Listen: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has come unstuck in time. (Again.) But that bonkers season-ending twist takes a while to get to, as season six’s two-part finale first has to wrap up some key threads which have dogged our fearless team all season — though, really, it’s Izel and her plans to unleash her fellow non-corporeal beings upon our mortal coil which dominate the action.
The sequence of events that leads to both Izel’s eventual slaying as well as the desolation of Sarge delivers a couple of serious shocks, such as the stabbing of Agent May at the end of episode 12, “The Sign,” and Yo-Yo getting infected by a shrike and nearly dying as a result. In the end, though, it’s only the baddies that end up paying the ultimate price.
Looking back, on balance Izel’s function as the season’s Big Bad lacks cohesion, perhaps because it came relatively late episode-wise, and her connection to the main storyline took its damn sweet time in revealing itself. Reviewing her first appearance, back in episode seven, all there really was to say about her was “mysterious” and “pink-haired badass,” and while Karolina Wydra did what she could to give Izel depth, even the occasional sympathetic moment, she’ll hardly stand out as one of the series’ most memorable villains.
Perhaps the somewhat lackluster nature of the climax to her storyline didn’t help. Sometimes, S.H.I.E.L.D. really delivers in terms of production value, and sometimes the characters find themselves doing battle in a temple set that looks just a little too much like the waiting area for the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. Another potential comparison point: The classic ‘90s Nickelodeon game show Legends of the Hidden Temple, especially when it comes time for Izel to put the magic monolith stones into the special slots which open the portal.
Not helping matters is the fluctuating loyalties of Sarge as first he works with the team, then seemingly betrays them with a fatal stab wound for May, followed by perhaps him actually trying to stop Izel (by shoving May into the portal), followed by an underwhelming fight scene and death sequence that theoretically, once and for all, destroys him. May and Sarge’s confrontation at the end of “The Sign” proves to be the reverse of Daisy and Sarge’s scene in the hallway during “From the Ashes”: initially, emotionally effective, then back to cynical and horrifying. And while the VFX behind Daisy blasting the Coulson skin off Sarge, followed by Mack splitting him in two, was well executed, the question of “how much Coulson was actually inside Sarge” remains truly unanswered, and likely to be abandoned going forward.
In addition, “kill the queen and the drones will fall” is such a genre cliche that the show even quasi-acknowledges it (“maybe when the Wicked Witch is gone, her evil army will die off too”). On a narrative level, it’s understandable that the writers, operating with limited screen time, needed to wrap the zombie stuff quickly. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s the right choice.
That choice is good news for Yo-Yo, who spews some evil-looking vomit but is fine afterward, and while it actually looks pretty bad for Agent May, what with her actually dying and all, in comes Simmons to save the day...and reveal that after she and Fitz were saved by “best friend” and Chronicom rebel Enoch, some upgrades have been made to the Zephyr, and some big changes have taken place.
It might take more than one viewing for it to become clear. But an Empire State Building under construction and Daisy’s joke that while she might want a drink “it’s illegal now” means that somehow (likely tied to the jump drive) Fitz and Simmons, with some help, have brought the team back to sometime around 1930-1931—given that the ESB’s construction is nearly complete, probably 1931. (In case you don’t remember, Prohibition in America lasted until 1933.)
Based on all the presented clues, it seems like season seven will focus on the history of S.H.I.E.L.D. as an institution—with a shiny new LMD version of Coulson to serve as a guide to the past, ensuring that Clark Gregg will have a job on this show until the bitter end. (Different decade, I know, but the second this cast gets into period costumes, I’m going to be sad all over again about Agent Carter getting canceled.)
As far as set-ups go for a final season, there’s a lot to find intriguing, and that’s even before you consider all the loose ends that season seven can weave in. How much time-hopping can be expected? How will Ghost Rider fit into the action? What will happen with Flint and Piper? Will Fitz and Simmons ever catch a break? There’s no shortage of story left as the show approaches its final season as, once again, S.H.I.E.L.D. is called upon to save the Earth from outside invaders. Fortunately, by now, they’re pretty good at it.
- “What about a game where you kill zombies? I bet nobody’s done that.” Deke is sometimes downright adorable, and seeing him really get to step things up in the bravery department was a nice touch for the character, given his arc this season.
- It’s a joke well this show goes to a lot, but the world-weary exhaustion with which so many of these agents confront the weirdness of their daily lives continues to deliver the funny. This week’s sterling example: Piper rolling her eyes when Mack warns her that “it’s like a Romero movie out there.” “Zombies, why not?” she sighs.
- Oh, another example of that is, of course, Fitz and Simmons’ reaction to Enoch’s proclamation that they will have to “change the natural course of your lives forever”—“yeah, yeah, yeah...” If S.H.I.E.L.D. has one enduring message, it’s that it’s amazing, what a person can get used to.
- This Week In Shameless FitzSimmons Appreciation: As always never afraid to lay down their lives for the sake of the mission, the show’s Best Couple Ever were as always a great team, especially when facing the Chronicom hunters. But then comes the ending, and while Simmons has a kicky new hairdo, whatever happened between Enoch’s big entrance and Simmons swinging by to pick up the team has led to the two of them being separated, which is very sad. The series finale had better be a two-part wedding extravaganza on the level of The Bachelor OR ELSE.
- Annnnnd that’s a wrap on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season six! Huge thanks to everyone who has been reading and hopefully not hating these humble recaps, Danette and Erik for letting me take on this assignment, and Alex McLevy for establishing a high bar to clear. See you again for season seven, perhaps!