Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6.06 Inescapable
After searching the whole galaxy for one another Fitz and Simmons are finally reunited! Yes, S.H.I.E.L.D’s resident boffins are back together but there’s a massive catch. Chronicom leader Altarah has imprisoned them and tasked them with inventing time travel. A seemingly impossible task that is required in order to go back and prevent the destruction of the Chronicom homeworld. Not everything is as it seems however as strange events being to plague our heroes and madness begins to take hold.
Your enjoyment of this episode will be greatly determined by how well you like the characters of Fitz and Simmons. It’s not quite a classic two-hander in the traditional sense but the two main characters certainly do most of the heavy lifting. There are occasional appearances by the supporting cast as we delve into the minds of the collective known as Fitzsimmons. You see, the prison they’ve been placed in isn’t a traditional four walls and barred windows one. Instead it is a prison of the mind. Altarah has hooked them both up to a device that enables their brains to merge despite Enoch’s reservations that it is incredibly dangerous to use on humans.
I suspect I’ll be in the minority on this episode. I must confess Fitz and Simmons are probably my two least favourite characters in the show. As such I’m probably very biased in my opinion of Inescapable. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the episode, I just thought it could have been handled in a much better way. For example, it would have been nice to have kept the suspense and mystery up a while longer. We’re led to believe that Fitz and Simmons have been locked in a mostly bare white cell together in order for them to unlock the secrets of time travel. Strange things begin to happen almost immediately, Jemma suddenly turns into a little girl. Just as you begin to wonder what’s occurring the show cuts to a scene of Altarah and Enoch standing over Fitz and Simmons who are wired into the virtual prison machine. Obviously with all the weird stuff going on they were going to have to reveal the truth eventually, I just think it would have been better to have kept the mystery going a bit longer.
The show does get to have a lot of fun playing around within the psyches of the agents. Memories are replayed unbidden and we get to see Fitz and Simmons meet at the academy and get recruited by Coulson. Things become bittersweet as we get to see the immediate aftermath of last season's ending. Fitz does not take the news of his death well, nor the fact that Coulson has also met his maker.
Things get creepy as Simmon’s pent up fears are released and take the form of a Samara like figure from The Ring. The show takes on a horror movie feel as figures are pursued through dimly lit corridors. To make matters worse Fitz’s fears manifest themselves in the form of Leopold, his evil Hydra doppelgänger from the virtual reality world created by Aida back in season four. I feel the tension could have been ratcheted up if we knew what the actual dangers were to our trapped agents. Apart from Enoch’s vague warning about the mind prison being bad for humans we aren’t told what actual damage could be done and how. Is this a Total Recall situation where Fitz and Simmons could get lost forever in their own minds if they can’t defeat their demons? We never really find out and that’s a shame.
The idea of being trapped inside one's own mind is a good one and has been used to great effect in shows such as Legion. Whilst Inescapable throws up some nice ideas it’s unfortunate that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. just isn’t more visually intriguing. What we actually get is probably about right for the show, I just feel they could have done a lot more with it and pushed the surreality a lot further.
I was impressed with the acting on display from the two leads. I may not particularly like his character of but Iain De Caestecker puts in an excellent performance as both Fitz and his evil twin Leopold. Elizabeth Henstridge is also solid as Simmons, her more fun portrayal a nice counterpoint to Caestecker’s always rather stoic and dour performance. I was enjoying the episode a lot more than I thought I would and then they spoilt things by having Fitz and Simmons just shouting at each other which was slightly grating. I understand they were trapped in a mind prison and under a lot of pressure but for a couple who have crossed the galaxy looking for one another they did spend quite a lot of the episode arguing.
Things took a turn for the better when they suddenly realised they could conjure up anything they wanted to help them. Bringing in Mack and Daisy to kick some psychic butt was a fun addition. As was their decision to finally face their demons only to find them making out. This was some of the weirder stuff that I thought the episode could have done with more of.
In the end Enoch came through and released our heroes from their captivity. You could argue that this episode doesn’t really propel the story anywhere, nothing has actually happened in the real world. Apart from Fitz and Simmons no longer being captured by the Chromicons not much has really changed. We did however get to see some fun flashbacks to past events and a couple of great performances from the episode’s two stars.
In the episode’s final scene we see Mack and Daisy catching up after her return from space. Mack makes what I think was meant to be a big reveal that the things that destroyed the Chromicon homeworld are now loose on Earth. I thought that was pretty much established in the previous episode but maybe I’d been too clever in putting two and two together. Anyway, surely the more pressing issue would be the time paradox created if Fitz doesn’t go into cryosleep again for another seventy years and therefore isn’t around in the future to help save humanity. Hopefully this will be resolved in a future episode. Or maybe we'll suddenly find out where this season sits in the MCU continuity and half the cast turns to dust. That could be fun.