Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S03E05 “4,722 Hours” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: E4, Sundays, 9pm
Writer: Craig Titley
Director: Jesse Bochco
Essential Plot Points:
- Boy loses girl.
- Girl finds herself on deserted alien planet.
- Girl meets tentacle monster.
- Girl eats tentacle monster.
- Girl meets boy.
- Girl loses boy when girl is recused and he isn’t.
- First boy understands…
We’ve been complaining for weeks (somewhat tongue in cheek) about how brown Agents Of SHIELD can be. It seems to like brown grading on brown lighting on brown sets. Seems like it was saving all the blue filters for this episode.
The sudden love of another hue wasn’t the main thing that made this episode refreshingly different from the norm. Usually Agents Of SHIELD is an unashamedly plot-led action show. An action show with a lot of talking, admittedly, but that talking is usually in service to the plot; exposition, revelation, motivation. There are character moments, sure, and often they’re very effective, but they tend to isolated little oases within episodes.
“4,722 Hours” though, is a magnificent character study. And a brave one for a show like Agents Of SHIELD. The “stranded” episode is a staple of US drama (especially sci-fi drama) partly because it can be a cheap bottle episode to save on budget. Writers and producers will try to convince you that the episode a character study but to be honest, they’re usually kinda dull survivalist guff unless some other element is introduced (Trek used to love taking the Enemy Mine route, with a regular character stranded with an initially hostile and/or incomprehensible alien whom they eventually learn to hug).
There’s nothing dull about “4,722 Hours”. It’s gripping. It’s compelling. It’s perfectly judged. Jemma is exactly the right character to put in the situation not because she’s a natural survivalist but because she’s a natural optimist and practical thinker (there are very few stupid things she does, under the circumstances). It’s fascinating watching her go through her own “seven stages of grief”: shock or disbelief tinged with hope, denial tinged with hope, bargaining tinged with hope, guilt tinged with hope, anger tinged with hope, depression tinged with hope and acceptance tinged with… well you get the idea.
Of course, the stages are messed up a by the arrival of Will Daniels, who’s gone through it all himself. But the fact that he’s still here 15 years one, complete with gun with one bullet – in case life on the planet ever gets too much – speaks volumes about him. The situation never has become “too much”; the final bullet is still there. Despite his gruff exterior, which Simmons peels away like an onion, he must be an optimist too.
The relationship between them is perfectly pitched. Simmons doesn’t want to betray Fitz any more than the audience wants her too. But she doesn’t just fall for Will because he’s the only man there. She falls for him because she grows to love him. And the fact that she still feels guilty about it makes us love her even more.
Then she’s rescued and Will is left behind. The final two scenes are gutwrenching. Look at these faces…
That’s joy and sorrow mixed as Fitz proves to be the most magnanimous man in human history. Simmons is convinced he’ll fly of the handle. Instead, this is a man so much in love with her, he’ll help her find the man he’s been jilted for.
That man, meanwhile, has had hoped cruelly snatched away from him, and he doesn’t even have a bullet left to put through his head.
This planet still has secrets to tell, we’re sure, so you can bet Fitz will find a way to get back there. Let’s hope whatever we find out doesn’t colour our opinion of this excellent episode because Agents Of SHIELD looks good in blue.
- Elizabeth Henstridge is outstanding. Throughout the entire ordeal Simmon remains Simmons but we’re given the opportunity to see new dimensions and new depths to the character.
- Dillon Casey is excellent too, mainly because he doesn’t try to hog the limelight. It’s a sensitively underplayed and noble performance.
- The story has the guts to stay true its central premise and doesn’t have flashbacks cutaways in case the viewer’s getting bored.
- The growing affair between Will and Simmons is so perfectly judged you’d have to be the worse kind of Fitz/Simmons shipper to be horrified by it.
- It’s an episode with true heart.
- And this image is just brilliant.
- The tentacle monster is a tad ’50s B-movie.
- The big storm/rescue sequence at the end is messily directed. It’s like watching blue white noise…
And The Random:
- The astronauts who accompanied Will Daniels though the portal all had names of famous fictional astronauts: Austin (as in Steve Austin from The Six Million Dollar Man), Brubaker (as in Charles Brubaker from Capricorn One) and Taylor (as in George Taylor from Planet of the Apes).
- Will Daniels also says that he came through the portal in 2oo1 and that “NASA was always interested in the monolith”. We’ll let you put those together and come up with a space odyssey.
- In case you can’t be bothered with the maths yourself, 4,722 hours in 196.75 days or a about six-and-a-half months.
- There’s a different title card from usual, which much better suits the tone of the episode.
Review by Dave Golder