NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, including a major character death, are present in this review
It’s been a very long, very strange journey for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a show that’s constantly providing outstanding examples of reinventing itself, while remaining firmly anchored within the covert corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Amidst those many reinventions however, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has now reached its end. As usual, the end of the show’s seventh and final season is also spread across two episodes that are stuck together in a two-hour timeslot on ABC (or CTV for us Canadians), beginning with the first half of the overall conclusion for Marvel Television’s flagship MCU series, “The End is at Hand.”
Predictably, this episode picks up immediately where last week’s episode ended. Daisy, Mack and Sousa continue to close in on the Zephyr, while Coulson, May and Yo-Yo witness the horrific destruction of every S.H.I.E.L.D. base from the Lighthouse. Meanwhile, Simmons and Deke also remain captive at the hands of Nathaniel, who has just called in a massive Chronicom army, led by a freshly re-formed Sibyl. Things certainly look pretty bad for the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew here, but fortunately, this allows the series to enjoy one last especially wild ride, placing the heroes on the bottom, and allowing them to work their way back to the top, through a series of solutions that are equal parts ingenious and ridiculous.
Despite this promising narrative foundation however, some of the shakier writing that has occasionally crept in during this season still lingers in this first finale episode for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and once again, it seems like the villains have it worst in this case. Kora in particular remains a problematic antagonist, one that still can’t quite nail down a believable character direction. This is made worse by Nathaniel telling Kora a bunch of extremely obvious lies about Jiaying as well, which only serve to stupidly derail Sibyl’s otherwise airtight plot against Earth, when Kora’s loyalties inevitably waver towards Daisy. This leaves a big confrontation between Daisy and Kora failing to register here, after Daisy is allowed to reclaim Simmons, since Sibyl predicts that there is a heightened chance Simmons will remember Fitz’s whereabouts faster, if she’s allowed to see Daisy again.
The S.H.I.E.L.D. team continuing to work against a villain that quite literally knows the future, or, at least the best ways to achieve the future she desires, remains a source of great tension. This overwhelming obstacle also makes it extra satisfying when Mack and Sousa manage to do things like disable a wave of Chronicoms with an improvised EMP, before outfitting their bodies to blast an escape hole out of the Chronicoms’ hangar doors. Simmons, meanwhile, has had her memory completely scrambled due to Sibyl’s and Nathaniel’s intervention, failing to recognize even Daisy, let alone Fitz, as Daisy and Deke must try and rush her back to the Zephyr. This twist was hinted at last week, when Simmons’ implant tampering led to her forgetting Fitz, and it provides a pretty good payoff later, once Simmons inevitably joins her other allies back on Earth.
In order for this to happen however, the storytelling has to provide an escape for Coulson, May and Yo-Yo as well, who wind up trapped within the Lighthouse. After stopping Garrett from teleporting in and blowing the Lighthouse to bits with a series of explosives (which Yo-Yo just barely manages to disarm), Coulson manages to rig up a portable version of Fitz’s teleporation-altering chamber, preventing Garrett from teleporting away. After Nathaniel then makes yet another arrogant tactical error by telling Garrett that he’s leaving him to die, Garrett defects back to S.H.I.E.L.D. again, embracing the new timeline, and how Nathaniel is now the one that has abandoned him in it. This gives Coulson, May and Yo-Yo a quick teleporting path to the old S.H.I.E.L.D. safehouse that was fitted out of Ernest Koenig’s old bar… At which point, a huge crew of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents simply shoot Garrett dead.
I think this was meant to be a bit of a joke, not to mention some wish fulfillment. It turns out that a young Victoria Hand is the one who fired the killing shot on Garrett specifically, in an ironic bit of poetic justice, considering that Garrett killed her present-era self during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s very first season. Still, this abrupt demise for Garrett nonetheless feels a bit contrived and frustrating, not to mention hypocritical on the heroes’ part. Seeing Coulson, May and Yo-Yo all callously shrug at Garrett’s death, immediately after he saved their skins, feels a little off-putting, especially when so much of this episode grandstands about how righteous S.H.I.E.L.D. supposedly is. This also eliminates the otherwise interesting angle of the younger Garrett becoming a surprise ally to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the end too, in a rather unrealistic fashion, simply because the plot apparently deemed that Garrett has outlived his usefulness as a character.
Regardless, we do at least get a strong finish to this episode. After a mysterious broadcast prompts every S.H.I.E.L.D. agent present to hand over a series of 0-8-4’s from various decades (another fun throwback to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s first season), Simmons manages to put them together into a strange device, a device that’s activated by her wedding ring. At this point, a portal opens, and Fitz drops down! Yes, in a pretty awesome twist, it appears, at least at a glance, that Simmons and Enoch stashed Fitz in the Quantum Realm, the MCU’s altered ‘Microverse’ that was depicted in the two Ant-Man movies, as well as Avengers: Endgame. This is actually a brilliant idea, since Fitz being in the Quantum Realm all this time handily explains how he could have a hand in so many historical events, while tying this final season for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. rather smartly into the time travel hook of Avengers: Endgame. Great stuff!
There’s one last complication though, namely that Simmons no longer remembers her husband. The ‘epilogue’ (which is meaningless, since the next episode begins immediately afterward), also has Sibyl saying that there’s a 100% chance that the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew will disband after their impending last misson, but viewers obviously know this already. “The End is at Hand” fortunately provides a solid first half to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s extended series finale, delivering a fun rescue from the Chronicoms’ ship, while also providing a smart, genuinely unexpected way to bring Fitz back into the picture. The villain writing is still a little dodgy though, with Garrett’s idiotic death being a particular sticking point (even if it was semi-satisfying ‘revenge’ from Victoria Hand), while Kora also continues to be a frustrating, ill-defined character. There’s still another episode to go though, so now, with all of S.H.I.E.L.D. making one last stand against Nathaniel and the Chronicoms, the end truly is at hand.
- Entertaining rescue mission on the Chronicom ship
- Coulson swaying Garrett to rescue his crew
- Fitz cleverly being recovered from the Quantum Realm
- Garrett's contrived, needlessly cold death
- Nathaniel and Kora inexplicably jeopardizing Sibyl's plans