Agents of SHIELD 5.12

‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 5.12 Recap: “My Threshold for Preposterous Is Way out of Whack”

The latest entry of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ drops a couple of plot twists and delivers a major fan-service moment at the end, but I can’t help noticing that everything else in the episode is totally inconsequential time-filler.

The bomb that went off inside the Lighthouse station last week does not appear to have harmed anyone other than Noah, the “chronicom” who was just introduced in that same episode and is thus a casualty of no significance. When Fitz sends a drone to survey the affected level, it picks up an image of Lash, the Inhuman monster form of former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (and May’s ex-husband) Andrew Garner. That’s very odd, especially since he should be dead now. Weirder still is that a shattered wall in this underground level somehow opens onto an immense forest, complete with clear blue sky.

Fitz deduces that when the explosion shattered the three monoliths in storage, they ripped a hole in space-time. This may be the start of the apocalypse that Daisy gets blamed for.

We’re told that Agent Piper has been locked away in a holding cell, so she doesn’t appear in this episode. Yo-Yo will also be sidelined for quite a while lying in a hospital bed. Mack is sad.

While scrounging through a storage room, Deke and Daisy are suddenly attacked by a Kree warrior from out of nowhere. When Daisy shoots it, the Kree vanishes in a puff of smoke.

For pseudoscience reasons that don’t even remotely make sense, Fitz declares that the monoliths have opened a breach to a “fear dimension.” Right, of course. A fear dimension. That’s totally a thing. This fear dimension can magically manifest anyone’s worst fear – hence Lash and the Kree, and also the forest, because it turns out that Deke has a major phobia of birds and bugs and nature. (Weird that he was seen hugging a tree just one episode ago, though.)

Fitz has a plan to seal the breach with a gizmo he’s invented, but doing so may require someone to sacrifice him- or herself to deliver it. Coulson immediately volunteers to do it himself. Everyone else balks at this idea, especially Daisy. As they argue about it, Coulson unexpectedly faints.

When he awakes, Coulson sends Deke on a mission to the surface to make a call at a pay phone and purchase some supplies. He then confesses to the others that he’s dying and has known about it for a while. This was the secret deal he made with Ghost Rider in the Season 4 finale. The Spirit of Vengeance helped Coulson defeat Aida in exchange for taking away his body’s Kree-blood healing power. Jemma confirms that there’s no cure for it. Daisy is mad that Coulson lied. Coulson tells Daisy that he needs her to be strong and indicates that he wants her to become the new symbol for S.H.I.E.L.D.

Without any warning, Jemma tries to smother Yo-Yo with a pillow. Mack fights her off and reveals the attacker to be a Life Model Decoy android. Moreover, when he smashes her, she vanishes. It was just another fear manifestation.

Up above, Gen. Hale and a military contingent arrive in the town of River’s End, having been tipped off by the police officer who was suspicious of Daisy. Hales take particular interest in hearing about the man Daisy sprung from jail, Deke. The police could find no record of his fingerprints on file. They’re waiting on the results of a DNA test.

Fitz gives Coulson a big pistol and the gravitonium bomb doodad, and sends him off to seal the breach. Coulson babbles something about hope. As soon as he enters the basement level (isn’t this whole place underground?), his comms go out, leaving Coulson all alone.

Almost immediately, Coulson runs into Mike Peterson (J. August Richards). He appears looking like a normal person, without any of his silly Deathlok cybernetics. Coulson of course pegs him as being a fear manifestation, but Mike doesn’t seem too scary. In fact, he’s downright friendly. He tells Coulson he just wants to talk, then lays on him a story about how nothing Coulson has experienced over the past five years is real – not his time in outer space, or the Framework, or even his nifty flying car. It’s all been an elaborate death dream that Phil has experienced in a matter of moments after being stabbed through the chest by Loki. He won’t get resurrected. Mike himself is just an EMT whose face Coulson saw trying to resuscitate him. (In ‘How Did This Get Made?’ terms, it’s a classic “Jacob’s Ladder Scenario.”) Coulson resists believing any of this, but it sure would explain a lot.

