SPOILERS AHEAD! You know an episode is good when it pulls strong emotions from you. This week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was no exception. After watching “Past Life” for the first time, I turned to my friends and said, “I hate this show! I’m never watching it again!” Of course, I promptly put on an episode from season 3. The second viewing had me chanting “I hate DJ Doyle. Why does he love making us cry?” Subsequent viewing haven’t helped. I was worried for the characters. I was proud of character growth. There were horror moments and action moments. And in the end—every single time—I cried and cursed the writer of the show for making me feel. As my friends would say, “It hits you in the feels.”
Deke: Guns, man, it’s like cheating! They shouldn’t give these to someone unless they’re a really, really good person
If you just look at the plot, this episode seems simple. The team regroups, saves the rest of Inhumans and humans on the Kree levels of the Lighthouse, and reassembles the monolith to go home. Anyone who knows, though, prepares for an emotional rollercoaster when DJ Doyle writes an episode. His writing is amazing and he knows how to pull emotions from you. The only writers on the show who are better are Mo Tanchereon and Jed Whedon.
But writing isn’t enough. Wendi Lynn Avignone’s makeup on Tess and Elena is still giving me nightmares. Mark Kolpack was right on target with his visual effects. When Fitz activates the garrote and the tops of the Kree heads slid off the bottoms, I was glad they had blue blood instead of red. That was yet another horror movie image. Mark’s team also had to assemble the monolith from piles of rock, turn it liquid, and make it grab and absorb the time-displaced agents.
The actors worked extra hard in this episode, especially Natalia Cordova-Buckley who had a scene that involved TWO Elenas. In this scene, Elena’s trying to warn time-displaced Yo-Yo to keep the Earth from being quaked apart. We find that she has been killed and brought back repeatedly by the Kree version of GH-325. They tortured her and cut her arms off (a shout-out to Secret Warriors vol 1 #3). Emotions played across her face: horror at the torture she endured, pain at a life without Mack, and hope as she warned younger Elena that turned to despair as she remembered hearing that warning the last time she was in this room. Her delivery and facial expressions moved the story as she revealed the soul-crushing news that DJ Doyle wrecked us with: Coulson is dying and in order to save the Earth, the team has to let him die.
This is the episode where Deke shined. From the day we met him in episode 1 of this season, we never knew if he was going to help the time travelers or betray them. Last week he opted to help Daisy instead of kill her. This week, he went to the Zephyr to stop the Kree from getting Enoch and to activate the monolith. Enoch’s power core was the only way to power the machine. When the battery was drained, Enoch would take out several floors of the Lighthouse as he exploded. Deke sacrifices all to start the machine and send the team home. (Thanks again DJ Doyle.)
Deke: I told my parents not to believe in this roach-crap fairytale, and they went and they died for it anyway. And I’m probably next in line but there is no way in hell that I am gonna let some blue Kreeper destroy that machine before I get to see whether or not that damn thing was worth any of this.
Daisy: Look I’m sure you put up a good fight, but if my ride home depends on that machine, I’m gonna secure it myself
Deke: You—You drive me out of my skull, this part of you—this impetuous, bullheaded squabb—
Daisy: I was offering backup, genius.
Deke: No, when the other side of you is a friggin’ hero who can’t help herself but do good, then be great. The world needs that person to make it home. Just try not to destroy it when you get there.
Dominic Rains finished up his role of Kasius nicely. It turns out that there are limits to the Kree GH. Even though he’s been able to keep Elena alive for over 90 years without her aging, Kasius can’t use it to save his beloved. He starts losing his mind and having conversations with her corpse. His cadence reminds me of Jeffrey Coombs’ performance as Weyoun on Star Trek: Deep Space 9. It’s a delivery that makes your skin crawl. When he decides to sacrifice himself by taking kamikaze Kree PCP to stop Quake from going back in time and destroying the planet, it’s believable. He always wanted his father’s approval and his father wanted the Earth back in the day but S.H.I.E.L.D. stopped him (and destroyed the world). Also, without Sinara, he has nothing left.
Elizabeth Henstridge has a shining moment when Fitz showed his darker side by garrotting the Kree warriors. Once again, it was all in her face—the horror of what Fitz was capable of. Is she rethinking her engagement? The stinger reminded me why Days of Future Past is such a popular Marvel world. Tess and Flint are in the trawler and she holds up the globe, telling Flint that he has work to do. I want to revisit this. I want to see Flint pulling the pieces of the planet back together, rebuilding Earth and making it habitable again.
This episode wasn’t without its flaws. I found one: The walkie wasn’t on when Enoch was telling Deke he was going to explode, and yet Coulson warns everyone when he gets done talking to Deke for a sitrep. Nevertheless, this is one of the best episodes Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has put out. DJ Doyle, Wendi Lynn, Mark Kolpack, and the rest of the cast and crew outdid themselves and they should be proud.
Verdict: 5 out of 5
Secra is the TV/Movie Coordinator for DoYouEvenComicBook.com. In addition to being a die-hard Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fan, Secra loves the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Earth-199999). When not engrossed in the MCU, Carolyn can be found binging old school wrestling and living on Twitter. She subscribes to the philosophy “Music is life”.