Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recap: The death and life of Agent Sousa
This episode opens with a horrible revelation: Agent Sousa is going to die! Not just that, he’s going to die in the manner of Jay Gatsby and Sunset Boulevard: Shot, bleeding in a pool. According to Coulson’s narration, Sousa was actually the first S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in history to die in the line of duty. I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t help but think back to the Agent Carter days when I felt like he was going to end up being Peggy’s husband. I was so enamored with the ending of Avengers: Endgame that I didn’t even think poor Sousa might end up with such a grisly fate instead! But thankfully, he has some good-hearted time travelers in his corner; maybe they can help him escape this fate.
That aforementioned narration is a funny side effect of the Coulson LMD being short-circuited at the end of last episode. While he reboots, he sees everything in black-and-white and hears an internal monologue, which allows this episode to become a pretty fun noir parody. Using his knowledge of history, Coulson fools Sousa into thinking he’s part of the mission to deliver some super-secret technology to Howard Stark. They’re riding a train to make that delivery, and Coulson needs Deke and Yo-Yo to meet up with him to deliver the package and continue the ruse. But after they’re attacked by Chronicoms, Deke is kidnapped and Yo-Yo goes looking for him, forcing Coulson to improvise. He does okay, but eventually, the rest of the team just lands the Zephyr on their train to bail them out from Chronicoms and their henchmen.
On the Zephyr, Sousa provides his theory for who their enemies are: He thinks HYDRA has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D.! His audience reacts with a resounding “Well, duh,” but this was a pretty big deal for someone to figure out in the ‘50s. Now it all makes sense. Sousa’s assassin was unknown in the history books, assumed to be Soviets. But now it’s clear that he was actually the first S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to be killed because he figured out the HYDRA connection, which from what we know probably accounts for most S.H.I.E.L.D. casualties in history (Howard Stark himself will eventually join that list). Is Coulson’s team really gonna let that happen? On the one hand, the Coulson LMD notes that Sousa’s sacrifice was a great inspiration to agents who came after him, and there’s no telling how changing that might affect S.H.I.E.L.D.’s history. But in Mack’s words, “It’s easier to let a bad man live than let a good man die.”
This HYDRA assassin is working for Wilfred Malick. That’s right, the guy Deke saved in 1931 is now pointing a gun at him in 1955. Deke is able to buy his life, though, by revealing the fact that they’ve met before. Malick is confused enough not to kill him. Certain characters carrying over from one time-jump to the next helps give this season a sense of continuity as it moves through all these different genres (Red Scare-inflected sci-fi last week, noir parody this time, and whatever’s up next).
S.H.I.E.L.D. comes up with a plan to save Sousa. The shot we’ve seen a few times throughout the episode, of an unseen assailant pointing a gun at Sousa and firing as the camera pulls away, was actually Coulson hitting Sousa with a stun gun. Coulson then took the shots from Sousa’s real assassin and took a dive in the pool — long enough for Daisy and Simmons to show up disguised as medics and wheel him out of there.
Yet S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t the only side who have decided to get messy with the timeline going forward. In the final scene, one of the lead Chronicoms reveals himself to Malick and says he wants to work together to prevent HYDRA’s eventual destruction at the hands of S.H.I.E.L.D. A version of HYDRA run by time-traveling Chronicoms sure seems like a dangerous enemy.
Before I go, let me just say that I’m really upset about them treating Enoch this way! The poor guy has already had to make a life for himself for 20 years waiting for them to reappear, and then they ditch him again at the end! This reminds me of my least favorite aspect (among many) of The Rise of Skywalker. I for one don’t think it’s funny or cute for the human characters to treat the superintelligent robots like garbage for no reason! Ugh! They better pick him up next time.