9:05 pm EDT, June 14, 2019

‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 6×05 review: Whatever my man is…

May saw another side of Sarge while Simmons took a gamble on the future in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6×05.

Following the previous episode’s wacky adventures of Deke Shaw, “The Other Thing” returns to the higher points of drama on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Results are mixed, but we’re definitely getting somewhere. But first…

What happened on ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 6×05?

On Earth, Agent May experiences woozy flashbacks to her time with Coulson in Tahiti. Her memories blend oddly with her captivity, but when she comes to, Sarge informs May that he is going to “turn” her to his side.

Sarge and May exchange biting words, and the man who looks like Coulson expresses a rather snarky confusion at being recognized. Sarge calls Coulson an “imposter,” but May throws this in his face, stating that she knows the story of Coulson’s entire life; the question is not who Coulson was, but who Sarge is. During this exchange, Sarge comments that, “Every dream is someone else’s nightmare,” words echoed by Coulson in May’s memories.

After more flashbacks of Coulson’s increasing weakness, Sarge dumps May in a room with Snowflake and a bound man, who May is instructed to kill. Sarge shoots the man and locks May into the room with a dagger. The man creepily reanimates, the alien bird straining from his mouth, and battles May until she incapacitates him. The zombie erupts into crystals, and May stabs him with the blue knife.

A satisfied Sarge welcomes May to the team, and explains that Earth is the latest planet to be infiltrated by the creatures, called shrikes. His goal is to prevent “Pachakutic,” the death of all things, by hunting down and destroying the shrikes. He plans to make his last stand on Earth, waiting for their creator. Sarge informs May that he has been alive for a hundred Earth years and will live long past her. His words about “the ticking of the clock” bleed into more, strangely convergent memories of Coulson.

May plays along with Sarge, but picks her moment to strike. She attacks Snowflake and then — bombarded with memories — goes for Sarge as he drives the truck. Knocking him out, May resumes driving, but not without gently placing Sarge’s hand on his lap, as she once did for Coulson.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., a guilty Mack grapples with his choices and attempts to connect with Elena. He fears he is losing control, but cannot truly reach out to her, leaving her disappointed and cold. Elena expresses concern about Benson’s behavior, and Mack speaks with him about drinking on the job, displeasing the scientist.

After Keller’s autopsy, Benson confronts Elena. The tension dissipates when the two connect over having to make devastating choices for the ones they loved — Elena having stabbed Keller, and Benson having had to take his husband off life support.

Benson says that the dead alien bird has crystalized into a familiar material; the same stuff of which the monoliths were composed. Benson theorizes that the third monolith may have controlled life and death, and thinks that the ley lines work off of similar energy. He wants to retrace S.H.I.E.L.D.’s path to finding the monoliths.

Meanwhile, up in space, Daisy, Simmons, Piper, Davis, and Enoch attempt to flee from what appears to be the Kree Confederacy. Enoch senses something is off, and opens the hatch for Altarah, a leader of the Chronicom race who has taken over the Kree fleet after the mysterious annihilation of almost all of the Chronicoms.

Holding Fitz hostage, Altarah demands to know how the S.H.I.E.L.D. team previously traveled through time, as she hopes to do the same to prevent the tragedy. Altarah is extremely aggressive, refusing to believe that Simmons and Daisy have no idea how the time travel took place. She threatens to kill Fitz, but Simmons insists that he is the only one who can successfully invent time travel.

Enoch suggests that Simmons be taken hostage as motivation for Fitz’s genius. At first the team attempts to flee, but Simmons surrenders herself to save Daisy, Davis, and Piper, and — she hopes — work together with Fitz. The Zephyr finally returns to Earth, happy homecoming marred by the missing scientists.

Back in the Chronicom’s cell, Enoch tells an enraged Fitz the plan. Fitz is furious that Simmons will be in danger, but his anger at Enoch is cut off as Enoch, promising to remain friends, fills the cell with gas, knocking Fitz unconscious.

