The Agents of SHIELD Are Doomed To Have Permanently Awful Love Lives

Illustration for article titled The iAgents of SHIELD/i Are Doomed To Have Permanently Awful Love Lives

This was a romance-heavy episode of Agents of SHIELD, which turned out to be a very good thing. This show has been about the costs and dangers of superpowers since we first met Mike Peterson in the pilot, but in “Chaos Theory,” it’s clearer than ever that if you touch the uncanny, your heart will be broken.

Advertisement

Spoilers ahead...

Of course, lots of other shows are more romance-heavy and soap-operatic. But Agents of SHIELD has been slowly layering in more romance as the show has developed its characters, and “Chaos Theory” shows how this is paying off. In particular, there’s only one relatively short scene between Bobbi and Lance, which mostly plays like a billion other similar scenes you’ve seen before—but the characters have been through enough that it carries a lot of water.

Advertisement

The episode sets out its main idea early on, when we see a flashback to Melinda May and Andrew in Hawaii, on their romantic getaway after the events of season two. They’re happy again, rebuilding their shattered relationship, and Melinda suddenly offers to leave SHIELD forever. Andrew basically deflects this idea, telling her that they’re older and wiser and that he’s not going to lose her a second time. But Andrew doesn’t actually consider what she’s saying: that being in SHIELD imposes huge costs and liabilities, and might turn her into the reason why their relationship fails this time around.

Illustration for article titled The iAgents of SHIELD/i Are Doomed To Have Permanently Awful Love Lives

The big irony is that SHIELD does end up dealing a probably fatal blow to Melinda and Andrew’s relationship—but not because of anything that happens to Melinda. Instead, Andrew’s role as consultant to SHIELD leads to him looking at some Inhuman files, which Daisy’s mother Jiaying booby-trapped with terrigen crystals. This is what leads to Andrew turning into Lash, the big blue Inhuman-killing machine who has a primal need to rip holes in his own kind.

The sad thing is, Andrew tries to justify his killing spree by concocting an ideology in which he’s helping to sort the good Inhumans from the bad ones, and kill the bad ones. (So he doesn’t kill Daisy when he has the chance.) He even sees his “mission” of slaughtering all the covert Inhumans on Jiaying’s ledger as an extension of his work with SHIELD. He’s clearly just rationalizing an uncontrollable bloodlust—as shown in the scene where he’s “evaluating” Joey Gutierrez the nice metal-warping guy, and we see Andrew’s fantasy of tearing Joey open. But he seems to have convinced himself—even though, as Coulson says, it’s “a pretty poor interpretation of a therapist.”

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The iAgents of SHIELD/i Are Doomed To Have Permanently Awful Love Lives

The most sickening moment is when Andrew invokes Melinda’s biggest trauma, the time she had to kill a small child in Bahrain, to save a lot of other lives. He tries to claim that this is the same decision he’s been making in killing all those Inhumans, and that he’s “the same” as Melinda—like, they’re both doing the hard-but-right thing, in the line of duty. He’s become this weird distortion of a SHIELD operative, and is the embodiment of the worst-case scenario: turning into a monster in the line of duty.

Advertisement

To make matters worse, Lincoln claims that Inhumans can’t go back and forth, or “Hulk out,” the way that Andrew has been doing as Lash. He’s still in transition, and eventually he’ll become Lash permanently, and Andrew will be gone.

Illustration for article titled The iAgents of SHIELD/i Are Doomed To Have Permanently Awful Love Lives
Advertisement

In the end—in spite of Lincoln’s bone-headed interruption—Melinda manages to talk Andrew down by forcing him into a situation where he has to kill her to get to Lincoln. She appeals to his love for her, but also his kindness and empathy, and this gets him to transform back into human form—so she can shoot him. Asked how she knew this wouldn’t kill him, she says she didn’t.

And this leads to the episode’s other big reversal: The SHIELD crew, including Daisy, are suddenly in favor of putting Andrew in stasis for his own good, until the ATCU can find a “cure” for Inhumanism. (Prediction: With an Inhumans movie still supposedly in the pipeline, there will be no cure.) Previously, Daisy and some of the other SHIELD peeps were somewhat horrified by the ATCU’s penchant for turning Inhumans into popsicles, and earlier in the episode Daisy has a tense conversation with Rosalind Price about what to do with Inhumans who are a danger to themselves or others—something that comes full circle when Daisy saves Rosalind using her Quake powers, proving that superpowers can help as well as hurt.

