Agents of SHIELD: 3.05 4,772 Hours
Bravo Elizabeth Henstridge for a fantastic turn in this weeks episode of Agents of SHIELD as we finally learn what happened on the alien planet.
Largely a two hander, this episode takes a break from the show's action packed storylines to focus on a small intimate drama wrapped up in a big pulp sci fi dressing. The opening chunk of the episode shows Simmons alone in a distant solar system, on a planet in which the sun never rises, trapped in a seemingly endless twilight. It's lovely, pulpy stuff to look at, well shot in a fantastically alien landscape. Is it a little bit 80's Doctor Who all filmed in a quarry? A little, and the episode almost threatens to play out as "The Martian on a budget" with a bonus cameo from the Dianogah from Star Wars, but it is well constructed by director Jesse Bochco and cinematographer Feliks Parnell despite those television money constraints.
Henstridge does wonders, especially in the earlier chunks of the episode as Simmons tries to deal with her situation the only way she knows how - by never shutting up. The performance is wonderfully brave, as emotions shift from tender to terrified over the course of a sentence. Simmons wishing Fitz's picture goodnight was enduringly sweet and her desperate cries of "I want the Sun!" were heartbreaking.
Nit pick, I had no idea how long the credits went on for but they really became distracting early in this episode.
Simmons soon finds out that she isn't alone as she finds Will Daniels (Dillon Casey) a NASA astronaut stranded 14 years ago on an earlier mission. They start out bickering so their love story was all but inevitable however well paced and played by both actors. No doubt a few Simmons and Fitz shippers aren't going to be happy but that Fitz took it all on the chin and his first thought was a promise to bring Will back says a lot about the strength of their friendship. Dillon Casey does well in the episode and the two have great chemistry.
Will seeing how technology had moved on since 2001 was a nice touch but wouldn't it have been nice to have Jemma fill him in on all the other crazy things happening in the MCU, like Stark's advancements in technology, or the events of The Avengers movies? I know he's been trapped on an alien planet for 14 years so they likely wouldn't have been too strange for him and I like that the show doesn't feel the need to crowbar in references (this seasons opening episode aside) but it felt like a perfect time to throw some in and maybe learn a little more about Simmons views on the MCU in the process.
We see glimpses of an evil figure ("this planet does not have rules, it has moods") that are at times genuinely chilling, especially that creepy astronaut reveal in the climactic moments. It will be interesting to see how this antagonist plays into the larger story.
Special mention also to this weeks score, much more stripped back and synth heavy than usual the music and sound design really added to that tense sci-fi atmosphere, especially those chilling closing credits sounds.
At times the episode asks us to believe in too much - no phone battery would last that long, even if Fitz has fiddled with it but is a generally tight and focused episode. Simmons always threatens to be a gratingly chirpy character but she is written well here and her description as the "voice of hope" reminds us why she is such a core part of the SHIELD team.