Takeaways

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6×05 returns to the season’s earlier pattern of covering events both on Earth and in space, and as such, “The Other Thing” has a much rockier road than the two streamlined previous episodes. This week’s installment is clearly more of a workhorse, sweeping the stories of the far-flung S.H.I.E.L.D. crew into their next act.

“The Other Thing” is efficient at clearing up the most pressing misconception of season 6 so far — Sarge’s maligned motives. Though clearly ruthless in his goal, it’s a relief to establish that Sarge is attempting to prevent the destruction wrought by the shrikes and their mysterious creator. It’s official: Sarge is (probably) not a bad guy.

The teams at the Lighthouse and in space come to parallel conclusions, each holding a piece of the bigger puzzle. Benson connects the shrike to the molecular composition of a word I’d hoped to never have to use again — the monoliths that have haunted S.H.I.E.L.D. since the second season. Up in space, Altarah demands the reconstruction of the time monolith because of the massacre of her people by those same creatures. Whether Fitz and Simmons will be able to forge this link on their own remains to be seen, and that’s quite apart from the question of whether they will want to, given the vivid traumas of time travel.

And the fact that I’m pretty sure no one cares to see another monolith.

Even with all of this cleared up though, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6×05 is more than happy to continue putting May through her emotional and psychological (and physical) paces. It’s possible that the strange connection of May’s memories and Sarge’s behavior is in her head, the product of being drugged or her own trauma. But it seems more like that “The Other Thing” is adding another layer to the links between Coulson and Sarge.

The two characters share the same DNA, and now they seem to share turns of phrase and space in May’s memories. Sarge claims to be an ancient warrior against the shrike, but it’s worth floating some skepticism on that claim. After all, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is well-versed with planting believable memories. And if Sarge needs help deciding what is actually true about his life, perhaps the good, old-fashioned memory machine might make its triumphant (and probably icky) return to the series after so long in the wings.

For the time being, May remains wedged in her painful limbo, mourning Coulson while battling his doppelgänger. What she decides to do back at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters — whether she comes to believe that Coulson might live inside Sarge, or continues to regard him as pure foe — will likely have an important impact on the rest of season 6.

More practically, “The Other Thing” condenses Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s three twisting plot lines back down to two more succinct paths. Sarge and his entire crew are now in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, Daisy has returned, and Benson (whose interactions with Elena proved truly touching) is newly invested in the madness around him. (Also Deke is there.) In the galaxy at large, it’s only Simmons and Fitz, and possibly Enoch, should he be forgiven.

So if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6×05 isn’t the season’s most cohesive or compelling episode, it certainly has its moments, and it undeniably gets the job done. Now we’re on to Act II — and what looks like a powerful, and long-awaited convergence of characters new and old.

Best lines

Sarge: You keep staring like that, my head’s bound to catch fire.
May: Fine by me.

Davis: Droppin’ aliens is what I do!
Piper: What is wrong with you?
Davis: …sorry.

Altarah: Lies. A favored human pastime.

May: I know where Coulson was born. Who his parents were. Seen pictures of him as a kid. I know how he lived and died. Everything. So the question you should be asking is, who the hell are you?

Mack: Where are we with Keller?
Benson: Nowhere. I’m examining the substance that grew out of him, but I never got certified for “parasitic alien bird,” so… who the hell knows?

Enoch: I cannot believe I ever granted you access to my data port.

Elena: I’ve made hard choices before. Being right doesn’t stop it from feeling wrong.

May: That’s why you came after Deke.
Sarge: Our tracker shows he’s not from here. But he’s no shrike. What is he?
May: Exhausting.

Snowflake: I dig the unyielding warrior vibe, but you’ve clearly closed yourself off from the Universe. You don’t even know what you don’t know! I can help you break free from your chrysalis of negativity!
May: Whatever you say, Princess Butterfly.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6×06, “Inescapable,” airs Friday, June 21 at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.

What did you think of ‘Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 6×05, ‘The Other Thing’?

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