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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - A Life Earned - Review



Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “A Life Earned” was written by Drew Z Greenberg and was directed by Stan Brooks, who has a long history of production – though not on S.H.I.E.L.D. – and this is his first directing credit on IMDb. It’s an excellent start as we the episode is solidly shot and there are some terrific performances in the episode. Henry Simmons (Mack) delivers another outstanding performance as we see that Mack is still struggling to deal with the loss of Hope. And of course, then there was that huge reveal at the end!

Kasius (Dominic Rains) tells Daisy (Chloe Bennet) that he made great sacrifices to save the human race – as he takes her blood. Kasius tells Daisy that he “saved” the humans from their old gods – one of whom was Quake! He tells her that they used to talk of S.H.I.E.L.D. coming back to save them, and Daisy being there seems to prove the truth of the prophecy. Daisy points out that it wasn’t her choice to be there. Sadly, Kasius is not stupid and he’s already figured out that Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is also S.H.I.E.L.D. Daisy tells him there’s no one else with her. Kasius’s version of the fairy tale is that Daisy is actually there to help him. Kasius threatens Simmons in order to get Daisy to comply.

Coulson (Clark Gregg) is surprised to see May (Ming-Na Wen) show up in the crusher room. She tells him that all the trawler flights have been shut down and she has no idea why. Mack joins them, and then YoYo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley). None of them have been able to find out anything about Daisy or Simmons. Grill interrupts them by zapping Mack.

Grill goes on to tell the entire room that Kasius is hosting an “Intergallactic auction,” so they all have to work harder to provide more iron for Kasius to sell. Everyone is working triple shifts to make the quota… except Mack. Grill has a special assignment for Mack – and Grill also clearly has a crush on Mack!

Grill assigns Mack to “rough up” Gunner (James Harvey Ward). Gunner owes Grill a bunch of tokens, and Grill has learned that Gunner is getting a “package” from level 35 – a “creeper-only” high-tech floor. Mack – naturally – doesn’t want to do it. Grill already has enforcers – except he’s lost Zev.

Daisy ends up on the training floor and meets Ben (Myko Olivier), a fellow inhuman who can read minds. Daisy realizes that Ben’s fighting ability is because he can anticipate all his opponents’ moves. Daisy also points out – love our justice warrior – that’s it’s not cool to read people’s minds without their permission. But again, we are in a world where the norms of society and ethics are different.

Tye (Max E Williams) clears the room – except for Daisy. He tells her she’s getting a private viewing – for Kasius and Basha (Rya Kihlstedt). Tye tells her that Kasius wants a demonstration of Daisy’s skill. They “perform” for Kasius’s profit. When Tye threatens Simmons, Daisy blasts him across the room. Basha is suddenly a lot more friendly. She wants to make a pre-emptive bid, but Kasius tells her that bidding will take place over dinner – and as she prefers dining in her own ship… no Destroyer of Worlds for her!

Mack tells Coulson what Grill wants him to do, and Coulson tells him he has to do it to keep Grill off their backs. Coulson is onboard with Mack’s philosophy that they stick together and tells YoYo to go with Mack. He suggest maybe they can just talk to the guy and avoid having to rough him up. Meanwhile, Coulson and May will check out level 35 – Coulson goes to talk to Deke (Jeff Ward) to get them access.

Deke is also on the observation deck – for payment. It’s not clear whether Daisy saw him or not. Kasius gives him one coin. Kasius also tells Deke that Sinara (Florence Faivre) is concerned about the prophecy. Deke knows that Kasius is the one who is really worried. Kasius says the prophecy could have meant two or twenty people. Deke points out that maybe the prophecy wouldn’t be such a mystery if Kasius hadn’t killed everyone who knew everything about it – and this becomes significant when we learn Deke’s family history. Deke doesn’t stop smiling and maintains eye contact for a long time. Kasius promises him more rewards if Deke brings him more time travelers. Deke says he’ll see what he can find – but he doesn’t just give the others up. 

Daisy confronts Ben about the truth about the competitions – it’s not an honor. They’re being sold into slavery. Ben already knows – mind reader remember! But he doesn’t want any of the others to know. So much for Daisy raising an army. Ben tells Daisy that their life is about survival – and again, it’s such a foreign concept that Daisy just can’t accept it. They play the game to protect their families. Ben warns her that if they’re pitted together, he will try to win – so she’d better fight her hardest. So… we know who Daisy will eventually have to fight.

Coulson and May track down Deke, and he lies completely about Daisy. He’s smart enough to quote Daisy’s own words – out of context – so that Coulson agrees it sounds like her. May is clearly not convinced, however. Deke tells them he’s never been to level 35, and Coulson tells him they need to get whatever they can to investigate the surface.

