10:10 pm EDT, August 2, 2019

‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ season 6 finale review: Time, wounds, healing not guaranteed

Everything has changed — or has it? — after the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 finale.

After last week’s game of guess-who, there’s no time to waste. Let’s dive into…

What happened in the ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ season 6 finale?

The Sign

Izel uses Flint to rebuild the monoliths. She is thrilled to “open the door” for her people and summons an army of shrike. Flint wakes up and tries to free his “parents” Mack and Elena, but Izel uses Elena to shatter Flint’s leg.

May gives Sarge a pep-talk about overcoming the thing inside him, though he claims it’s not that simple. En route to the Zephyr, May tells Daisy that she’s going to take her chance to get Coulson back, though she knows it might kill him. (Irony!)

Daisy, May, Sarge, and Piper find the empty Zephyr and seek out Izel’s temple. On the way, they are attacked by hoards of shrike-ified zombies; Sarge fights them off with some of Coulson’s classic snark, delighting May. Daisy leaves to divert the hoards, leaving Sarge and May to advance to the temple.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6x11

Back at the Lighthouse, Deke has impressed Fitz and Simmons with the anti-Izel devices, and reveals his plan to get an agent to Mack and Elena. It turns out that he has (somehow) moved his company to the base, and has been working on the Remorath jump drive (…as well as the Framework code).

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Fitz is furious about the stolen tech, and he and Deke fight as they try to make the drive work. Finally, Deke yells that he doesn’t belong anywhere and Daisy doesn’t love him, so he dons the drive and pops into the temple.

Now armed with anti-Izel bands, Mack and Elena fight back and flee with Deke and Flint. Deke turns back to distract the zombies, earning the title “Agent” from Mack, but panics when the jump drive stops working. At the Zephyr, Mack and Elena send Flint off in a quinjet with Piper, and are shocked when Daisy turns up. Zombies sneak inside the Zephyr.

Izel starts to sing, making the monoliths ripple. Sarge struggles, hearing her song. May insists that he will do the right thing, and that there is good in him even if Phil Coulson is truly gone. Deke watches Izel and sets up a camera so Fitz and Simmons can watch from the base, warning that they may be too late. Deke pops to the jungle and runs to a quinjet to escape more zombies.

agents of s.h.i.e.l.d. season 6 finale

May and Sarge advance into the temple as Daisy, Mack, and Elena argue about their choices while barricading themselves from zombies. Daisy is frustrated that the monoliths have been remade, while Mack is furious that they chose to trust Sarge.

Izel activates a portal with the liquified the monoliths. Sarge, who has already growled at May with a strange, terrifying voice, confronts Izel but cannot bring the sword down for the kill. May and Izel argue with Sarge to find his true self, and he admits that he feels awful emotional pain. May is encouraged by this, identifying it as love for herself and the team.

Sarge agrees and decides to end the pain, stabbing May instead and throwing her through the portal.

As we weep, Enoch is attacked by an anthropologist-turned-Hunter on Kitson.

New Life

Devastated, Simmons and Fitz tell the Zephyr team about May, and then lose comms and control of all their systems. The Lighthouse is invaded by Hunters, whom Malachi orders to “leave no prisoners.” Malachi takes the Toolbox.

Finding their rescue team executed, Fitz and Simmons realize that the Chronicoms have copies of their minds and know everything about S.H.I.E.L.D. They set up explosives to destroy all the remaining mind tech, as it will be especially dangerous if the Chronicoms gain access to the records of Coulson’s memories.

Simmons and Fitz prepare to sacrifice themselves when they are discovered by more Hunters, but are saved by Enoch in Isaiah’s body. He says that they can save everyone… but there is definitely a catch.

agents of s.h.i.e.l.d. season 6 finale

Still stunned by May’s death, Mack guides Deke into piloting the damaged quinjet back to the Zephyr. Elena is infected by a shrike as she and Daisy defend the bridge. The four fly back to the temple; Elena asks Daisy to stab her with Sarge’s knife if she turns. Daisy reluctantly agrees, but would rather focus on vengeance for May.

