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Agents of SHIELD - The Devil Complex - Review

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “The Devil Complex” was written by Matt Owens and was directed by Nina Lopez-Corrado. There was a lot to admire in this episode, but I was disappointed in the ending. I trust the writing team enough to let this run out though. The fake out with Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) was amazing, and once again De Caestecker delivers an Emmy-worthy performance. Please powers that be – submit this episode for consideration!!!! Let’s take a closer look at the episode…

The previously on gives us the clues we needed to unravel the mystery, but for myself, I so didn’t want Fitz to be Leopold that I was more than happy to let Leopold simply be a manifestation of the rift. But we see Fitz tell Hunter that that darkness is a part of him. Whether what the darkness in him leads him to do – restore Daisy’s (Chloe Bennet) powers – is ultimately good or bad is yet to be determined. The episode proper begins with a manifestation – Simmons’ (Elizabeth Henstridge) spaceman – that also sets us up to expect more manifestations.

We get a very sweet scene with Fitz and Simmons. He’s exhausted – another clue that he may not be able to keep so tight a control on himself – and he wants hobnobs (they’re biscuits – cookies – look them up!). Simmons offers to go and look in the stores, but Fitz wants real British junkfood! Simmons reminisces about the care packages from home that helped them get through cramming for exams at the academy. She is artfully surrounded by empty chip bags! Fitz reminisces about problems that could be solved – he’s struggling to find a way to compress the gravitonium to fit in the device to shut the rift. And he wonders why it had to be a fear dimension – why not dreams or wishes?

Simmons then changes the topic and asks Fitz what he’s wish for – an extra day between Saturday and Sunday. Simmons would wish to speak any language – or a honeymoon! Aw! Simmons goes on to speculate on what she’d like with more than one wish – flying or a pony or a flying pony (excellent choice!) – before she comes face-to-face with the Spaceman who grabs her by the throat. He throws her into Fitz, but Simmons gets up and shoots him in the face to smoke him out.

Mack (Henry Simmons) is helping Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) with her physical therapy. She’s pushing herself harder than Mack wants her to – and I loved her using the robot arm to flip him off! The arm is just a prototype – Mack and Fitz have built it together using their very limited resources. Yo-Yo doesn’t want bells and whistles – she just wants to be able to punch things! She points out that her eyes still work – she could watch for anomalies. She clearly just wants to be useful, and Mack clearly wants her to rest – and to be able to keep her safe.

        It’s heartbreaking as Mack reaches out to comfort her and they both realize that she can’t reach back. This is clearly going south – Mack is denying who Yo-Yo is by trying too hard to keep her safe – that’s just not who she is. I’m betting on these two, however. Mack will come to realize that Yo-Yo needs to be able to be a protector – not be protected. It’s who she is.

Fitz and Simmons brainstorm with Daisy and Deke (Jeff Ward). Deke is utterly distracted in looking at Simmons who he knows is his grandmother! Daisy checks to make sure that Simmons is ok, and she tells Daisy that the Spaceman wasn’t even her greatest fear – once again faking us out to believe that Leopold IS her greatest fear. And we know he’s also Fitz’s greatest fear already. Daisy agrees to check the database for more information on the gravitonium and Fitz and Simmons go to head back to the lab – Fitz determined to work all night. And then Deke adorably can’t help himself. He cautions them to be careful, earning him a serious wth-look from Daisy! Fitz is weirded out, but Simmons just says thank you and smiles.

Daisy thinks that Hale (Catherine Dent) has slipped up when she gets a hit on a tracking signal. She sends it to the team who pick Hale up with the zephyr. Hale appears to be nervously reporting to a superior about a shortened timetable before they nab her.

When Deke goes to tell Fitz that they’ve got Hale, Fitz appears to be working on one of the LMD robots instead of the gravitonium. He’s wearing the same welding suit. Deke tries to give him a hand, and Leopold knocks him out! I loved the sinister music that accompanied the reveal of Leopold in a suit. And of course, that was another fake out – there is no Leopold running around in a suit with that nasty haircut.

Coulson sits down to ask some questions of Hale. He wants to know why she’s declared war on his people. She tells him that she has orders to bring his terrorist group to justice. She’s just doing her job. She does apologize for cutting off Yo-Yo’s arms. Hale tells Coulson she gets why people follow him – Coulson tells her it’s loyalty – she also tells him that she’s trying to prevent their extinction.

Fitz bursts in on Daisy, pushing her away from the computer – Rude! – and says he was looking for the physical records from Dr Hall. (No he wasn’t!!!!) Daisy hasn’t found any of them online either. Daisy recognizes that Fitz is coming apart – she asks him if he’s slept and tells him that they’re all there to help and do their part. She tells him not to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders – but he is and that’s all contributing to him literally coming apart. Well, almost literally. Daisy is lured away to abandoned floors by two cameras going out, leaving Fitz in the command center.