Deke freaks out, and Coulson plays him the recording that they made. Deke is clearly shocked. He insists that all those people are dead – but now he’s in. He tells them that if they can find the people on the surface it’s in all their best interests.

Mack and YoYo chat as they shadow Gunner. Is it just me or do these two have chemistry off the charts? I love how YoYo won’t let Mack hide what’s bothering him. Mack is not happy that they’ve been reduced to beating people up, hurting them. YoYo isn’t wrong when she takes it as a criticism by him of her getting Zev killed. She tries to explain that she did it to save lives – theirs. She tells Mack she’s sorry Zev is dead, but she’ll choose Mack every time.

Mack is worried that they’ll lose themselves the way Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) did in the Framework. YoYo points out that this is real – real violence – of course if you died in the framework, you died in reality, so I’m not sure how much this is a valid distinction. In this situation, YoYo’s childhood is a help. She grew up in a violent neighborhood – and she learned from it. She knows how this works. She tells Mack that they don’t have to hurt Gunner to scare him. She promises Mack that they won’t lose themselves.

I really liked how the two of them really dig into the effect of the framework in this episode. What is real and how it affects them. YoYo had a terrible childhood, full of violence that she learned from and that made her strong. Fitz was subjected to mental torture – and that’s really what warped him in the Framework. If his real childhood had been like that, he’d hardly be the Fitz we know and love. Not to mention that Aida was actively working to warp Fitz to her own purposes.

Simmons meanwhile is waiting on Kasius. I’ll be interested to hear exactly what this experience is like for her. I love how there is no sound until Kasius speaks directly to her. She almost seems like she is in a trance, and it takes her a moment to fully come back to reality. How can having that silver goo in her ear/head not have lasting effects? Before Simmons can finishing pouring the water for Kasius, Sinara grabs her and tosses her in front of Kasius with the soldering gun. He knows the truth about her “skills.”

Daisy is brought before Kasius who has Simmons at his side. Kasius has Ben brought in to use as a lie detector. Daisy insists that it’s just her and Simmons. And Simmons doesn’t give Tess up. Ben says they are both telling the truth. Daisy insists that the came through together and there is no one else. Kasius insists that she tell the entire story – and spares no detail. He then steps between Simmons and Daisy while she talks so that Simmons can’t read Daisy’s lips.

Simmons tells the exact same story about being distraught over Fitz killing Mace and threatening to leave S.H.I.E.L.D. Daisy took her to the diner to talk – alone – to make her feel better. I loved the look on Daisy’s face when the details match so completely. It’s clear that Ben can project as well as read minds. Kasius is not completely satisfied, and Sinara is still clearly upset. Kasius tells her that he shares her concerns and reminds her that she’s not the only one working on it…

Deke uses his anti-gravity belt to finagle Coulson and May onto level 35. May tells Coulson that she doesn’t trust Deke – and neither does Coulson.

Daisy asks Ben about helping them, and he admits that the Kree don’t know that he can also let others read his mind. It was also Ben’s first chance to read Kasius, and what he read was shame. Kasius hates the place so much that when he leaves he’s going to destroy everything – and everyone, including his family. Kasius also knows how powerful Daisy is. Daisy suggests that they change the rules on Kasius’s game, and it looks like Ben is finally in.

YoYo and Mack confront Gunner, who insists that Grill will get his money. I loved how sheepish Mack looked in the background as YoYo threatens him. When Gunner looks like he’s going for a weapon, Mack, not knowing what the package is, threatens to make it go away. At that Gunner threatens to kill him. Gunner accuses Mack of being sick – and then Mack makes it worse by threatening to throw the package in the crushing mill!

Meanwhile, Coulson and May find the package meant for Gunner – and it’s a baby! Deke points out that there have been a lot of vacancies lately. Coulson is shocked that they are using babies as a commodity, and is even more shocked when Deke tells him that it’s the only way people can have a baby anymore – people don’t get pregnant anymore!

YoYo notices that the things Gunner has dropped are baby things, and then Gunner asks Mack – who threatens a child? And of course, that is exactly who Mack isn’t! And this inevitably dredges up memories of Hope and his feelings of failure towards her. Gunner makes it worse by saying that Mack would mess it up if he ever had a child, and that people, like Mack!, who only understand violence don’t deserve to have a child. And at that Mack loses it and punches Gunner until YoYo can pull him off.

Deke was one of the last humans born the old-fashioned way. He’s pretty sure that they control procreation through the food supply. Deke also tells Coulson that Kasius is simply increasing the genetic possibility that the children turn – and he breaks it to Coulson that what Kasius is auctioning off is Inhumans.

