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Entertainment Weekly


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recap: 'A Life Spent'

Jennifer Clasen/ABC

Posted on

Show Details
TV Show
Action Adventure,
S5 E3

So here we are, one week on from that game-changing season premiere. Shortly after finally escaping the Framework, the agents were kidnapped and sent into space, where they soon learned they were also in the future. This was, of course, a dark dystopian future (is there any other kind these days?) where Daisy had somehow destroyed the Earth, leaving the surviving humans to the mercy of alien Kree overlords, who ruled them within a hierarchical system on a space station in the destroyed planet’s orbit.

This episode continued to expand the mythology of this new setting. Simmons, for example, soon learned there are still Inhumans in this future setting. As one of Kasius’ “chosen” human courtiers, she watches Kasius meet with an off-world ambassador, and soon fly into a rage. The cause of his anger is a young Inhuman girl named Abby. Abby has similar powers to the Vision, in that she can manipulate her own molecular density — meaning she can turn either super-hard or so intangible she can phase through solid objects. However, Abby’s having trouble controlling these powers. Kasius’ hard authoritarian training regimen doesn’t seem to be working. Can’t imagine why!

But Simmons is here now, and she has experience with both people and Inhumans. She slowly coaches Abby toward controlling her powers but doesn’t get as much time as she’d like. When another royal guest arrives, Kasius takes Abby away and pits this young girl in a gladiatorial match against the alien woman’s chosen champion — a tall, muscular, dangerous-looking gladiator. For a few disturbing minutes, this muscle-bound warrior throws Abby all around the ring, but eventually the girl catches Simmons’ eye. After that, Abby uses both aspects of her powers in quick succession. She gets super-dense, breaking her opponent’s arm when he tries to punch her again. Then she reaches out (as if to say “please”) and phases through his chest, killing him.

So on the plus side, Abby pleased Kasius and didn’t die a horrible violent death. On the other hand, she proved her powers so much that the alien woman bought her. All Simmons really accomplished was fetching Abby a higher price. Man this setting is going to be depressing.

S.H.I.E.L.D. never gives up, though, even as they’re getting zapped by overseers while struggling at indentured labor in a space junkyard. Coulson is determined to uncover what Virgil wanted with them and pores through the dead man’s notes. He finds one number that keeps showing up: 616. According to Tess, this number refers to a specific chunk of the Earth remnants, and so they decide to take a ship out and see if they find anything there. Of course, eagle-eyed Marvel fans will know that “Earth-616” has long been used as the designation for the Marvel Universe’s place in a greater multiverse of parallel worlds. Thank Alan Moore for that.

When they get to 616, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents do find a surprise. Opening Virgil’s old mini-globe (a reminder of the shape of the true Earth), Coulson finds a key. That opens a secret compartment in the ship, revealing a radio. Virgil was communicating with someone, and apparently the signals were coming from the surface of the ruined Earth! The crew doesn’t have much time to process this information, unfortunately. One of the junkyard foremen followed them onto the ship and now attacks them for breaking rules. They’re able to subdue him (never underestimate a Mack punch), but that leaves the question of what to do with him. Tess insists they kill him by dropping him out the airlock and calling it an accident, but Mack and the others still refuse to kill. Even in the twisted morality of the space station, where “a life spent, a life earned” is the motto and death is seen not as a tragedy but an opportunity, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are sticking to their morals. Fortunately, Yo-Yo comes up with an even better solution. With her superspeed, she entraps the foreman, showing the boss Grill that he had a gun. Guns are a big-time no-no here, apparently, and Grill metes out the harshest punishment. In doing so, he shows why Tess thinks no one could possibly be alive on the surface: It’s so dangerous that the Kree send people there for punishment. Within seconds of landing, the foreman gets devoured by roaches.

The station itself is full of dangers, of course. Trying to discover more information, Daisy finds herself caught by Kasius. Deke betrayed her. He justifies it saying he’s playing a long game, but Daisy still swears to kill him. I’d watch out if I was Deke. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past four seasons, it’s this: Don’t mess with Daisy.

Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) assembles a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to handle strange new cases.
TV Show
Action Adventure,
run date
Available For Streaming On