The ads for this week’s episode of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ played it up as a must-see game-changer, akin to the ‘Winter Soldier’ tie-in during Season 1. Strangely, the actual episode is nothing even remotely of the sort.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad episode. In fact, it’s pretty good. However, the extra promotional hype seems to be solely to justify a couple of big (presumably expensive) action scenes.
We start with a homeless man in an alley, whittling a little bird out of a piece of wood. When a shop owner tries to roust him, he touches the man and suddenly has a frightening vision that causes him to look up at the sky for no particular reason other than so that an eye-of-god camera above him can look down at him dramatically. (This happens numerous times in the episode. I imagine that the actors would look a whole lot sillier if they were photographed from any other camera angle.)
While monitoring 911 telephone traffic, S.H.I.E.L.D. picks up a call where this shop owner, Edwin, frantically pleads for Daisy Johnson to help him and repeatedly says, “This is where I die.” Daisy doesn’t recognize the man and has no idea how he knows her name.
Daisy and a team arrive on the scene to question the man. He seems delirious and keeps babbling nonsense about seeing the future, specifically this very moment where they are right now. That’s how he knew Daisy’s name, because she just told it to him. He insists that HYDRA is going to attack and he will die. He begs Daisy to save him.
Suddenly, a HYDRA airship indeed attacks from the sky, shooting up the place and causing police cars to explode and flip through the air in a big dramatic demonstration of how much money the show is spending. Edwin gets hit in the crossfire and dies. His vision came true.
One of those grabby claw things we saw in a previous episode drops down and scoops up the homeless guy. Daisy runs to help him and touches his hand, upon which she freezes and stares up at the sky and has her own frightening vision – which involves Lincoln’s face covered in blood and Coulson shooting her. By the time she comes out of it, the HYDRA ship has flown away.
Meanwhile at HYDRA headquarters, Ward is fully recovered and is spiffily dressed up in a silly tunic borrowed from the dumb-as-shit sci-fi movie ‘Equilibrium‘. He and Malick have a dinner conversation about “true power.”
Believing that she’s seen a vision of the future, Daisy is adamant that she must stop it from happening. Fitz argues that it’s not possible to alter the Fourth Dimension and tries to explain this through some pseudoscience gibberish illustrated by drawing a line on the pages of a book. Coulson proposes that the one surefire way to ensure that Daisy’s vision never happens is that she can’t go on the mission. She’ll just have to stay behind at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, and he’ll send May instead. Daisy bristles at this, because she believes that she’s meant to save this man.
In the meantime, Daisy is allowed to interview the wife of the homeless man. (His name is Charles.) She explains about how he started having these visions, which were clearly the result of an Inhuman transformation. She says that anytime somebody touches him, both parties will share a vision of someone’s death (not necessarily their own). He tried repeatedly to stop the things he saw from happening, but nothing he did ever made a difference. Eventually, the inability to touch his own wife or daughter drove him to abandon them for a life of solitude on the streets.
Malick, Ward and a bunch of HYDRA goons pay a visit to the CEO and Board of Directors of a company called the Transia Corporation, which makes robotics (including Coulson’s robo-hand). Malick arrogantly states that he’s going to buy the place. When the CEO insists that it’s not for sale, Malick brings in Charles the homeless guy and makes him touch the man. He has a vision of all the board members dying horribly. The CEO freaks out and immediately signs over the company, upon which Ward shoots out his evil sand and kills all the board members horribly exactly as the CEO saw, but he spares the CEO himself.
Ward tells Malick that if he wants to feel true power, he should wear Transia’s latest invention, a robotic exo-suit. Malick puts it on, and it gives him the strength to crush a vase and flip over the boardroom table. He feels pretty good about this, but Ward insists that he needs to take a human life. (Up to this point, Malick has relegated that task to henchmen and never gotten his own hands dirty.) Malick puts the CEO’s head in his hands and crushes his skull.
If Daisy isn’t allowed to go on the mission herself, she takes it upon herself to train May on the best way to rescue Charles using her foreknowledge of events from the vision. She forces May to drill over and over again until she gets faster, but their training is interrupted by an intruder at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ. It’s Andrew (Blair Underwood), who has come to surrender himself.
Coulson comments: “At least this day can’t get any weirder.”
With this new development, Coulson needs May to stay behind to interrogate Andrew. She can’t go on the mission after all. Daisy once again insists that she needs to do it herself. Coulson reluctantly agrees, but this time only Daisy can go. Everyone else she saw in her vision (including himself) will stay at headquarters.
May brings Andrew to a containment pod and hooks him up to an IV drip with the Terrigenesis vaccine. He says that he can tell he’s on the verge of transforming into Lash permanently, and he wanted to say goodbye to her. He hopes that they’ll be able to use him to do some good.
As Daisy breaks into the Transia building to begin the rescue op, Fitz hacks the security cameras, allowing Coulson to catch a glimpse of Ward – or, as he understands, the Inhuman parasite that has possessed Ward’s body – still very much alive. Unfortunately, he can’t warn Daisy because their communication is quickly blocked. Even though he realizes that this means that Daisy’s vision will come true, Coulson gathers up the team to meet her at the building anway.
Daisy begins her infiltration as planned, but the alarms in the building go off. After she clears a room, Coulson walks in with gun in hand and shoots at her, just like her vision. However, what he’s really shooting at is Daisy’s reflection in a mirror. In the room on the other side of the two-way mirror is a HYDRA assassin who was about to kill her.
Lincoln encounters Giyera in a hallway, and Giyera uses his telekinetic powers to toss a fire extinguisher at Lincoln’s head. His face is covered in blood, as Daisy foresaw, but he’s OK. He radios Coulson to tell him that he can see Ward and has a clear path to attack, but Coulson orders him to stand down.
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., the Terrigen vaccine fails and Andrews transforms into Lash. May locks him in the containment pod.
Daisy chases Malick up to a helipad on the building roof. They fight and he overpowers her with his robo-suit. Charles steps in to save her by touching Malick and causing him to have a vision that frightens him. Malick crushes Charles’ throat but Daisy blasts him away with her telekinesis.
As they’re both lying on the roof injured, Charles (through his crushed throat?) tells Daisy that he was always meant to save her. Daisy promises to protect his daughter. She touches him again and has a vision of that spaceship from Episode 11. (Hey, nice of that to finally get acknowledged again.) Charles then croaks.
The episode ends with Ward and Giyera together. Malick, who survived Daisy’s attack and is currently flying away on the helicopter, calls Giyera to chastise him for not being there to protect him. From the tone of the call, Ward can tell that Malick is shaken and scared by something he saw. All of his cockiness from earlier is gone.
This is a decent enough episode, perhaps even better than average, but it doesn’t change the direction of the season at all, as was promised in the ads. Perhaps it’s unfair to hold that against the episode itself? Nonetheless, the season’s narrative is pretty much in the same state at the end as it was in the beginning. Aside from Coulson discovering that Ward is still alive, this entire mission is basically a distraction.
Still, the action is well handled. It’s not quite as awesome as Daisy’s badass single-take fight scene in Season 2, but it has moments reminiscent of that. The episode is directed with a feeling of urgency that others this season have lacked, and some of the themes involving precognition and time travel and the inevitability of fate have a fun ’12 Monkeys’ vibe. Some of the scenes involving Charles the homeless guy or Andrew also have a genuine emotional heft. Points for that.