Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season finale recap: Not quite the end
Now that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been renewed for a sixth season, this episode’s title comes off slightly facetious. It is not “The End” for this show or this team, but the episode does bring all of this season’s plotlines to satisfying conclusions, while also setting up some pretty important missions for next season.
We begin where we left off, with the team debating whether to use the last sample of Centipede Serum to save Coulson or defeat Talbot. Compounded with all the other divisions and debates the team has been having all season, things quickly get intense. Yo-Yo starts screaming about how no one will listen to what her future self said about sacrificing Coulson to save the world; Mack is eventually able to calm her down by talking about how the team will always cling to hope above all, and suggests they have a vote on the issue. May scuttles that option, however, by destroying the odium. Now, the only use for the Centipede Serum is to revive Coulson.
Meanwhile, Talbot is relentlessly pursuing his plan. After learning that some of the subterranean Gravitonium lies beneath Chicago, he flies his ship into the Windy City, leveling several buildings in the process. He then continues the devastation by bringing up a giant column of rock from the ground. After absorbing the small deposit of Gravitonium.
One of the reasons Daisy and others argued so hard to save Coulson was that they believed him to be the only person capable of talking Talbot down. But as Coulson informs Daisy, things have moved well beyond that stage. With Talbot hungering for more power even as he’s been driven insane by the power he already possesses, only Daisy is powerful enough to counter him. In true dying-mentor fashion, Coulson reminds Daisy that she already possesses all the tools necessary to save the world: “Find the strength in your heart to appeal to his good nature. If you can’t, find the strength in your arms to beat his ass senseless.” Daisy runs off to save the day, while Coulson collapses. This stubborn man didn’t even take the Centipede Serum; he’s just been powering this comeback through pure force of will, and a refusal to let down May and Daisy.
While Daisy goes to stop Talbot, Mack and May start evacuating people from the affected buildings. Eventually they reach one that collided directly with Talbot’s ship, and find a distraught Robin Hinton inside. Her mother Polly is still trapped onboard the ship, so Mack goes to get her out. But when Fitz arrives shortly after, he reminds May that neither Mack nor Polly lived to see the Lighthouse future. If time is indeed as fixed as Fitz always says, then they might very well die in there. (Recap continues on next page)
Mack makes his way through Talbot’s ship, and eventually finds Polly. Unfortunately, as soon as he gets her out of her cell, two Remorath assassins show up. Having thrown away his axe-bayonet gun just seconds before, Mack doesn’t stand a chance…so thank god May is there to kick some alien ass and save her friends.
Talbot is still looking for more Gravitonium, but the search is interrupted when Daisy hits him with a flying tackle. Per Coulson’s advice, she tries the conciliatory approach first, telling Talbot that they all need to join forces in order to save the world. Talbot responds that he needs to arm himself to defeat his enemies, at which point Daisy points out that he’s not looking too different from Thanos, what with the endangering innocent lives in order to find some mysterious sci-fi weapon (well, okay, Thanos and the events of Infinity War don’t get any overt shout-outs this episode, but the context is clearly there). This exchange reminded me of a similar one between T’Challa and Killmonger at the climax of Black Panther, one of my favorite sequences from that film.
Talbot’s gravity powers are strong, and it looks like he might indeed be powerful enough both to beat Daisy and cause that worldwide cataclysm that sends humanity to the Lighthouse — especially when he starts trying to absorb Daisy into his own body via the Gravitonium, so he can use her powers to crack the Earth open. But then Daisy herself takes the Centipede Serum, giving herself enough of a power-up to blast Talbot into the sky — so far into the sky, in fact, that he keeps going into space, where he freezes and asphyxiates to death.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only death this episode. The epic clash between Talbot and Daisy causes tremors throughout nearby buildings — including the one Fitz and friends are in. Just as Mack and May return with Polly, a tremor hits and Fitz gets caught under falling debris. Mack and May succeed in unearthing him from the rubble, and for a second it seems like everything will be fine — that is, until they see the gigantic piece of shrapnel stuck in Fitz’s abdomen, and hear him saying he can’t feel his abdomen. Mack promises to stay with him, and then FITZ DIES. No, really! This is the worst possible outcome! The look on Simmons’ face when Mack arrives to give the news will haunt my nightmares forever. (Recap continues on next page)
The show follows this up with a cruel bait-and-switch. We see the S.H.I.E.L.D. team gathering for a memorial service, and carving a black memorial plaque to hang in the plane. At this point I was in shock, refusing to believe Fitz had died when he had so much great character development this season and his relationship with Simmons is such an integral emotional anchor for the show. It was soon revealed, however, that the plaque and service were both for Coulson. With no more Centipede Serum, the team leader only has a limited amount of time left. He decides to spend it with May in Tahiti (where else?), while the rest of the team carries on his legacy and takes a spaceship out to go find Fitz.
Because that’s just it, isn’t it! If you remember, Fitz didn’t time travel to the Lighthouse future via monolith like the rest of his friends. Instead, Enoch put him in suspended animation for centuries. So that living, breathing Fitz is still out there in suspended animation, waiting for a future that has now been averted. All they have to do is find him and wake him up, and maybe catch him up on some of the things that have happened while he’s been under — like, say, his marriage to Simmons! Simmons, for one, will be delighted to inform him that time is not fixed in place after all, but rather “a fluid, ever-changing, beautiful thing.”
On top of that, the team should be grateful they made it out of this season without too much Infinity War overlap. I was honestly worried for a second that we might see half the cast turn to dust at the end of this episode, but it sounds like they have plenty of problems to worry about already.
With Coulson on a mortal time limit, I wonder what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6: The Search for Fitz might look like. I really admired this season’s willingness to change up the formula, especially with the bonkers sci-fi storytelling of the Lighthouse arc. Not everything in that sequence worked, but I liked that the filmmakers and cast were so willing to depart from the show’s status quo and do something different. In the more recent batch of episodes, they took the exact opposite approach with multiple callbacks to the show’s first two seasons, and I liked how many lingering story lines they were able to wrap up. This season had such a book-end feeling to it, in fact, that it felt like it really could be the last. Calling this finale “The End” seems like it occurred to the showrunners, too. But I think we’re all happy to spend more time with these agents.