Agents of SHIELD: Stolen

Let’s go visit Afterlife. What could go wrong?

The final season of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is ticking down, and things are looking more and more desperate for the agents. The Chronicoms have been one step ahead of them in their mad dash through time, battling over timelines. There have been all sorts of surprises and reveals, and the future, their past, has already been changed a few times. Now it’s time for a lot more changes, some of them that might have some really significant effects on our heroes. Old and new enemies come together in “Stolen.” There are some minor spoilers below.

With last episode’s time loop dealt with, the team is back in the 1983, and still struggling to get a handle on how to deal with the Chronicoms. But the time traveling robots (it’s a good enough term) have a new agent in the person of Nathaniel Malik. Malik is doing some recruiting, and sets his sights on someone who will be a thorn in our heroes’ sides in the future: John Garret. Garret was originally played by the late Bill Paxton. In a nice gesture that works on several levels, the younger Garrett is played by his son James. While Malik makes his pitch, the team returns to the Lighthouse, touches base with one of Deke’s former operatives, and tries to figure out what to do next. After dancing around some chain of command issues, Coulson suggests they return to Afterlife and aid the Inhumans. Elsewhere, the perspective of native eras becomes clear when Sousa is impressed with the lab they go to, while Daisy and Simmons slump a bit at seeing what they have to work with. After some entertaining lines with Daisy and Sousa, Daisy turns her attention to Simmons and asks about her breakdown when the memory blocker was removed during all the time looping. Simmons doesn’t really remember this, and they move on to more immediate problems.

After some discussion about how to proceed, they send a message out to Jiang, leader of Afterlife and, although she doesn’t know it, Daisy’s mother in years to come. Courtesy of Gordon’s teleporting, the pair of Inhumans arrive moments later. Malik seems to get around almost as fast as Gordon, and has traveled intercontinentally in a remarkably short period of time to show Garrett Afterlife. They talk about the future, Sybil, and get some help from a Dr. Grady, another man “rescued” from being killed by SHIELD.

After some disagreement about terminology, the plan they come up with is for Gordon to teleport Coulson in to Afterlife and try and stage a rescue of the captive Inhumans, and see if they can free Kora, Jiang’s daughter, from Malik’s influence. Daisy didn’t know about Kora’s existence, and she and May try and puzzle out where that timeline diverged from their own, including some interesting speculation about how Jiang met Daisy’s father. Back in Afterlife, Nathaniel is showing Garret how the power transfer works, and Li, the man who loves stabbing people, is the current victim. The scene also shows us where Kora’s mind is right now, and it’s not a good place. Aboard the Zephyr, Deke is grooving out to his Walkman and gets startled by Simmons coming in to talk to him. She’s arrived at some disturbing conclusions about the absent Fitz. Deke does his best to be reassuring, and does get in a good line about his enjoyment of the current era they’re in.

Near Afterlife, the quinjet sets down. Mack and Yo-Yo stay aboard while Gordon brings Coulson inside. It goes badly from the moment they arrive. As things continue to get off track, Coulson does manage to get Nathaniel’s interest. They talk about anarchy, seeing the future, and the many deaths of Coulson. At the Lighthouse, Sousa catches up with an upset Daisy and they talk about what she’s learned, fascism returning, and Sousa being a square (he doesn’t disagree). Yo-Yo and Mack worry about Coulson missing a check-in, and somehow decide it makes more sense for the normal human to go see what’s wrong than the speedster. I don’t get it either.

Coulson and Nathaniel have a philosophical disagreement, and Kora keeps showing she’s pretty far gone. After Garrett gets an upgrade, he and Nathaniel take off for a new mission. With some help getting started from Sousa, Daisy and Jiang have a talk, or hint around the edges at one at least. Garrett and Nathaniel finally arrive where they’ve been trying to go, and there’s an amusing callback to Deke’s band from a few episodes ago. Coulson and Gordon stage a desperate escape attempt, but it’s not without cost.

May runs into the new and improved Garrett, but even her impressive skill has some limits. She does manage to pass on the warning, but it’s a bit late as Nathaniel finds Daisy. Nathaniel reveals some secrets and pisses Daisy off enough that they have a fight that can’t be good for the Lighthouse. Due to the vagaries of time travel and shifting history, Nathaniel has an advantage and isn’t shy about pressing it. Nathaniel does some damage and claims a victim before escaping, and May makes a shot that really doesn’t make any sense for this amazingly skilled agent. Garrett and Nathaniel make their escape after securing what they came for, which isn’t what anyone expected.

Kora and Coulson have an encounter with an unexpected ending, and the Afterlife team manages to complete their task, so something went right. Garrett and Nathaniel aren’t done causing trouble, and do some more thievery. They get a bit more than they bargained for, which could make next episode interesting. The very last thing we see in the episode is Nathaniel explaining why he took what he did, and making an ugly demand that isn’t going to go how he wants.

What I liked: Going after Garrett was an inspired choice, and castings James Paxton was a really nice nod. Nathaniel is a smart bad guy, and is pulling off some impressive things. The explanation for Nathaniel’s impressive skill level makes a lot of sense. Simmons and Deke’s talk was touching and is a valid concern. I’m looking forward to seeing how the extra that Nathaniel stole plays out. The mention of Deke’s band was great.

What I didn’t: The timeline the SHIELD agents came from is now changed enough that I don’t see how it’s going to get fixed. Benching Yo-Yo made no sense. May’s shot was problematic on several levels. And, as I keep asking (along with a lot of others), where’s Fitz???

It was a good episode despite a few flaws. I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5. As the season starts to wrap up, I’m getting really curious, and worried, about how things will resolve.