Friday, February 16, 2018

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5, Episode 5: Rewind

This week on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., we turn our attention from the future to see what Fitz has been up to in the past. Er, I mean the present.

Oddly enough, this is the first episode I've actually liked so far this season. That probably has something to do with the fact that it's set entirely on Earth (except for the last thirty seconds), and not in a miserable, dystopian space future.

We also see that Fitz is still suffering PSTD from his experience in the Framework. At first I was thinking, "Jesus, is he still going on about that? Get over it, already!" But then I realized that even though the Framework story happened months and months ago for the audience, it was just a day or so ago for Fitz! Sometimes it's hard to be aware of the timeline when there's so much time between seasons.


The Plot:
We flash back to the beginning of the season, as the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents gather in a diner for some rare downtime. Suddenly the lights go out and a Man In Black enters, accompanied by armed goons. The agents raise their hands and surrender. Just then the lights come back on, and everyone's gone except for Fitz. As he looks around in confusion, a squad of soldiers arrives and hauls him off.

Cut to Fitz in an interrogation room inside an undisclosed military facility. He's being questioned by Lieutenants Evans and Lucas, who ask where the other agents are and how he made them disappear. He tells them over and over he doesn't know, and finally demands to know who's in charge. The grim and icy General Hale enters, and tells Fitz he'd better cooperate or else he'll spend the rest of his life in a military cell. He's then thrown into a military cell.

Some time later, soldiers burst into Fitz's cell in the middle of the night and drag him out. He's hooked up to a lie detector and interrogated by Evans and Lucas. The detector confirms he's telling the truth, and Fitz offers to help the military find his fellow agents.

General Hale agrees to let Fitz help. He's given all the books he needs, plus a TV so he can watch soccer (aka football). Through the power of a montage, Fitz works on various theories as he tries to figure out what happened. He also talks his captors into letting him mail letters to his favorite soccer fanzine. Amazingly, the Lieutenants agree and send the letters.

After six months of this, Fitz comes to the conclusion that the agents were abducted by aliens. This doesn't sit well with the military, who don't believe him and think he's stalling. A very irate General Hale orders all Fitz's perks be taken away from him. Just then Fitz's attorney— who's really former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Lance Hunter— arrives.


Hunter orders the military out of the room so he can speak with his "client" in private. Apparently Fitz's soccer letters were actually coded messages, asking Hunter for help. Fitz asks Hunter how he plans on breaking him out of prison. Just then a wall explodes, and the two hurriedly run out of the cell. Outside they see a chopper approaching, and Hunter says it's their ride. Unfortunately the pilot, named Rusty, has no idea what he's doing and ends up crashing the chopper. 

Luckily Hunter has a Plan B, and he and Fitz escape in an old motor home. The military tracks the camper, but General Hale orders her men not to engage, as Fitz could lead them to the other agents.

Fitz discovers the camper's full of hi-tech equipment, and uses it to examine security footage of the diner disappearance. He notes that the agents were hauled off in a delivery truck that somehow eludes the cameras. He spots similar trucks in the area, but they all have different markings. Eventually he figures out that the truck had sophisticated camouflaging tech that could change its appearance. He's then able to track the truck to a suburban home.

Fitz and Hunter burst into the home, which is occupied by the Observer, er, I mean Man In Black, er, I mean Mysterious Man who abducted the agents from the diner. Fitz demands to know what's going on. The Man introduces himself as Enoch, and says he's a sentient Chronicom (whatever that is) from a planet orbiting a star in the constellation of Cygnus. He was sent here 30,000 years ago to observe humanity. He says he sent the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to the year 2091, in order to fulfill a prophesy.

Fitz and Hunter are skeptical, so Enoch shows them security footage of the agents being engulfed by a Monlith. This convinces Fitz, and he demands to know why he wasn't sent along with the others. Enoch says it's because the "Seer" decreed he wasn't part of the plan. Fitz insists that Enoch send him to the future immediately. Unfortunately Enoch says that's impossible, as he doesn't control the Monolith— he just knew when it would activate. He says the only one who knows when it will open again is the Seer. Fitz threatens Enoch and demands to be taken to the Seer.


