Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6.13 New Life
The finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s sixth and penultimate outing pretty much sums up the whole season. It’s pretty solid and enjoyable but you can’t help but feel it could have been a lot better. Some sharper writing with better defined character motivations, particularly from the villains, could really have elevated things. Izel and Sarge’s stories are wrapped up in the end but in quite perfunctory ways that don’t really satisfy as they should. There are also some inconsistencies and plot threads that don’t really play out to their natural conclusions. It’s not necessarily a bad episode, it just doesn’t entirely feel like a season finale. It’s almost more like a lead in to the final season.
The shocking cliffhanger from last episode was Sarge stabbing Agent May and throwing her through the portal. Now, as it turns out, if he’d just left her bleeding on the floor she would have died. Instead he sent her to the only place where, we discover, that life and death don’t mean anything. Instantly she’s fine, albeit for only as long as she’s in the other realm, and this unfortunately is fake out death number one. Through the portal May now has free reign to just kill the three creepy hooded beings who appear to be physical incarnations of the monoliths. This is another part that isn’t particularly explained well. I thought Izel and Sarge came from a world of incorporeal beings and had taken on physical forms to leave it? Izel’s plan focussed on the shrike turning people into zombies so they could be vessels for her people when she summoned them. The people clamouring to get through the portal seem pretty solid to me, as did the monolith people May easily dispatches.
Sarge and Itzel’s story arcs finally combine and reach a conclusion, but not quite in the way I expected. Again, some suspect writing makes things a little muddled. Izel decides to go through the portal, purely it seems so she can have a sword fight with Agent May. The fight is well choreographed and exciting but it does seem just an excuse to split Izel and Sarge up. This way Daisy gets to confront Sarge and use her “quake” powers on him. This strangely makes Sarge turn into an alien that we’ve never seen before. It does look a bit like the Chitauri from the first Avengers movie. Presumably this is the true form of the creature inhabiting Coulson’s body.
Again, I thought he was an incorporeal being like Izel but maybe I missed something. Upon easily defeating Daisy, Sarge then decides to take on Coulson’s appearance again and have a fist fight with Mack. I appreciate this gives Mack something to do, but seems like more lazy writing. All of a sudden, Izel just decides to come back through the portal even though she hasn’t defeated May on the other side. This allows for a rapid conclusion as May leaps through the portal and stabs Izel. She then tosses the sword to Mack who quickly cuts Sarge in half. Both the show's villains defeated in seconds. It does feel somewhat anticlimactic. Agent May, being back in the real world, promptly dies again. It’s all very sad and quite a touching scene as she dies in Daisy’s arms.
Except… it’s Agent May’s fake out death number two. No sooner is she dead then what appears to be a time travelling Simmons turns up and declares she’ll be fine. This is actually where things get interesting and is definitely the best part of the episode and looks to set up a really interesting final season. Whilst all the shenanigans were going on with Izel and Sarge, the Chronicom hunters turned up at the lighthouse and started killing everyone. Fitz and Simmons almost blew themselves up in an effort to stop the framework tech falling into the wrong hands but were saved by Enoch in disguise. He tells them there is a way to save everybody but it will completely change the course of their futures. Again.
So as the episode ends, the zephyr has been fitted with the jump drive which has been modified so that it appears it’s now a time machine. Fitz and Simmons have obviously been busy as they now seem to have the tech to bring back Agent May from certain death and the show ends with the team travelling back to about 1930 based on the almost completed Empire State Building that they fly past.
Of course it wouldn’t be Marvel without a credits stinger so we get the activation of a Coulson life model decoy who is to all intents and purposes exactly like the real thing. It seems a slightly wasted opportunity to have Sarge’s character start to display Coulson’s behaviour patterns and act as though the alien would get dispelled leaving behind an exact replica of Coulson. This is then quickly dispelled as Sarge goes full on evil and is quickly dispatched only for a robot replica of Coulson to be brought in for the last season. It almost seems as if the writers changed their minds at the last minute. Whilst the idea of a robot version of Coulson has potential surely a flesh and blood reincarnation of him would have given more scope for his romantic relationship to be rekindled with Agent May and also his father/daughter relationship with Daisy?
There are some other slight annoyances in the episode. Yo-Yo has literally just demonstrated that she can slow down time for others as well as speed herself up, when she is attacked by a shrike. Instead of instantly slowing it down and grabbing it before it can infect her, she just waves her hands around as it makes a beeline down her throat. Waves her mechanical hands around I should add. If anyone is designed to prevent a shrike attack it’s the super speedy lady with the robot arms. It seems the writers had other ideas and needed to put her in peril. Luckily, when Izel dies, the shrike infections just conveniently go away. Also, remember Flint came back last episode and was injured and flown to safety? Apparently the writers didn’t remember as he’s just not mentioned again. Neither is Snowflake who just disappeared several episodes ago. I know it sounds like I’m being picky but when you get so many loose ends all left dangling at once, it just feels a bit sloppy.
So ultimately, whilst not being the greatest closer to a season, New Life does leave the show looking good for next year. It would appear the Chronicoms will be the bad guys, trying to establish a new home world on Earth. The time travel element leaves a lot of potential. I suspect it may have also been done so the show can now conveniently sidestep the “blip” caused by Thanos and not have to deal with any of that fallout. Personally I’m hoping that with the Agents back in the 1930’s there is the chance for Peggy Carter to show up and the show might display some of the more pulp elements of the comic. The replica of Coulson is also an intriguing proposition. The one line he delivers at the end of the episode immediately reminds you of how great Clark Gregg is as the S.H.I.E.L.D. director and I look forward to seeing how everything is finally wrapped up.