9:05 pm EDT, July 5, 2019

‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 6×08 review: He said, she said

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6×08 is like Speed with aliens and a much bigger cliffhanger. Here’s our review of “Collision Course (Part I).”

After last week’s largely water-treading experience, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes a gratifying return to action, while keeping everyone off-balance. What, after all, is the truth? But first…

What happened on ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 6×08?

In the Lighthouse, Mack calls Sarge’s bluff and holds back on his end of the team-saving bargain. He will return Sarge’s truck to him, but only one member of his crew, and May and Daisy will accompany him to the point where the enemy (here called “the Beast,” the first of many names) will arrive on Earth. In exchange, Mack promises not to leave the base.

As they prepare to leave, Sarge’s shrike-repellent pulse (or anyway, that’s what he says it is) breaks. Mack sends Deke along as tech support (and blackmail.) Snowflake, the selected crew member, takes an immediate liking to Deke’s, er, “beautiful soul.”

Mack reveals that he Elena, Jaco, and Pax will follow in their “mobile base.” Elena hopes they recognize “the beast” when they see it, and Pax freaks out at the prospect of following Sarge.

In space, Izel, Fitz, Simmons, and the crew make the risky jump to Earth successfully. Then Izel coaxes a shrike to life with a song, so… that’s Not Great.

As Sarge drives, Daisy asks questions. She doesn’t get much information, but he determined to “kill her” — the “her” in question being the Beast, that Beast being some lady named Izel.

Meanwhile, Izel (oh hey Izel!) tells Fitz and Simmons part of her story as they try and fix the ship’s coms. Izel will never see her home again because of her hunt for the artifacts that were stolen from her world long ago. Simmons offers to help Izel get home, and she appears touched by their kindness. Izel is, indeed, seeking the monoliths, which she calls “Dialis,” and were created to “connect life together.” Izel had found them on Chronica-2, but she was attacked and the planet destroyed.

Then Izel adds more spice to this complicated stew: The reason she is being hunted to the point of destruction is because she knows the truth about her pursuer — she knows what he really is.

Or anyway, that’s her version of the story. But Izel then proceeds to shrike-ify the rest of the crew, so let’s take this with a healthy spoon of salt. Benson also sends Mack and Elena some incriminating information on an Incan demon with her name, who comes from a realm of fear and darkness, is surrounded by bird-things, tracks down monoliths, and leaves destruction in her wake. #history

Simmons fills Fitz in on the other two monoliths, while he pouts about being Simmons’ “second” husband. Simmons tries to focus on contacting Earth.

Back on Earth, no one is sure whether or not to trust Sarge. Elena thinks he isn’t sharing his whole plan, while May feels an instinct to trust him. Daisy disagrees, attributing this to Sarge’s appearance.

Deke and Snowflake start hooking up, only to be interrupted when Sarge needs the shrike-repeller fixed again. Sarge divulges that Izel killed his family, and the only way to stop her is to stab her with this sword he happens to have right here. Daisy, forced to reveal her powers, is skeptical.

And then a whole bunch of shrikes pull up at their destination and start forming a gruesome shrike tower. (Yay.) Sarge explains that they will draw power from the Earth, grow, and erupt into more shrikes which will destroy all life. This is what he’s been trying to prevent with his shrike-massacre, and they need to destroy the tower before the monster arrives. Sarge also mentions that he has “an insurance policy” just in case.

While all this has been going on, Pax has been hatching various escape plans. He kills a S.H.I.E.L.D. guard and frees Jaco, who admits that Pax does not know the whole plan. Eventually, Pax confesses that Sarge has rigged a bomb on the truck that will decimate a massive area — and they are flying right to the strike zone.

Armed with this information, Daisy and May confront Sarge. He is unfazed by the scale of the imminent destruction, and says there is no way to stop the bomb; it will explode on impact, or if the truck stops. He apologizes to Snowflake, who screams, and leaves to reach a red circle drawn on top of the truck.

Mack is at a loss, the tension heightened by Izel’s totally unresponsive ship being spotted in Earth’s atmosphere. On board, Fitz and Simmons are very confused for such smart people as Izel and her zombified crew stalk past. Deke locates the bomb, and Sarge makes the circle a portal and arrives on the Zephyr.

And the forces converge on the rapidly growing tower of crystal spikes. The deadly truck; the infiltrated Zephyr; the enemy ship, carrying friends.