Advertisement

So that thing of becoming a monster in the line of duty comes up in that one scene that we get between Bobbi and Lance. Lance is all gung-ho to go after Grant Ward, now that they’ve taken out some of his key people, but Bobbi startles Lance by saying she doesn’t want either one of them to go after Grant.

Lance sees killing Grant Ward as an act of love—he’s doing it to protect Bobbi from ever being hurt by that bastard again. But Bobbi responds that going after Ward is making Lance crazy and reckless, and that she’s worried they’ll “become so obsessed with revenge that we turn into monsters like him.”

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The iAgents of SHIELD/i Are Doomed To Have Permanently Awful Love Lives

But at least Phil Coulson is having a happy love life, right?

Poor Coulson—he’s supposedly dead, and the cellist love of his life still believes he’s gone. It’s a lonely life, running a secret organization that everybody thinks turned evil and then disappeared.

Advertisement

So yay, he finally found a strong confident woman who appreciates him for who he is—Rosalind Price, the head of the ATCU. The flirty rivalry between the two of them has been interesting to watch for the past few episodes, even as it’s been unclear just where the ATCU storyline was going.

But in this episode, it finally gels that Coulson and Price are on the same team, and on the same page, and all that. They’re even going to go meet with the POTUS together, and talk about how to cope with the outbreak of Inhuman powers. Coulson lets Price on his flying base! And he arranges for Price and Daisy to have a chat, so Daisy can show that not all Inhumans are bad, something that’s cemented by Daisy’s aforementioned save of Price at the end of the episode.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The iAgents of SHIELD/i Are Doomed To Have Permanently Awful Love Lives

And then, at the end of the episode, Coulson and Price finally hook up, cementing their relationship and the alliance between SHIELD and the ATCU. Yay! Romance is so beautiful.

Advertisement

Except... oops. In the episode’s final “stinger,” we see Grant Ward talking to Gideon Malick, the Hydra bigwig who handed over Werner von Strucker to Ward last week. Ward is obsessed with bringing down Coulson, but Malick warns him against being too obsessed with revenge—in a callback to what Bobbi said about the dangers of vengeance earlier in the episode. And then Malick reveals that he already has a plan in place to take down Coulson and kill SHIELD for good.

Becuase Rosalind Price is actually working for Malick, who has somehow gotten an “in” with the head of an organization that reports directly to the U.S. president. (My guess? Maybe he used the brainwashing technology that he stole from Hydra and previously used on Bakshi, to turn Price into his loyal operative.)

Advertisement

So now Coulson is heading into a trap, and he’s also handed the incredibly dangerous Lash over a Hydra goon. Whoops.

Interplanetary love triangle

And meanwhile... Simmons turns out to still have her phone from the alien planet where she was trapped for six months. And she asks Fitz to try recover its data, in the hopes of finding clues to how to reopen a portal to the planet and rescue Will, the NASA astronaut that Simmons hooked up with there.

Advertisement

And Fitz does find a clue—the patch on Will’s uniform looks rather a lot like a symbol that was on the floor of the chamber where the Obelisk had previously been used to travel to the mysterious planet. So maybe Will’s “NASA” program was actually part of an ancient secret organization that knows something about the secrets of that world.

Illustration for article titled The iAgents of SHIELD/i Are Doomed To Have Permanently Awful Love Lives
Advertisement

But Fitz also finds all of Simmons’ messages that she recorded on the other planet, when she was dying of thirst and disoriented in the planet’s endless night. And once again, Fitz and Simmons provide the episode’s most powerful emotional moments, as Fitz watches Simmons confess her feelings for him and talk about how she followed him around when they first met at school. Fitz realizes that Simmons spent a huge chunk of her time on this alien planet talking to him, in messages that she thought he would never see and also just when she was talking to herself after her battery ran low.

In the end, Fitz and Simmons are watching the sunrise, and Fitz offers her an out: Maybe she said those things about him when she was disoriented and didn’t know what she was saying. But she says she was “as clearheaded as I’ve ever been.”

Advertisement

But in keeping with the episode’s running thread of perfectly good relationships getting jacked up by the dangers and complications of life in SHIELD, there are a lot of unsettled questions. Like Will, the other man in Simmons’ life, who’s trapped on that other world. And also just how much that experience changed Simmons. For now, Fitz and Simmons just watch the sunrise together, and put off any questions about the future for later.

