Thursday, May 28, 2020

Agents of SHIELD S07E01: The New Deal

A strong start to the final season
by Brandon Coulson

New York 1931 and the Agents of SHIELD are back at it in their electrifying season premiere. I was never a big fan of the Chronocons last season and I will still say they were the weaker part of this episode, “The New Deal”, however the rest of this outing was just too darn fun to let a stiff and stilted villain ruin things.

The episode was perfectly set up as the opening title card was done in a period appropriate manner. I would love if they play with this more as the season goes on. The tech the Chronocons use to steal faces and then Deke's face stabbing device to reconstruct said faces was all wonderfully morbid and walking a line of comedy and almost horror at times. Some very good effects work so far this season.

We got our full introduction to Coulson 2.0 or I guess 4.0? But who’s counting? They establish his scan is the one from his time in the framework and as a result will need the last two years uploaded into his brain. This causes Coulson to flip out and in turn for Mack to shut him down.

Bringing Coulson back as an LMD was a very risky move on the show's part and I had my doubts but I feel like so far they’ve managed it in a very decent way. I think everyone realized they would need him to be part of the final season but after already cheating his “true” death once with Sarge last year, having another miraculous comeback could get almost insulting to fans who are invested in the series.

Luckily they took some time to address Coulson’s own aversion to being brought back and I think managed to thread the needle of being very clear this is a robot with his memories and not the real Coulson. I will be curious to see how his story ends as he even says he may revisit the idea of his ”being” later on.

So much needed to be reestablished after a year off and so many threads left hanging. Crazy to think this entire season was filmed with last year's and just kept on a shelf this whole time. Frankly I had to refresh myself on how last season ended. Between the time off and how convoluted last year got I lost some of the plotlines as the episode started with Yoyo in quarantine, still infected by a Shrike, and May in a coma, not to mention Fitz off who knows where and Simmons showing up with a time machine. Lord there was a lot to unpack and I feel like Simmons is holding at least a couple surprises for us. My guess is she herself is an LMD and the real Simmons is dead and gone, after the numerous times she mentions how much time she had to prepare.

The time travel stuff was as gloriously fun as I expected though. We get a quick explanation of time stream theory which basically tells us don’t worry about small changes that happen, it's all good. The money drawer on the Zephyr is such an obvious and delightful Back to the Future reference and yes I know those old-timey streets and setting are all backlots every second but damn if it wasn’t still a ton of fun watching Mack try not to beat racists up or Daisy grinding her teeth at sexist remarks. Just the fish out of water stuff would have been enough but add to that some killer action sequences, multiple fights. both hand-to-hand and gunplay, including LMD Coulson realizing with glee he’s basically unkillable and superpowered now, just a ton of fun.

The speakeasy stuff was a perfect example of writing scenes that require very little but delivered big on laughs and fun, and what a great surprise having Patton Oswalt back as his own ancestor. I feel like lots of that sort of fan service will be popping up and I’m here for it!

The gang eventually get the idea that FDR is being targeted as he helped from the starting organization that would go on to become SHIELD. Of course this was way too obvious and an absolute red herring, though a very enjoyable one as I love seeing Coulson geek out and he got to do that in spades here.

The big twist revealed however is the real target is a simple bartender who happens to be Freddy Malick, founder of Hydra and  father to former big bad Gideon Malick! So as they said, to save SHIELD they’re gonna have to save Hydra! A fun way to make this story about more than just SHIELD. Add to all of that May coming out of her coma and looking, let’s say, less than happy. This final season is shaping up to be tons of fun.

I loved almost every minute of this episode. Yoyo continues to wear a bit thin but I’m hoping they find something more for her to contribute as the season goes on, and I’m hoping a more compelling big bad takes over or replaces the Chronocons entirely but otherwise this was an action-packed premiere with just about everything you could ask for.

Agents of SHIELD airs Wednesdays at 10:00 PM on ABC.

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