The Agents of SHIELD have been through a lot. Spinning out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and even having a few guest stars from the MCU, the agents have drifted further and further from the movies, and the hoped-for crossover, or at least connection, with the now defunct Marvel/Netflix shows never happened. The show itself has been cancelled, and our team is back for one last outing going someplace they’ve never been before. Previously, it’s been a fair question as to why the beleaguered team has never called for help from the Avengers. At least that question isn’t really floating around this season. The final mission begins with “The New Deal,” an accurate title on several fronts.
In New York City, 1931, we see some of the enemy Chronicoms doing their best to blend in. They pick a fight with some unlikely foes, and then things get even weirder. But the Chronicoms aren’t unopposed, as we see the Zephyr arriving in the same era. Last season ended with Simmons reappearing after being gone a bit and shanghaiing the team. About the last thing we saw was her revealing her plan to help them: an LMD of the beloved Phillip J. Coulson. As Mack and Daisy are taken aback by this, the debate gets cut short by an impulsive stab at the on button. It’s safe to say that Coulson (for lack of a better term) doesn’t take to his new status well, and gets put in time out. Angry on several levels, Mack throws his weight around as Director, and let’s remember, Mack’s a BIG guy.
As the Zephyr lands, Simmons proves not great at explaining what’s gong on. Then again, she was the bio-science one of the pair, and tech master Fitz is notably absent. Simmons walks them through the newly redesigned ship, and that they’ve prepared for this era with money and equipment. Deke gets sent out to procure clothes, because they don’t have vintage shops in the present? Mack has some reasonable points to make about keeping certain members of the team on the ship, and Deke has some difficulty believing certain parts of American history. Daisy checks in on May, who is not in the best of shape, and then asks a very perceptive question about Simmons that doesn’t really get answered.
Being a good leader who knows when he has limited resources to work with, Mack turns Coulson back on and they have a talk. I think Clark Gregg gives a fantastic performance here as a machine that’s an echo of a great man trying to adjust to a completely different personal reality. Mack and Coulson come to an agreement with some ominous discussion about the future. Simmons and Enoch brief the team on as much as they know about what’s going on, and we get a good look at the Marvel Universe, 1930’s edition. The team looks fantastic in their new clothes. Deke gets some credit for things he’s been through before, Mack worries about appearances, and Coulson continues to have a sort of existential crisis. Different theories of time travel are discussed, and they don’t come to the same conclusions at all that the Avengers did in Endgame. The team gives Deke some static for what he prepared for them as cover identities, but no one else seems to have done anything, so cut the man a break, hm? The team bluffs their way into a crime scene and starts gathering information the best they can. While Deke uses a nasty-looking gadget, Coulson remembers some obscure pre-SHIELD trivia, so he and Mack go follow up on that lead.
Enoch does his best to care for May, grievously wounded fighting Izel last season. Yo-Yo looks on, and doubts trusting the artificial man. Simmons reassures Yo-Yo, talks up Enoch, and gives the fastest SHIELD agent some good news, as well as some new weapons of a sort. Yo-Yo isn’t sure about this at first, but Simmons make some great points. Coulson and Mack talk their way into a speakeasy in search of some information, but things don’t go as planned. Deke and Daisy bicker a bit as Deke examines the bodies, when some opposition arrives in unexpected form. The enemy makes some plans and shows they have a lot to learn about blending in, but are masters of being creepy.
Deke and Daisy get separated and each have to deal with the enemy. It’s easy to dismiss Deke as comic relief, but he’s a scrappy little guy and does pretty well for himself. Daisy is a powerhouse, and handles her foe about like you’d expect. Deke shows some more useful talents, and our heroes flee the scene, bring a source of information back to the Zephyr. Mack and Coulson are in trouble, but Coulson comes to some new realizations and gets them in a better position. Things get interrupted when a familiar face shows up in a kind of blast from the past. Except it’s the present. At the moment. Time travel is rough on grammar. Yo-Yo agrees to test her new devices, and expresses some concern about Simmons. Simmons is clearly weary in general, but keeps pushing forward. This is about when Deke and Daisy arrive with various stolen/captured goods. With some clever fast talk, Coulson and Mack set up a new alliance and get a good lead on who the bad guy’s probable target is.
The team goes undercover to try and protect a very important historical figure. It’s no surprise Coulson has a fanboy moment given he’s a student of history. A lot of shows would either ignore this or make the whole show about it, but I give Agents of SHIELD some serious credit for showing Mack having trouble in a more openly racist time in a realistic way that doesn’t dominate the episode. Coulson makes a bad joke, Mack gives assignments, and there’s some discussion about recent events. Back on the ship, Enoch expresses some doubt about a prisoner, and Simmons gets ruthless. Daisy and Coulson have a touching, if confusing, heart to heart, interrupted when the guest of honor shows up. Deke has a somewhat different chat with Freddie the bartender.
Simmons starts flirting with the title of mad scientist (literally) in her interrogation, but they aren’t getting the info they need. Daisy and Coulson chat some more, and Coulson’s knowledge of history is once again very useful. They end up having an impressive meeting, but not the way they thought it would happen. Elsewhere, some of what’s really going on starts to show itself, but why is still unclear. Simmons finally finds out what’s going on, and sends word to the team, which is initially greeted with a lot of confusion. Finally, a last name is revealed, and the pieces drop into place. There’s a big fight, an unpleasant realization, and a great new nickname for the bad guys that I hope sticks. While there’s a lot of rushing around to save a few lives and the timeline, Enoch finds out something has gone wrong on the Zephyr to end the episode.
What I liked: It’s great to see the gang again. They make the ‘30’s look work really well. It was nice to see Deke get some credit for doing useful things. What the actual plot is really makes a lot of sense when it’s finally revealed. Coulson’s struggle with what’s happening to him was really well done. Their new/old ally was a great touch, as was the actual target. The big name from history was handled well. Speaking as a comic geek, there are several Marvel characters running around in the 30’s they could meet/call for help if they chose to (and if the MCU history is close enough to the comic one).
What I didn’t: Fitz and Simmons are separated. Again. Gee, that’s new. It’s a little weird that supposedly in the same world, two different groups are operating under different versions of time travel.
I though this was a great start to a goodbye that I don’t want in the first place. I’m going to miss these guys. I’m giving this a high 4 out of 5.