The Agents of SHIELD are having a lot of fun with their final season. They’ve made various changes in the production to accommodate the eras they end up in. Now, in the 50’s, we get a black and white, noir themed episode, even explained in story as some complications Coulson is having from the big EMP last episode. The team isn’t done with the redoubtable Agent Sousa yet, nor the machinations of Hydra, as they try and come “Out of the Past.”
The show opens with a tribute to the famous (and often parodied) beginning of the classic film Sunset Boulevard. We get the explanation for the shift to black and white and the inner monologue, and Coulson talking about fate versus history. Once again going back to “How did we get here?” we jump back in time, although less dramatically than the Zephyr does. Following up on last episode, Coulson is in Sousa’s custody, and has to come up with a story that won’t confuse everything. He improvises nicely, and Sousa listens, if a bit grudgingly at first. The story he spins ties in to the Cold War and MCU history, namedropping Howard Stark. Persuading Sousa to let him make a call, Coulson realizes there’s only one way to make this work.
Having been left behind a few decades (or an episode) ago, Enoch is still working at the SHIELD safehouse, now a horribly kitchy bar instead of a speakeasy. Enoch is dealing with a talkative customer anyone who spends time in bars would recognize, and is delighted to hear from Coulson. The Chronicom has made good use of his spare time, perfecting a gadget to bridge the gaps in generations of technology, and connects Coulson to the Zephyr, clearly a bit surprised at the urgency of Coulson’s request cutting their conversation short. Finally reaching the others, Coulson gives an update and they figure out the Chronicoms may have changed history after all, since the one they killed and replaced to infiltrate Area 51 had an important part to play in another key historical event for SHIELD. Whether the Chronicoms got lucky or had a mutli-layer plan is never explained. They also figure out that they have reached the day Agent Sousa dies and inspires later Agents by his sacrifice.
Dispatched to find the body of the dead scientist, and something he was working on, Yo-Yo and Deke debate what they’re doing with these time trips. Finding the door of the house clearly tampered with, the team splits up to search. They find the package they needed, and the body, but someone else finds them, and Deke gets captured. So a mostly successful mission, I guess? Coulson tries to vamp as this latest complication throws a wrench is his new plan, and Sousa was just barely trusting him as it was. Enoch gets drafted into playing operator again as he talks to Yo-Yo, and he’s clearly starting to feel abandoned. Coulson makes up some more stuff to keep Sousa busy, and we see someone else has an interest in our pair of agents. While Simmons enthuses about the gadget they captured, which really doesn’t look like much, May continues to act oddly and, off on their own, Sousa and Coulson talk jobs and love lives.
When Sousa goes to get a drink, Coulson gets joined by one of the Chronicoms, who has a surprising offer. Coulson does at least listen before refusing, which is when things turn nasty, but for Sousa, not Coulson. While he’s more than capable of handling himself, Sousa gets some help as the rest of the team catch up with the train via quinjet. It’s a nice little noir/vintage PI kind of fight, complete with femme fatale to start things off. This, in turn, leads to Sousa being brought aboard the Zephyr, which is mind-blowing for him. They talk about the package, and Deke being missing. Sousa runs across one of the frustrating things about time travel when he tells them his big secret about Hydra infiltrating SHIELD, and everyone already knows. As Deke gets brought to the man behind his abduction, the others work out their foe is someone they met recently (for them, anyway): Fred Malik.
A shocked Deke tries to bluff his way through an interrogation with the now older Malik and two thugs, and he does a credible job. We see how ruthless Malik has become when he deals with an employee’s error, while Mack and Coulson try and figure out what to do about their newest dilemma, and Mack comes out with a great line. The importance of Sousa’s death to SHIELD’s future gets compared to something that makes Coulson uncomfortable, but is a nice nod to an important moment in the greater MCU. I think they’re working in more ties to the movies in this final season than they used to. Daisy talks to Sousa about the entire situation, and he makes a few ominous sounding statements.
Deke takes a few risks and manages to talk his way out of the mess he’s in, with a warning for the future. Simmons, Yo-Yo, and May brainstorm about the odd things going on with May. Enoch makes his own situation a bit worse by leaping to conclusions and ignoring one of the people most likely to talk to him. Yo-Yo figures out roughly what’s going on with May, which gives them insight that arrives just a moment too late as Sousa makes a break for it. I swear, the Zephyr must be taking security lessons from the Arrow-bunker and STAR Labs over at DC.
Coulson continues monologuing/noir narrating while Sousa rushes towards his date with destiny. We seem to come full circle, which leads to explaining what actually happened, because our heroes aren’t going to let a good man die, right? The solution is a bit convoluted, and changes someone’s life forever, while taking full advantage of their resources, abilities, and undercover skills. As the episode nears the end, Malik thinks he’s in the clear, and Coulson returns to normal, ending “noir mode.” Yo-Yo and Deke revisit their earlier conversation, and one of them is reconsidering their position. The Zephyr jumps again, and things are going to get interesting at their next stop. They do at least give a moment’s consideration to Enoch, but the countdown has started and they can’t get from LA to NYC in time to get him. Coulson spends some time with someone who needs a guide, and Malik, back in the 50’s, gets a new advisor. The episode ends with them figuring out when they are now.
What I liked: They are really pulling out the stops for the final season, and I’m enjoying the ride. The noir take really worked, and the dilemmas they are facing are really making them, and the viewer, think. The new development with May is intriguing. I did not see their solution to Sousa’s situation coming.
What I didn’t: I feel bad for Enoch. He’s really getting taken for granted. I could see this as villain origin fuel. I’d really like an explanation for/solution to Yo-Yo’s power problems. Where’s Fitz???
This was a great episode that they took some chances on, and it worked. I’m giving this a 4 out of 5.