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REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×10 “Past Life”

As far as midseason finales go, the latest for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was pretty damn good. The fact that there won’t be a new episode until March makes the insanity of this week’s S.H.I.E.L.D. that much more stressful to deal with. “Past Life,” provided viewers with more than one jaw-dropping moment and left just enough of a tease to make us anxious. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has continued to level-up each year and things are no different as we’re nearing the back-half of Season 5.

Spoilers ahead!

We kick off with the Zephyr docking at the Lighthouse where Kasius is waiting to greet Team S.H.I.E.L.D. Naturally, the gang isn’t dumb enough to be hanging around in the aircraft, instead opting to hop in one of the pods to sneak into the space station as Kasius is met with the visual of an impaled Sinara. S.H.I.E.L.D.’s goal at the Lighthouse is to collect the pieces of the monolith and have Flint piece the entire thing together so that the team can make it back to their own place and time. Something that Kasius manages to put together when he finds one of Robin’s old drawings.

Kasius then develops a plan of his own: to kill S.H.I.E.L.D. and prevent them from traveling back to the past, thus ensuring that his mysterious father won’t meet any resistance when he moves to take over the world. The only way to really put this plan into action is by forcing a creepy black liquid into his lackeys that turns them into rage-machines. Granted, the injection isn’t enough of a power boost to take out Daisy, which prompts Kasius to grab another vile and dramatically exit his lair.

While Mack and Flint meet up with FitzSimmons to piece the monolith back together, YoYo breaks off to try and help the mysterious people that Tess heard being resurrected in the same way she was. She manages to find one of the zombies and is shocked when she comes face-to-face with… HERSELF.

Yup.

Apparently past Elena has been killed and revived countless times over the years by the Kree, her blood extracted for the purposes of their Inhuman breeding. “They revive me when they want, kill me when they don’t.” Worse yet is the fact that she only seems to bring bad news with her. Like… Mack’s impending death, the inevitable destruction of the world, etc. etc. Evidently, in this time loop, the team continues to make one mistake, which serves as the catalyst for all of the following destruction.

What’s the mistake that Team S.H.I.E.L.D. keeps making? Saving Phil Coulson… who is dying.

As Elena is hearing that truth bomb, FitzSimmons, Mack, Flint, Coulson, May, and an unconscious Daisy are preparing to head home a la the now-put-together monolith.

All seems to be going pretty good until Mack realizes that YoYo has yet to reunite with the team. He goes in search for his lady-love and finds her… kind of. Kasius has past YoYo in his clutches and forces Mack to watch him slit her throat before downing the black juice that makes the Kree go full-Hulk. But the sight of his love being murdered causes Mack to go even hulkier than the blue overlord and be more-than-willing to give the room one, last, fight-to-the-death.

The two duke it out and just as it seems that Kasius will land a fatal blow on our favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. mechanic, Jemma Simmons rolls up and shuts. that. sh!t. down by giving the Kree dictator a taste of his own medicine. She implants one of the silencers into his ear, disorienting him long enough for Mack to shove his trusty shotgun axe through Kasius’s chest. The current YoYo then appears, comforting an emotional Mack, and the trio them book it back to the monolith room.

Back on the Zephyr, Deke and Enoch are  doing their utmost to fix the machine that will work with the monolith to get the team home. Unfortunately, they realize that the only way to generate enough power is to use Enoch’s battery… which will end his existence and anyone else in the immediate vicinity. Both decide to take one for the greater good, activating the device (and by proxy the monolith) as Team S.H.I.E.L.D. steps into the milky abyss.

Rather… most of Team S.H.I.E.L.D.

The episode ends with viewers “not knowing” whether or not Jemma, Mack, and YoYo make it to the monolith in time to leave with their friends. (Luckily the promo for the next episode makes it pretty clear that the entire team return to 2018 Earth).

BOOM!

“Past Life” ended in typical Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fashion: explaining some, confusing many, and opening the door for even more insanity down the line.

Most people correctly surmised that “Past Life” would mark the end of Team S.H.I.E.L.D.’s time in space and I think the choice was a solid creative decision. While it’s been wholly entertaining watching Coulson and Co. do their thing amidst floating asteroids, the entire season thus far has been teasing the events of the past that led to this horrifying future. Putting the characters back in their own time leaves plenty of opportunity to explore what might happen and anxiously hold our breath as we figure out whether or not the voyage was successful when it comes to the end of the world.

Episode Grade: B+

Episode Highs:

  • Deke was on the up-and-up last week but finally had his SAVE THE CAT moment in this episode, sacrificing himself in the hope that it would be enough to pave the way for a brighter future. An equal high was Deke’s parting conversation with Daisy. The duo have been contentious to say the least, but their final moment together managed to infuse a balance of honest sincerity and their standard sarcastic quips. Jeff Ward and Chloe Bennet have played this relationship to perfection all season but really brought things up a notch this week when dialing back on the barriers and exposing the sincere, albeit begrudging, respect that Deke and Daisy have for one another.
  • Natalia Cordova-Buckley did an absolutely stellar job of portraying both versions of YoYo this week. One of the few actors who didn’t get a chance to play a Framework version of her character last season, Cordova-Buckley didn’t waste the opportunity to showcase the subtle and glaring differences between the two Elena’s of “Past Life.” The hopelessness of the YoYo caught in the time loop, killed and revived enough times to see her loved ones fail numerous times, contrasted with the raw emotion of our current Elena was a thing to behold. Considering Elena has established herself as being a woman of hope and faith, it was more than jarring to see a version of the character so worn down by circumstance that she lost both long ago. In summary… Cordova-Buckley crushed it this week, as has been her M.O. for quite some time.

  • While it didn’t seem to have much to do with the core team, I quite liked the tag this week. The shot of Flint and Tess looking out over the destroyed Earth, determined to piece it back together, brought with it a surge of hopefulness that these characters were in desperate need of.

Episode Lows:

  • Most of the Kasius stuff was a chore to sit through this week, largely because (until that final sequence) it was essentially just filler used to separate the Team scenes. Muttering to Sinara and randomly forcing the black goo on his slaves (only for them to immediately get taken out by the gang) felt largely pointless in the grand scheme of the episode.

Additional Thoughts:

  • There’s no way we’ve seen the last of Tess, Flint, and Deke… the question is, in what context will we see them next?

What did you think of Agents of SHIELD’s midseason finale? Sound off on Twitter or in the comments below!

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Silje Falck-Pedersen

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