This show being this show, there’s bound to be something else getting in the way of Fitz and Simmons—maybe one of them will be eaten by a grue.

Advertisement

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All The Birds in the Sky, coming in January from Tor Books.Follow her on Twitter, and email her.

Advertisement

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

Cool_Breeze
Cool_Breeze

This damn show is making me feel like a broken record. Last week I talked about how they do a great job of NOT hiding the ball for the sake of suspense, and this week was a great example of that. This was a mid-season or season finale level episode, and we got it in the middle of November. Not only did the team find out (shortly after May) that Andrew was the HGHog, but he’s contained. OH AND PRICE IS MAYBE HYDRA TOO. WHAT. At this pace, what the hell is going to happen when the season does end??

1. But enough of that. This episode had a lot. A lot of people on the internet ship Coulson and May, because they’re like this show’s mom and dad, but theonly person that gets May all flustered and vulnerable is Andrew. When May and Coulson interact, even when bantering, she’s all business. But with Andrew? She’s laughing nervously at his corny jokes (Going steady? Andrew you sly Hedgehog you) and openly worries about her life. Not with Coulson.

Vulnerable May is the worst May. Vulnerable May is the most dangerous May. We have some glimpses of how she was before Bahrain, and have seen her make strides to get back to that state following last season and her reconnection with Andrew, but this was something else. After May heard what Little Shit Strucker saw, she was torn down. It was brutal, and worse than Bahrain. Sure, she had to kill a little girl, but this is absolutely more personal. It’s her own husband.

And I say that vulnerable May is the most dangerous May because not only is she hurt, but she’s scared and betrayed and WILL NOT HESITATE TO PUT FIVE BULLETS IN YOUR CHEST. Coulson’s face was the best when he asked her how she knew those shots wouldn’t hurt him and she said she didn’t. Holy shit.

With Ward making his moves and Coulson sowing his royal oats with Maybe Hydra, I fear Cavalry May is going to be our default May for a while. The Koenig’s might be excited about that, but everyone else better watch out.

2. That was clever of Jiaying using Obelisk parts and Terrigen Crystals to booby-trap the ledger of known Inhumans. Too bad for everyone else the one Inhuman who actually triggered it is the one who has a basic hunger to rid the world of Inhumans...

3. Speaking of Andrew (and I have a feeling we’re going to do that a lot today), at the very beginning, it was kind of funny watching him playpoint/counterpoint in his head while Coulson and Daisy debated the finer points of putting Inhumans in jello-storage. Andrew doesn’t want to kill Inhumans, and he’s 100% behind the idea of storing them away.

However, Lash needs to kill Inhumans. And like Lincoln insinuated when he said Andrew was still going through the change, and would eventually become Lash 100% of the time, Lash and Andrew aren’t really the same person at this point. This is analogous to the Banner/Hulk relationship. Andrew understands Lash’s “moral obligation” to LASH OUT (!!!), but isn’t Lash, yet. But, unlike Banner, Andrew is becoming the monster he is hiding, and Lash is starting to leak into Andrew. He even had crazy day dreams of killing Joey and got all up in his grill right before May showed up. Yes, Joey, you’re fate is in his hands. Holy shit. Secrets can eat you up from the inside. How much Andrew is left?

See, Gotham? THAT’S how you show a guy dealing with two distinct personalities within himself. I don’t need suave Double Oh Riddler giving Nerdy Nygma shit for being a nerd. THIS is how it’s done.

Also: Did you see how May was able to talk Andrew down from Lash, A LOT like how Natasha talked down the Hulk? That was her own little lullaby. The sun was gettin’ real low, for real.

4. Fitz and Simmons. I noticed something: When Simmons gave Fitz the phone to see if he could recover anything from her extended stay, he kept cutting her off and finishing her sentences. Just like everyone else (and Head Simmons included) did to him last season. The only difference I can think of was that Fitz may have just been in his own head about the hog faced astronaut (THANK YOU HUNTER), but that’s it, and only based on his reaction of seeing Simmons hugging the hamstronaut.

Fitz watched all the videos and looked at all the pictures, and basically watched the love of his life lose hope over a period of weeks. That was heart breaking. But, I noticed something else: throughout it all, Simmons made the videos not just to document, but to tell Fitz. Fitz was her intended audience the entire time. He’s her lobster.

