Spacetime – After coming into contact with a new Inhuman, Daisy sees visions of the future including her own death. When Hydra captures the Inhuman, Shield does everything they can to save them and alter Daisy’s fate, but can they really fight the future?
Agents has shown plenty of love for beloved science fiction films in the past and a capacity to navigate heavier scientific material, which all comes to the surface here as the show demonstrates an outstanding handling of a central 4th dimensional topic. The various cast members are ideally positioned to express different viewpoints towards ideas like causality and the implications before Fitz drops the rule book on them concerning our perception of an unchangeable timeline. His paper stack example is a great piece of exposition to get the general concept of unchangeable future across while having some characters admit they’re still clueless about it all good audience appeal rather than trying to alienate those looking at Fitz cross-eyed like he’s just melted their brains. Yet that is only half the battle. Any show or film can set time travel rules, the real challenge is keeping them consistent and this is where the quality of Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon’s script is found.
At many points throughout the episode, it successfully suspends belief over the possibility of change before spinning things back to the forecasted events in unexpected ways. The opening action piece superbly sets the tone with an unavoidable death that gets continued throughout. There’s a good degree of MCU foreshadowing here as we know that sooner or later, the Time Gem will surface as one of the Infinity Stones (rumors are within Doctor Strange this autumn). Although not strictly time travel, this is still a reassuring indication that the MCU can go 4D without falling flat on its face.
Yet this is not just a science lecture of an episode and just as The Flash does with its time travel shenanigans, Agents makes sure it finds plenty of fun within the episode, from the wide-ranging reactions of characters accepting the ideas of divination to no shortage of franchise referencing. The king geek himself, Coulson, gets a perfectly in keeping character moment as he relates all his inhibitions over their mission to well-debated Terminator franchise paradoxes. Obviously, with the Inhuman (Charlie) acting as form of pre-cog, there are a lot of good familiarities to Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, especially when Daisy is asked to recall vision details in order to track down a location. Sticking with the Tom Cruise theme, 2014's criminally overlooked Edge of Tomorrow gets a nod as Daisy and May rehearse a known fight from the visions just like Cruise and Blunt would attempt to “Live Die Repeat” their way through the alien ranks. This is also easily the funniest part of the episode as the various team members fake overly dramatic deaths to being pretend shot by May or hilariously missing their cues. Whether intentionally or not, there are also some good parallels to the comics. Namely Marvel’s upcoming Civil War II event, in which the divisive topic will be over an Inhuman with the ability to predict the future and whether or not that power should be used.
Agents holds true to its own history as the clairvoyant Inhuman abilities of Raina get a mention get a functional mention in that despite her best efforts to stop them, her visions all came true. Lincoln also gets a good throwback to season 2 as, not for the first time this season, he mentions that the abilities of Inhumans are designed to surface based on need and overall balance. This draws us to the head-spinning question of whether these future-sight powers have surfaced because the team (and certain others) need to know where this escalating “Inhumans arms race” is taking them to have some hope of avoiding certain disaster. The Quinjet in space flash-forward footage resurfaces but now with added context over who will be facing their final frontier.
The May and Andrew/Lash subplot isn’t as effective as the main story. This is mainly because despite May and Simmons searching in recent episodes, we’ve been so long removed from May and Andrew as a couple that it becomes difficult to invest in the emotions of their scenes. It does carry some good overall sentiment though of Andrew setting his affairs in order before Lash takes hold of the wheel for good. Combining this with the previously speculated Inhuman vaccine (formulated from Absorbing Man’s blood) is a good stepping stone for the season but at the same time rings alarm bells of the show, tucking a “get out of plot development free” card up its sleeve, especially as Andrew talks about the two sides of him merging together towards the end. It sounds like they’re setting up for Andrew to remain present and controlling within Lash’s body, switching him to a loose cannon antagonist. While having him fight alongside the Secret Warrior ranks is cool idea (or even a sacrifice play showdown of Lash taking on Hive to save the others), the show shouldn’t be going back on such a big dramatic moment.
If there’s a standout performance award this week, it unquestionably goes to Brett Dalton as he takes a fully regenerated Hive out into the world. He has a notable feel of Keanu Reeves to him as he confidentially strides in a flowing long coat. His scenes with Mallick in particular are effortlessly creepy as he turns the big man of Hydra into a plaything based on desires for power. That playful little smile teases while his icy stare cuts through you like lightsaber. He gets better with every episode since taking on the Hive character, and as this episode takes him from the shadows to the evil spotlight, that won’t be stopping any time soon.
Despite some missed notes with Andrew & May, Spacetime is an outstanding episode in blending spies and science fiction together, which is always where the show finds its best material. In many ways, it marks a transition into the final third of the season and it feels like things are being turned up to 11 (or at least 10.5). The action and fight sequences are excellent, and some of the visuals are genuinely stunning (the use of the rooftop-flaming sign was gorgeous). In a month, where most of the world is looking towards a new Marvel movie, Agents reminds us why it still deserves our attention.