IAIN DE CAESTECKER, ELIZABETH HENSTRIDGE
Photo: ABC/Mitch Haaseth
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The first thing that came to mind in the early minutes of “Collision Course, Part 1" was this—Lord, how far we’ve come. In comparison to the first season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., which did its best to fit into the then-still-pretty-grounded mythos of the MCU, we’re midway through Season 6 and the show thinks nothing of opening with an establishing shot of an alien spaceship whizzing through space.

The fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. has in recent years truly embraced its ultimate destiny as superhero-adjacent science fiction is hardly breaking news, but seriously, go back and watch the pilot sometime. The difference is STAGGERING.

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Meanwhile, after a few weeks spent not quite getting to the point as to what, exactly, is about to destroy Earth, “Collision Course” makes some big leaps forward, revealing key aspects of the Shrike: like, for example, why the bodies of its hosts keep sprouting crystalline shards—when the hosts are gathered together, the crystals combine to form a giant tower that means Nothing Good for the residents of Earth.

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Not only that, Fitz and Simmons’ journey back home gets a direct connection to Sarge’s warnings about the arrival of “the Maker” and “the Beast.” At the center of it all is Izel, first introduced last week in “Toldja.” At the time, the mysterious pink-haired stranger came off as your standard Han Solo-esque mercenary, albeit one with personal reasons for visiting Earth, but based on her actions in “Part 1,” she definitely seems primed to fill in the role of the season’s true Big Bad.

Especially if you believe Sarge, because according to his account Izel is the aforementioned Maker, bringing to Earth the full destructive powers of the Shrike. But while he says that her motivation for spreading destruction across the galaxy is “hatred for all living things,” he’s not mentioning her quest for what FitzSimmons quickly figure out is the three Monoliths.

Izel’s version of events is that she’s been on a quest to reclaim these “artifacts,” making her first stop on the Chronicom planet (which was subsequently wiped out by the Shrike)—and that the same could happen to Earth, if she doesn’t find them in time.

The question is, who to believe? Izel is definitely in control of the Shrike, is definitely heading to Earth, and based on her casual takeover of the ship’s crew, not exactly operating on the up-and-up. There’s also something a little bit too coincidental about her stumbling across and then rescuing the two humans most helpful to her quest in the middle of a deadly game in a dingy alien bar.

However, while Sarge doesn’t seem to be lying about his motivations, he’s definitely full of deceptions, and the way he (and subsequently, the show) keep dodging the question of why he’s an exact match for Coulson’s DNA. To be fair, he offers up a lot more information in this episode than in weeks past (including the reason why he doesn’t think it’s a big deal to wear a dead man’s face—in his words, “it doesn’t matter”). But it’s always awkward when it feels like the writers are sending a direct message, like Sarge’s comment about the “coincidence”: “I’ve been to a lot of worlds and all I see is random.” That’s not a real explanation, and hopefully, it’s just a teaser for the real answer yet to come.

Sarge’s exit from the truck and onto the Zephyr proved to be a standout sequence: Initially, it seemed like him carrying a backpack might have led to a sequence involving a jetpack (which would have been awesome). But what actually happened was even cooler, as Sarge proves he’s thinking with portals (shoutout to all the GLaDOS fans in the audience), using his face-forward plunge into the red-lined circle to transition to a perfect stand-up landing. And he was shooting a gun at the same time, making it even more badass a move.

Like any good two parter, “Collision Course” is all about the cliffhangers: the team on the truck discovering the bomb, the alien ship descending into Earth’s atmosphere, and Mack on the verge of an impossible decision. But the coda makes it clear that once the Shrike threat is completed, there’s still plenty more story left this season. While it’s nice to see Epoch again (that heartfelt farewell at the end of last week’s episode didn’t really seem to take)


Stray Observations:

  • “Love... no, it’s hate. it’s my thing too.” Sarge may not be warm and cuddly like Coulson, but Clark Gregg’s dry wit remains irresistible.
  • “A galaxy hopping hate beast and you want to use a sword.” Admittedly, crazier things have happened on this show.
  • All three members of Sarge’s gang have become pretty well-defined over the past few episodes, but Snowflake is the clear standout. “You look like you have a beautiful soul. I want to see it spill out of you.” Maybe not the most immediately obvious of pick-up lines, but hey, whatever works for you, Deke. Snowflake’s very quick shift of loyalties doesn’t seem like the most dependable thing, though, at least short term.
  • During Deke’s argument with Mack, we get further evidence that the writers are using Jack Dorsey as inspiration for his new tech founder persona, and honestly, every aspect of it just gets funnier and funnier. “I gotta fire that shaman.”
  • Anyone who thought the events of “Inescapable” had fixed all of FitzSimmons’ relationship issues has clearly never seen a TV show before, but Simmons seemed overly clueless when it came to Fitz’s insecurities about her “first” husband. Though, in fairness, there’s no good way to answer a question like “I wasn’t enough the first time?”
  • Also, Simmons’ bone-deep exhaustion with space flies a bit in the face of what one might expect from someone who signed up for S.H.I.E.L.D. for the adventure of exploration—but when one considers just how much she’s been through over the past few years, yeah, the lady’s earned herself a very nice long Earth-bound bath.

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