With an episode title like “The Last Day,” the pressure is on to pay off the setup and then some. Thankfully, this episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pulls it off, if only by twisting expectations in a very unexpected and personal direction.
Spoilers ahead for “The Last Day,” the latest episode of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which aired Friday, Jan. 19, 2018.
“This is the day it all ends.” - Robin
Time travel is a tricky thing, and this week Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. moved to a level of Doctor Whovian proportions when it comes to timey-wimey-ness. We learned that a version of the team lived through the end of the world, circa 2022, and rescued the young Inhuman Robin. May raises the young prophet as her own daughter, while Fitz and Simmons work on the time machine that will eventually be used to take an earlier version of themselves to the future? Apparently? The question of cause and effect here makes your head spin (does the 2022 version of the team remember everything that happens this season, since it’d technically be their past?), but the emotional notes strike well enough that you can mostly just shrug and go with it.
Robin is obviously the connection between both of these disparate points in time, and having the old woman version of Robin serving as an unreliable narrator at the heart of the story was a clever move, as the past, present, and future have all started to fold together in her old age. Her death also brought some emotional heft to her prophecy that “this is the day it all ends.” Did she mean her life? This twisted future? Both? The reveal that a future (past?) version of May actually raises Robin was a true shock, and shows how the character has grown from simply being the muscle all those years ago. Seeing alt-future Fitz absolutely snapping at the idea that this is a problem he can’t fix was also true to form. In this instance time really does feel like a broken record, and the team is stuck in the skip, too far in to start things over from that point. Is it a bit confusing? Sure. But it works.
Of course, an escape can never be too easy, and it turns out the survivors on the surface have their own plans for how to prevent the end of the world — they want to kill Daisy before she can go back to her time and destroy the planet in the past/her future (confused yet?). Again, this raises some interesting questions — if the events are preordained, how can they ever avert the apocalypse? If they’re not, wouldn’t they just be splitting into alternate timelines? Again, the episode is framed in a way that you’re rooted in the emotional stakes as opposed to the time travel minutiae, but it still makes for a fun thought exercise. They also killed Deke’s father, so it’ll be interesting to see where he fits into this narrative moving in the wake of that reveal.
This has made for one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s most compelling and ambitious arcs of the show’s run, and the pressure is on to resolve it in a satisfying way that actually pays off all that setup. The creative team has previously stuck the landing with both the Framework and Ghost Rider storylines, so we’re excited to see how this one comes down in the next week or so. Also, will this story continue on in the present day, with the team still working to avert this future from that side of the spectrum? Still a lot of questions left to be answered.
*May knows the way home now, thanks to Robin whispering some mysterious instructions into her ear on her deathbed. We can almost certainly get ready for a trademark, wild action caper to get the team back in the right time period.
*So Flint, the young Inhuman back on the Lighthouse who can control rocks, is apparently going to be very important. Since they’re dealing with a monolith to apparently make the trek back to the present day, will his abilities of rock manipulation come into play? Or is it something far more dire — is Flint destined to become evil in the future? May’s query left it wide open.
*If there’s anything this season has been lacking, its Mack’s shotgun ax. That flaw was gloriously rectified this week.
*Kasius’ hold on the human population within the Lighthouse seems to be coming apart at the seams this week, to the point he lets loose a bunch of alien roaches to cull the population like cannon fodder. Regardless of whether this future is eventually erased from the timeline, Kasius has some comeuppance coming his way.
*As if trying to pull off a time travel exit wasn’t hard enough, Kasius’ Kree huntress is also on the surface tracking the team. Look for one more good ol’ battle royale before this is all over.