Enoch takes Fitz and Hunter to a nearby park, where they see Polly Hinton and her daughter Robin. They're the wife and child of the late Charles Hinton, an Inhuman with the ability to see the future, who we last saw in the Season 3 episode Spacetime. Robin is also an Inhuman— one who rarely speaks, as she prefers to draw her visions of the future. Fitz introduces himself and looks through the various drawings Robin's made. One of them shows the Earth splitting in half.

Suddenly Robin speaks up and alerts Fitz and the others to a squad of soldiers approaching. Enoch hands out earplugs to everyone (including Polly and Robin) and activates a device. The soldiers, led by Evans and Lucas, suddenly stop in their tracks as Fitz and his group seemingly disappear. Lucas looks at his watch and notes that they just lost a half hour of time.

Enoch takes the group to a remote lighthouse near Lake Ontario— the same one we saw in the postcard back at the beginning of the season in Orientation Part 1 & 2. They take an elevator to a deep underground chamber, where Enoch says they'll be safe. When questioned, he admits he doesn't know who built the chamber or how long it's been there. Hunter asks why Enoch's helping them when he's just supposed to observe. He says he's allowed to interfere when it's to prevent an extinction level event, which doesn't sound the least bit ominous.

Fitz sees Robin drawing up a storm again, and asks her why she left him off the "future" list. She actually deigns to speak, saying she had him stay behind because her has to save the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Fitz and Hunter discuss how they can reach the others. Fitz doesn't see any way to help, as he'll be dead by the time 2091 rolls around.

Enoch tells Fitz he may have a solution. He arrived on Earth in a capsule, which Fitz might be able to use to get to the future. Unfortunately the capsule's inside Blue Raven Ridge— the very facility they just broke out of. Fitz says there's nothing for it, and decides to break back in.

Fitz & Hunter show up at the Blue Raven Ridge gate, disguised as contractors. They tell the guard they're there to repair the wall that Hunter damaged during the escape. Fortunately a friend of Hunter's hacked into the military computers and forged their orders, so the guard lets them pass.

Inside they put on military uniforms, create a distraction and sneak into a warehouse. They easily find Enoch's capsule inside a crate. Hunter wonders how they're gonna lug the heavy capsule back to their truck without being seen. Fitz gasps, and says they won't be needing a truck. Hunter turns and sees Zephyr One's being stored inside the vast warehouse.

They drag the capsule into the Zephyr's hold. A group of soldiers arrive, and Fitz fights them off with ICEers while Hunter fires up the ship and flies out of the hangar (which apparently has a retractable roof). They zoom off toward the lighthouse.

Cut to General Hale, who debriefs Lieutenants Evans and Lucas. She says she's disappointed with their failure, and brutally shoots them both in the head! Jesus Christ!

At the lighthouse, Fitz stashes a bunch of gear into a small chamber in a wall. When Hunter asks what he's doing, he says he's prepping for when he wakes up. Hunter realizes the capsule is actually a cryo-sleep chamber, and Fitz is going to be frozen for seventy years or so. He tries to talk Fitz out of it, but it's no use. Hunter says he and Mockingbird will take care of Polly and Robin. Enoch summons a Chronicon vessel, and says he'll place the cryo-chamber in it and keep Fitz safely in orbit around a distant planet until he wakes.

Cut to seventy four years later. The chamber's timer goes off, and Fitz wakes up in 2091. Enoch's there waiting for him, looking exactly as he did in 2017. He says while Fitz was out, he came up with a plan...

Thoughts:

• There're a lot of callbacks in this episode, so here's a quick refresher:

Even though the whole Framework story arc seems like years ago to us, only a few days have passed for the characters. That's why Fitz is still freaked out by the fact that he was an evil, murderous mad scientist inside the Framework.

Fitz killed Jeffrey Mace inside the Framework, which made his body die in the real world. So technically, Fitz is guilty of his murder.