Izel makes eyes at Sarge until he attacks her, and she reveals the real deal. Sarge sent Izel to get the monoliths so he could leave their planet, but it took much longer than expected.

In the portal, three, uh… let’s call them dementors representing the monoliths come to life. May revives, removes the sword, and attacks the dementors before they can use their pendants to open the gate. The pendants fly out through the portal, shocking and angering Izel. She goes through to deal with May.

May and Izel prepare to fight. Apparently life and death does not exist in this liminal space, hence May’s revival. Izel says that Sarge is caught between the two of them, and May (never much one for banter) begins their deadly dance.

Mack, Daisy, and Elena attack Sarge. Daisy quakes him, revealing Pachakutiq beneath, but they are unable to take him down. Mack pulls an “I can do this all day” moment as Elena starts writhing in pain. Daisy can’t bring herself to stab her friend. Daisy takes over the Pachakutiq fight as Mack holds Elena, who transforms and begins to strangle him. He refuses to hurt her.

Beyond the portal, Izel gets the stones in place and opens the gate. She leaves May behind, undefeated but doomed if she follows. Sarge/Pachakutiq taunts Daisy about the eternity of torment awaiting her. Izel creeps up behind, but is stabbed by May and disappears, freeing Elena from her possession. May tosses Mack the sword, Daisy quakes Sarge’s body off of Pachakutiq, and Mack cuts him in half. Pachakutiq dissolves into dust, leaving nothing behind.

Daisy runs to May. Both are bereft to learn that no part of Coulson has survived, but May says she will see him soon enough. She dies, leaving Daisy devastated…

And harsh lights crash on, revealing a grim-looking Simmons. She says that May will be fine and has her put in a cryopod as agents take samples of the monoliths. Urging haste, Simmons directs the team back to the Zephyr — which has changed significantly, including the addition of an enormous, glowing jump drive. Daisy wonders how she did all this. “We had help, and we had time,” Simmons says.

agents of s.h.i.e.l.d. season 6 finale

She updates the shell-shocked team (and audience) on the Chronicom situation, and the Zephyr is launched by Fitz, whose location is unknown to Simmons. As they vanish, the temple is destroyed by rockets aimed at the Zephyr. Their destination is New York City, above which only the Empire State Building looms — still under scaffolding.

Yes, they have definitely updated the jump drive.

“Like I said,” Simmons says. “We had time.”

In the tag scene, one more bombshell awaits. The Chronicoms have all of the information and all of the technology; what S.H.I.E.L.D. needs is an expert in their own history to have a chance at stopping them.

So, they have created an LMD enhanced with Chronicom technology based on Enoch’s advice, restored with all memories and upgraded information. The remaining team has a decision to make. Enoch gives them an activation button, which Daisy nearly crushes in her eagerness to make that decision.

Lights strobe. Systems activate. And Coulson, restored to synthetic life, opens his eyes.

“Hey guys,” he says.

Takeaways

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 finale is an exercise in two opposing forces. Throughout both “The Sign” and “New Life,” characters are poised between divergent options, each a pivotal choice.

Sarge hovers between Coulson and Pachakutiq, Flint between truth and dreams. Daisy is caught between early faith and subsequent revenge. Fitz and Simmons stand at the crossroads of two lives, while May stands, quite literally, between life and death. She falls to one side (at least for a while) while Elena, similarly poised, falls to the other.

What’s interesting about this, beyond the specific mechanisms of the finale, is that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been somewhat flexible when it comes to the permanence of change. Only one original cast member, Brett Dalton, has left the series over its entire run. Through years of apparent deaths, disappearances, startling traumas and determined partings, the show has found a way to hold its center, even if that center happens to bear a different name for a while.

But the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 finale is designed to set up the show’s final seventh season, and that means some extra weight lands on the side of permanent change… even if it doesn’t look like it.

Agent May, we’re assured, can be brought back to life. But while it’s a tremendous relief to have hope for May, Coulson is nothing if not proof of the profound impact of dying on the life of the revived. Elena and Mack’s circumstances have changed too; Flint might have disappeared from the second hour of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 finale, but it’s obvious that the people who brought him to life with their minds are adorably on-board with being the future-child’s dedicated mom and dad.

