10:30 am EDT, March 22, 2018

‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 5×14 hints: Damned if they do, damned if they don’t

The fear dimension shows no mercy in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×14, but that might just be the least of Team Coulson’s problems in this harrowing episode.

What’s in a name?

One thing I must say right off the bat: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×14 lives up to its name.

Titled “The Devil Complex,” this week’s episode is all about the demons perched on our character’s shoulders, seeding doubt and devious ideas into distressingly fertile ground. For once, the oppressive gloom of the Lighthouse set pays off, reflecting the team’s increasingly grim mindset — and providing plenty of shadowy corners for the most awful of monsters to hide.

This one gets dark, my friends. You may need a flashlight.

Fitz in the hot seat

Much of the drama in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×14 swirls around Fitz, who is strained to the breaking point by the team’s seemingly insolvable scientific dilemmas. Toss in the added stress of the cranky fear dimension, warring protectiveness and desperation, and no small amount of exhaustion, and, well… the result is an incredibly potent cocktail that Fitz has no choice but to drink.

It’s a bitter brew, and it leaves an aftertaste unlike anything you may have expected. Fitz’s alter-ego from the Framework turns up in its aftermath, but that’s barely even the beginning of this trip. (What this all means for Simmons is, frankly, too complex to address in a spoiler-friendly fashion.)

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Suffice to say that the only predictable variable in the whole storyline is Iain deCaestecker’s phenomenal performance, which is good enough to leave your teeth rattling in your head.

Coulson’s gambit

While the fun times roll in the Lighthouse of Horrors, “The Devil Complex” also makes time to push a few other pieces surprisingly far across the chessboard of season 5. Coulson and May wind up in a sticky situation populated by more familiar faces (and familiar threats) but it’s Coulson’s potentially game-changing decision that really stands out here.

Since the revelation that his days are numbered, Coulson has been swatting away the team’s unalloyed concern for his wellbeing. But it’s here in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×14 that the Director really recovers the agency for which we know and love him.

It may or may not turn out all that great! But it’s sure fun to watch Coulson do his thing.

There will be blood (and other stuff)

Blood is hardly an unusual sight on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — this is a show that has gleefully ripped out eyeballs and chopped off its main character’s hand on screen, after all. But what is unusual in “The Devil Complex” is who winds up drawing blood from whom, and why. The circumstances this week are uniquely intimate, uniquely painful… and designed to leave very memorable scars.

Changes, changes

Change has been a potent question throughout Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5, especially as the demands of an unyielding fate have pressed down on Coulson and the crew. But that has never yet been as clearly illustrated as it is in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×14.

“The Devil Complex” works its alchemy on characters and story alike, effecting deep and unsettling change that seems built to last. Loose ends and odd questions come home to roost, and the lens through which fans viewed both past and future bends with frustrating obedience. (And I mean that as a compliment.)

More than Elena’s loss of her arms, more than FitzSimmons’ wedding, the events of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×14 are a bonafide game-changer. And if previous seasons are any indication, the ride is just beginning.

Strap in, folks. It’s about to get crazy.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×14, “The Devil Complex,” airs Friday, March 23 at 9:00 p.m. on ABC.

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