May finds Daisy in the system, and punches Deke right in the nose. Daisy has been in custody since before Deke last said he saw her. Coulson isn’t interested in Deke’s explanation. Before he can explain why he sold Daisy out – it’s complicated – the three are interrupted by Kree. I loved that Deke tries to talk their way out of it, but Coulson just starts a fight. It’s always great to get a May fight scene! Deke, however, is stabbed, and May sends Coulson with Deke to get the truth.

And we get an even better fight scene between May and Sinara – it’s May up against the balls of death! May takes out one of the balls, but she’s still injured. It’s a good set up for a rematch!

Coulson patches up Deke – and then punches him! Deke insists that it’s safer to have Daisy out of the way. It’s clear that Deke really was bothered by Daisy seeming not to care about anyone else’s life except those of the team. Coulson thinks that Deke just wants to turn the people on the surface over to Kasius to cash in. Deke, finally shows some real emotion as he insists that Coulson doesn’t know him.

The elders that Kasius got rid of were lead by Deke’s mother. His father took up the cause until Kasius had him turned out for the roaches too. And then Deke reveals that the voice on the tape is his father!!! Deke then tells Coulson that if his father is alive, he doesn’t just need Coulson to succeed, he needs to be there when he does – seems he’s all in for the fight now! But can he be trusted? Coulson insists that Deke will have to prove he’s telling the truth and it’s not just another one of his stories. Coulson wants the payment Deke got for Daisy as a start. Deke barely hesitates before turning it over. Coulson still doesn’t trust him and has Mack weld him into his room. They give the money to Gunner, and YoYo has no word on May.

One of the best scenes in the episode is when YoYo finally gets Mack to open up. YoYo tries to make Mack feel better, telling him that Gunner hit his weak spots and doesn’t know how great of a Dad Mack is. But Mack doesn’t believe that he’s a great dad. He thinks exactly the opposite. Mack doesn’t understand why losing Hope the second time is even harder. Cordova-Buckley is also wonderful in this scene – her reactions are genuine and intense, without ever taking the scene’s focus off of Simmons. YoYo tells Mack that he was a great father and that his love was real even if Hope wasn’t. She promises that they will get through it together.

Grill has no complaints for Monster-Mack. He’s thrilled that Gunner has paid him off, and he almost undoes all of YoYo’s work when he tells Mack that he fits right in.

The final scene is the beginning of the Intergallactic Auction. Kasius checks that Sinara has dealt with their latest guest – and it looks like she’s wiping blood off her balls – May’s blood? She is clearly the new guest. I knew immediately that Fitz was the one in the mask – another nice Star Lord shout out! But here’s another prediction. I’m betting that the figure in the other mask is Hunter (Nick Blood).

Kasius has Daisy brought in in chains – Quake the Destroyer of Worlds is the main event. Kasius asks if there are any requests. The masked figure walks forward and tells Kasius to forget his exhibition. Quake is the Destroyer of Worlds so she should fight to the death! It’s clear from the scenes that the next episode is going to circle back to what happened to Fitz and how he ended up in the future with the rest of the team. So, I’m betting we’ll be going into the holiday hiatus at exactly where this episode ends – but from Fitz’s point of view.

What did you think of the episode? Are you loving this season as much as I am? Is Deke really on their side? Can he be trusted? Did the people on the surface help Fitz? Does Fitz have a way back to their time/universe? Performance of the week definitely goes to Henry Simmons, but Natalia Cordova-Buckley is right there too! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


Favorite Lines!
Daisy: I know you’re trying to say something, but I’m just not sure what.
Kasius: Daisy. Can I call you Daisy? That’s a lot less formal than Destroyer of Worlds.
Coulson: That’s a little slang I picked up here. Crusher? That’s when you…
Grill: Cuz you’re bigger. Makes it funnier!
Grill: Have you looked in a mirror? You’re a beast!
Deke: What is actually wrong with you people that you keep going places you are not supposed to be going? Are you all very suicidal?
YoYo: If you could see me, that’s me walking casual.
YoYo: Do you want to talk about it or make not very subtle comments all day.
Mack: I just don’t want us losing ourselves here.
Coulson: Super. And the vibe goes full dystopian.
Coulson: No. This is the part where May breaks your face. You’re explaining? Kinda secondary.
Deke: Oh. Ok. We’re fighting?
Coulson: It buys you some time. But for now, it’s safer with you out of the mix.
YoYo: Hope might not have been real, but your love for her was and that makes you a great father and a good man.



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