AIDA created a LMD of Daisy, which shot General Talbot in the head. The government thinks the REAL Daisy shot him, which is why they're after S.H.I.E.L.D.
A while back Daisy encountered an Inhuman named Charles Hinton, who could see how a person would die after touching them. He had a wife named Polly, and a daughter named Robin. Charles ended up dying, and Daisy vowed to take care of his family. This week we see that Robin is an Inhuman as well, with the ability to draw pictures of the future.


I think that catches us up!

• I guess I'm a bit slow— I just now realized why the space station in 2091 is called "The Lighthouse." Because it's actually the mysterious, underground bunker we see in this episode. The one located under the lighthouse in Lake Ontario, which was apparently blasted in one piece into space when Daisy destroyed the world. 

That doesn't explain why so many people were apparently living inside it when the world ended though. Maybe Hunter, knowing what was coming, invited as many people as possible into it?


• Fitz keeps track of how long he's in his cell by drawing monkey faces on the wall. Whaaa????

Apparently everyone on the planet's forgotten how to make proper hash tags— you know, four vertical lines crossed with a fifth diagonal one, to quickly indicate groups of five.

Barry Allen didn't know how to do this a couple weeks ago over on The Flash in The Elongated Knight Rises, as he marked his time in prison with five consecutive lines.

Rey did the same thing (to an even more ridiculous degree) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Four lines crossed by a fifth. It's not that hard, people!

• Fitz asks Lt. Evans if she'll mail his letter to Ballbuster Hooligans, his favorite soccer fanzine. Later Evans asks General Hale about it, saying, "It's a letter to a soccer fanzine. The least offensive part is when he calls the goalkeeper a Cro-Magnon Twit." Amazingly, General Hale approves sending the letter, saying, "Redact his name. Have it analyzed by our code-breakers. It'll keep him happy."

I don't think so. There's no way in hell a hard-ass like Hale would have approved sending out the letters of a man she's holding in a secret military prison. After all, she's not above murdering her own people when they disappoint her! So why the hell would she accommodate a prisoner request? But if she didn't, then Hunter wouldn't have seen them and rescued Fitz, and then the plot couldn't have happened, so...

• Hunter's finally back this week! Even though he and Mockingbird were discommendated or whatever they called it, and were never supposed to associate with any S.H.I.E.L.D. agents ever again. Best of all, this is the REAL Hunter! He's not an LMD or a Framework construct.

Funny how we only see Hunter though, and not Mockingbird. Why, if I didn't know better, I'd think she was off serving as second officer onboard a Union ship in the year 2419!

• Once Fitz & Hunter are reunited, they have the following conversation:

Fitz: "Hey, uh, where are we?"

Hunter: "You're in a secure military installation. One of those "doesn't exist" places. But the law's the law, so they had to let me in."

Yeah, that seems unlikely. This is a secret military prison. The military sends people there when they want them to "disappear" forever. There's no way in hell General Hale would let herself be railroaded by flowery rhetoric from an attorney and let him in to see Fitz. Heck, she'd probably shoot Hunter in the head for knowing Fitz was even being held there!


I understand the plot couldn't proceed unless this happened, but... it's still pretty unrealistic.

• When Fitz examines the security footage, he sees the Agents were abducted by a Benderry Ale truck. That's the brand Hunter and Mockingbird were drinking when they were discommendated back in Parting Shot.

• When Enoch first appeared at the beginning of the season in Orientation Part 1, I said he looked exactly like one of the Observers from FringeWelp, I wasn't wrong! This week when Fitz asks Enoch who or what he is, he says, "I was sent here 30,000 years ago to observe and record the evolution of your species. What you would call an anthropologist."

See? An Observer!

Seriously, virtually everything about Enoch and the Observers is identical. Both are thin and bald. Both wear generic black suits & ties. Both have an affinity for unusual foods— in Enoch's case it's coconut water, and heavily seasoned raw meat for the Observers. The only notable differences are that Enoch appears to be wearing a human skin suit, while the Observers lacked eyebrows.


Honestly I'm wondering how Marvel's getting away with this, and why Fox hasn't sued them over this character. Maybe there's no point, since Disney's actively trying to assimilated Fox, just like the Borg.


