Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recap: Agents of Palm Springs
Welcome to this week’s recap, true believers. I sure hope you all enjoyed the Hulu movie Palm Springs as much as I did, because this episode’s premise is very similar! That’s right: It’s time loop time.
Last week’s cliffhanger made clear that Yo-Yo’s efforts were for naught, and even her superspeed wasn’t enough to fix the Zephyr’s time engine. With the engine still out of whack, the team now finds themselves hurtling straight into a time vortex. If they can’t fix what’s wrong by the time they reach the end of the tunnel, it’s game over. But as if that weren’t a big enough problem, the time vortex is also trapping them all in a time loop. After a certain amount of time, things reset.
Our focal point here is Daisy, who begins every loop by waking up in her medical pod — much like how every Palm Springs loop opens with Andy Samberg and/or Cristin Milioti waking up in their beds. It takes her a while to figure out the whole situation, and even longer to figure out that the key to fixing things is Simmons. Specifically, Simmons has an implant in her head that’s repressing certain memories — most notably Fitz's location, but also information about the time engine and how to fix it. They just have to get that implant out of her head and she can solve the problem.
Daisy soon gets a chastisement from LMD Coulson — who, as a machine, is actually able to retain all the information and experiences from each reset. This is both frustrating because he feels like he can help more, and deeply upsetting once it becomes clear that the time loop isn’t the team’s only problem. There’s also a saboteur on board who is willing to kill anyone rather than let them remove Simmons’ implant. Eventually Coulson and Daisy piece things together: It’s Enoch. The team’s most loyal sidekick is now literally killing them.
It’s not his fault, necessarily. Apparently Fitz and Simmons programmed Enoch to protect Simmons’ implant “at all costs.” Neither of them has any memory of that, but it doesn’t change the facts. Simmons might remember if they could just get the implant out, but this makes it much harder to do so. The team tries to distract Enoch, trick him, hold him off, and defeat him, all to no avail. Each time they fail, that vortex just gets closer and closer.
The key to solving this problem lies in...an unexpected new romance? Ever since Deke and Daisy met I’ve expected them to become more and more of a thing, but looks like that is truly one-sided. Daisy instead has eyes for Sousa, who goes out of his way to protect her and support her. It’s actually a really cute scene where Sousa tells her that, of all the things he doesn’t recognize in this sci-fi future he’s been pulled into, he does recognize the kind of person Daisy is: A headstrong, passionate leader who will always do her utmost to protect everyone — even at the cost of her own safety. Sousa wants to help her accomplish her goals by looking out for her since she cares about others more than herself. I don’t even know if Daisy is picking up on this, but Sousa is pretty clearly comparing her to Peggy Carter here, and what a compliment! All through the show, we’ve been taught to think of Simmons as the Peggy analog because of the shared British ancestry, but it makes way more sense that the main hero of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dating back to the pilot is the true heir to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s founding mother.
So they kiss, and that’s enough inspiration for Sousa to hold Enoch at bay long enough for Daisy and Coulson to remove Simmons’ implant. Now she knows the solution, but it’s tragic: The only thing that can fix the time engine is the closest thing Enoch has to a heart. Removing it from his body will kill him even as it saves everyone else. It turns out that’s almost the least of it; without her implant, Simmons starts receiving a flood of apparently traumatic memories, a look of pure horror materializing on her face before the loop resets again.
Enoch is surprisingly receptive to self-sacrifice; he pulls the machine out of his body without even being asked that strongly. This is sad for me because I’ve really grown to love Enoch over the years, despite my “well who the hell is this guy?” reaction to his first appearance way back when. There have also been at least one or two Enoch death fake-outs over the years, so they really had to lay the sauce on thick to make clear that this one is gonna stick (or at least, I think it will?). It’s a sad death scene, even sadder for the way Coulson himself now relates to Enoch as a robotic organism. Enoch also does get a slight reward for his death. In his last moments, he sees a vision of the future and knows that this will be the team’s last mission. Whether that means some of them will die, or just a super-confirmation that this is indeed the final season, remains to be seen.