Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S03E15 “Spacetime” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: E4, Sundays, 9pm
Writers: Melissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon
Director: Kevin Tancharoen
Essential Plot Points:
- The episode opens with a store owner, Edwin, politely but firmly running a homeless man out of his backyard. He touches the man as he gives him some money for breakfast and has a seizure…
- Minutes later he places an emergency call mentioning Daisy by name. SHIELD arrives to find Edwin three steps ahead of them. He’s never met Daisy before but he knows her face, knows when Hydra is about to attack and as he says, “This is where I die,” he’s gunned down. In the alley, the homeless man is snatched up by Hydra, who then quickly flee the scene.
- As he’s taken, Daisy touches his hand and sees:
- A woman crying.
- Lincoln with blood covering his face.
- Daisy fighting a room full of guards.
- Coulson shooting her.
- Fitz and Simmons holding hands in the snow
- The homeless man standing near a helicopter
- Daisy lying on a roof next to the homeless man, both apparently dying.
- The she passes out.
- Elsewhere, Not-Grant, newly dressed and “fed” arrives for dinner with Malick. He asks the Hydra leader want he wants and, in a deeply unsettling scene leads Malick to the realisation that what he really wants is power. Even more disturbing, Not-Grant still has Coulson’s hand… (And we bloody wish someone would call Not-Grant by the name he’s known as in the comics so we could start calling him something other than Not-Grant –ed.)
- Back at HQ, SHIELD talk about if the future can be changed. After a brilliant demonstration of why the answer is “NO!” from Fitz, Coulson ignores him makes the call: they find the building where the future-seeing inhuman is being held, May makes the extraction and Daisy’s on the bench.
- Unhappy but going with it, Daisy has all the SHIELD servers retasked as she gives Fitz and Simmons all the info she can about what she saw. Running that through their image recognition systems they think they should be able to find where the events will take place.
- May is incensed when she finds out about this as she and Simmons were using some servers for her their search for Andrew. Fitz and Daisy agree not to hog all the servers.
- In his office, Coulson and Lincoln discuss causality and just how much of what’s going on is free will as they search for the homeless man.
- They get a hit and find out the homeless man was married. His wife is brought in and Daisy recognises her instantly. In the interview, it’s confirmed that Charles is an inhuman and his power is to show you how you die. He fled the house because he could never hold his daughter again. The wife begins to cry, and the first image Daisy saw that morning drops into place. She also reveals their daughter’s name was Robin after Daisy mentions that Charles was carving robins.
- Gideon and Malick bring Charles to Transia, the company that built Coulson’s hand. At a meeting of the board, Malick makes a takeover offer and the CEO knocks it back. Not-Grant uses Charles to show the CEO a vision of the entire board being slaughtered horrifically by Not-Grant in the near future, after which he signs the agreement. Not-Grant kills them anyway.
- Not-Grant gives Malick one of the exo suits that Transia has been developing for the military and Malick exalts in the property damage he can cause with it. Not-Grant pushes him to do what he really wants: kill someone. Malick crushes the CEO’s skull.
- In the single smartest spin on the “glimpsing the future” idea we’ve ever seen, May uses Daisy as a living set of study notes for the infiltration. They lay the room out exactly how Daisy saw it and position people in the exact places they’re going to be. May drills her way through the routine over and over, slowly getting it right. She nails it just as SHIELD locate the building and they get ready to roll out…
- Just as Andrew gives himself up.
- Because Lash is about to take over again and this time, Andrew won’t be coming back.
- This changes everything. Daisy gets the mission and, in one of the most touching moments this show has done, Coulson accidentally calls her Skye as she rolls out.
- Meanwhile in the containment cell, May and Andrew have their last conversation. The argument that always needed to happen happens and May finally admits she thinks none of this would have happened if she hadn’t been in Andrew’s life. He comforts her saying he’s right where he needs to be. As SHIELD start their assault, Lash takes over one last time. Andrew’s final action is to flee into the containment chamber. May touches the glass as the love of her life disappears one last time.
