With the team bouncing through time trying to preserve the world as we know it, a quick stop in the 1950s opens the door for a whole lot of nods to former companion series Agent Carter. Oh, and the team is also mistaken for alien commies.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for "Alien Commies From the Future!," the latest episode of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.**
Dropping the team into the mid-1950s, at the height of the Space Race and in the desert near Area 51, made for a classic story that really felt like vintage S.H.I.E.L.D. The first couple episodes of the show's final season have had to do a bit of narrative heavy-lifting to get all the pieces back on the board, but this was arguably the first episode that really felt "fun" in that Marvel-y way this series has pioneered at this point.
Coulson is positively giddy to get to play around in the 1950s, and cooks up the perfect cover to have the team infiltrate the nearby S.H.I.E.L.D. base being targeted by the Chronicoms. Turns out their play in this time period is to overcharge an existing piece of experimental tech at the base and essentially nuke the facility — with most of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s brain trust caught up in the explosion. The move would've effectively crippled the agency in its early days, and would apparently be dramatic enough to cause the agency to fizzle out before it could grow to become a threat to the Chronicoms in the future.
To figure all that out, Coulson and Simmons go undercover as agents of that era, with Coulson assuming the identity of a DOD analyst, while Simmons puts her British accent to good use and assumes the identity of the famed Agent Peggy Carter. Their plan is actually working pretty well — interviewing all the scientists and visitors to the base to try and determine if they're human or Chronicoms — until Agent Daniel Sousa shows up. As fans of ABC's short-lived Agent Carter series are well aware, Sousa was Peggy's partner and romantic flame for a time, so he definitely notices that Simmons is not the "Peggy" he was expecting.
Sousa arrests them, leading Daisy to go in posing as a CIA agent to recover them, but everything goes haywire when the Chronicoms make their move to try and blow up the base.
Meanwhile, Mack, May, YoYo, and Deke try to interrogate the DOD analyst that Coulson is posing as — though he assumes they're Communists and doesn't give up any intel. Later, May and YoYo infiltrate the base posing as female test pilots to search for the Chronicoms, which leads to the eventual face-off at the device they're attempting to detonate, codenamed Helios.
We get plenty of good fisticuffs between Coulson and a Chronicom; and May/YoYo and a Chronicom, though Simmons saves the day by repurposing an early EMP to knock out the bomb and Chronicoms all in one shot — along with LMD Coulson. Oops.
The writers continue to have a deft handling of addressing issues of race and sexism as they would have existed in these eras. The bathroom at the diner is segregated, with Daisy noting that despite the idealism of the era, there's still much progress to be made. Later, Mack, YoYo, and May turn to Deke for interrogating their prisoner — thinking he might actually talk to the only white guy on the team there, considering the era. And hey, it kind of works. It's also a testament to just how diverse a cast they've built over the years on this series. Impressive.
We learn a lot more about the time hopping aspect of how the Zephyr is traveling, and it's a bit more hodge-podge than Simmons made it sounds from the jump. Basically, they're just "drifting" the time wake created by the Chronicoms each jump. So, the team has no clue where they're heading each jump, or what the target is for the Chronicoms, which means they'll basically start off a step behind every time they jump.
We also get a peek at the apparent leader of the Chronicoms via a "predictor" named Cybil, who is apparently the only predictor left calling the shots. It stands to reason we'll see more of her as the season goes on.
The fun stuff was also flying fast and furious this week: We got jokes from Simmons and Daisy as they keep forgetting how strong LMD Coulson is now; Deke and Mack falling into alien abduction cliches to keep their cover; and the best of all — Coulson trying out the Voight-Kampff test from Blade Runner to try and ID a Chronicom. But instead, he makes an old lady cry.
Coulson's fight with the Chronicom felt like something straight out of a Terminator movie. You could really feel the weight and power they were throwing around. Great work.
Having Enver Gjokaj's Daniel Sousa back was also a treat, and a great bookend for that character to get to see him in the MCU (presumably) one last time. He's still smart as a whip, and as Daisy learns, is actually investigating HYDRA's infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. all those years ago. Seeing him play with Simmons once he knows she's not actually Peggy was a great scene, and just goes to shows how clever and cool under pressure Sousa has become after his time on Agent Carter.
May is clearly dealing with some PTSD from her near-death last season, which manifests with a panic attack in the middle of the mission this week. Tackling that kind of story with a character like this is a brave one, since we rarely get to see that kind of emotion from The Calvary. YoYo is also dealing with some lingering fallout from last season, as her speed powers continue to not work.
The episode ends with the light literally going out in Coulson's eyes after that EMP goes off. Here's hoping Simmons designed him with a restart function and a back-up.
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