I’m just going to say it right off the bat: this was a really fun episode. It gave us a lot story-wise, the character work was all-around strong, and it’s working well with the time travel mechanics. So with that said, let’s dive in.
1. Film Noir
Remember how last week I wondered if the change in Coulson’s eyes was a sign of things to come? Well, it creates the framing device for this episode.
Yes, the EMP fried out Coulson’s ability to see color and changed his settings to be on a constant internal monologue. Since he’s the viewpoint character, we get to see the world in black and white and listen to his narration.
That’s right – they use a malfunction in his LMD body to make the episode entirely film noir. And it was great. That’s a clever way to use the medium, and it was entirely fitting for the era and theme of the episode. The homage to Sunset Boulevard at the end was particularly well-done.
Although as an aside, we now know that Coulson doesn’t think with an internal monologue. As someone who does (and it’s basically a nonstop narration of my day, to the point where I don’t consider a thought to be complete until I make sure it’s properly worded and grammatically correct in my head) I can only wonder what it’s like. Must be pretty quiet.
2. The Day That Sousa Dies
In true film noir style, the episode begins by showing us how it ends: with Agent Sousa getting shot and dying.
As we learn throughout the episode, his death is a catalyst for S.H.I.E.L.D. It inspires agents and helps make the organization the force that it becomes – Mack compared it to how Coulson’s death inspired the Avengers to come together. In other words, his death is a “fixed point in time,” to use a Doctor Who term.
This gives the team another dilemma: do they keep history as it is and let a good man die, thus ensuring S.H.I.E.L.D. and countless agents get the inspiration from his life that they need, or do they save his life? It’s a different decision than whether or not to kill Freddie Malick; as Mack says, “It’s easier to let a bad man live than to let a good man die.”
Though the resolution works quite well given what we’ve seen of how time travel works in this show. We’ll circle back to that at the end.
3. Poor Enoch
The S.H.I.E.L.D. team has a powerful ace in the hole – someone who not only knows their enemies well, but is just as fast, strong, and smart as them. Infinitely patient. Unaffected by the passage of time. And utterly overlooked.
Yes, I’m feeling sorry for Enoch at this point in time. He’s spent the last 24 years working at a bartender, from Koenig’s speakeasy to the Crazy Canoe. That makes him an easy point of contact as the team moves through time, so what do they do?
They call him to basically act as an operator between their calls and the zephyr. Every time he asks if it’s time to rejoin the team, then has to get back to listening to a drunkard rant about his life. By the time Deke calls, Enoch is ready to just skip right to the phone line, although at least Deke actually sounds happy to hear from him.
Given the choice of language (and wonderful delivery) at the end, it’s clear this is starting to weigh on Enoch too.
Then it’s time for the team to return to the future. Do they go and pick Enoch up before heading out? Nope, they assume that he’ll be fine, since he’s a Chronicom. Those ungrateful jerks.
4. We Meet Again
When we last saw Freddie Malick, he got in a car and drove off to become a founding member of Hydra. Now we see him again, with a fuller beard and a lot more blood on his hands.
Yes, Malick is the one pulling the strings behind Sousa’s assassination. But in doing so, he crosses paths with Deke again.
This was a very well-done scene. There was a lot of tension as Malick realized who Deke is, then had to decide if he was going to shoot or not. Deke’s act of mercy in 1931 gets repaid in 1955, as Malick lets him go.Continued below
But is this the last we’ve seen of Wilfred Malick? Most assuredly not, as the end of the episode shows a Chronicom getting in touch with him. It seems there’s still a chance for history to change, and more from Freddie to come.
5. To Change or Not to Change?
So we return to the big dilemma of this episode: do they save Sousa, and how?
We see him get shot at the beginning of the episode. Coulson’s narration says that some things can’t change. So it seems like he’s dead, right?
Then we get the reveal: it’s Coulson who got shot in the back and was lying in the pool. Being a LMD, he was able to survive and play dead while they had the real Sousa knocked out and brought to the safety of the zephyr.
So as far as the world knows, Agent Sousa is still dead. He was shot in the back delivering a MacGuffin before he could ferret out the Hydra agents within S.H.I.E.L.D. and is remembered as a hero.
In reality, he’s still alive and well… he just can’t be a part of history again. It looks like he may be joining the team now, whether he wants to or not. So now we have Sousa, a man out of the past, and Deke, who came from a future that will now never happen. This should make for good character dynamics.
The way they saved Sousa’s life without changing history is clever. It worked very well given the way time travel has been shown to work in this show. But will that keep up?
We’ve already seen how much Daisy wants to change history for the better. Yo-Yo expressed doubts about keeping history the same as well. Now, Deke is showing the same sentiments after his re-meeting with Malick.
Will the team continue to protect the timeline? Will they switch to more actively impacting the timeline? Or will the team be split between those that want to preserve the timeline or save it? We’ll find out soon enough.