With the clock running out on their timeline, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team must confront an unexpected antagonist in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×21.

Talking Talbot

The central preoccupation of this week’s episode, titled “The Force of Gravity,” can be summed up thusly: What the HELL do we do about Talbot?

This question dogs the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. team, who turn out to be no less nostalgic for (relatively) simpler times than the rest of us. Coulson grapples with guilt over Talbot’s evolution into Graviton, while FitzSimmons, Elena, and Mack cope uneasily with the consequences. Talbot’s turn, and the truly upsetting actions that follow, unearth ideas that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has eyed since its beginning. Once again, the team is forced to reckon with questions that do not have an obvious answer.

What makes a villain? What do we do when we find ourselves deeply changed? And what is our responsibility toward those who have fallen, when we could have helped them? Forget gravity — this is where the true weight of the episode comes into play.

Daisy dukes, FitzSimmons philosophize

It may come as some relief to learn that, after several weeks of passionate antagonism, no new fights break out amongst the thoroughly-cracked members of Coulson’s team. (That’s partly because Daisy is in space while Simmons, Fitz, and Yo-Yo are on Earth, but why split hairs?)

The calm on that front doesn’t mean that all is well, however. In the Lighthouse, Fitz and Simmons cook up a Hail Mary theory about the end of the world, while simultaneously attempting to both extend and end unnatural lives. Daisy, apprehended by Cassius Sr., has her own blue fish to fry, and the situation isn’t promising. But amidst a lot of grander and darker moments, “The Force of Gravity” offers one subtle scene that will make fans cheer — that’s the Daisy we know and love!

A hearty forecast

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×21 is a funny beast on the romance front. The storm-tossed Mack and Elena share a truly beautiful and emotionally crystalizing moment, while Simmons and Fitz do absolutely nothing but science in that dark lab of theirs.

As for the will-they/won’t-they couple of the hour, there certainly are… developments… in the Coulson and May arena. They might not come about when or how fans expect, but don’t count anything out when there’s all that gravity hanging around.

Have you seen the news?

Finally, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×21 clarifies the series’ take on the events of Avengers: Infinity War, and that is basically “Let’s take it slow.” While Earth’s Actual Mightiest Heroes (not you, Talbot) cope with chaos around the galaxy, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. adopts a more realistic approach to the events back on Earth. Extraterrestrial invasions of New York and terrifying portents of doom are, after all, not exactly unusual in the New Normal of the MCU. “The Force of Gravity” plays with that idea, adding some perspective to the film’s colossal events… and teasing greater movements still to come.

Bonus hint: Aw, crap.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×21, “The Force of Gravity,” airs Friday, May 11 at 9:00 p.m. on ABC.

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