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Agents of SHIELD - The Real Deal - Review

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. marked its 100th episode with “The Real Deal” written by the showrunning team of Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeffrey Bell and was directed by Kevin Tancharoen, keeping it fittingly all in the family. As you might expect, there’s a lot of nostalgia about and reference to the previous 99 episodes, but as we’ve come to expect from S.H.I.E.L.D., this is done in particularly clever ways. It’s always lovely to look back at a show that has been consistently above average, but two surprises at the end of the episode make it even more memorable – and helps to alleviate the disappointment at the characters that didn’t make an appearance in the episode – Brett Dalton, Adrienne Palicki, Mallory Jansen, Nick Blood, Ruth Negga, Kyle McLachlan, Samuel L Jackson, and Oswalt Patton spring to mind…

We pick up the action where we left off in the aftermath of the explosion that has seemingly destroyed the three monoliths in the basement of the Lighthouse. Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) reprimands himself for not realizing that the Kree beacon they brought in was set to overheat and explode. He has sent a drone down, and we see a nun (Daisy’s (Chloe Bennet) fear), Lash (May’s (Ming-Na Wen) fear) and bloody footprints – the roaches from the future – not sure who’s fear this is. After the opening scene, we also get a delightful flip through all of the clever title cards we’ve enjoyed over the five seasons.

Level 23 is now an immense forest – Deke’s (Jeff Ward) fear! Fitz tells the team that the explosion ripped a hole in space/time to another dimension – a fear dimension – that is feeding off their fears as it bleeds into their dimension. I did think that the fear dimension was a little silly and on the nose, but it was a nice way to have them revisit some of their past hits. Coulson (Clark Gregg) points out that the good news is that maybe Daisy didn’t destroy the world.

Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) takes care of Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) in the aftermath of her losing her arms. There’s a terrific scene between Mack (Henry Simmons) and Yo-Yo. He tells her that he’s just so angry that they made it through everything that happened in the future only for her to be mutilated when they get home and think they’re safe.

        He’s ready to take her and leave the team to keep her safe and make her happy, but Yo-Yo is made of sterner stuff, and was anybody surprised when she insisted that they had to stay and fight? She is terrified because everything that she heard in the future seems to be coming true – and very quickly. I love the chemistry between these two!

Meanwhile, Deke is helping Daisy get supplies for Simmons for Yo-Yo. I loved him spraying the citrus air freshener in his mouth! He’s terrific at the comic relief but is also able to bring the drama too. I hope we get to see more of that from him too. He shares a nice childhood memory of his mother bringing him a rare orange every year for his birthday – and did anyone see how important this mention of his family was going to be?? I’m waiting for this little detail to be the evidence that helps the team link up what we already know…

Deke asks Daisy about her own favorite childhood memory – and she tells him that she was raised in an orphanage by scary nuns. This has nice resonance in the episode when she tells Coulson that he’s become her family – and we see that the team in the family that Coulson has always wanted. Deke acts wounded when Daisy insists that they weren’t sharing a moment – and it seems to me that she did share information about her childhood and that Deke has simply forgotten it – not paying attention to anyone but himself again. The two are interrupted by the sudden appearance of a Kree who lustily attacks them. When Daisy shoots him, the Kree simply dissolves in smoke.

Fitz has come up with what he hopes is a fix, but it has a complication. One of them may have to sacrifice themselves. Deke – so self-obsessed! – thinks that Fitz means him, but Fitz only needs the graviton in Deke’s belt buckle. Coulson steps right up to be the one to take the device down and put it in the dimensional rip. The entire team freaks out. May thinks she is the only choice, but Fitz volunteers Piper – and why wasn’t she in the episode? May insists that they need engineering and medical and Yo-Yo needs Mack, leaving her. Daisy insists it should be her – but May pulls the seniority card. Coulson shuts them all down.

The episode has two really powerful scenes between Bennet and Gregg who have had amazing father/daughter chemistry for the entire 100 episodes, and they bring the full force of it to bear here. Daisy is angry and tells Coulson that tactics 101 dictate a soldier go in when they are an equal substitute for the General – who isn’t expendable! Coulson insists that Daisy is needed for the future… to lead. Daisy wants to know who she is supposed to lead, wounding Coulson by insisting there is no S.H.I.E.L.D. any more. Coulson is clearly distressed here – both physically and emotionally and Gregg is wonderful in the scene. Coulson insists that the symbol, the idea, the shield must go on no matter what – just before he collapses.

