Reviews

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3, Episode 15 - "Spacetime"

Daniel Rasmus

The latest episode keeps tackling big concepts while expertly moving the plot forward.


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Airtime: Tuesdays, 8pm
Cast: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Henry Simmons, Luke Mitchell
Subtitle: Season 3, Episode 15 - "Spacetime"
Network: ABC
Air date: 2016-04-06
Amazon

It's about time. That’s right. The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode Spacetime is about time. Spacetime, actually. Events take place at a certain set of three-dimensional coordinates at a particular time. In other words, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. just got timey-wimey. May's (Ming-Na Wen) head hurts, and it isn't because somebody hit her.

After the shift into high-gear as the last two episodes explored some rather philosophical and emotional topics, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues with its very entertaining esoteria by introducing an Inhuman who, when touched, creates for him, and for the person who touched him, a shared vision of an important future event: someone's death. By the end of the episode, we never discover exactly what triggers one prescient event revelation over another.

What we do get is a lesson on inevitability and complexity. At the center of the time connection is Charles Hinton (Bjorn Johnson), a victim of Terrigenesis, who leaves his family to protect his wife and daughter from constant visions of the future. We see Team Coulson (Clark Gregg), led by Daisy (Chloe Bennet), doing their damnedest to avoid her vision of the future, in which she thinks Coulson shoots her. Her goal: to save Hinton from Hydra. That plot line leads to much exercising of skills to time an attack on Hydra so as to avoid the catastrophe perceived in the foresight.

Yet, there are three major variables that Daisy's vision completely misses: the arrival of Dr. Andrew Garner (Blair Underwood), the reemergence of Grant Ward's Hive (Brett Dalton), and the bio-mechanical shoring up Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe) undergoes.

Garner’s return thwarts the centerpiece of the attempt to alter the future by sending in May in place of Daisy. Garner turns himself in so that he can spend the last few minutes of his humanity with May. Coulson tells her she'll regret not spending the moments for the rest of her life, and she acquiesces. The two find a moment, and then…

With spotty WiFi (is this the only corporate building without Starbucks?) the team surveils the bio-mechanical HQ and catches a glimpse of Ward. For Coulson, the day's already weird; this makes it weirder.

It turns out the perceptive Hive that inhabits the physically rehabilitated Grant Ward knows that Malick already has everything he could want. Why then did he go to such lengths to retrieve Hive from Maveth? Together with Hive, Malick shares, he was promised rule over the world. To what end? Hive asks. Taken a bit aback, Malick stumbles over his answer, eventually saying somewhere in the dialog the word, "power". Hive promises him real power.

For all the prescience at work in this episode, Daisy doesn’t see Malick become a cybernetically enhanced human. She sees none of this. The vision shares only a narrow field of view.

On the roof, her lack of vision (yes, I hear Emperor Palpatine too) ends up getting her wacked and nearly killed by Malick. Hinton touches Malick, but the audience doesn't see the vision. It shakes Malick enough to distract him so Daisy can quake him. Eventually he leaves in the waiting Hydra helicopter. Daisy and Hinton have a moment. The death was not hers and the hands of Coulson, but Hinton’s in his move to save her, and in a way, redeem himself.

At the end of the episode Malick realizes, after calling to chastise Mr. Giyera (Mark Dacascos), that he is no longer in charge. He may be the human head of Hydra, but with the return of Hive, his Inhumans have a new allegiance.

With the beats of narrative that the writing team has been driving so neatly of late, we find Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) holding hands, a moment toward a future of which they know nothing. We watch Garner transform into Lash (Matthew Willig) one last time, hopefully aware that Garner's last wish was that he be a weapon for S.H.I.E.L.D. We don't know what that choice portends. We see Malick, downing a glass of scotch as he realizes that his future is no longer something he controls. He's returning to his Hydra lair full of fear, as Giyera intuits, of uncertainty.

And, as we saw in the mid-season launch a few weeks ago, a ship tumbles in space, blood globs float weightlessly around a gold cross and a S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform. We now know we had a vision then, that Daisy has now shared. Unlike her previous vision, there are no details of what led to this moment, just the moment itself.