Fitz and Simmons are a more obvious clue to the degree of real change at work, particularly in “New Life.” Fully prepared to end their own lives together, they are spared… but the price is changing “the natural course of [their] lives forever.” The consequences of this statement remain mostly mysterious but are clearly powerful.

Related: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast and crew tease season 6 cliffhangers, ‘incredible’ season 7

Whatever has transpired in the ambiguous “time” given to them hasn’t only produced the ability to leap delicately through time, but has also left behind a grimmer, harder version of Simmons, separated from Fitz once again. The difference is, there is no tooth-and-nail battle to reunite this time — Simmons says she “can’t know” where (or when) Fitz is, and there is no indication that this altered state will change any time soon.

Of course, it’s also important that all of these changes take place in the context of two apparent reversions. First, the team has quite literally backtracked through time to a much earlier era. Daisy’s comment about alcohol and the state of the Empire State Building suggests the 1920s, though obviously they may have a chance to flit around on the timeline; what adventures await there, only season 7 can tell.

And then there’s the revival of Coulson as a Chronicom-enhanced LMD. In one light, this development is a nod to the familiar patterns of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — our hero returns, not only in the mostly-flesh, but also to his original incarnation. If the impeccable suit and wry greeting are any indication, this LMD Coulson may be a return to the clean-cut, snarky agent we met after his first reincarnation.

But Coulson’s return as an LMD also bears the weight of loss. May’s iron-clad faith that he still lived within Sarge went unrewarded. The man of flesh whom she buried and loved is truly gone.

agents of s.h.i.e.l.d. season 6 finale

But isn’t that the thing, and hasn’t that always been the thing, about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? This wild ride has always been about the shift, the re-imagination, the new angle. The show has been reliably chameleonic ever since Hydra exploded from within S.H.I.E.L.D., and has never looked back. As much as it stays the same, it changes; as much as it changes, it stays the same.

The old S.H.I.E.L.D. base was replaced by the Lighthouse, the old bus morphed into Zephyr One, which is itself born anew.

And of course: Coulson has died and lived, and died and lived. Fitz and Simmons have been whole and divided again and again. May has healed and broken. Daisy’s name has changed along with her deepest molecules, but she remains.

So as the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 finale concludes and the series approaches its final incarnation, it feels particularly poignant to embrace the changes ahead. There may be divisions and loss and difference, it all might hurt like hell. But what drew us in — a wink, a joke, a lopsided smile — will always be there for us underneath it all.

Best quotes

Daisy: This is bad, but it can’t be worse than that one time on that one planet.
Piper: The smelly one?
Daisy: The shiny one.
Piper: Nothing is that bad.

Deke: Everybody? I’d like you to meet Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons. They identify as my grandparents, so please just go with it.

Fitz: You’ve stolen all of this!
Deke: I use good ideas! I use math, did I steal math?

Fitz: You said our grandson was a delight.
Simmons: He’s a work in progress.

Flint: You guys still have tacos, right?
Mack: All the tacos you want, Pebbles. We’ll hit a drivethrough when we get back.
Flint: Cool. Wait, what’s a drivethrough?

Mack: I went to enough Sunday school to learn that when the Devil shows up, he’ll be wearing the face of someone you trust.

May: It’s love. That pain is love. I know, because I was afraid of it, too. But you let me feel it. You gave that gift to me. You pulled me out of that cubicle. You gave me purpose. A crew. Remember me. Remember us. Daisy, Mack and Yo-Yo, Fitz and Simmons. You love us.

Enoch: I found that bluffing was much easier if you kill someone and take their skin.

Enoch: This will be the hardest thing you have ever done.
Simmons: I doubt that.
Fitz: Nothing’s ever easy with you, is it?
Simmons: What do we have to do?
Enoch: Change the natural course of your lives forever.
Fitz: Yeah, yeah, yeah…
Simmons: Oh, that again.

May: You sure death is meaningless here? Because those other three evaporated.
Izel: Their energies will live on as something else.
May: Right. I’ve heard that before. Well then, get ready to be reborn.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 7 airs next summer on ABC.

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