It’s become par for the course for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to have you laughing — then crying — within the same episode, but we’ve rarely laughed and cried quite so much as in this one. It’s smart, twisty, and absolutely brutal. Often all at once.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for “As I Have Always Been,” the latest episode of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which aired Wednesday, July 22, 2020**
After that final jump into oblivion last week, the Zephyr is now stuck within a time storm — which is just fancy MCU language for a good ol’ fashioned time loop. You know, like Groundhog Day, Palm Springs, etc.? Yeah, one of those. For whatever reason, Daisy and LMD Coulson are the only ones aware of the loop (Daisy’s leading theory is that they’re immune because they were both within sci-fi sleep tubes when the loop began). But this time loop comes with a twist — it’s not eternal, as Daisy and Coulson figure out they’re continuing to get closer to the vortex of the time storm with each loop.
If they don’t break it in time, they’re dead. Or erased from reality itself? Whatever it is, it’s not good.
The episode, directed by star Elizabeth Henstridge in her directorial debut, does a fantastic job of balancing the world-saving stakes and humor of trial and error to figure out exactly how to break the loop. Turns out this loop is a result of the time drive critically malfunctioning — which gives Daisy and Coulson just a short amount of time to try and solve the problem. They eventually learn about Simmons’ memory suppressor tech, and hope that removing it could reveal a solution to fix the time drive. The only problem is someone keeps killing Simmons before they can remove it. Several loops later, they figure out Enoch has been subconsciously programmed by Fitz and Simmons to prevent its removal — even if that means literally killing Simmons in the process.
So we transition from a whodunit to the next batch of loops, which are spent trying to figure out a way to stop Enoch from stopping them from removing the memory device. This leads to several loops where Enoch kills or beats up basically everyone, as they try to time out a plan to distract Enoch long enough to access Simmons’ memories. It takes almost the entire team to fight him, but they finally get it done, and Simmons provides the answer — Enoch’s “heart” is the only thing that can fix the time drive. That means to break the loop, Enoch has to die in the final one — meaning he won’t be coming back to life.
Once they reach the final loop before oblivion, they put the pieces together and explain the plan. Without hesitation, Enoch willingly hands over his heart to save his friends. To honor the friendship that Fitz planted in him all those years ago. His dying words, "Fitz, he was my best friend. As I have always been…” inspire the episode’s title. It’s a heartbreaking scene, as Daisy and Coulson stay with Enoch so he doesn’t spend his final moments alone. He talks about how he never understood loneliness until he had friends to miss. It’s a brutal, heartbreaking scene — made all the harder as Coulson explains sometimes dying first is the easy part, because you’re not left behind to mourn.
Sweet, touching. A fitting heroic end to Enoch, though we’ll miss him all the same.
Along the way, Daisy pieces together that Agent Sousa might have feelings for her — and realizes she also has feelings for him. They have a touching heart to heart, where he opens up about being that person who supports the heroes who don’t take care of themselves, essentially, because they’re too focused on fighting for the greater good. Daisy takes advantage in one loop to just lay a kiss on Sousa — though obviously Sousa won’t remember that once the time loop is broken. But we’d suspect that little ‘ship to come back up again down the line.
We get some great moments between Daisy and Coulson, and this being the final season, it was nice to team them up for an episode. Also, even though he’s a robot, Coulson still loves the vinyl. Because records are cool, y’all.
Before his death, Enoch drops a troubling proclamation — he says he’s seen the future and this is the team’s last mission together. Which, yeah it’s the show’s final season. But does the season end with the team dead? Retired? Trapped in another dimension? So many questions.
The post-credit scene this week picked up with Nathaniel Malick, who is still assembling his team of evil Inhumans for whatever nefarious purposes he’s worked out with the Chronicoms. Also, that super-powered woman we met last week who joined him might be… Daisy’s big sister? Lots of questions there.