As Fitz struggles to gather his exhausted thoughts, Leopold appears – and De Caestecker just knocks it out of the park again in this scene. Fitz is terrified and we see a complete regression to after he came out of his coma – he presses his head and bites his thumb. Leopold coldly tells him that he’s there to do what Fitz is unwilling to do.

Leopold maintains that he is very real – and is clearly not happy about Fitz destroying “his” world. However, the writers are toying with us again – here by telling us the truth! Fitz and Leopold do know that he is actually very real. He’s simply a part of Fitz. Fitz tries to deny that Leopold is any part of him. Leopold, who has already insisted he’s the only Doctor there, comments on them calling him “Fitz” in this reality. There’s clearly some latent resentment on Fitz’s part that he’s not getting the respect he deserves. I’m not criticizing Fitz for this – it’s a nagging little bit of all of us, isn’t it? It’s really just a clever manifestation of that Devil (from the title!!!!) that sits on all of our shoulders.

Leopold tells Fitz that he can’t escape him or stop him – just as we hear a shot. The plans are already in motion. Fitz runs away even as Leopold tells him they aren’t finished.

Intercut with the scene between Fitz and Leopold, Mack and Simmons are trying to move a furious Yo-Yo to safety on another floor. She tries pointing out that she’s an agent not a child, but gets nowhere. They’re interrupted by an LMD robot – who shoots Mack and is clearly NOT a fear projection.

Back on the quinjet, Hale and Coulson continue to spar. Hale insists that she’s trying to save humanity. Coulson wants to know why she needs the gravitonium. Hale won’t tell him – she doesn’t trust him yet. She tells him that she doesn’t lose sleep at night for making the difficult calls – and this resonates perfectly with the Fitz/Leopold storyline! Is Hale the Devil on Coulson’s shoulder? Hale is also willing to let people die. She asks Coulson to come with her so that she can show him what they’re really up against. Coulson says no thank you.

Hale points out that she’s always been in the driver’s seat. She knew they were hacking her phone. Piper (Briana Venskus) comes to May (Ming-Na Wen) to tell her that they couldn’t get the driver out of the car – I loved that May knew immediately that it was Creel (Brian Patrick Wade). First question – wouldn’t the Quinjet have let them know immediately how much that car weighed? Wouldn’t it have scanned for explosives? Creel tells them that they should listen to Hale because she can be persuasive – and shows them the explosives tied around him. He almost sounds like that’s how she’s persuaded him to do it. But final question – how does his turning into metal and back not affect the explosives?

Coulson, May, and Piper greet their new guest with guns drawn. I loved May considering throwing Piper out of the plane! Their new guest is none other than Ivanov (Zach McGowan)! And of course, this is yet another fake out…

Fitz rushes into the med bay to find a shot – but very real – robot. Mack’s been shot in the leg, but it’s not too serious. They all wonder how the robot got back together. Fitz reveals that the Doctor from the framework is there and it must have been him. Simmons looks afraid – and thoughtful. Henstridge is also wonderful in this episode, and I think she knew immediately that Leopold also wasn’t a fear projection.

Coulson calls Ivanov on being a cockroach – and a hypocrite. Ivanov throws Coulson’s own words back at him – and Coulson just smiles. I loved the little nod to current events as May wants to know how he’s not just another Russian infiltrating their democracy. Ivanov insists that he has a plan to save the planet, and Coulson assumes that Hale is working for Ivanov.

Simmons points out that Leopold is Fitz’s greatest fear and only he can determine what Leopold is up to. She tells Fitz, “He IS you.” Henstridge is really brilliant here. On first watch, I thought her demeanor was off, but on second watch, it’s simply clear that she knows she is once again working with Fitz’s broken mind. She has to tread carefully to get the information out of him.

De Ceastecker is fighting back tears for most of this scene as Fitz tries to confront the darkest part of himself. Finally, he says that Leopold said he had to do what Fitz was unable to do – to finish what was started. They determine that Leopold is after the Inhumans – who he experimented on in the framework. It’s why he sent the terminator after Yo-Yo and why he’s likely after Daisy now. It’s also only this part of Fitz that can remove Daisy’s inhibitor – and it’s only because of the experiments that he did in the Framework that he’s able to do it! I love how tightly written this show is! Even when it’s a horrible outcome… still great writing.

