As members of the S.H.I.E.L.D team, especially in the early days, scientist sidekicks Simmons and Fitz always served a utilitarian purpose (“I’m engineering, she’s biochem”) to the narrative. But their six-season journey from friendship to romance has been one of the show’s most endearing qualities, even when the writers resorted to extreme methods to complicate their path to happiness — extreme measures which have led to no shortage of issues for their relationship, no matter how much they might love each other. (How many different marriage proposals have they racked up by now, seriously?)
“Inescapable,” therefore, is an exceedingly well-earned installment, and also perhaps a necessary one for both characters, as they have a lot of baggage to unpack, including perhaps the biggest suitcase to date: Jemma catching this new paradoxical Fitz up on what happened with the previous Fitz, including that whole getting married to her and then dying thing.
This and other big secrets come out when Altarah, the Chronicom who previously arranged to reunite Fitz with Simmons so that together, they could crack the secret behind time travel, links up their brains using a “cerebrum fusion machine” (sure). The end result is that while initially happy about being reunited (including — you’re damn right — another marriage proposal), their prison of the mind ends up laying bare their inner demons, as personified by the return of Fitz’s Framework persona, “Leopold,” and Simmons’ pent-up “troubles,” which take the form of “an evil ringu monster that you keep in a box” (Fitz’s term).
There are some haunting moments that come as Fitz and Simmons confront the darker sides of their better halves: Consider Elizabeth Henstridge a lock for the role of Samara, should anyone ever want to do yet another remake of The Ring, though the relish with which she gnawed at Mack’s neck indicates that she’d also do well in the zombie genre.
Given the “mind prison” concept, this could have been a far more surreal episode, as seen across many shows which have delivered trippier descents into a character’s mind (even 19 years later, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Restless” remains hard to beat for its artistry). But while “Inescapable” doesn’t push too hard into visual trickery, there are still some well-executed transitions within the surreal mindscape Fitz and Simmons occupy here, especially Fitz climbing after Jemma’s seven-year-old self into her childhood bedroom.
And to be honest, the fact that director Jesse Bochco keeps things relatively simple plays to the episode’s advantage, because the spotlight thus stays firmly on Fitz and Simmons, characters that Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker have truly mastered both as individuals and as perhaps the show’s most essential relationship (with only May and Coulson in real competition, and who knows how this business with “Sarge” is going to affect things come future weeks).
Using flashbacks, as triggered by Fitz and Simmons’ memories, to integrate the rest of the main cast is a clever way to make sure everyone gets at least a little screen time, but what installments like this and Season 3's “4,722 Hours” prove is that De Caestecker and Henstridge (especially Henstridge) can easily command our attention for the full hour.
The pair’s chemistry has never been better than it is here, especially as the two of them confront each other in the containment pod, slinging their past histories at each other, and finally talking about all the unresolved drama between them, which eventually digs into one of the truest sentiments ever said by people in love: It can be a beautiful thing, but it brings with it a whole new level of vulnerability.
FitzSimmons, as they shout themselves back into synchronicity, declare it as follows: “All my damage comes from you!” “All my pain comes from you!” But then it’s back to the inevitable truth: “We’re obviously made for each other,” Simmons says. “A whole universe couldn’t keep me away from you,” Fitz once again admits.
The episode ends without Fitz and Simmons even really getting much of a chance to dig into inventing time travel—by the time they’ve resolved their personal issues (“that was five minutes and 33 seconds wasted,” Altarah complains) Enoch sets things up for their escape. Escape to where? Who knows. But, per the final scene, Daisy owes Mack $100, because while real peril for both the team and planet Earth loom on the horizon, FitzSimmons is truly back. Watch out, anyone who stands in their way.
- The comedy beats play well as a whole, but Leopold and Ringu!Jemma’s furious makeout scene is perhaps the most giggle-inducing moment of the episode, especially when played against FitzSimmons’ stunned reactions. “Didn’t know you liked that.” “Didn’t know you did that.”
- Effort was put into showcasing young Jemma’s childhood bedroom, including lots of science textbooks, science equipment, and a Jane Goodall poster (later called out by Fitz). The best element, however, was this adorable tableau: A stuffed Winnie the Pooh and Paddington Bear, each wearing safety goggles.
- Fitz may say that young Jemma’s bedtime story is poorly written, but its charming illustrations deserve to, at the very least, make their way to T-shirts.
- Hopefully, Fitz’s skills at dealing with seven-year-old Jemma do not reflect his future parenting skills, given his destiny as the father of a daughter. That said, he doesn’t quite seem ready for Jemma’s casual announcement that he has a grandson.
- “I’m asking you, heart in hand” is probably a phrase Fitz comes to regret using in his proposal, given how Jemma’s Id later chooses to interpret it.
- Look, last week, I took over the reviews for this show, and made casual mention of the fact that I very much enjoy FitzSimmons as a couple. This week, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivers an ENTIRE EPISODE devoted to that very pairing. Coincidence? Perhaps. Fate? For sure.