“A Life Earned,” part of a saying we keep hearing in the future of SHIELD, begins with Kasius and Daisy. Kasius is going on about how hard he’s worked to save humanity after Earth was destroyed. He also talks about the legends of SHIELD coming to the rescue, and isn’t too subtle in his threats to Daisy about how he’s going to make her talk. The technologically deafened Simmons looks on, not really knowing what they’re talking about.
In Grill’s shop, Coulson’s team isn’t doing too well either. May’s there working with them since all trawler flights have been canceled, and they banter a bit about the new slang they’re picking up. Grill pops out of his office, even more a slavedriver than normal, bellowing that Kasius is entertaining important guests and he needs more scrap to sell. It’s not good news for the workers, who aren’t exactly in the best of situations to start with. When he’s done with his Dickensian speech, Grill takes Mac aside and tells him how Grill is going to make Mac Zev’s replacement, since his previous enforcer was taken by the Kree.
Daisy gets brought to a training area, where she sees a man who fights amazingly well. As she talks to him, we eventually learn his name is Ben, and his Inhuman power is subtle but a nasty one for a fighter. He also talks about the origins of the meat he’s eating, and I think it’s one of those happier not knowing moments. Kasius wanders onto the balcony to get a private viewing of Daisy being trained.
While Mac goes to Coulson for some advice about Grill sending him off to beat up a guy named Gunner who is behind on payments, Daisy tries to win Ben over for her side. He’s not really interested, and explains some of the facts of life under Kasius and what happens with the Inhumans he sells off. It’s a nasty system, and they make the Inhumans complicit in their own subjugation. Evil, but slick. While Daisy gets educated, Deke gets paid for turning her in. The guy really is a slime.
Deke returns to the normal levels, and gets almost immediately jumped by Coulson and May, who are worried about Daisy. Deke spins them a story, and uses some of Daisy’s actual words to give it the ring of truth. They also ask him about Level 35, something they’ve been hearing about, and he claims never to have been there. Which means he probably lives there or something. They tell him a bit about what they’ve learned about the surface of what’s left of Earth, and Deke actually gets interested in spite of himself.
Mac, reluctantly, goes after Gunner. At least Yoyo came with him, although how all of them are getting excused from slaving for Grill I’m not sure. Mac has a lot of misgivings about this, bringing up what happened with Fitz in the Framework. Yoyo is a lot more practical, and urges him along to keep them both out of trouble.
Kasius is hosting some kind of dinner, with Simmons serving him, when Sinara shows up and distracts her. Kasius is going to force her and Daisy to tell their stories, and is using Ben and his power to verify the truth. Daisy tells a version of what happened to them in the past, and then Simmons tells the same story. Clearly, Ben is helping them. As the interrogation proceeds, Deke helps get Coulson and May to the mysterious Level 35.
Ben talks to Daisy after the question and answer period, and he tells her a bit more about himself, his power, and what he’s learned about Kasisus, both the Kree’s feelings and his plans. It’s not good for humanity long term, that’s certain. Daisy tries to figure out a way to use this to her advantage.
In a series of intercut scenes, Coulson and May learn what’s so special about Level 35, and Mac and Yoyo carry out their assignment. We learn a lot about what passes for both currency and control here. Once again, it’s a sick but impressive system. Gunner is disgusted by what he thinks Mac and Yoyo are, and that doesn’t go real well. We also learn a bit more about the term “vacancy” as they’ve been using it. Coulson cracks, “Super. This has gone full dystopian.”
Amid their new discoveries, Coulson and May find out Deke’s been lying about Daisy. Deke’s in for a few short, hard lessons about SHIELD looking out for its own. Kree guards show up, and Deke tries to talk them down, not helped when Coulson and May leap to the attack. The Kree are tougher than human, Coulson’s been behind a desk a long time, and May’s injured. It looks worse for them when Sinara shows up with her damn flying balls of death. While May covers their retreat, Coulson gives a unique form of first aid to Deke, who was injured in the fight. The heroes get away, but we don’t know what’s become of May. Coulson forces Deke to hand over his payment for Daisy.
Yoyo tries to talk to Mac. He’s having some major doubts about himself from some of the things Gunner said to him. He also is worried about the lingering trauma from events in that damn Framework. That place really messed with everyone. She manages to talk him around just before Mac gets an ill-timed compliment from Grill, that pisses Mac off even more, but he’s smart enough not to say anything.
In Kasius’ chambers, he’s entertaining various visitors who are there to bid on Daisy, better known to them as Quake, Destroyer of Worlds. Not only does she hate the term, it’s not right. Putting aside the matter of Earth for the moment, even if she did destroy it, that’s just one world. I’m just pointing that out. There’s going to be an exhibition of various Inhuman powers leading up to Daisy as the main event. One of the visitors wants to skip the exhibition, and when they take off their mask (which looks a bit like Star-Lord’s to me) we see a familiar face.
What I liked: The more we learn about this ugly future, the more horrifying it gets, but it’s really well thought out. The writers have put a lot of thought into the twisted details of how this place works. I was really glad to see the surprise guest at the end. Daisy is always fun to listen to when she’s snarky, and her getting help from Ben made a lot of sense when he explained why.
What I didn’t: Deke is a slippery, slimy critter, and even as we’re learning more about his motivations, I just don’t like or trust him. Kasius and Sinara are annoying villains. Between this and the Framework, the team has been in back to back nightmare scenarios. I know everything being happy all the time is a boring story to tell, but maybe cut them something of a break?
I enjoyed the episode, and the depth of detail impressed me about the world they’ve created. I’ll give this a 4 out of 5.