The fifth season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was easily the boldest in the shows history, embracing the extreme sci-fi side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for what was almost their final season.
Whilst the series as a whole is one of the best, with a stunning story that spanned the entire 22 episode run, five episodes stood out amongst the rest for their amazing quality…
5×05 – ‘Rewind’
With almost the entirety of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team transported to a future where the Earth has been ripped to pieces and the remainder of humanity survive in the remnants thanks to brutal Kree overlords ‘Rewind’ jumped backwards in time to the present day to tell us what happened to Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) after he got left behind.
Despite the fact that we’ve already seen Fitz in the future, and know that he will eventually get to his friends, the episode is full of excitement and tension as Fitz is arrested by the government due to the actions of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the previous season.
This isn’t the same old Fitz, however, as he remembers everything that happened in the Framework from season four, making this a combination of the meek and caring scientist we love, and the brutal, ruthless leader of Hydra. We see some of that come through here as Fitz will do whatever it takes to find out what happened to his team, and to rescue them if possible.
The return of Nick Blook as Hunter is a surprising, yet wonderful addition to the season. He might just be here for one episode, but it really reminds the audience of just how much fun he was, and makes you think of how different the last season and a half would have been if he’d stuck around. His chemistry with Fitz is absolutely spot on, and makes for some great light touches in what has has been a particularly dark season.
‘Rewind’ gives a lot of answers to questions that have been playing out over the first few episodes, such as who or what Enoch (Joel Stoffer) is, and why the team were sent to the future, yet manages to keep enough mystery, mainly with the introduction of the murderous General Hale (Catherine Dent).
5×10 – ‘Past Life’
Episode ten sees the end of the first major arc in the season, with the team returning to their rightful place in the past. As such, this is very much a finale in a lot of ways, and goes all out to build excitement and throw spectacle to the fore.
One of the highlights of the episode, and something that feels great after ten episodes of build-up, is the final fight between Mack (Henry Simmons) and Kasius (Dominic Rains). It might have initially seemed like a strange match up, especially as Kasius had more of a history with Daisy (Chloe Bennett), May (Ming-Na Wen), and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) by this point, but getting to see Mack let lose and have a brutal fight is a great culmination.
The fight might not be one of the best the series has given us in terms of fancy choreography or special effects, but it’s brutal in a way that we’ve not really had before, with a level of intensity that elevates this over some of the more technically proficient ones. The added fact that Mack witnesses the murder of a future version of Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) makes it all the more harrowing.
The inclusion of the future Yo-Yo makes the episode particularly dark too, not just as Mack has to watch her die horribly, but the past Yo-Yo discovers that her future will be a life of torture and repeated death at the hands of Kasius, as well as the knowledge that the future cannot be changed. Season five has had some very dark points so far, but this is easily amongst the darkest.
5×14 – ‘The Devil Complex’
There are a few important plot points in this episode that move the main story forward, particularly with Coulson (Clark Gregg) and General Hale facing off against each other, and whilst this is all great stuff, the thing that makes this one of the best episodes is Fitz. I’ve said before in these S.H.I.E.L.D. look-backs that Iain De Caestecker is one of the best actors in the series, and this episode displays that in heartbreaking ways.
The previous episodes have dealt with the breach in reality caused by the destruction of the monoliths, a breach that resulted in people’s worst fears coming to life. Despite apparently closing the breach fears have continued to manifest when The Doctor, the evil Hydra version of Fitz, appears and attacks several members of the team.
The reappearance of The Doctor is incredibly chilling, and Fitz’s reaction in coming face to face with the manifestation of his darkest impulses is terrifying. The worst moments, however, comes when The Doctor has Daisy tied to a table and effectively tortures her in order to remove the power dampening device implanted in her neck. This isn’t the worst because of how awful the scene is, but because of the heartbreaking revelation that there is no Doctor, that it isn’t because of the breach, but part of Fitz’s broken psyche.
It’s not all sadness, however, as we get an incredibly moving and emotional ending when Deke (Jeff Ward) reveals to Simmons that he’s her grandson. It’s a small moment of light in the darkness that shows her that all might not be lost for Fitz, that they still have a future together, and the man she loves so dearly is still inside him.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has done some brilliant twists in the past, but few pack the emotional punch that this carries. De Caestecker sells every moment of this tragedy, and it breaks the heart when he and the audience realise what’s happening. ‘The Devil Complex’ is one of the best acted and written episodes the show has ever given, and the chills it gives will stay around long after the episode ends.
