The necessity of time and the intention of connection is an important progression. But it is also a tried and true method of progression. This is what is known as a time loop. Many films have done this to varying effect. What it comes down to is what the viewer feels about the characters. After not watching “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” the previous 2 or so seasons but jumping back into this point where it is transitioning in a very unique way because has to do with its spot in the pantheon of mythology. And in this way, it takes on a very crucial element. But what works well in “Episode 9: “As I Always Have Been” is that despite this, there are quiet moments that truly elevate. Without giving away too much, that is what makes this episode so humanistic and exceptional despite the plot machinations moving around it. Two highlight points come with different kinds of emotional resonance, both innately powerful. But to give away any aspect of its place in the plot would spoil it, even the location it takes place in. This is “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” at its best but also, to a point, its most insular since you have to be invested in these characters to understand its impact and the foreshadowing involved.
The creation of path is necessitated by need and not the futility of want. In Episode 8 of “Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” entitled “After, Before” the more structured levity of the previous 80-themed episode is tacked on a greater urgency and personifies plot through a time structure that interweaves quite nicely. Again like one episode earlier this season, certain changes in the universe start to take shape that cannot be undone ensuring a new normal. One specific duo who are the most unlikely to unlock trouble within themselves are propelled on a mission in this episode to try and adjust something that cannot stop. Trying to speak of motivations without giving away plot points is tricky. But what comes through at specific points (a small scene between Daisy and Coulson is an example) show the existential crisis that is moving through the team, as they watch a fate they don’t quite understand or maybe expect moving towards them. As with the progression of “S.H.I.E.L.D” each title sequence takes on a theme. The one at the beginning here still pushes towards the 80s but it is almost that of a grid which is an interesting metaphor for what motives are seen at the end of the episode. Coulson even makes a references to it discussing placement of binary numbers. “S.H.I.E.L.D.” has something up its sleeve but what becomes more and more apparent is that the one thing that will keep this pseudo family together is the family itself…if it survives.
Finding reflexivity in a slightly new tone has been the tome for this season for “Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Sometimes the stories go off in their own trajectory but with this “The Most Excellent Adventures Of Mack and The Deke Squad” it pushes a little farther in terms of tone. Now without giving too much away it might have to do with a more analog angle from all points but the way in which the violence is approached is different as well. This is in homage to some classic 80s tropes. But then the episode is completely full of them. Without giving anything away it works within the states of characterization whether it be throwbacks to “Rambo’, “The Lost Boys” or many others. There is an aspect of characterization to it though and no matter how wild it gets, the episode winds around to that thought that created it in the first place but also takes the time travel angle into impact beyond the simple plot mechanics. A lot of what the episode ultimately shows is tongue in cheek which is nice that the series is able to do. While there is plot progression, this episode is more character based. And one could swear that a new team member is someone that be can recognized but alas, it is not, especially with a throwback line to a certain 80s song.
Understanding the plot machinations of a large integrated story has always been the pantheon of comic books. Doing it in more long form structures is trickier because every scene, every shot can be looked at and dissected in current culture. That is why with “Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” in many ways and literally, it is acting as a bridge between two phase. It is an interesting quandary thrown into even more specific focus because of the corona virus where both the feature films and new series to Disney+ had to be paused. It is a dilemma which will be interesting to see shift. With Episode 5, “A Trout In The Milk” the plot becomes more dynamic because the story starts to see certain facts start to change. Doing a time travel storyline was always going to cause this and provides of course the plot mechanism necessary for a multi-universe where the aspects of all the events of previous phases still work because they were in a different timeline. The question becomes audience perception and acceptance and not treading over the same ground. This was the issue with the most recent “Star Trek” feature film franchise with its Prime and Kelvin timelines. People were willing to accept the new timeline but that meant the stories had to be better and more intricate without losing the nostalgia of the original. it is a high order. But what they did was redress a story…and it got called out. Here the Marvel people, especially Kevin Feige are much more intimately and innately in control of the storyline. Without giving any specific episode spoilers, this episode jumps to the 70s and like in the 30s, it comes down to choice. They already have one element out of the timeline but the idea it continues to refer back to is how much change can the timeline take before (like Dr. Strange sees it in a way) it starts to correct itself.
The progression of “Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is based in the structure of an established history which is an interesting way of looking at story but also one that governed the ideas of consequence all the way through “Endgame”. The reasoning in the final season of this series is an interesting one because of the plateau that it sits on but also the interesting confluence of events that leads it to where it is now, specifically after the Netflix and Marvel split happened effectively ending many series except for one: “Agents”. This gives it a particularly bittersweet but interesting transmutation because of its position between phases. The more of this season passes by, the more it can be looked at in certain ways with the next movies in the progression and perhaps the series. That is the larger picture but beneath or above al that, depending on your perspective, is the aspect of choice, not just for the team members but for all those involved…mostly. This is inherently true with Episode 4: “Out Of The Past”. The other aspect that can be discussed since most of the entire episode is a spoiler is the genre it is playing to which in this one is more a noir. Almost the entire episode is in black and white which provides an interesting perspective of gray. While it is not uber stylized, some scenes give that texture which is in keeping with the ideas of the season. This episode compared to others is a bit more straightforward and plot driven and yet small details and reactions are important as the train continues on.