‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: ‘Spacetime’ is a Flat Circle, Man
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Spacetime”:
As with any good sci-fi procedural, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a little X-Files baked into its DNA here and there, often overlooked in favor of more heavily serialized storytelling. That wasn’t always the case; the first season often frustrated by the volume of stand-alone weirdness, but three seasons getting to know these characters leaves a bit more room for the kind of tricky premonition concepts that make “Spacetime” work. It’s a unique hour, in that an Inhuman vision forces the team to essentially construct its own narrative backwards, but a fresh one.
In a larger cinematic universe sense, actual future-visions can seem too omnipotent a power to imbue on a small scale, in the same matter Scarlet Witch mostly sent visions of her own making, but “Spacetime” smartly dissects the idea right from the jump. Daisy and the team go over every detail of the premonition, while Fitz grounds their thinking in fourth-dimensional math terms, a clever (if True Detective-reminiscent) means with which to debate the concept* of free will. A hardened scientist like Fitz flatly assures that the vision’s events are inevitable, something we later learn largely true, but characters like Simmons or Daisy challenging the idea pepper in a few character beats to an otherwise straight-forward discussion.
*It’s a thoughtful concept, one “Spacetime” never actively seeks to drop in presuming that attempts to change said events will lead to their verbatim fruition, though it does lead to some bizarre approaches, like May attempting to sub in for Skye’s fight sequence, and replicate the movements beat-for-beat. The notion ends up discarded when Andrew arrives at the base anyway, odd, considering the time and technical resources spent on the choreography.
Unusual one-off premise or no, recovering our Inhuman oracle keeps Hydra in the loop as well, pairing Nu-Ward (and his terrible Neo coat) with Malick for a hostile takeover that largely serves to clue S.H.I.E.L.D. in on Ward’s return, and sow a few seeds of dissent between the two Hydra figures. Ward killing the board executives (presumably filmed with the same red skeleton props) remains a creepy visual, while powering up Malick with enough exo-armor to take on Daisy was an interesting addition to the visual language Agents normally employs in these super-powered fights. Hive’s goal still feels a bit opaque, but at least we’re taking a few steps toward his and Malick’s dynamic in Season 3’s endgame.
And while the vision concept pretty clearly telegraphed that Daisy would end up subbing back in for May, the return of Andrew was definitely an unexpected twist, perhaps to the point of feeling borrowed from another episode, or simply steamrolling hers and Simmons’ efforts to track Lash. We’ll have to wait longer to see if the team might reconfigure the vaccine in a manner that keeps Blair Underwood in play, but the repeat discussion of Lash’s “higher purpose” and Lincoln’s insistence on a pattern to Inhuman powers does perhaps lay some groundwork for the sudden reversion tonight. If nothing else, May and Andrew’s goodbyes lent some emotion to an hour otherwise focused more on spectacle and A to B movement than heavy drama.
The last clue that “Spacetime” offered by Charles Hinton’s visions was that Daisy might be the one in that Quinjet explosion glimpsed in the premiere, but as the hour itself proved, not all of the man’s premonitions end in certain death. Such a space-y flashforward isn’t really commanding the same kind of uncertainty as some other TV mysteries floating around at the moment anyway, but “Spacetime” still made for a pretty cool method of storytelling overall.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could definitely use more of those big swings framing episodes, especially to build on the already diverse power sets cropping up from Inhuman to Inhuman.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- Was … that man really doing enough business in the alley that Charlie’s presence was “bad for business?”
- I realize it’s neither Avengers tower, nor Hell’s Kitchen, but you’d think an aircraft shooting up New York streets would probably draw more attention.
- “I never saw the original Terminator.” “You’re off the team.”
- Not exactly Stark Tech, or even Cybertek, that exo-suit.
- Prettttty sure Supergirl fought Master Jailer outside of that building.
- Sure, good for Fitz and Simmons holding hands, but I’m not sure why “Spacetime” felt any of the episode was about them in that moment.
- Why did no one friggin’ go up to the roof and help Daisy?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return on April 12 with “Paradise Lost,” airing at 9:00 P.M. on ABC.
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