We see a clandestine meeting between Deke and Coulson. Coulson is giving Deke instructions. He tells him that he’s the only who can do it because he’s the only one who can go outside and not be recognized. It also looks like Coulson is giving Deke his own secret service standard glasses!

However, it seems that Coulson might be stalling – as he accuses Fitz of doing later. The jig is up. The team knows that Coulson is dying. None of them are happy that he’s kept it from them. May realizes that he’s known since Ghost Rider (missing him this episode too!) and May realizes that that was the deal. Coulson admits that whatever alien voodoo had been holding him together was burned through by the Ghost Rider.

Daisy is furious. Coulson apologizes but didn’t want them to be distracted by trying to find a solution. Daisy points out that the solution was right there – Tess was brought back from the dead. But Coulson tells them that he didn’t want to go through it again. Daisy insists that he doesn’t get to give up. I loved how this scene cut to reaction scenes of the team – Simmons weeping, Fitz and Mack devastated. Daisy rushes out when she is completely overwhelmed.

Coulson goes to Daisy, and this is where these two actors really show what they’re made of. Bennet clearly gave Gregg the stage in the previous episode, but here Gregg steps back and lets the spotlight shine on Bennet who is terrific. Daisy tells Coulson that she can’t do what he’s asking of her – allow him to die or lead the team. But Coulson, like the good dad he is, tells her that she’s always been capable of more than she imagined. She reminds us of the journey they’ve been on together since he found her alone in an alley. She tells him that HE is the symbol. There is no S.H.I.E.L.D. without him. When Daisy finally breaks down, Coulson just pulls her in to a hug – I think we’re all going to need one if we have to rewind and let Loki’s spear finally kill him.

Yo-Yo’s fear manifests in Simmons turning into an LMD and trying to kill her! It’s getting worse. They can’t wait for another solution.

Meanwhile, Deke is out on the surface and there’s military everywhere. Deke makes a bunch of phone calls and visits a pawn shop. Hale (Catherine Dent) is at the police station interviewing Chief Wellins (Stewart Skelton). He tells her about Deke, but there’s no information on him, so she has his cell dusted and examined.

May and Coulson share a moment – of course. I really, really hope this is a fake out because as you all know, I’m heavily invested in #Philinda! May asks Coulson if he’s in pain, and he’s honest with her and tells her not all the time. She asks him if this is why he “took a step back” – from them pursuing a relationship! Just say it already! Coulson – always self-sacrificing, costs himself May to spare her having to lose someone else. She tells him that she’ll decide who she “wastes time on!”

May remarks that it’s not like him to just roll over and not fight it, but he tells her that he’s made his peace with it. After all, he got a second chance after Loki and was able to make a difference. He tells her that he doesn’t want to be greedy and he wants to make room for “somebody” else. And of course we all know he means Daisy! May warns him that none of them are giving up on him. Coulson just smiles and says that’s good because he’ll be coming back from the basement – and he may be at peace with dying, but he’s not in a hurry!

I loved Fitz prepping Coulson to go in and giving him a gigantic gun! Coulson makes Fitz promise “about that other thing” – keeping us in suspense. Fitz mutters “not important… symbolic…” But Coulson has always been about symbols. He tells Fitz they are important – just like institutions are important because they give people things to believe in and give them hope. It’s a great fake out because we naturally think he’s talking about S.H.I.E.L.D.

Coulson goes in and the team loses contact with him almost immediately. The team is worried – and Daisy even lashes out at Fitz when he makes a comment about acceptable losses. She tells him that there are no acceptable losses. “This isn’t HYDRA, Leopold!” – a clear reference to the cold-blooded killer he’d been in the Framework. Simmons gets angry at Daisy for that one.

The team are distracted by an alarm that alerts them to an incoming aircraft – which turns out to be a quinjet! It’s Deke, and he’s come back with the members of S.H.I.E.L.D. he was able to dig up while up top, carrying out Coulson’s orders. We find out later that Deke also set up a bunch of fake sightings of Daisy. Among those on the plane are Agent Davis (Maximilian Osinski) – he’s alive! And Deathlok/Mike Peterson (J August Richards).

