Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recap: Eros and Thanatos
Finally, we get some answers! As much as I loved the Deke-centric episode, it also threw a lot of new things at us — namely, the alien bat parasite that ended up taking over Keller’s body and setting up his death. This week, we learn what those things are called!
The heart of the episode, though, is how May’s memories of Coulson color her interactions with Sarge. We see a lot of flashbacks to May’s time with Coulson on Tahiti as he lay dying, interspersed with the much more brutal present-day interactions between May and Sarge. Sarge realizes that May’s fascination with him has to do with the other version of him. With his violent tendencies, Sarge initially assumes that May must have killed Coulson. Then he realizes it must be “the other thing,” the source of this episode’s title. Sigmund Freud once theorized that the two fundamental drives of human behavior were love and death — or “Eros” and “Thanatos,” as those concepts were called in Greek mythology. If May’s powerful connection to Coulson wasn’t about death, then it must have been about love.
Sarge thinks he can use that to turn May to his side. He implants another parasite into some helpless rando in order to show her what it’s like. Like Yo-Yo before her, May soon puts two and two together and sticks one of Sarge’s knives in the man, killing the parasite. Sarge explains that these things are called “Shrikes,” and that he and his crew travel from world to world hunting them down and trying to stop them from destroying universes. So far, he hasn’t succeeded, but they keep on trying. Whenever Sarge’s crew jumps into a new universe, they hunt down everything that doesn’t belong there, assuming they must be Shrikes. This is why they went after Deke the other week, because they correctly discerned that he was from another world. He just wasn’t the kind of outsider they were looking for.
Back at the lab, Benson and Yo-Yo make another discovery of the Shrikes. Having performed Keller’s autopsy, Benson analyzes their molecular structure — a structure that, to Yo-Yo, greatly resembles the molecules of the monoliths. Benson openly theorized that maybe the parasites have power over life and death the way the monoliths controlled space and time. Benson also manages to console Yo-Yo over Keller’s death by telling her about the time he pulled the plug on his catatonic husband. He says it was the hardest decision of his life, but also the right choice. He also suggests heading to South America to search for more answers about the Shrikes and the monoliths, because the word that Sarge’s team uses to refer to the coming Shrike-apocalypse sounds a lot like the ancient Incan king Pachacuti (which I detected pretty early on, but only because I’ve been playing Civilization VI so much recently).
That conversation also has a lot to do with the May/Sarge storyline. Just as Sarge thinks he’s convincing May of his mission, she turns on him. After taking out Snowflake, she starts garroting Sarge as he sits in the driver’s seat. While this fight is happening, we see how the stay on Tahiti ended — by May helping Coulson achieve a peaceful death. Her relationship with Coulson wasn’t a matter of love OR death; it had to do with both. Now, she finally gets the drop on Sarge. After he’s knocked out, and handcuffed, May heads back to base.
While all that has been going on, out in space Enoch’s fellow Chronicoms inform him, Daisy, and Simmons that their homeworld has been destroyed – probably by the Shrikes, but they have no way of knowing that! The Chronicoms want to know how the SHIELD agents traveled in time, so that they might do the same to avert their planet’s destruction. Simmons makes a deal with the aliens: Let Daisy and the others go, and she and Fitz will help them figure out time travel. But at the last minute, Enoch sneaks into Fitz’s cell and unleashes some kind of gas. We’ll have to find out what that is soon enough, but I do like the way this episode’s various storylines paralleled each other without ever quite intersecting.