Thursday, August 15, 2019

Agents of SHIELD S06E10: Leap

SHIELD takes a Leap towards the end
A lot of good and a little bad...
by Brandon Coulson

So here we sit, two weeks and three episodes from the end of the season and with confirmation of next year being the final one there's much to be set up moving forward.

This week’s outing, 'Leap', asked us to take a leap in logic and give the writers a whole lot of leeway. It was fairly obvious what caused May to kill Sarge last week and I was happy to see that the team quickly and very smartly tracked the path of possession and figured out what had happened. It would have been so easy to drag the distrust and confusion angle of a body-hopping alien out for an entire episode, or even a few. Something I imagine in a twenty-two episode season would easily have become a much longer plot point.

But in a show, and a world, in which LMD’s, virtual worlds and people/aliens can fly, fire energy beams and even travel through time, the idea of body-hopping not only can seem plausible, literally every SHIELD team member buys into the theory as valid immediately.

Everything leading up to their confrontation with Izel was beautifully executed. Showing the path she took body to body, building tension, seeing the team put the pieces together, it all works. I was frankly set to be frustrated by a long May interrogation with no one believing her, which would have been irritating seeing how long this group has fought side-by-side, so color me impressed when every single person basically says 'this makes no sense, something made her do it.'

Deke and Fitz sorta kinda preemptively figured out what Sarge is (more on that later) but what I really enjoyed was their back and forth. Deke’s yearning for approval and flip-flopping on priorities in response to whatever Fitz says. I am actually looking forward to Deke now, I even want Snow to come back in the mix, have the whole weird family together.

Continuing the smartly written trend, Mack really showed good leadership and forward thinking. As soon as he gets what is happening, he locks down the lighthouse. Now of course we don’t see any other agents except our main crew *cough* No budget! *cough* but locking in Izel is the best thing to do. Then they immediately think of testing everyone with secrets that can be verified by other team members, this gives us a few funny beats and some character insight like Davis’s pen theft and Daisy sending money to Lincoln’s sister while serving to move the narrative forward.

Then the smartest thing Mack does is after clearing Daisy and Yoyo, separating them from the group and locking them up, preventing Izel from getting their powers. Just really good writing that shows he’s deserving of leadership.

Following that we got a pretty amazing sequence of Izel hopping from body to body showing how in control she is. The self harm angle played very well and built tension beautifully. Hitting two real heart-stopping moments as Piper shoots a giant hole in her hand, which was a bit more gruesome looking than I expect from this series, and then eventually making Davis dive to his death. I had a few thoughts on this moment. First, that it explains why Davis who has barely had lines in past seasons suddenly got promoted to the forefront, of course they were building him up so this would hurt more, it worked a little but I still wasn't devastated or anything. Also, while I know that falling on his head/neck directly is what killed him, the fact that it was just a one story drop kind of made it look a little silly, like no one could have tried and catch him? Maybe break his fall a bit?

That little bit aside, up until this point I was riveted. Just a fantastic episode …

But then we got more answers.

So as this was happening we got little looks into Sarge’s recovery, from death, as Simmons looks on in wonder and basically sidelined from anything interesting. We see Sarge survived the shooting and losing all of his blood, and as the episode wore on, fully heals without a scratch. Quick question: where is Dr. Benson during all this? You remember, that character they added like he had something important to add who is supposed to help with the weird science stuff. Yeah, dude disappeared quick, didn't he?

But back to Sarge, as he eventually escapes and meets up with Izel, who is going after the remnants of the monolith’s power that got locked up last year. This is where we finally get answers to all of our questions, and frankly it was the most disappointing part of the episode. After a quick Fitz explanation that we didn't see a fear dimension at all because he’s the smarter Fitz, and some loose tying of Izel and Sarge as beings like Ghost Rider, we found out the truth of Sarge … he’s in a duplicate body of Coulson because when Coulson went in that realm it xeroxed him? So he’s just another body-hopper who got in an empty copy but its trace memories confused him, though he didn’t actually have access to those memories for the last hundred years or whatever but now he suddenly does.

Damn it guys, this week was so good for eighty percent of it. Now this bull is what we’re going with heading into the final three? It feels so thrown together and half-baked. So you know what’s going to happen: Sarge will fully remember Coulson’s life, somehow tap into whatever his powers are and take down Izel. In the process burning out all but a few of his abilities and setting him up as an alien who will have parts of Coulson’s personality and memories  but will need to learn to live in the human world, at least that’s my bet for the plans heading into next season. For you Whedon fans this is basically the Illyria storyline from Angel.

I hope I get surprised, but this seems to be an obvious path for the last episodes of the season and it's a shame to have such an underwhelming reveal in such an otherwise stellar episode. First 80%  A+, last 20% C-.

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