Davis asks for Mack’s orders; he does not know what to say.

In the tag scene, Enoch contacts another Anthropologist and makes plans to repair the Chronicom civilization. But Malachi and another Hunter have other plans — to use Fitz and Simmons’ brains, stored in the mind-meld machine. “I’m going in,” Malachi says.

Oh, good luck with that, sir.

Takeaways

Here’s the thing about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Sometimes, it makes you wait.

Sometimes, it dawdles. Sometimes, it lingers. Sometimes, it stretches out stories and mysteries that just aren’t worth the time.

But at the end of the day, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. usually finds its way back to the urgency it sometimes misplaces. The story engines rev, the characters click into place, and all the necessary elements converge, focusing with an intention and clarity that still teases more than one mystery.

While some reservation must be held for the second half of this particular adventure, that very much seems to be the case with “Collision Course (Part I.)” Gone is the sense that the series is stalling for time; if you’ll forgive the reference, we finally seem to be hitting the endgame.

In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6×08, a lot of this energy comes from the episode’s willingness to embrace uncertainty. This isn’t the extended debates of previous episodes, but rather many people being compelled to action despite real uncertainty as to the correct course — or indeed, even the veracity of their information. Mack regains the upper hand on Sarge through definitive action (in contrast to last week’s episode, he is refreshingly confident in his decisions) but remains aware that the broader situation contains many unknown variables.

Likewise, May and Daisy gamble with suspicion and trust as they are forced to work together with Sarge for what seems like the greater good. For May, the issue is particularly muddled as she begins to tilt toward trust — an emotional gamut that is probably not yet over for the unbeatable agent.

Daisy has an easier time as her skepticism proves at least partially justified, but the number of questions (not least of which is, “How do we get out of this one??”) makes it hard for her to find and maintain balance at any given point.

Up in space, Simmons and Fitz explore the other side of uncertainty. Their biggest question, the efficacy of Izel’s jump drive, is answered almost immediately. They think they know what they’re dealing with — fix the coms, get home, and help Fitz get over his paradox-hangups. But the reality, as Izel sells them her version of the grand story in which Sarge, not she, is the murderous villain, grows increasingly complicated.

Fitz and Simmons have never heard of the shrike, nor do they know of Sarge’s existence; instead, as the Something Is Wrong scale slowly ticks upward, the ship bears them down toward a very deadly-seeming conflict of which they are completely ignorant.

Fun times.

The only way to eventually resolve this uncertainty in the macro is to discover which of the two mysterious storytellers is giving us the truth. (Or the closest thing to it, anyway.) The scale is decidedly slanted against Izel, given the information yielded by Benson’s research (she’s a literal demon!) and the fact that there seems to be absolutely no redeeming qualities to the shrike or their perpetuation. Let’s get real, even after several episodes of this, that spike tower is creepy as fuck.

But there are holes (portal-sized holes?) in Sarge’s story too. His moving lines about lost family are moving, but could also be calculated nonsense. It’s more tempting to trust him as he seems relatively straightforward in the information he does divulge, but Sarge’s appetite for destruction remains highly suspicious. (Plus, what is even up with that sword?)

The key may be in combining Izel’s information on Sarge’s identity with the Sarge’s ultimate motive. Izel is fixated on the monoliths — could he have his eyes on them as well? Or is something else entirely at work here? The only thing we know for sure is that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wants nothing more than for us all to be thoroughly unbalanced in our certainties. Fortunately, they’ve added enough verve back to this tale for it to be worth the balancing act.

Best quotes

Sarge: My plan is to stop it.
Daisy: The end of the world? Yeah, been there, done that.

Mack: I’m sorry, I’m not very fluent in vague.

Deke: No, no, no, no, no! I am not going anywhere with the evil Coulson twin!

Sarge: I got news for you, sweetheart. I’ve been to a lot of worlds, and all I see is random.

Deke: Snowbunny—
Daisy: “Snowbunny”?
Deke: She gets me! She said that my soul was like a butterfly that was just dying to escape, and you know what? That’s exactly how I feel!

Sarge: Seriously, Snow? I like it better when you kill them.

Daisy: What’s her motive?
Sarge: Hatred for all living things.
Daisy: What’s yours?
Sarge: Love.
Sarge: …No, it’s hate. That’s my thing too. Hate and revenge.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6×09, “Collision Course (Part II)” airs Friday, July 12 at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.

What do you think is true after ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 6×08?

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