5×12 – ‘The Real Deal’
The 100th episode of the series manages to exceed expectations. Whenever a show hits this landmark it tries to go big and do something impressive, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does this in more than one way.
The reveal that the destruction of the monoliths has created a crack in reality to a fear dimension capable of bringing peoples worst fears to life makes for a great way to bring back a number of previous villains, including Lash, and Hive, in a way that doesn’t feel forced or contrived. It also means that we get some insight into our characters and how far they’ve progressed over the course of five seasons, and what fears they’ve conquered, and which ones still haunt them.
‘The Real Deal’ also saw the return of J August Richards as both Mike Peterson, in a hallucination that’s trying to convince Coulson that the entire show has been his death dream after being stabbed by Loki in Avengers Assemble, and as arse kicking cyborg Deathlok. It’s always great to have Deathlok turn up on screen, and seeing him and Coulson kicking butt together was brilliant, but he also knocks it out of the park when he’s a hallucination, bringing a very earnest and deep performance into something that could have been very dodgy if done badly.
The 100th episode isn’t just about action and remembering old villains though, as it also saw the long overdue wedding of Fitz and Simmons. An incredibly sweet moment that feels more than earned, and the justification that they need to do it as soon as possible before something drags them apart again is a nice nod at just how much the characters have been through. The reveal to the audience that Deke is also their grandson is brilliantly subtle, so much so that not everyone made the connection straight away.
Without a doubt one of the best episodes of the series, balancing together action, drama, emotion, and character development in beautiful, wonderful ways. The perfect celebration of 100 episodes.
5×22 – ‘The End’
Written as a potential end for the series as a whole if they didn’t get picked up for a sixth season (spoilers – they have been and the series is back this summer!), ‘The End’ is the highest moment of the fifth season, and possibly Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a whole.
With General Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) having gone completely mad with power and taken on the identity of Gravitron, the team have to go into a fight that they know could lead to the destruction of the planet that they saw in the future. Thanks to having saved a great deal of the seasons reduced budget by having a lot of episodes filmed on sets and reusing a lot of locations the show runners are able to splash out on this final episode, having a giant spaceship smash into Chicago, a city under siege, and a full blown super powered battle.
Whilst in the majority of season finales for the show where the fate of the world is on the line we now have a definitive reason as to why they don’t call the Avengers to help, because they’re in Wakanda fighting Thanos. Knowing that the protectors of Earth are facing off against two world ending threats at the same time adds heaps of drama to the proceedings, even though we know the Earth doesn’t get ripped in half at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.
The fight between Daisy and Gravitron showcases their powers brilliantly, with the moment where Daisy uses her tremors to fire herself down the street a great new use of her abilities. Whilst the fight isn’t hugely long, the revelation that Coulson has hidden the Centipede syrum inside her gauntlets makes the final moments heartbreaking, as Daisy has to use it to save the world, condemning Coulson to die.
The fact that the episode doesn’t wimp out on the promise of Coulson’s death is a good choice, as it would have felt like a hell of a cheat to undo it at the end. Whilst we don’t get to see him die, it really genuinely feels like his story comes to a close here, with him spending his final days in Tahiti with May, the two of them finally admitting their love for each other.
Despite all of these already great moments, the farewell to Coulson, S.H.I.E.L.D. coming to save the city with a suitably heroic speech, and Daisy beating a world ending bad guy, the moment that makes the episode, and breaks hearts, is the shocking death of Fitz. Crushed under rubble as he tries to save people inside a collapsing building, his death comes completely out of nowhere. His final moments are beautiful, and some of the best acted in the show. Having him die with Mack, a character that he’d butted heads with more than once this season, is a bold choice, having Simmons miss out on the moment. Whilst we do discover at the end of the episode that the team intend to go and find the other Fitz, the one who is frozen in space and hasn’t lived out the events of the season, takes away a little of the tragedy of the moment it still doesn’t stop his death from reducing you to tears (and I genuinely did bawl my eyes out when I watched the episode).
‘The End’ may not actually be the end of the show, but it feels like the perfect final chapter to the series, one that wouldn’t have left fans feeling cheated if there had been no more episodes. Thankfully, as well as wrapping up so many things so perfectly it still leaves enough open that the sixth season looks set to be just as good as season five, though it will be tough for any of those episodes to be able to compete with this one.
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