The far-future storyline on Marvel's Agent's of S.H.I.E.L.D. took a few shocking turns on the way to its conclusion this week, and even though the story seemingly hits an end point, we’re still left with more questions than answers. Let’s break it down, one timeline at a time.
Spoilers ahead for “Past Life,” the latest episode of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which aired Friday, Feb. 2, 2018.
"Stuck in the loop.” - Yo-Yo
The entire season has been building to the fact that Coulson, Daisy, and the rest of the team are trapped in a time loop that always ends with humanity on the brink—and this week we got to see a shocking, tortured manifestation of that vicious cycle.
Last week Kasius teased that he had his own “oracle” that could keep him a step ahead of S.H.I.E.L.D., and now we know who it is: a future version of Yo-Yo from a previous timeline, kept alive by Kasius for years to serve as a source of information and torture victim, is discovered by the modern-day version of the character chained to a bed with both of her hands surgically removed (a nod to the character’s comic origins). We already knew Kasius had the technology to bring humans back from the dead, and he’s used those methods on alt-Yo-Yo repeatedly to keep her around all these years. It’s a brutal twist, and a reminder that this show knows how to go dark when needed.
The scene where both Yo-Yos meet is perfectly executed as actress Natalia Cordova-Buckley digs deep to find the heartbreak and loss of hope as alt-Yo-Yo desperately tries to help her younger self and find a way to break the cycle, only to realize she’s simply giving the same speech she’d heard all those years ago. As the team has slowly started to realize that this cycle has happened before and could happen again, it’s been fascinating to peel the layers back while wondering why they would still remain on this course after seeing everything they’ve seen. Fitz and Simmons still build the Gravitonium device; Yo-Yo seemingly still can’t save everyone even after her warnings from herself; and Coulson knocks out Daisy and drags her back to the future because he can’t accept even the tiniest chance she could be responsible for the world’s destruction.
As Yo-Yo talks about Coulson’s inadvertent role in keeping this freak-show time loop intact, it plays into everything we know and love about the rogue director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson sticks to his convictions no matter what, seemingly even in the face of a time loop that has proven him to be wrong time and time again. Coulson knows there’s always a new threat, and against all odds, he thinks they can beat it. They just have to be together. When given the chance, Coulson continues to make the same calls because he still thinks they’re right, even when the world around stands as proof they might not be. This arc has been genre storytelling at its best, and we can’t wait to see where it goes next.
*One of the biggest shocks was the fact that Coulson is apparently dying, which is why he’s so hell-bent on making sure Daisy returns with him from the future. He’s been grooming her to take over as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. since the moment they met, and once he realizes he’s dying (something we only learn in this moment, secondhand) he knows Daisy has to be there to take up the torch. It’s a testament to how far both characters have come in five seasons, and is a clear callback to the character of Daisy Johnson in the comics, who served as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a while back in the day.
*Seeing Kasius go absolutely bonkers thanks to that Space PCP was a positively wild fight scene, though it seemed oddly out of sorts with what we know about the character to this point. Yes, Sinara is dead, so he’s angry and grieving. But Kasius has always been a coward and survivor. The idea that he would sacrifice himself for one last fit of anger to try and kill S.H.I.E.L.D. rang a bit untrue. Yes, he’s doing it in an effort to alter the past and change the future (so his dad can conquer an un-destroyed Earth), but it’s still hard to believe Kasius would actually sacrifice himself for anything.
*Deke got a true hero’s journey, and finally came to the conclusion that his role in all of this might just be to sacrifice himself to help the other heroes get home. In the time he’s spent with Quake, he believes in her despite the evidence around him, despite what he’s been taught growing up. He sees the good in her, and believes she can break this cycle if given the chance. But to do it, it’ll be a future without him. He takes that realization with dignity and grace, and if that really is the end for Deke, the dude went out on top. R.I.P. Poor Man’s Star-Lord.
*It’s also a bummer to see Enoch bite the dust. He’s one heck of a cool, fun robot.
*It only gets a brief nod, but Fitz seems to still be harboring a bit of that darkness from his tenure in the Framework. When they need a distraction to escape, his plan is to create a decapitation trip wire to take out three Kree at the neck. It’s brutal, and the fact that he did it without a second thought is telling. You have to think that will resurface when/if things ever slow down.
*That closing shot of Flint and Tess looking over the broken world with hope they can rebuild humanity was the perfect place to leave the story, especially if that’s the last shot we ever see of this alt-future. Also, you have to wonder—does Flint have the juice to actually put the world back together?