While Daisy and the others wait for Coulson to report, a quinjet is detected incoming. On board are Deathlok and a team of other stray S.H.I.E.L.D. agents – plus Deke, whose phone call summoned them.

When Coulson tells Mike the he doesn’t buy his story, Mike turns violent and attacks. Fortunately, Deathlok storms in to save the day, killing not just his own doppleganger but also other manifestations of Lash, a roach alien, and even Hive. Coulson tosses his bomb into the breach and it works, sealing off the fear dimension.

Back aboveground, Gen. Hale decides that the reports of Daisy in the area must be some sort of con to throw her off the trail. Based on nothing, she thinks Daisy is probably heading for Canada. However, as she packs things up, the results of Deke’s DNA test come back and show a surprising connection.

In the Lighthouse, Deathlok announces that he only popped in for a quick visit and is going to head out again shortly. He’ll stay for one more event, though.

For some fortuitous reason, the opening to the lovely forest wasn’t sealed off with the rest of the breach. While it’s still open, Fitz and Jemma will use the setting for an impromptu wedding. That was the other mission Coulson sent Deke on, to secure a wedding dress and other supplies. (Deke couldn’t find the right kind of beer, so he brought Zima!) Coulson officiates the ceremony, begging the question of what legal authority he has to do so. In the background, Deke and Deathlok have some amusing banter about being from the future and being a cyborg. Deke offhandedly mentions that he found the wedding ring in a pawn shop. He liked it because it reminded him of one his grandmother used to wear, and…

ZOINKS!!! Wait a minute! Could that possibly mean… ??!!

Episode Verdict

The “Could this all be a dream?” gimmick is an age-old trope used in countless TV shows, and effectively amounts to being a big time-waster of no importance. Of course it can’t all be a dream, or that would mean that viewers just wasted five years of our lives watching this nonsense.

If it were, though, that sure would explain why none of the Avengers ever bother to pop in to help out S.H.I.E.L.D. and why nothing that has ever happened on this show has impacted the events of the MCU feature films. Food for thought, that is.

At this moment, I doubt that Coulson will really be killed off anytime soon. I’m sure the other characters will find a cure for his illness before the season finale.

The Fitz/Simmons wedding has been a long time coming, which makes it a little disappointing to see it tossed off at the end of an otherwise pointless episode. I also feel kind of bad to learn that their grandson is such a dipshit.


  1. The Fear Dimension absolutely is a thing in the Marvel universe. It’s ruled over by D’spayre and has been featured in nearly every major Marvel title at some point.

  2. Guy

    It’s pretty obvious that this show’s reduced shooting budget no longer allows for it to be the series it was even last year. This was supposed to be the big 100th episode blowout and they couldn’t really afford to pull it off. At one time, this exact episode setup would’ve resulted in the entire cast engaged in shutting that dimensional breach, while facing their own fears and failures across the whole hour. That would require more sets, more fight prep, more returning guest star cameos and more time with the CG antagonists. Being primarily tied to the same Lighthouse hallway sets all season with minimal location work is leading to plot, pacing and tonal malaise.

    It’s most likely ending this season, but if ABC (or the Disney overlords) keep it around, they should maybe consider a move of production out of Los Angeles. They’d get more bang for their buck and could restore some of the scope and liveliness that this season has lacked.

    • Josh Zyber

      I’d completely forgotten that this was supposed to be the big 100th episode milestone. I guess that would explain some of the old storyline callbacks like Lash, Hive, and Deathlok, but they were handled so weakly that the connection never occurred to me.

      Malaise is a good word for the show’s tone this season.

    • Josh Zyber

      Agents of SHIELD is officially part of the MCU. However, I don’t believe either Coulson or SHIELD have been mentioned in any of the movies since The Avengers.

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