Fitz says that he’ll go find Daisy, and Simmons lets him go. We’ve already seen that Simmons has become more hardened than Fitz. Does she know what this means? Is she letting Fitz go because she thinks that he will remove the inhibitor? Has she determined that it’s necessary to seal the rift too? I suspect that she does and that this is going to cause a rift between her and Fitz and between her and Daisy.

Coulson and May tell Creel that Daisy didn’t shoot Talbot – it was an LMD made by Ivanov. Hale shoots back that Ivanov was made by Leopold Fitz – and it’s telling that she uses both his names. She points out that Ivanov is made up of S.H.I.E.L.D. tech. Hale points out that Coulson has no proof for his side of the story. Hale offers again for Coulson to come with her so that she can explain.

May is furious when Coulson agrees to go with Hale in exchange for letting the rest of his people go. She pulls him away to have a frank discussion. Coulson insists that it’s a good way to get clarity – and drops the Hydra bomb – and I don’t think any of us were happy to see that old chestnut come up yet again. May points out that they know it’s a trap, and Coulson tries to make light of it – but May’s having none of it. She accuses Coulson of turning his back on them – but he points out there’s no other way out. She accuses him of being suicidal, but lets him go.

Daisy wakes up strapped to an operating table, with Leopold leaning over her, telling her that’s not how to address a Hydra superior. Bennet is also phenomenal in this scene as she struggles to understand what’s going on. She wants to know where the real Fitz is. She is also positive that Leopold is an anomaly and once again, Leopold tells her the truth – he IS Fitz. Daisy is sure that this is simply payback for the Framework.

Leopold maintains that his work deepened his knowledge of how Inhuman powers work – and it helps people. Is this a necessary step for Fitz so that he can access the knowledge he gained in the Framework to help all of them going forward? Daisy really freaks out when Leopold tells her that he’s going to restore her power.

Ivanov insists on taking Coulson’s hand to scan it for weapons and wants him to put on a hood. Creel encourages him to comply, and Coulson appeals to Creel – he knows him. Coulson tells him that Hale is lying. Coulson asks why Ivanov’s robots don’t have faces – he knows the answer though. When Ivanov lost Aida, he also lost the ability to make convincing LMDs – and Coulson knows that Ivanov isn’t the one in charge – that’s why Hale isn’t an LMD. He’s right of course.

Daisy begs Leopold not to restore her powers. But Leopold thinks that the rift could be what destroys the world – Daisy’s powers could be the thing that saves the world! Fitz appears to rush in to stop Leopold. Daisy says “Fitz” – and it’s another great fake out. She’s simply responding to Leopold suddenly talking to himself…

Yo-Yo once again tries to stop Mack from spending so much time protecting her. She’s convinced that she doesn’t die – they’ve seen her in the Lighthouse in the future. But Mack points out that if they change time – break the loop – Yo-You could die in that new reality. Yo-Yo seems to be okay with that scenario. Simmons comes in and echoes Yo-Yo’s request that Mack get off his injured leg. She asks if Fitz or Daisy have checked in. When they say no, she looks concerned and goes out again. I think that she thought perhaps sending Fitz after Daisy would stop whatever was going to happen – but clearly didn’t. Or maybe she’s having second thoughts of going through with it? Or maybe the penny is just dropping here? I’m impressed that it’s really hard to tell! It’s great acting – assuming the actors themselves know!

Fitz tries to stop Leopold and accuses him of sending the robot to attack the others. Leopold maintains that he only set the robot to keep the others at bay – it must have been provoked if it attacked. It makes sense that Leopold would be able to program robots that Ivanov made based on Fitz’s specifications, right?

Leopold insists that the only way to use the gravitonium is with Daisy’s powers and that Fitz knows it. De Caestecker is simply outstanding in this scene as the part that is Fitz becomes less focused and more emotional and the part that is Leopold becomes more emotionless and commanding. And this is where we finally get tipped off as to what’s really happening – all of this is happening in Fitz’s head – Daisy asks who he’s talking to! Simmons rushes in and it’s just Fitz standing there.

Simmons tries to get Fitz to put the scalpel down. Fitz insists that it’s not him. Fitz insists that Leopold was right there – but the glove and the scalpel are on and in his hand. Simmons tells him that it wasn’t an anomaly – it was him keeping everyone busy. And Fitz realizes that it was his plan. Simmons tells him that they can work it all out – he just needs to let Daisy go.

A robot bursts in with Deke and pulls a gun on Simmons. She’s devastated that Fitz would pull a gun on her – and her tears would seem to indicate that she didn’t know what was happening – but I’m not convinced that at least a small part of her did. Fitz says that he wouldn’t pull a gun on her – but the Doctor would to insure that he went through with it. Fitz is sure that it will work.

