Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S05E21 The End review
Airing Sundays in the UK on E4
Director: Jed Whedon
Writer: Melissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon
Essential Plot Points:
- The S.H.I.E.L.D. team argue about whether to use the centipede serum to save Coulson or kill super Talbot before he can crack the Earth apart. Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) smashes the odium vial, which could kill the general, ending the discussion.
- The Remorath ship crashes into the Earth, and Talbot follows after. S.H.I.E.L.D. heads to the scene to save the city’s civilians.
- Talbot is too far gone to see that he’s become the bad guy, and is not a hero. Is Daisy powerful enough to stop him using her Quake powers?
The question hanging over this show was a big one: would Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. be cancelled? The season finale was ominously titled The End but thankfully that wasn’t too on the nose, and the series was renewed for a sixth season consisting of 13 episodes on 14 May 2018. It wouldn’t be Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. if they weren’t cutting it fine. Looks like Disney’s upcoming streaming service will have more than classic animated movies to show.
Still, this episode feels like the one you’d write if you didn’t know if you were getting a new season. It drops the big bad, says some tearful farewells and pretty much ties up everything it needs to. It even avoids getting into Infinity War territory so as not to break its season in ways that would be hard to deal with in a finale (and the creators have explained that decision in an EW interview).
Nevertheless, it’s hard for a TV show to really impress when Thanos and chums are still tearing it up at the cinema, but a skyscraper-sized alien ship crashing into Chicago as super Talbot shows up to claim more gravitonium goes some way to fixing that. There’s also a time loop issue to resolve here that’s pretty massive and the fate of the shattered Earth to consider, so big themes are never far away.
And if you thought you knew what was going to happen, think again, as the script manages some neat swerves. For instance, Mack is literally called out as being the moral centre of the group. Good job this isn’t The Walking Dead, those guys always d… oh no, it’s happening again! Until Fitz spots the time pattern (that neither Mack nor Robin’s mother are alive in the future) and saves them, breaking the time loop.
It’s a good finale, just not the great one we were hoping for following such a strong season (see The Bad below for more on that). Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had the opportunity to really gut-punch us, and show us that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes might not always wear a cape or a supersuit, but it chose a safer option that leaves the door open just a crack for every character – even a terminally ill Coulson. Just a little more bravery would have made this an episode that lived long in the memory as a classic bit of TV.
- An amazing performance this week from Natalia Cordova-Buckley as Yo-yo, which has been building over the past few episodes. Her speech about how she’s screaming at the top of her lungs but no-one is listening is heartbreaking and extremely powerful.
- Good call back to last week’s line, when super Talbot stole the quinjet so he could go into space: “I don’t need this to fly, I need this to breathe.”
- Coulson donning the shades as he leaves for the final time. And actually heading to Tahiti! Nice full-circle writing.
- In one way, there’s a sense of inevitability to Fitz’s death. He was the one who argued hardest and most loudly that time was fixed, that it couldn’t be changed. It stands to reason he’d be the one to die when things did change. Yet we’d have preferred Coulson to lay down his life, making the ultimate sacrifice, and as a season finale that would have hit home so powerfully and made us ball our eyes out. When he exits with “days or weeks” to live, having not used the centipede serum, it’s powerful but not at that level.
- In the same way, future Fitz might be dead, but he is also currently frozen in space as he waits out the period until he can join the other S.H.I.E.L.D. members who were shot into the future. And they very clearly state at the end of the episode that time isn’t fixed, which means removing him from that slumber wouldn’t mess up the fact that he joins them and helps them get back to the past. Which means his death is much less of a tearjerker than it should be. Although it now makes sense why Deke went for a walkabout rather than join the final fight – if he’s still around, and hasn’t winked out Back to the Future style, it’s more obvious Fitz and Gemma will be reunited next season.
Robin’s line is so sweet, showing that the Earth can be saved, but also bittersweet in that it paves the way for what happens next: “Something’s different.”
Review by Matt Chapman