And at the end, when Simmons told Fitz she was the most clear headed she’s ever been when she made the recordings, and asked what they should do about it, his response - to just watch the sunrise - wasn’t shutting her down. He wants it to be natural like it was before.

This makes me happy.

5. Side note: When Fitz was watching that last video of Simmons, with that large rock formation behind her, I was CONVINCED Death was going to show up right as the video cut out or something, like that scene from Signs when the alien walked by at the birthday party. It was probably unfounded, but I was having some serious anxiety waiting for Death to show up.

6. The name of the off site facility used to deal with rehabbed Inhumans? The Cocoon. Nice.

7. Back to Andrew. Lash in the comics has appointed himself the sole arbiter of worthiness for Inhumans, and hunts them to pass judgment (usually death). Andrew kind of put a spin on that, in that he felt this HUNGER and didn’t feel relief until he killed his first Inhuman, and he even described it as a moral obligation to rid the world of these Inhumans. Again, he was specifically targeting Afterlife Inhumans for death, and was giving newer ones a chance with SHIELD. He knows Daisy is a good one, and has been giving the newer ones a chance - but not Afterlife Inhumans, and not Lincoln. HE IS THE CURE. Damn.

8. This episode was pretty funny, too. Coulson’s deadpan explanation of his team member cutting off his hand (you had to be there) to Hunter telling Mockingbird to lay it on him, and when she did immediately asking if he could take what he said back, I was laughing. That ATCU dude straight up BOLTED when Lash was walking towards him. Shit, Mack’s line about really committing to his Shotgun Axe was HILARIOUS. My sides. I bet Fitz makes him one by season’s end, and it will be just as satisfying to us as when Coulson used Coulson’s Revenge at the end of season one. Oh Boy.

9. Hunter and Mockingbird are a younger version of May and Andrew, and Mockingbird doesn’t want to lose what they have together for the sake of work. That was interesting seeing the two relationships evolve. Come to think about it, this whole damn episode was about relationships and the steps you’ll go to support them. Hunter agrees (somewhat) that chasing Ward headstrong is dumb, and will ease up for Mockingbird. May is devastated, but was willing to put Andrew into suspended animation until something could be done. Coulson and Price GOT BIZAY. Lincoln is back in Daisy’s life. FITZSIMMONS. Come on. I thought this episode was about the debate of how to deal with Inhumans. Then you had to go and hit me with those feels.

10. JLo can host my American Music Awards IFYOUKNOWWHATIMEAN.

11. On to that other message I thought this episode was about: How do you deal with Inhumans? Daisy has a point: These are people and they should be given a chance. Price has a point: For every Daisy Johnson there’s a Lash, so precautions have to be taken. More than just the Chocolate Factory elevator of doom. Rehab is nice, but what about the ones that are too far gone? Maybe suspended animation is the most Inhumane thing to do? They’re stuck between a Lash and a Daisy place.

I have a feeling that when Civil War comes around, both Cap and Iron Man’s positions are going to be legitimate. THERE IS NO BLACK AND WHITE. THIS IS ALL GREY. ALL OF IT.

12. At the very end of the episode, after Coulson and Price gave each other a tour of their bases (OOOOOOHHHHH GURRRRRRRLLLLLL), we learned that she was working for Gideon Malick, the Hydra boss from the World Counsel. God dammit. Just when I was starting to like her.

My question to you, fellow fans, is this: Was Price part of the secret sect within NASA that sent hogface through the Monolith, and if so, was that a Hydra outfit, or simply a side project that Malick was also involved in? At the beginning of this post, I noted that Price MAY be Hydra, but the way Malick answered her call in front of Ward made it feel like maybe he didn’t want to mix his hobbies. He’s Hydra, but maybe he’s ALSO in some Monolith cult. The two don’t have to be connected, do they? Maybe he just wants Coulson for the Cult’s needs (he’s got a little Kree in him thanks to TAHITI), and not for Hydra’s? Maybe he’ll gum up Ward’s plans for the sake of his secret society.

Or maybe I’m just hoping because I’m still bummed Coulson never got that second date with the Cellist and he deserves happiness just like May.

Price is in Hydra? Hydra controls Price? PRICE IS HYDRA!