NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, including a potential character death, and the ultimate fate of Fitz, are present in this review
Now that we’ve reached August, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is preparing to cap off its landmark seven-year run on a memorable note. We still have one episode left before next week’s sure-to-be-epic two-hour series finale however, and that episode serves as this week’s offering. “Brand New Day” predictably spends most of its runtime teeing up Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s overall climax and conclusion, moving the heroes and villains into their final places, and cementing the ultimate threat to Earth, the one that’s been subtly built up all season between the Malick family and the Chronicoms. As an added bonus, we also finally get some concrete answers as to the whereabouts of Fitz this week, while also receiving a potential explanation as to how the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be treating its Marvel Television characters, including those on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., in the post-Marvel Television era to come.
There’s quite a lot to unpack in, “Brand New Day”, even before next week’s massive series finale. Complex plotting is nothing new for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. though, and it’s unsurprising that, given what’s sure to be a heavy dose of climactic events next week, the show would need to spend a lot of time laying the foundation for what’s hopefully a stellar conclusion for the MCU’s flagship television series. After last week delivered a weaker episode, you might also be a bit disappointed that this week’s offering still suffers from some awkward, rushed plotting too, even if it is nonetheless an improvement over what we got last week. A big part of this is due to more meaningful actions and reveals, particularly for Simmons, after she’s stolen aboard the hijacked Zephyr, following the end of last week’s events.
Despite Deke also stowing aboard the Zephyr himself, albeit accidentally, Deke unfortunately quickly proves useless, and ends up being almost immediately captured by Nathaniel’s forces. This allows Deke to serve as a convenient hostage, as Nathaniel predictably struggles to unlock the secrets in Simmons’ mind, due to the implant in her neck. After deciding to forcibly dive into Simmons’ memories using a Chronicom machine however, determined to race the diminishing memories of Fitz to oblivion, Nathaniel does start making progress, witnessing several key emotional moments between Fitz and Simmons from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s previous seasons. He does eventually hit upon new material too, and it’s here that we learn about a rather grim twist in the hunt for Fitz.
As many fans suspected, Fitz appears to have actually died years before the mission against the Chronicoms began, in Simmons’ current timeline anyway. The show does still leave just a bit of wiggle room with this reveal though, since Fitz’s death is never 100% witnessed. It’s nonetheless made pretty clear in the dialogue however that Fitz was discovered to have cancer, leading to him suggesting that he live out his days with Simmons, after they complete the time machine that allows them to hop back to events at Izel’s temple. This explains why an older Simmons ended up leading the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew on their current mission against the Chronicoms throughout this season, while in turn also explaining the mysterious absence of Fitz. One alternate theory besides Fitz dying is that he could have had his consciousness converted into computer code as well, which we know is possible, considering the former existence of the Framework. This could also explain why Simmons had her memories altered to not just forget Fitz’s location, but forget Fitz’s entire fate, a fate that certainly confirms that Simmons can no longer physically be with her husband, but nonetheless still leaves Fitz and his knowledge vulnerable to the Chronicoms.
This latest wave against the timeline yet again removes Deke further from the current time stream, since Simmons does not appear to have conceived Deke’s mother before Fitz’s likely death. Kora even spells out the failure of S.H.I.E.L.D. to save the timeline when she’s brought into the Lighthouse to boot, confirming that Mack’s dead parents, along with the very survival of herself and Nathaniel, has permanently knocked the time stream off course. This fallout from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s failures against the Chronicoms is where the theory about how the events of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may ultimately be addressed in MCU canon comes into focus though; It’s entirely possible that Marvel Television’s former MCU-set shows will still theoretically occupy the MCU, but within this new, separate timeline instead, so as to prevent future MCU movies and Disney+ shows from having to address their events or characters. This is a pretty convenient way for the recently souped-up Marvel Studios to remove huge misfires like Inhumans, thus preventing them from ever burdening MCU lore again, but it does kind of suck to think about even standout shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. likely being banished to this alternate timeline, where their personalities can seemingly never benefit the MCU’s storytelling anymore.
Aside from that interesting question though, events at the Lighthouse often served as the low point of this week’s episode, especially with Kora still being a rather frustrating antagonist. Kora’s declaration that she wants to be an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., using her Inhuman abilities to wipe out evil people that take thousands of lives in the future, Project Insight-style, never feels like it goes anywhere interesting. Even Kora discovering that Nathaniel killed her mother evidently doesn’t mean anything, since Kora runs into Nathaniel’s arms during this episode’s epilogue anyway. Maybe it’s a trick, but I have the sinking feeling that it isn’t. Likewise, Kora’s powers also conveniently allow Sibyl to infiltrate the Lighthouse’s power grid, thus freeing Nathaniel’s captured thugs, whom Yo-Yo immediately rounds up again. Well, that was pointless. Not only that, but Coulson inexplicably knows how to keep Sibyl at bay to boot, suddenly being a computer genius for literally no reason. Sure, I get that Coulson used to be computer code himself, but is that really enough to make him perfectly capable of fending off Sibyl in cyberspace?
Fortunately, one of the more exciting teases for next week’s series finale comes courtesy of Daisy, who is inadvertently inspired by her sister to defy Sibyl’s predictions, namely by acting irrationally and against her nature. Sousa ends up joining Daisy’s mission to steal a Quinjet and go on a risky, borderline-suicide mission to the Zephyr as well, a mission that Mack joins too, as another wild card that Sibyl’s predictions failed to account for. This nicely feels like it gives S.H.I.E.L.D. a fighting chance against the Chronicoms and Nathaniel during next week’s final episodes, while also providing some really nice, quiet scenes shared between Daisy and Sousa, Daisy and Mack, and Mack and Sousa, in this episode. Just seeing the characters address the prospect of their missions being at an end, along with Daisy and Sousa further developing a romance, is a nice ‘calm before the storm’ that does a pretty good job of keeping the stakes rooted in a real place, before events inevitably get explosive and action-packed for the end of the show next week.
“Brand New Day” does a solid enough job of setting up next week’s two-hour series finale for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., arguably one of the most exciting events that genre television has to offer in 2020, even if it means continuing to rather awkwardly force a few story turns along. Still, Fitz’s seemingly grim fate being all but spelled out at this point made for an effectively tragic way to finally start capping off that ongoing mystery with Simmons, while Daisy’s inspired idea to defy Sibyl’s predictions through nonsense behaviour ended up leading to some very heartfelt character moments in turn. By contrast, the material at the Lighthouse easily suffered the most here, especially with Kora being a disappointing dud of an antagonist at this rate, but events on Earth could still lead somewhere exciting next week, I suppose. With the Chronicoms being called by Nathaniel however, and simultaneously firing on every S.H.I.E.L.D. base on Earth, the new timeline appears to be set in stone, with S.H.I.E.L.D. now being destroyed several decades earlier. Thus, the only hope for saving S.H.I.E.L.D. in the end is somehow finding a way to go back and change history again, and with a broken Time Drive, is that going to end up being an option anymore?
- Daisy's heartwarming, eccentric Quinjet operation
- Nathaniel seemingly revealing Fitz's grim fate
- The Chronicoms successfully destroying S.H.I.E.L.D.'s bases from space
- Kora is just not working as a villain
- Sibyl's mischief at the Lighthouse is contrived and pointless