NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” are present in this review
Things finally appear to be looking up for the heroes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as Fitz, Simmons and Enoch prepare to return to Earth, and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ground operations finally succeed at rounding up Sarge’s entire crew. Finally, it seems like progress is being made in the name of saving the planet, though obviously, things aren’t as simple as they appear. “Toldja” slowed down the storytelling to present a more character-focused offering once again, albeit this time incorporating the show’s entire ensemble, as Earth’s S.H.I.E.L.D. forces naturally run into more complications with the Shrike, and Fitz, Simmons and Enoch obviously don’t find themselves on a straightforward path back to Earth.
Fortunately, Fitz, Simmons and Enoch inevitably facing a glitch in their interplanetary displacement disk means that they’re once again back on Kitson, one of the most entertaining locations of the season! After another Kitson casino patron warps away with their disk in mere moments, Fitz, Simmons and Enoch end up stranded on the debauchery-laden planet to boot, once again forced to try and find their way back home through other means. The three are quickly caught by the casino’s management after some underhanded tricks too, who place them before Mr. Kitson III, the current head of Kitson’s casino network. Mr. Kitson III then responds to the heroes’ cheating effort by sending Enoch to the brothels, and Fitz and Simmons to a deadly game of chance, wherein they must try and hold a guillotine blade above their heads for as long as possible!
This is a pretty thrilling scenario, one that amusingly also gives Enoch what he wanted in order to thrive on Kitson in the first place (boy, Chronicoms really are complex synthetics, aren’t they?), while Fitz and Simmons quickly find themselves facing death, alongside the mystery patron that harassed Daisy and hustled Enoch during the heroes’ previous trip to Kitson. Fortunately though, a mysterious red-haired woman intervenes, holding Mr. Kitson III at knifepoint, and forcing him to rig the game so that Fitz and Simmons live, killing the other patron in the process. The woman, Izel, just so happens to be on a mission to Earth, presenting an easy route back home for Fitz, Simmons, and even Enoch, whose release she also purchases with a seemingly unlimited pool of money. This would seem like a very easy win at first glance, though there’s something a little sinister and off-putting about Izel. I have to wonder if she’s just going to be the latest problem for Fitz and Simmons before long…
Meanwhile, back on Earth, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s earthbound agents take turns trying and failing to crack Sarge and his agents, or, at the very least, Sarge and Jaco. I’m not sure where Pax has been, since the show seems to keep forgetting about him, but regardless, this does give us an opportunity to learn a bit more about Jaco. Apparently, Jaco used to come from a beautiful planet, one that was seemingly destroyed by the Shrike, and Jaco also lost his entire family to the invasion. This revelation from Jaco helps to further make Sarge a nicely morally interpretive character, an element that also exceptionally comes into play when Mack directly attempts to interrogate Sarge himself, complete with exploiting the hologram of Coulson in his office. The mind games between Mack and Sarge make for a very riveting meeting of the minds, particularly when Sarge makes the ominous claim that S.H.I.E.L.D. will be looking to him by the end of the day.
Another way that the show exceptionally turns S.H.I.E.L.D.’s apparent nobility against them is when they round up two infected people in the episode, and stick them in a containment unit together, vowing to save their lives by any means necessary. Putting the infected people together however merely leads to a reaction by the Shrike within them, which leads to more crystals bursting out of their bodies, threatening to rupture the containment unit at the same time! With Sarge suddenly in the power position, he forces Mack to hand back his crew and his rig, in exchange for the knowledge that cold is the key to killing the Shrike when they react. Yo-Yo and another agent then manage to use the cold high-altitude air to prevent the Zephyr from being destroyed, obliterating the Shrike crystals in the process, which was wonderfully tense, but honestly, S.H.I.E.L.D. was a little reckless here. Whose bright idea was it to put two infected people together in the same containment unit?! I get that S.H.I.E.L.D. couldn’t have known that this kind of reaction would take place, but by that same wisdom, they really should have learned to expect the unexpected with alien threats by this point!
The other major development of note in this episode occurs when Deke starts trying to chat up Daisy again, who is naturally disinterested and absorbed in her work. Eventually though, Daisy spills the detail that Mack neglected to mention to Deke previously, namely that Fitz was formerly killed during the events of the Season Five finale. After Deke angrily confronts Mack about withholding this information, saying that he wants to join the mission to find Fitz, Mack simply talks him down, and that’s it. That’s well and good, but it does kind of feel like the show doesn’t quite know what to do with Deke at this point. Perhaps he’ll be important later in the season, but for now, Deke is just kind of bumbling around S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ and taking up space, rather than actually justifying why he’s still hanging around the heroes, especially when he logically should have a company to run.
Enoch also leaves Fitz and Simmons in the episode’s epilogue, citing that his mission is now complete, and he must work on finding the remaining Chronicoms a new home. I guess that’s fine, though Enoch’s departure doesn’t quite hit with the potential emotion that it could have. Even so, at least Fitz and Simmons finally have a path home, even if I get the impression that Izel is not as trustworthy as she appears. Whatever ends up happening with Izel in the end though, “Toldja” doesn’t quite land with the same relentless thrills that so much of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s superb sixth season has been delivering up to this point, but it’s still a really satisfying episode in most respects. As Sarge predicted, S.H.I.E.L.D. is now looking to him to solve Earth’s growing Shrike problem, and that should provide some standout drama for Mack in particular, who has now found himself helpless against the ghost of his predecessor. It’s an awesome dark reflection of the worst-case scenario for S.H.I.E.L.D. under its former leadership, especially since the Shrike invasion is bound to get worse before it has any chance of getting better!
- Excellent psychological duel between Mack and Sarge
- Increasingly effective escalation of the Shrike threat
- Fitz and Simmons landing back on Kitson with Enoch, and stumbling into a new ride
- S.H.I.E.L.D. stupidly containing two Shrike hosts together
- Deke subplot isn't really working yet