There’s plenty to unpack this episode. The plot keeps moving in several directions, characters and plot points from seasons back are brought in again, and we get some great moments from characters all around. So without further ado, let’s use our inside voices and see what this episode gave us.
1. The Gravity of the Situation
Let’s talk gravitonium, because everyone is this season. Remember when Franklin Hall first fell into the gravitonium and was absorbed by it? We all thought he’d come back as a gravity-themed super-villain, but that hasn’t happened yet. Instead, the gravitonium has been absorbing anyone fed to it, specifically Ian Quinn, and almost Crusher Creel.
So now there are two minds bickering inside the gravitonium, and Creel absorbed some of that when he tried copying the gravitonium’s properties. And neither of the voices are particularly fond of Coulson.
That said, I would like it if the “Previously on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” recaps would remind us of the characters’ names now and then, because they’re bringing in plot points from several seasons ago.
2. The Great Escape
We knew Hale’s Hydra wouldn’t be holding Coulson forever, but the way they escaped was really entertaining. Creel and Coulson teaming up was fun, and the fact that Creel actually cared about Talbot enough to break him out shows some nice character development. Not to mention using the teleporter to get to (relative) safety by not adjusting the altitude, that was clever.
And of course, we get to see Creel in action. They didn’t quite make the full use of his absorbing powers, though; mostly just absorbing a little bit of metal up his arm, probably because any more would take even more of the show’s effects budget. He probably should have kept more of it absorbed if at all possible, particularly when Ruby was smashing him in the face with metal weights, but that’s something easier done in comics than in live-action.
3. Family Business
Let’s talk about Robin for a minute. We’ve seen her in the future, so we know how she dies, but she’s also seen it in her visions. The girl has memories of things that haven’t happened yet, which makes perfect sense for those of us in the audience, but not so much for anyone who hasn’t been to the future.
As such, it was rather bittersweet when Robin saw May and called her “mommy.” We know what their adoptive relationship will be like in the future, but in the present, her actual mother was right there. Lola Glaudini’s delivery of the scene where Polly talks about how she knows she’s not in any of Robin’s drawings was impressively done, and you really feel for the character.
It’s nice that SHIELD is sympathetic to Polly’s plight, even if it’s a foregone conclusion. They’re making good use of the character, but the thing about prophecies is they’re often hard to decipher until they’ve already passed, which may or may not be the case in our next point…
4. Did Coulson Die?
Coulson is dying. We know this already. It’s been firmly established. Then we get further confirmation when Robin says he’s going to die.
However, that prediction may have already happened this episode.
During the escape scene, Coulson gets punched in the heart by a robot soldier. Given his condition, and the fact that a robot just punched him in the heart, it does in fact stop his heart, and Creel has to resuscitate him. I also quite liked how they did that, by having him use his absorbing powers to turn himself into a defibrillator, but that’s not the main point.
The point is, Coulson did die, albeit for about ten seconds. Then he got better. So the door has been left open for him to survive even in the face of Robin’s predictions, because it’s very possible that they already came to pass.
While that may not be what the writers intend, it could very well be a little loophole they left themselves should the need arise.
5. Future Madness
Speaking of people knowing the future, let’s look at Yo-Yo and Fitz-Simmons, the trio with future-proof immortality. They know it, and they’re using that knowledge to a frightening extent.Continued below
The poison roulette drinking game Simmons played was chilling, while also making a good trick to get Mack to let Fitz out. The pacing, the lighting in the scene, and the performances everyone provided made it particularly effective, and we can just see Simmons go off the deep end with the power of this future knowledge.
A few episodes back, I said the idea that free will is an illusion was so frightening. This is a good example of why. They know they cannot die, and so fear no longer exists. If they want to take on Hydra single-handedly, they very well could because destiny has decreed they’ll live, and that knowledge is sending them into overconfident madness.
Of course, “surviving” and “living well” are two different things. Yo-Yo lost her arms, who knows what other damage the characters can take while still “surviving” into the future?
Bonus Thought: Did Coulson reference Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog with “evil league of evil?” It makes sense, considering it’s a Whedon property, so nice touch there.