Some fans have suggested Enoch is actually a budget-friendly Recorder, a character from Marvel comics. They travel the galaxy recording and documenting important events for their builders, the alien Rigellians. Recorders first appeared way back in 1966 in Thor #132.

I guess it's possible Enoch's a Recorder, since it sounds like he's doing exactly what they were made for, but eh... I don't think he is. If we was a Recorder, why not just say so? Why say he was sent to observe instead of record?

• I can't remember if any of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have mentioned what year they're in. For the record, in this episode Enoch says they were sent to the year 2091.

• After meeting Enoch, Fitz asks why he didn't send him to the future as well. Enoch replies, "You weren't part of the Seer's prophecy, Mr. Fitz."

Note to the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. writers— you need to find a different way to word that line. It probably looks OK on the printed page, but in dialogue it sounds like the characters are saying "Sears."


• Fitz takes a look at one of Robin's prophesy drawings, which appear to show two ominous looking aliens threatening... Daisy and May? It's not really clear. It's also not clear who the black-clad aliens are. They don't have blue faces, so they're probably not supposed to be Kree. Are they a race we've not seen yet?

• This is some heavy duty nitpicking, but whatever. This week Fitz and the others travel to a plot-important lighthouse on the shore of Lake Ontario (which eventually becomes the orbiting Lighthouse space station in the future). 

When I first saw this, I wondered if there are really any lighthouses on lake shores. Aren't they usually a seaside thing? They're to keep large, ocean-going ships from crashing into shore, right? Are there a lot of those sailing around in lakes?

So I googled "lakeside lighthouses," and sure enough, they actually exist! In fact there are a number of them around Lake Michigan. Color me surprised.

• Fitz & Hunter break back into Blue Raven Ridge to recover Enoch's capsule. At the main gate, Hunter tells the guard their names are Rusty Peltzer and Jimmy Futterman.

I think that might be a Gremlins reference, but I'm not sure. In the movie there're two characters named Billy Peltzer and Murray Futterman.

• Fitz and Hunter search the military warehouse for Enoch's space capsule. As they poke around, there's a very familiar looking crate at the top of the frame...

The crate looks a lot like the one that housed the Ark Of The Covenant. I guess after those "Top Men" studied the Ark, they stashed it inside Blue Raven Ridge! Oh, Disney! You're so funny!

• I'm assuming the military warehouse must have had a retractable roof, since it didn't look like the Zephyr One smashed through it in order to escape.

• Once Enoch's capsule is recovered, Fitz climbs in and is flash-frozen for seventy years or so. You know, I feel like I've seen something like this before, but I can't quite figure out where...

Oh yeah. Now I remember!

• As Fitz climbs into the capsule, Hunter tells him goodbye by saying, "I love you." Fitz replies with the only acceptable response, saying, "I know."

I get the Empire Strikes Back reference, but all through the episode Fitz and Hunter seem like long lost pals. Were they ever friendly back when Hunter was still on the show? Maybe it's just my faulty memory, but I don't remember them ever talking to one another much.


• At the end of the episode, General Hale decides she's tired of Evans and Lucas' constant failures, so she coldly and brutally shoots 'em both in the head. Yikes! Talk about a bad boss!

Confession time— when I was a kid, I'd occasionally watch TV shows in which a boss told an employee they were fired. In my little tiny tot mind, THIS is what I thought that meant! I honestly thought "fired" meant killed!


This Week's Best Lines:
Hunter: (as he starts the rundown motor home) "Now, Rusty kitted this thing out with all sorts of bells and whistles."
(engine backfires)
Fitz: "Is one of those bells an engine?"
(engine finally starts) 
Hunter: "There we go."
(engine belches a huge cloud of smoke) 
Hunter: "See? It's even got cloaking."

Fitz: "How are things with Bobbi?"
Hunter: "Good. Yeah. We're 100% compatible 50% of the time."

Fitz: "Release the ferrets.”

Hunter: "They're stuck 70-odd years in the future, and our world's about to end. The odds, my friend, are not in your favor."
(I guess since Mack's not in this episode, someone has to handle the pop culture references)

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