Of course, Mike Peterson is also the fear that Coulson faces in the basement. It’s fitting that the first person they helped in the first episode should be in the 100th episode – and it’s another clever way to re-wind and pay tribute to those preceding 99 episodes! Coulson’s real fear is that he didn’t get and make good use of that second chance. This Mike Peterson is completely whole and human. No scars, no cyborg. He insists that Coulson made him up, that it’s all been in his head. The only thing that is real is that Coulson is on the table dying because of Loki’s spear: no T.A.H.I.T.I., no Malta, no Puerto Rico, no outerspace, no Framework, no travelling to the future.

Peterson tells Coulson that it’s all just a manifestation of the things Coulson never got to do: vacation on a white beach with blue water, travel to the stars, own his own plane, a car that flies, his own team, family, the brilliant students he never got to mentor, the daughter he never had and above all, he never got to be a hero. Coulson insists that he’s not in the basement trying to be a hero, he’s just trying to make sure that S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to exist.

Mike tries to convince Coulson that he’s literally walking into the light by walking into the rip in space/time, and it looks like Coulson is going to go with him until he tells Mike that he’s not buying it and stops – and then the real Deathlock is there! There was some great wire work and stunts as Deathlock literally somersaults through the air, taking out Hydra, Lash, and a bunch of roaches! Coulson sets of the “doo-dad” that Fitz has devised and ends up in Deathlock’s lap after it explodes – but they save the day together! One of my favorite moments is when Deathlock uses Coulson to punch Hydra before Deathlock smokes him!

We pick up with Fitz, Coulson and Deke in the elevator. Fitz babbles an update to Coulson and then declares that they have one mane to thank. Deke once again thinks it’s all about him. I adored De Caestecker’s face – it was the actual definition of gob-smacked!

Coulson finally asks Fitz if he’s stalling – the elevator’s been stopped for about a minute. I loved that Coulson was just like a dad as he straightens Fitz’s collar and assures him it’s going to be great – and here’s are big surprise – IT’S FITZ AND SIMMONS WEDDING!!!! Mack is taping for Yo-Yo and it’s in Deke’s fear-forest. Daisy and May stand up for Simmons and Davis and Mack for Fitz. I was a bit disappointed that there was no kilt for Fitz! Coulson, of course, performs the ceremony.

Coulson begins by commenting that everyone saw this coming – many before Fitz and Simmons! However, to wait even one more second with these two is playing with fire. Deke asks Deathlock if he is bride or groom’s side and he answers he knows them both – which is the direct opposite of Deke who admits he doesn’t really know them at all – but her was the second big surprise! – Deke also tells Deathlock that he was the one to get the rings, and that the one he picked out for Simmons, he chose because it was identical to one that was his grandmothers! Deke saying he doesn’t know either is utterly ironic because Hale’s DNA test proves that Deke is Fitz and Simmon’s grandson!!!!

Finally, I’ll end this review with the exchange of vows. This was a brilliant episode that gave us the recap one expects from such episode but in a totally surprising way that really fit in with the story rather than pulling us out of the artificial inclusion of five years of history. A lot of the credit goes to the writing and direction, but at the end of the day, it was also the superb acting that truly made this a special episode. What did you think of the episode? Let me know in the comments!

Simmons: Fitz, I knew from the moment I saw you. From our first conversation about dialectric polarization that you’d be in my life for a long time. But I didn’t know you would be my life, my heart, my home. We joined this team for adventures and got more than we had hoped. I can’t wait for our next adventure. Building a family together. My love for you grows deeper and always will, no matter where the universe takes us next.

Fitz: Words don’t really seem enough. I think that you are perfect. I don’t deserve you, Jemma. I don’t deserve you and I’m well aware that I’m the luckiest man on any planet.

Other favorite lines:
Fitz: That would be nice.
Fitz: Its underground existence should be very alarming.
Coulson: I’d say that’s alarming, but after our trip to Tomorrowland, my threshold for preposterous is way out of whack.
Coulson: So good news is that Daisy might not be responsible for tearing the earth apart.
Fitz: the bad news is the end of the world might have already begun.
Daisy: Just to be clear? You and I never had a moment.
Coulson: Tell me you’re real. Deathlock: Would that make this any less awkward?

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