Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD delivered a terrific episode this week as it delved into the show’s supporting characters, shedding some light into their motivations. We got a sense of the wider Chronicom race and their issues as well as Sarge’s gang and what Sarge-Coulson himself is up to, all interspersed with some A-grade editing. In essence then, The Other Thingreally did show us a peek into the side that our protagonists have been squaring off against for so long.
This was the first episode since the season premiere that combined all running subplots and it did so effortlessly. May had some great dialogue with Sarge where we finally understand what his ragtag scavenger gang has been up to: ridding worlds of strange alien creatures that infect their hosts and emanate crystalline spikes out of them. In a certain sense then, Sarge isn’t really an antagonist; his plan of ridding the very planet that these monsters have chosen to inhabit next simply puts him at odds with the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, especially May.
For Melinda May though, the odds are stacked against her for one more reason: Sarge’s face. Reminding her of Coulson and her last days spent with him, presumably in TAHITI (it’s a magical place), director Lou Diamond Phillips nicely cuts and contrasts those moments with her present-day interactions with Sarge to further push the notion that these are two entirely different people, organisms even. Phillips uses an incredibly large amount of closeups, to conceal the show’s budget constraints that probably prevented them from shooting in TAHITI or Hawaii. Of course eventually, there’s got to be some connection but for now, it’s safe to assume that the show is saving that reveal for the final few episodes. The most logical explanation at this point is that Coulson is a Skrull, though that doesn’t fit as neatly with his intentions as explained in this episode.
Meanwhile in space, the gang finally come close to Fitz only to end up being captured by Chronicom Latara (or is it Natara?). She informs Enoch that their entire planet has been obliterated on account of some disturbances and nudges Enoch to help save their race by coercing Daisy and her captured gang to build a time traveling machine. It’s nice to see Enoch being torn between his planet and his newfound best friend, as well as see some hints of Chronicom sex and indirect sexual tension between the two Chronicoms. Joel Stoffer displays a wonderful balance of restrained stoicism and just a tinge of emotion, with hints of his Chronicom persona developing a human conscience. All of this go a long way in fleshing out the Chronicom world instead of something that exists purely for laughs.
The “anomalies” that spread across planets is reminiscent of Thanos’ snap from Avengers: Infinity War, which kind of bothers the MCU enthusiast in me. It’s sad that the show isn’t maintaining continuity with the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies any longer but these drops certainly suggest some efforts towards at least alluding to what’s happening in the movies. It’s just so anachronistic though that it doesn’t align at all and the only explanation I’m self-convincing myself is that the time-traveling somehow brought them in a parallel Multiverse of sorts, where their reality branched out with those of the movies.
Anyhow, back to conversation on the episode, writer George Kitson (is that who the show named the third episode on?) gives some great material to the SHIELD team, particularly Mack, YoYo and Marcus. The loss of Keller hasn’t really hit as hard as it should have, given that we barely got a chance to know him and his romance with YoYo in the space of four episodes. In this episode though, the effects of his demise are emphasized strongly as a grieving YoYo and a stressed Mack discuss the issues bothering them aboard the spy organization. Mack comes out about the challenges he’s facing keeping a team together and living up to Coulson’s role as well as meeting up to his unspoken expectations and lofty standards and he clearly misses Coulson’s presence. While it’s all conveyed subtly through earlier episodes, seeing him acknowledge these points to YoYo in a private moment does hit you hard.
We also get a sense of how Marcus is struggling to deal with these bizarre happenings around him. Strange, human-looking aliens that pop out of portals, creatures crystallizing inside humans that can be killed with the stab of a special knife, these are things Marcus certainly wasn’t prepared for when he signed up to work with SHIELD. We also learn a bit about his past with his husband (a reminder that Marcus is yet another LGBT character in a mainstream Marvel show) as well as his state of mind after the demise of his better half, and those are nice tidbits to pause and ponder over in a show that’s generally concerned with advancing the plot forward.
Technically, the fifth episode probably stood out the most unique of all the episodes I’ve seen. While every other outing this season has had that “committee” touch to it, as if handled by an executive team, this one felt a bit personal, thanks to how Phillips handled sequences throughout as well as how Kitson wrote the episode to center more around conversations rather than action-spectacle (not that there wasn’t enough spectacle). It’s probably a good reminder that spicing up an episode with your own flair a bit can make it stand out quite a lot.
The Other Thingwas a thoroughly enjoyable episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., one that brought out the human side of all its characters and making us see things from their perspective. Without doubt, it is thus far the best episode of Season 5.