- SHIELD hacks into the Transia building’s cameras and gets Daisy some intel. And a face full of Ward. They roll out to back her up.
- Daisy starts her run, kicks absolute ass and it’s just like her vision. Then she realises the room has a one way mirror at one end and she’s about to be killed by the man behind it. Coulson storms in, shoots him and locks the third image from her vision into place.
- SHIELD spreads out through the building. Daisy heads for the roof, as Coulson and Lincoln help clear the building. Giyera nails Lincoln with a fire extinguisher opening a nasty cut on his forehead and covering his face in blood. Fourth image locked.
- On the ground, the “snow”-fall is revealed to be ashes from a burning advertising awning on the roof. Realising they can change nothing, Simmons gently suggests they should hold hands. Fifth image locked.
- On the roof, Daisy is attacked by Malick in the exo suit. He beats the living hell out of her and is only stopped when Charles, breaks free from the guards trying to bundle him onto a helicopter (fifth image locked).
- Charles shows Malick a vision of his own death (which we don’t see). Malick mortally wounds Charles and the doomed inhuman collapses next to Daisy. Sixth and final image locked. She gives him his wooden Robin back and he asks her to look after his daughter. She agrees and as he dies, he touches her. Daises sees:
- …A quinjet in orbit, out of control and damaged. Blood spattering on the cockpit as a body wearing a SHIELD insigna floats into view then fire engulfs the cabin…
- Elsewhere, Not-Grant sends Giyera on a mission to retrieve some technology. Malick calls demanding to know where his head of security is. Giyera tells him he works for Not-Grant now and hangs up. He remarks to Not-Grant that Malick sounds frightened…
There’s a very strong case for this being the best episode the show has produced to date. It’s definitely in the top three at the very least.
“Spacetime” works because it takes a single, very simple idea and uses it to tie together a half dozen plotlines. Some are big, some are small, but all are based around the idea of what happens when we try and change our future and whether or not that’s even desirable, let alone possible. In doing so, the episode manages to shine a very different light on many of the show’s now depleted, but still great cast.
The main plot focuses on Daisy and her desperate need to save Charles, the psychic inhuman whose powers allow him to show other people their deaths. Predestination is a two-edged sword here; Daisy weaponising her vision to win the fight before she even gets there but then being blindsided by the fact that Charles’ version of the future is the trailer rather than the main feature.
It’s a particularly interesting plot because season one Daisy would have reacted very, very badly to being benched as she is for most of this episode. Season three Daisy keeps working the angles, keeps herself ready and throws herself into getting May ready. She’s convinced she’s meant to go, and ultimately does, but she doesn’t get in anybody else’s way. That’s massive, welcome character growth and, along with the rest of this season in particular, shows just how much of an asset Daisy is to the team. Chloe Bennet’s on top form throughout, whether in conversation or throwing herself into one of the show’s occasional single-take fight scenes. This is her journey and you’re with her every step of the way.
It’s a major May and Andrew episode too, and again, Ming Na in particular is given a chance to show us just how broken May is and just what a phenomenal talent she is. Their final scenes together spark with recrimination and guilt but not in the way you might expect. May is, much like Elliot Spencer on the thematically similar Leverage, convinced she’s been damned by what she’s done. She’s made her peace with that but not with the guilt of dragging Andrew into her world. His final moments, where he assures her that he wouldn’t have had it any other way, are amongst Underwood’s best work on the show. He, and Andrew, will be missed. And now, with Lash in containment, SHIELD have another monster in the basement…
And speaking of monsters, Not-Granty gets lots to do this week. Brett Dalton seems to be relishing his new role and the Hydra God’s combination of tremendous stillness and constant, seething intellect and rage makes him deeply disturbing. His almost offhand manipulation of Malick into getting his hands dirty is horrifying and gives a welcome extra dimension to the former World Council member. Particularly interesting is the fact that Malick gets to fight and… hates it. He’s not even a bully, rather a man who fetishises martial power and physical violence. When handed the opportunity to dive into that world he can’t handle losing, let alone the vision Charles shows him. Or perhaps, the fact one of the people who beats him is a woman.
