Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD 5.04 “A Life Earned” REVIEW
Airing Sundays on E4 in the UK at 9pm
Writer: Drew Z Greenberg
Director: Stan Brooks
Essential Plot Points:
- Kasius takes a blood sample from Daisy, then tells her that he intends to auction her off to the highest bidder and spend the money he earns getting the hell away from his posting on Earth, which he loathes. He threatens to harm Jemma if Daisy doesn’t play ball.
- Daisy is taken to the arena to show off her powers to Lady Basha. Basha is impressed and offers to buy her immediately but Kasius takes great delight in telling Basha that if she’s interested she’ll have to come to the auction like everybody else. RUBBING. HER. NOSE. IN. IT.
- At the arena, Daisy watches a mind-reading inhuman fight; his ability means he can predict his opponent’s moves so he wins easily. Daisy suggests that that’s cheating, but strangely Ben doesn’t reply, “What, and quaking people into walls isn’t?”
- Instead Ben says he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure his family benefits from him being sold for a decent price.
- Kasius pays Deke one coin – which is worth loads more than tokens – for bringing Quake to him.
- Back at the scrapyard Grill enlists Mack to do a bit of roughing up for him. A guy called Gunner owes Grill money, and what particularly pisses Grill off is that he knows the guy is taking delivery of a package from “Level 35” – this is a high-security, high-tech floor, so such packages are presumably high value.
- Mack is reluctant to act as Grill’s heavy, but Coulson says it’s best if he plays along, and suggests Yo-Yo go with him.
- Coulson, meanwhile, zeroes in on a particular nugget of info that Grill gave Mack, and determines to get to Level 35 to find out what’s going on there.
- Coulson and May bump into Deke, who wisely doesn’t mention that he’s just sold out Daisy.
- He’s reluctant to help them reach Level 35 until they play him the recording of the message they received last episode from the people on the surface. Suddenly Deke comes over all concerned citizen.
- They head up to Level 35 – which seems remarkably easy to access, considering – and discover that the Kree are making babies. No, they don’t stumble across the Kree rutting season. The Kree are making human babies in the laboratory.
- Deke explains that human women don’t produce anymore – he thinks it may be something in the food. He was one of the last naturally born humans.
- He also reveals that the Kree are trying to increase the chances of humans being born inhuman.
- Coulson learns from a monitor screen that Daisy has been captured and realises Deke was responsible.
- But before Coulson can get in too high a state of dudgeon about it, Sinara walks in on them and there’s a big fight.
- May (Ming-Na Wen) elects to face Sinara on her own to give Coulson and Deke the chance to escape.
- May, hampered by her wounded leg, comes off worse.
- Meanwhile, Kasius is growing more suspicious of Daisy’s claim that she and Jemma are the only members of SHIELD who have travelled from the past.
- He brings in Ben and forces him to read Daisy and Jemma’s minds to make sure they’re telling the truth while they describe how they ended up on the station.
- First Daisy tells her (doctored) version of events, omitting to mention Coulson, May, Mack and Yo-Yo. Then, amazing (despite the fact Kasius has placed her in deaf mode) Jemma repeats the tale exactly. Ben says they are telling the truth.
- Later, when Daisy and Ben are together alone, Ben reveals he can project his thoughts as well as read other people’s (a fact he hasn’t mentioned to the Kree), which was how Jemma knew what to say.
- Daisy asks why he’s now helping her. He says he also managed to read Kasius’s mind, and learnt that the Kree commander intends to destroy the base and kill everyone on it after he’s auctioned off Quake.
- Elsewhere, Mack finds Gunner. He’s still reluctant to actually harm the guy, despite Yo-Yo telling him they need to do what’s necessary.
- Mack’s even more reluctant when he realises that the package Gunner is receiving is… a baby!
- But then Gunner does himself no favours by suggesting that Mack would be a terrible dad; the red mist descends on Mack and he beats the crap out of Gunner. Yo-Yo is shocked.
- Coulson, Deke, Mack and Yo-Yo regroup.
