If you needed a metaphor for the plot lines of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6, look no further than the end of the newest episode, which serves as a literal embodiment of the episode’s namesake. This season has been consistent in fun, but less consistent in coherence. Characters are scattered and every episode feels like a different format. In the first part of this two-parter, the audience is promised that everything will finally fit into place.
This episode is very traditional S.H.I.E.L.D., not so much the weird space comedy character study that previous episodes have been, and fully leaning into the television-budget action movie feel that fans are used to. We’ve had some fun forays into different genres, but now we’re back at a comfort zone.
Sarge easily got his way in the previous episode with Team S.H.I.E.L.D., but Mack is still trying to play hardball. Sarge and his team member Snowflake are forced to team up with May, Daisy, and Deke. It’s an awkward situation for all, May and Daisy for obvious reasons, but the cheery-yet-dangerous Snowflake is strangely drawn to Deke, resulting in some silliness.
Daisy gets some time to poke into Sarge’s head, and we learn that (at least at some point) this guy has a heart. His mission is less so to save the Earth from this Shrike parasite, but more so for revenge after losing not only his planet, but his family to them. It’s a bit cliché (especially after just seeing Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but I won’t spoil any of that here), but seeing the lengths that Sarge is willing to take by the end of this episode was actually quite interesting to see.
It was also nice to finally see the S.H.I.E.L.D. characters asking the questions that we’ve been asking regarding Sarge and his near-identical appearance (and genetics) to Phil Coulson. I still at this point don’t understand the thematic reasons (except to create drama amongst the characters), but Daisy is pressing on the mechanical and practical reasons—it can’t be a coincidence, and surely there must be a concrete reason for why they are crossing paths.
The plot line in Sarge’s truck was probably the most interesting portion of this set-up episode, with all of the interest sucking out every time we cut back to Mack and Yo-Yo in the Lighthouse. I’ve said in previous episode reviews that I find the two quite boring individually in their new roles on the team, and somehow they’re even less interesting together.
I get that they’re no longer a romantic couple, but this episode tries to move forward by making Yo-Yo the most important right-hand person and voice of reason for Mack. Even as co-workers and friends, all of the chemistry we’ve seen from these two performers for years has been distilled and rendered non-existent. All the pair serves is for some exposition setting up the real bad guy, which the two other plot lines were basically already doing.
And in case that “Izel” character from last week seemed too good to be true for Fitz and Simmons, your instincts would be correct. This episode wastes no time in setting up the chess pieces, but it also provides a lot of emotional context for Izel and Sarge as the two are set up for, uh, just look at the episode title. It was this kind of brutal efficiency and conciseness that I was missing from S.H.I.E.L.D. seasons of yore.
So to sum up, here are the moving parts: Sarge and his team, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents on the ground, the Shrike threat (which provides even more awesome body horror, on a larger scale in this episode), the Chronicom conflict, and a spaceship with Izel and an oblivious Fitz-Simmons heading to Earth, pretty much all more or less centering around the mythology of the Monoliths from those past seasons.
It’s well-shot action with cool visual effects, intriguing plot developments, and fun characters—if you weren’t convinced that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the perfect manifestation of MCU television, you certainly should be convinced now.