9:05 pm EDT, May 31, 2019

‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 6×04, ‘Code Yellow,’ review: #Busted

Deke’s new life isn’t quite what it seems and things get serious between Elena and Keller in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6×04, “Code Yellow.”

After three episodes of conspicuous absence, the whereabouts of future-space-grifter-grandson Deke have been revealed. Unfortunately for Deke, that means his holiday from S.H.I.E.L.D. is ending… but S.H.I.E.L.D. has bigger concerns.

What happened in ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 6×04?

After a year on his own, Deke Shaw has become an action hero! He fights goons, avenges friends, spits cheesy lines and rescues the Daisy. It’s awesome! It’s definitely real!

…It’s a simulation.

In reality, Deke has become a startup bro. His main product uses the Framework as a fully-immersive video game called Remorath Rumble (what could possibly go wrong) but he’s also stealing ideas from the future and S.H.I.E.L.D. to create “new” technology. Deke’s girlfriend Sequoia is a social media influencer, and in between cooing over Deke’s ideas, she really wants some boba for the ‘gram.

S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to pursue Sarge and his team, as said Sarge and said team pursue and kill an apparently-innocent man they have located with the gun they set off last week. The man starts sprouting crystalline spikes, which, yikes. Hope we don’t have to see THAT again any time soon.

Interrupted by an unexpected meeting, Deke sends Sequoia to find her own boba. The meeting, it turns out, is with Sarge; apparently Deke’s literally untimely existence has also caught the attention of the glow-gun. Deke eventually figures out that the man who looks like Coulson is not actually Coulson.

Sarge and his team begin to attack the offices, and Deke’s assistant reveals himself to be Agent Khan of S.H.I.E.L.D., who has been keeping an eye on Deke (aka “Code Yellow”) for the past year. Mack and May rendezvous with Khan and Deke on the quinjet, and quickly turn to apprehending Sarge and his team.

An oblivious Sequoia returns to the offices and calls Deke, who returns to rescue her (and her boba). As Sequoia captures the excitement on Instagram, Mack and Deke manage to apprehend Jaco by knocking him out in Remorath Rumble. May tangles with Snowflake, but is captured when Sarge turns up. She is borne away on their truck, her face rigid with fury and anguish.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., Elena and Keller prepare to move forward with their relationship, though Keller tells Elena that Mack isn’t over her. The two attend Dr. Benson’s autopsy of the poor, spiky sod killed by Sarge, which reveals a bloodstream full of zombifying neurotoxin and a wildly creepy alien bird lodged in the guy’s chest.

Unfortunately, basic security protocols no longer seem to be a thing at S.H.I.E.L.D., and the space-bird escapes through the vent. Keller and Elena try to apprehend it, but the thing lodges itself in Keller’s chest through his mouth. (Through his mouth!!) Benson considers surgery as Keller grows increasingly panicked, but the parasite takes over. As Keller begins to blossom with those awful spikes, Elena tearfully stabs him with Sarge’s knife, killing him.

This was… an unexpectedly dark development for an episode like this, show.

In the tag scene, Sequoia’s Instagram stories play out her day, culminating in a date with the very sexy Agent Khan. Hashtag get it, girl.

Takeaways

“Code Yellow” is a bit more restrained than last week’s space-drug-fueled romp, but it may be even more fun to watch. With intergalactic weirdness restrained to accenting the action, it’s a mix of satire and pure energetic character work that provides the engine for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6×04.

Most of the episode is carried by Jeff Ward, who returns to Deke with possibly even more derpy zeal than before. It’s delightful to watch Deke’s arc curve through the episode; the layers of his reality peel away, leaving S.H.I.E.L.D. looming behind them — the kind of exasperating truth that the organization hasn’t been able to pull off in years, making the whole affair fondly nostalgic for everyone who isn’t Deke Shaw.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6×04 also does an admirable job at reestablishing Deke in his all his chuckling flaws. He’s a confident man taking the whole world for a ride, sure. But he’s also intermittently earnest. In contrast to the hilariously vapid Sequoia (played with wonderful relish by showrunner Maurissa Tancharoen), Deke has experienced suffering and deprivation, a background that anchors his only fractionally altruistic entrepreneurship.

At the same time, “Code Yellow” inches forward the mystery of what Sarge and his team are seeking here on Earth. By all initial appearances, their intentions are as violent as their methods. But the pieces don’t add up quite as well as the S.H.I.E.L.D. team might think.

The PEG gun that so preoccupied Team Sarge in episode 2 appears to identify individuals who are, for some reason, misplaced in time. Most of these people, like the unfortunate Mr. Silco, seem to already have been infected with the parasitic alien bird creature. Elena putting poor Keller out of his misery suggests strongly that Sarge is snuffing out, rather than perpetuating, this strange infection.

But at the same time, Sarge and his team are clearly more dangerous than a grungy trans-dimensional pest control. Deke not only attracts their attention, but holds it, despite the fact that his signal indicates no infection.

“You’re not from here, and you shouldn’t be here,” Sarge tells Deke, which means he must die slowly. That seems a little extreme — and not at all unlike the Hunter Chronicom who kidnapped Fitz in last week’s episode. It’s all still frustratingly vague, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be approaching clarity on the particular issue of Sarge’s intentions. Hopefully the forthcoming face-to-uncomfortably-familiar-face with May will begin to set straight the varying identities and stakes of this story — and provide a much-needed catharsis for poor Melinda.

Elena may also need to talk through a few things when next we see her. Keller hasn’t been around long, but his loss adds real emotional dimension to the otherwise zany “Code Yellow” — the tears in his and Elena’s eyes as he dies reflect how brief and necessarily wasteful his time with S.H.I.E.L.D. has been. And it’s all the more impactful as the situation escalates so quickly. What begins as a curiosity of the week scales up to a freak show, to a horror module, to actually deadly catastrophe with unnerving fluidity.

All these elements combine to make Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6×04 the strongest outing of the season thus far, and a powerful return to form for the show’s blend of comedy and drama. The pieces are all in play, the aim of the game is growing clearer, and it seems like S.H.I.E.L.D. is firing on all cylinders once again.

Best quotes

Kya: Your idea about a prosthetic hand that has its own energy shield? Engineering loves it.

Mack: It’s Coulson!
May: It’s not Coulson.
Mack: We gotta call him something.
May: Not that.

Keller: Heard a body came in. Do we know the cause of death?
Elena: No, but if they called us, that means it’s not old age.

Keller: To be clear, I’m in. I will fight for you if I have to. Not, fight fight. Mack terrifies me. But more, emotionally fight?

Jaco: If you consider the infinite complexity of nature, maybe strange is the norm.

Benson: Well, this is the strangest autopsy I’ve performed since… the last one.

Keller: It’s probably too fast, but how would you feel about bringing an alien bird into our relationship?

Deke: Am I Code Yellow? And should I be insulted? Because it feels that way.

Mack: If this guy wants to take out Deke Shaw, he’s gonna have to wait in line.

Sequoia: Thank you for saving my life.
Khan: Thank you for introducing me to Frosé!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6×05, “The Other Thing,” airs Friday, June 14 at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.

Our Score

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