- Deke tries to explain he sold out Daisy for the good of everyone on the station saying that Kasius would have killed hundreds to get to Daisy otherwise. Coulson snipes back that he was more probably motivated by profit. Deke says the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
- Deke also says the voice in the recorded message from the surface is that of his father, whom he thought was dead, so he now has a reason to help Team SHIELD. He gives Coulson the coin Kasius gave him as a sign of his good will.
- But Coulson is still suspicious of his motives and locks him away
- Coulson gives the coin to Gunner, who in turn pays Grill, which makes Grill very happy with Mack. Not that Mack is thrilled to be in Grill’s favour.
- Back in Kasius’s suite, the dignitaries have started turning up for the Quake auction.
- One of them takes off his helmet to reveal that he’s Fitz! And he demands that they see Quake fight to the death.
Thank god for Fitz showing up at the end, because otherwise this has to be one of the least distinguished episodes of Agent Of SHIELD ever. Not one of the worst, sure, but one that by this time next year you’ll struggle to recall what happed in it, apart from Fitz returning.
The problem is that the the shock of the new has already worn off as far as season five is concerned. Yes, we’re in space, in the future – that’s cool. But four weeks in and all we’re getting is the same characters, going through the same motions in the same gloomily lit, utilitarian sets.
For a few brief moments, Level 35 sounds promising. A high security, high tech level with secrets that Coulson wants to expose? That sounds cool. Something new to look at. But when they get there (by-passing the high security with the ease of someone getting their mate to sneak them into the cinema by the fire escape) Level 35 is as brown and dreary as every level. The revelation that the Kree are making inhuman babies is vaguely interesting, but imagine how much more creepy or horrifying it would have been if Coulson and co had stumbled across a vast area with hundreds of babies in tanks.
Similarly, the big new info we learn about Deke was delivered in a couple of infodumps while Mack’s moral quandaries were laid on thicker than tarmac.
The Daisy/Jemma/Kasius plotline provided the episode with its best moments, helped massively by Kasius continuing to be the best thing about season five so far. He’s deliciously odious. The moment when he gets his own back on Basha for declining to attend his specially laid-on meal last week, by pointing out that she’ll have to put up with his food at the auction if she really wants Quake, is brilliantly played. The interrogation scene where he uses Ben as an inhuman lie detector is a highlight too, especially the sweet irony that Ben’s lying too.
To be fair, there’s nothing particularly heinous about “A Life Earned”, but there’s little that leaps out either, bar that cliffhanger. Hence the very brief “The Good” and “The Bad” sections below. It just feels like the season has stalled after a superb acceleration off the grid. Let’s hope that the arrival of Fitz is the jump start the show needs.
- Fitz is back! Great cliffhanger.
- The scene with Kasius forcing Daisy and Jemma to relate how they arrived at the station, with Ben being used as an inhuman polygraph, is brilliantly tense.
- It’s good to see Mack wresting with that moral quandary we highlighted in the previous review – the fact that Yo-Yo threw Zev to the wolves (well, roaches) after Mack and Coulson had spent the episode refusing to kill the guy. This season seems to be challenging the n“ends justifies the means” mentality on many different levels. How many times have we heard variations on the phrase, “doing what must be done”?
- The May vs Sinara scene was disappointing incoherent – a shame after the much more impressive action scenes last week.
- Gunner’s tirade about Mack being a bad parent was horrendously contrived to get a reaction out of Mack.
- Mack and Yo-Yo’s conversation about Mack’s parenting skills was very hokey too. It was meant to be a tender, emotional moment, but was too cheesy by half.
- Level 35 was “high security”? Coulda fooled us.
- Level 35 was also a really dull set for somewhere that sounded so important.
- The “making babies” revelation would have had a lot more impact if there’s been more than one, gurgling baby.
And The Random:
- Has the show created a new musical genre – Fat Cat Blues?
- We don’t for a second believe that Sinara has killed May off-screen, but we’re worried about what exactly “dealt with” might mean. Will she be totally intact next time we see her?
- Here’s the most trivial bit of trivia you’ll ever hear about this show. All four directors so far for season five have had multiple O’s in their surnames: Solomon, Bocho, Hooks, Brooks.