For one much-needed episode this season, ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ takes a break from all the outer space stuff and brings the story back to Earth, and is much more interesting as a result. Too bad it appears to be a temporary diversion.
Coulson, Daisy, Mack and the rest are only seen briefly in episode ‘Rewind’, and only in a replay of the epilogue from the Season 4 finale, in which they were kidnapped. The rest of the episode focuses entirely on Fitz, who was left behind. After his friends vanish, he has no memory of what happened to them or any idea where they went. The real military quickly rushes in and arrests him, then interrogates him and locks him up.
Fitz is allowed to watch soccer and read books. He goes all ‘Beautiful Mind’ and scribbles math formulas on the walls of his cell trying to come up with a theory on what happened to the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team. The only communication he’s allowed with the outside world are angry letters he writes to a soccer fanzine. Of course, this is actually a secret code.
After six months of this, former teammate Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) finally shows up, posing as Fitz’s attorney. He promptly enacts an escape plan, which goes a little wonky when their intended extraction helicopter crashes due to an incompetent pilot, so they wind up making a getaway in an old motorhome camper. Although Lance talks a lot about his turbulent relationship with Bobbi, Adrianne Palicki apparently couldn’t be bothered to cameo. (As a reminder, the Lance and Bobbi characters were written out of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ in order to start their own spinoff, called ‘Marvel’s Most Wanted’, but the pilot didn’t get picked up for series.)
Fitz eventually tracks down the bald guy who led the raid on the diner. His name is Enoch and he’s actually rather friendly and helpful. He explains that he’s an alien “chrono-anthropologist” who was sent to Earth over 30,000 years ago to observe the development of human civilization (which sounds an awful lot like the Observers from ‘Fringe’). He would normally never interfere with human matters, but a prophesy regarding an extinction-level event required his intervention, and so he sent the other S.H.I.E.L.D.ies forward in time to the year 2091. Fitz was left behind because he wasn’t on the list drawn up by a seer.
Unfortunately, the portal to the future was one-time-use-only, and Enoch can’t send Fitz along to follow his friends. Instead, he brings him to the seer, a little girl named Robin who was the daughter of Charles, the psychic Inhuman man Daisy helped back in the middle of Season 3. Robin is also Inhuman and can foretell the future. Her latest prophesy says that Fitz must save his friends. Enoch agrees to help.
Fitz concocts a ridiculous plan which requires him and Lance to sneak back into the military base they just broke out of, disguised as repair contractors. Luckily for them, the base has the most absurdly incompetent security in the world. They easily get in and find a capsule Enoch had left behind, as well as Zephyr One. After they hijack the plane and escape again, we learn that the general in charge of the base (Catherine Dent from ‘The Shield’) is evil when she shoots her subordinates.
Fitz and Lance bring the capsule to Enoch, who explains that it’s a cryo chamber. Fitz is going to have to get to the future the hard way, by sleeping away the time. In order to avoid the destruction of the planet, Enoch will arrange for the capsule to be delivered to a spaceship from his race, which will park 365 million miles from Earth. Fitz and Lance part company with a jokey ‘Empire Strikes Back’ reference to Han Solo being frozen in carbonite.
74 years later, Fitz is thawed out by Enoch, looking pretty much the same.
To say that this is the best episode of the current season is kind of damning it with faint praise. The episode has extremely sloppy plotting filled with lazy contrivances, such as the characters easily getting into and out of the secret military base with negligible opposition… twice!
More importantly, it’s nice to see Lance again. He and Fitz have fun banter that manages to shrug off some of the dumber story points. For that reason alone, the episode is a lot more fun than the dull slog of the last few. Sadly, it looks like we’ll be right back into that drudgery with the next episode.