Fitz declares that there are always risks – the science is sound. Simmons points out that potentially paralyzing Daisy or destroying the world are two massive risks. Daisy tries one last time to convince Fitz that he doesn’t want to do it. He agrees that he doesn’t want to do it, but he has to – and he does. Daisy tells him that she’ll never forgive him. And Fitz tells her that he doesn’t think she’ll be the only one. And Simmons face seems to confirm it.

Fitz guides Daisy through the process of getting the gravitonium into the sphere while Simmons and Deke watch. He then kneels and puts his hands behind his head as  the device finally closes the rift.

Simmons comes to Fitz in his holding cell. She wants to know how long he’s been seeing Leopold. He tells her that his mind has been through a lot. He’s heard him since the framework, but only recently started seeing him. Simmons is sure that it’s his injury acting up – he used to see her. Fitz maintains that she was his conscience – the Angel on his shoulder. Simmons maintains that he had a psychic split – that dark persona isn’t him, but Fitz is sure it is.

Fitz is concerned about Daisy and Mack. Simmons insists that he needs to talk to them. They’ll forgive him if he just explains – but Fitz doesn’t think he deserves forgiveness. And Simmons worries that Fitz doesn’t think he deserves her either. Fitz confesses he still thinks it was the right thing to do. And Simmons does agree with him here! She tells him that if they are going to change the timeline, they have to do things differently and make harder choices. But Fitz worries about what that makes them.

The scene ends with a beautiful shot of the two on either side of the glass. We see Fitz and his reflection with Simmons – his two halves. He doesn’t know where they go from here. He’s playing with his wedding ring throughout the scene and it looks almost like they are going to mirror last episodes touching of hands, but Fitz turns away and turns his back on Simmons and she walks away. Before everyone freaks out, I don’t think the two will be separated for long – and the next scene proves it!

Deke comes to a distraught Simmons. Simmons apologizes for snapping at Deke – he’s a victim too. Simmons feels like Fitz is losing himself and she’s losing him too. Deke assures her that she hasn’t lost him. She knows him better than he knows himself – and then Deke goes on to prove that he knows both of them! And it’s perfect that he knows about the sandwich!!!!

And that suddenly gets Simmons attention. We can forgive her for struggling with such a mind-bending concept – but she’s sitting there with her grandson! He tells her that his mother told him all about her parents. And he knows that Simmons can help Fitz and they’ll be alright. Ward definitely gets a nod here for a great performance, proving he can be more than just comic relief. The scene ends with Deke confirming that he’s their grandson and Simmons being ill – I call morning sickness!!!! Deke’s also sitting there with his mother!

The final scene also seems to be a bunch of slight of hand. Hale suddenly appears somewhere – is this a function of the device she was playing with in the car before she was taken? Is she a hologram somewhere out in space? It would seem to be lightbright Kree characters/letters behind her. She is clearly reporting to her superiors. They aren’t pleased that she is empty handed. She is trying to get a seat at the table of some confederacy. She promises that she’d die before she failed. Qovas (Peter Mensah) is behind her and hands her some odium to drink in case it comes down to failure. If he’s handing her something tangible, she can’t be a hologram.

The question remains as to whether Qovas is a Kree – he doesn’t appear to be blue, however. His final words are Hail Hydra – and with that I think we all slumped in disappointment. Which is really a disservice to the franchise because if you follow the Marvel universe, you know that Hydra is almost always the villain in some iteration. I’m all for letting the writers take us somewhere worthwhile with this and giving them some time to play it out. Overall this was a terrific episode, delivering some amazing work from De Caestecker in particular, but also Henstridge, Bennet, and Ward. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Favorite Lines (some of them!!!)

Deke: Please be careful. Just because we keep putting ourselves in increasingly perilous situations which is worrisome and I just don’t want anything to happen to you – your brains! Because they’re so smart, we need those to survive.
Deke: I was just super moved by their nuptials. I’ve become very invested in them as a couple. I just want them to last for a long long time.
Couslon: Saving humanity. That’s usually my line.
Piper: Another trap. You should just toss me out of the plane. May: We should at least consider it.
Ivanov: How’s that for a cool origin story, bro?
May: We know this is a trap. Coulson: And it’s really a good one too!
May: It’s suicidal, which is now a recurring theme for you!
Coulson: Stop airing our dirty laundry in front of the bad guys right now.
Coulson: This is only the second worst party invitation I’ve ever received.
Coulson: Hale must have your balls in a vise. Hale: Actually, it’s his head in a jar.
Deke: She always spoke about her Dad with so much love and admiration. Said that he was the best man that she ever knew. So I know, that you can help Fitz. And I know that you two are going to be okay because the steps that you take don’t need to be big. Simmons: They just need to take you in the right direction.

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