After Fitz's explanation of Spacetime, we're left with exposition on the way to understanding the plot, but also with the uneasy feeling that all timey-wimey shows leave us with: how fixed is our own destiny? Has history already been written as a series of fixed points along time’s fourth dimension in our three-dimensional space, or do we have free will? Are we just programs, predestined from the time of the Big Bang to perform certain actions where we do, when we do? The future hasn't happened, but the moment of the Big Bang has locked us in to a narrow channel of time, every star that bred our elements, every collision of rock that formed our planet, every drop of water the spurred evolution, did so because the program was running.

And, if anyone ever does find a way to glimpse the future, he or she would see something that was inevitable and unchanging. As they found in this episode, whatever was seen was seen as only a slice of a very complex moment. You may think you know the future, but you'll still be surprised by what happens that was beyond your prescient purview. As of yet, the details of your moment remain fixed; only the interpretation of those events changes once they are experienced in the larger context. Seeing these events doesn’t convey the mental perception these events engender.

If that makes your head hurt, it should. Spacetime's a difficult concept even for those who study cosmology. Physicists still argue with Einstein, and they argue with Hawking, who himself rumbles with Einstein occasionally. Don't get me started on the lack of a unified theory of everything.

The point is that a television show titled Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. made us think about destiny and self-determination, and it'll continue to do so. In a quiet moment, Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) reflects on design. Perhaps it is design. Perhaps all of the Inhuman powers are meant for something, and that something was shaped in the past and therefore inevitable in the future.

The moments being experienced are vistas along a road that was cut through time, and is now being paved and tended by the present. In a world of self-determination, what do good and evil mean? Do differing opinions among friends lead to a civil war? Based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe release schedule, I would say they do. Now we’ll have to wait and see if and how these revelation play into the bigger world of Tony Stark, Captain America, and Spiderman.

In a world of predetermined futures, I think the answer is that good and evil are both influences that move history forward -- nothing more, nothing less -- except among those who adopt one side or the other and how that makes them feel. Emotion and thought create religion, names and concepts to help the program make sense to us. That perhaps is why it's so hard for people with very different opinions to find common ground. The disagreement is necessary; both are correct from their perspective. Time creates the conflict to force the next moment. That's why there's always a big bad balanced by a big good. There's no balance without one another. If either side wins, history ends.

9

Music

Books

Film

Recent
By the Book

Jack Halberstam's 'Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire' (excerpt)

Enjoy this excerpt of Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, wherein Jack Halberstam offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the 20th century.

Jack Halberstam
Music

Sotto Voce's 'Your Husband, the Governor' Is Beautifully Twisted DIY Indie Folk-rock

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Gabos releases another odd, gorgeous home studio recording under the moniker Sotto Voce.

Music

Numün's 'voyage au soleil' Is a Trippy, Ambient Ride and Ambitious Debut

Eclectic instrumental trio numün combine a wealth of influences to create a vibe that's both spacey and earthy on voyage au soleil.

Music

L7's 'Smell the Magic' Is 30 and Packs a Feminist Punch

Abortion is under threat again, and there's a sex offender in the Oval Office. A fitting time, in short, to crank up the righteously angry vocals of feminist hard rock heavy hitters like L7.

Books

Can Queer Studies Rescue American Universities?

Matt Brim's Poor Queer Studies underscores the impact of poorer disciplines and institutions, which often do more to translate and apply transformative intellectual ideas in the world than do their ivory-tower counterparts.

Music

Jim White Offers a "Smart Ass Reply" (premiere)

Jesus and Alice Cooper are tighter than you think, but a young Jim White was taught to treat them as polar opposites. Then an eight-track saved his soul and maybe his life.

Music

Ed Harcourt Paints From 'Monochrome to Colour'

British musician Ed Harcourt's instrumental music is full of turbulent swells and swirls that somehow maintain a dignified beauty on Monochrome to Colour.

Music

West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".

Culture

Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".

Music

Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.

Music

Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.

Music

The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.

Music

Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.

Books

For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?

Music

Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.