Welcome back, true believers! Following the introduction of a strange new world that the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been dropped into where the earth has been destroyed and the remnants of humanity are slaves to the Kree, Coulson and the gang attempt to find their way home while simultaneously fighting the nefarious dealings of the “Blues.” While still clinging to the dark overtones of the fourth season, Season 5 tends to skew more often toward the nihilistic, brooding atmosphere closer to Battlestar Galactica more than anything else.
This season is at its best when it manages to really take a hard look at the present circumstances from the perspective of the characters themselves — those quiet, introspective moments. And that’s the added benefit of establishing a deep continuity, which is really one of the MCU’s strongest points, in that we’ve grown to know Coulson, May, Daisy and the rest for over one hundred episodes. So when things become dire, you can really sense it through their expressions of remorse and longing to go home (more on that below). But that doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing.
Our episode begins with Jemma currently in the grips of Kasius, a Kree overlord who finds Simmons interesting enough to make her one of his slaves. It’s definitely a scary situation that Simmons now finds herself in, far from home and away from the love of her life Fitz. The details of her horrible imprisonment are diabolically clever though, in the fact that Kree technology makes it impossible to hear anyone that isn’t Kasius, even going so far as to blur her vision for anyone that isn’t him. It’s a neat yet terrifying twist on establishing that escape isn’t really possible for her at this time.
Simmons, in “A Life Spent,” is tasked with helping a young Inhuman named Abby use her powers of “density control” in order to do well at a ceremony run by Kasius. Said ceremony, of course, involves a fight to the death between Abby and a rather large combatant. Luckily, Simmons was able to have some powers training moments that really hammered home not only mastery of Inhuman abilities, but her humanity and strength even in the most dire of circumstances. This segment was really one of the best parts of the episode, especially as it ends with the gnarly twist that Abby simply gained the ability to be sold to a different slave driver, though at least her family was saved.
On the other end of the stratosphere, we drop in on Coulson, Mack, and Yo Yo who are currently under the thrall of Grill, a junk dealer who saved them originally but now employs the team as indentured servants. Mostly, the team goes on a somewhat lackluster journey for Grill, while simultaneously looking for information about what Virgil knew. Virgil of course was the only person in their dystopian future that seemed to know that the agents were going to show up in that time period. Again, while the action beats here aren’t exactly stellar, the best note is when Agent May speaks with Coulson about their current predicament. It’s heartbreaking when May mentions that she hasn’t really had a chance for rest because Season 5 started immediately following their time in the “Framework” with May herself being an evil agent of Hydra. Who can’t relate to simply wanting a night in their own bed, as May puts it? This scene is one that the rest of the subplots could learn a lesson from.
Daisy, still jointed at the hip to Deke (aka Z-list Starlord), attempts to grapple with the fact that she is apparently “Quake, destroyer of worlds,” but not nearly enough time is dedicated to this. By making Daisy so stalwart, I can understand where they are trying to go with her, but it makes her character come across as boring when she’s only focused on the mission. When Agent May is coming across as more human than Daisy, I think we have a problem. Ultimately, Daisy, through the help of Yo Yo’s powers of speed, manages to obtain a Kree scroll that grants her passage directly to Kasius. Before she manages to get there however, Deke shows his true colors and betrays her, handing her over to Kasius. Clearly, Simmons’ rescue is going to be a little more difficult than previously thought. The stinger of the episode is Coulson and company receiving a message from a friend of Virgil’s on the face of the destroyed Earth, who also seems to know of their arrival.