Daisy tries to change the future and finds that all she can do is understand it better. May and Andrew confront the fact that their future really is written in stone. Malick finds out his glorious future is going to involve a lot less distance between him and the blood he spills. And Not-Grant? He’s waited thousands of years to arrive at this moment. He knows exactly what it’s doing. But we don’t.
This is a brilliant hour of TV. It folds a puzzle box story into a discussion on destiny and moves every major and most minor plots forward. Agents Of SHIELD has continually impressed us this season but this episode is the best yet. And judging by Daisy’s vision, the best, or perhaps worst, is still to come…
- “Together we are supposed to take over the world.”
“And what does that look like to you?” Brett Dalton is doing amazing work as the Hydra God. There’s such considered, calm intelligence to him and more than a little rage.
- “I never saw the original Terminator.”
“…You’re off the team!” Oh come on, Phil! Genisys wasn’t that bad! Put the kid in front of Sarah Conner Chronicles, he’ll be fine!
- “Oh, you touched him didn’t you?” Such a great line because it tells you so much in so small a space.
- “…And buy the little girl something nice.” Phil Coulson, still the nicest man in espionage.
- “Fall down.”
“Sorry.” Jemma Simmons! Politest henchwoman ever!
- “Every terrible thing that’s happened to you could have been avoided if you’d never met me.” This show excels at minimal length maximum impact dialogue and May remains one of its best elements.
- “Yeah. Day got weirder.” HELL yes it did.
- The direction. Kevin Tancharoen, brother of showrunner Melissa, is a dancer and choreographer and it shows. There’s a poise and focus to the direction here that’s frankly brilliant and the action scenes on this show have rarely looked better.
- The worldbuilding. The fact Daisy introduces herself as an ATCU officer is an interesting callback to SHIELD still being persona non grata. Likewise the entire opening sequence. This show is at its best when it’s grounded and the combination of high action and human cost that opens the episode shows that.
- Coulson calling Daisy “Skye”. Oh, the feels! Plus a wonderful, subtle nod to their pseudo familial relationship and “dad” maybe not quite being able to accept just how badass Daisy is.
- The rehearsal sequence is great. Who knew SHIELD agents would be rubbish at being henchmen?
- The constant, gradual progression of the Fitz and Simmons relationship. The show’s done a great job of making it complicated, untidy, real and very sweet. Their little moment here is no exception.
- Powers Boothe. Boothe’s great but Malick has always been a little bit “Evil Suit” for us. Giving him a shot at the main event, and having him HATE IT, makes him way more interesting.
- Not-Grants’s all-new, apparently Neo-inspired wardrobe. Wow! Evil has never looked so suave!
- Fitz’s explanation of time and our perception of it. If only Rust had had a block of paper and a sharpie in True Detective season one…
- It’s not entirely clear Coulson is supposed to be gunning down Daisy in her vision.
- No Mack. Get well soon, big man.
- No Bobbi and Hunter…sniff…sob…
- No full-scale Mark DaCascos throwdown.
- That’s it. Seriously. This episode is fantastic.
- We love the visual contrast between SHIELD and Hydra’s Inhuman extraction techniques. SHIELD give you what’s either a REALLY nice public toilet or a surprisingly good coffin hotel to sleep in and Hydra have a big evil claw. TV should have more evil claws.
- Fitz and Simmons mention Minkowski space at one point. Minkowski’s work, built on that of his compatriot Henri Poincaré, laid out the idea of four dimensional space. In 1909. Which makes it even more impressive.
- Shot of the week is this. May’s final moments with her husband even as he starts to change…
Review by Alasdair Stuart