame of Agents of Shield looms over us, and starts to fall on top of us, being knocked over by the show’s creators, we are left with this:

If this were a chess match, then the agents just took a pawn but lost a queen in return, and it’s left them in check. Not quite checkmate, but pretty darn close, and a pretty tough situation to get out of.

Which is exactly as it should be, with The End coming up! 🙂

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