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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The New Deal - Review

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned for its seventh and final season with “The New Deal” which was written by George Kitson and directed by Kevin Tancharoen. We pick up right where we left off at the end of season six, and if you’re like me, you had to go back and check where that was! The episode had everything we’ve come to love about the show – great dialogue, great action, terrific writing and fantastic acting that brought the laughs and the emotions. Most of the cast was back and front and center, but we were missing Iain De Caestecker as Fitz and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) are being forced to stay apart… yet again. Clark Gregg delivers a terrific performance as Coulson returns as an LMD. And then there were all those great surprises – Patton Oswalt as Ernest Hazard Koening – the ancestor of the all those other Koenings! And there are going to be plenty of other surprises coming…

But let’s dive in to the episode!

The episode begins with a shot of 1931 New York. The sets are good – but maybe not great. We see three crooked cops waiting for a meeting and in walk three Chronicoms who are there to take their faces! The bootlegger who they are all waiting for arrives early – and before two of the Chronicoms have their new faces. They kill him – and we cut to a terrific 30s-style title card.

And then we are back on the cloaked Zephyr, and the “new” Simmons revealing LMD Coulson to Daisy (Chloe Bennet) and Mack (Henry Simmons). I have to admit that I really wanted there to be an extensive “previously on!” Daisy doesn’t have to think, she just hits the button. And it was easy to see what Daisy was feeling because I was feeling it myself to have Coulson back – his sweet smile and easy camaraderie – and of course the first thing he does is notice the minute difference to Daisy’s hair.

Simmons then answers his question about how they got there by telling him he’s missed quite a bit. Mack and Simmons try to break things to him gently, but Daisy just blurts out that he’s an LMD. And then Coulson starts to remember – his own death and then he’s flooded with memories. That was a cool way to do previously on as he hits a bunch of the previous seasons’ highlights – such as Ghost Rider, the Lighthouse, Fitz and Simmons wedding, and Tahiti with May (Ming-Na Wen).

Mack can’t deal with it and shuts Coulson down. Simmons insists that, while not pleasant, Coulson has to go through it. Mack insists that anything LMD related is a Director level decision. Mack wants a full briefing from Simmons. She tells them that they’ve returned to this time in order to save S.H.I.E.L.D. Deke (Jeff Ward) and YoYo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) join them. YoYo is still fighting the virus she contracted last season. They have followed the other Chronicoms to this time but have no idea why they’ve come back this far in time. We see May, still hurt and in a stasis pod.

Simmons introduces them to the newly redesigned and heavily upgraded command center. We get a funny moment with Enoch (Joel Stoffer) who yells at them because he has headphones on. Simmons introduces him to those who haven’t yet officially met him. She tells them it took longer for Fitz to design it than to build. She directs Deke to his own work station – where the pliers that Fitz gave him are sitting on the desk. They all ask where Fitz is – but it’s too dangerous for anyone to know. Mack assigns Deke to get them clothes, tells YoYo he can’t risk introducing an alien pathogen into the past and benches her, and tells Daisy to get rid of the purple hair.

Daisy has a minute with Simmons – and I love the friendship between these two. Simmons says that May’s core temperature is almost where it needs to be – and then Enoch will begin to save her. Daisy asks how long they’ve been apart. Simmons tells her too long and it’s good to see her – but she evades the question.

Mack reactivates Coulson and asks him if he’s steady now. As always, Coulson gets the best lines – he tells Mack “Two years in 10 seconds. It’s like the worst episode of This Is Your Life ever.” In case you aren’t old enough to remember it, This Is Your Life was a tv show from 1948 to 1961 in which unsuspecting celebrities were taken through their lives and careers by friends and family. And of course, it’s the type of thing that only Coulson would know!

Coulson points out that he didn’t want to be brought back, and Mack tells him that he respected that – to which Coulson responds, “Yeah. Cuz you hate robots!” Which Mack does! But Mack tells him that the Chronicoms want to destroy them. They’ve scanned Fitz and Simmons’ brains and have Fury’s black box. Simmons thinks that they need Coulson in case there’s a clue that only Coulson will recognize – because Coulson knows every minute detail of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s history. And I adore that they are making the final season all about Coulson’s little quirk – and that he’s the one to save them. Coulson agrees to help, but insists that after the mission, he’ll re-evaluate – and Mack says that he will too.

They are interrupted by Simmons and Enoch. The Chronicoms have already disrupted history. Enoch has overheard the discovery of the faceless NYPD officers. He tells them it’s an “erasure” – and invasive method of acquiring a new identity! Mack tells the others it’s time to suit up – but it’s very different suits this time around! Even LMD Coulson is charmed as they walk into the past – past a vintage Dracula poster.

Daisy is also pretty excited. Deke is thrilled at all he was able to buy for just $13! Coulson reminds them it’s the Depression and a decade before Pearl Harbor. Mack is getting looks for being a black man in such a nice suit. This really reminded me of my other favorite time-travel series – Timeless. Malcolm Barrett did a wonderful job highlighting on that show how the past is not a salutary place for everyone to visit – pretty timely given the news this week. I hope that S.H.I.E.L.D. will spend some time exploring it.

It’s not long before the team discusses the danger in changing history. Daisy believes in the butterfly effect – you change one tiny thing and the ripples that causes, cause catastrophic changes. Deke, however, is still a huge proponent of the time-stream theory. They are sticks thrown in a river (time). The river moves around them, tossing them about, but keeps moving as long as there aren’t too many sticks that cause the water to damn up and change course forever. They can splash around a little without causing any damage. Mack tells Deke not to file any patents – and Deke promises to tread lightly before running into a guy, who appeared to have been listening to them… But hopefully a red herring.

I love that Deke printed them off the lamest looking badges ever. But even better – for me as a Canadian – is that Coulson tells the officer (Karl Kwiatkowski) guarding the crime scene that they are Royal Canadian Mounted Police! The cop on duty wants to know why they called in the Mounties, and Mack asks if they found bodies without faces? Happens all the time in Canada! LOL! And then Daisy gets a taste of the 1930s as the cop asks her what she’s doing as a Mountie – can’t she find a husband? Daisy puts him in his place – maybe a bit too easily.

They head into the crime scene. The bootlegger is the only one to still have a face. Deke smells the whiskey and thinks they were lying when they told him about prohibition. Coulson picks up a bottle and immediately demonstrates why Simmons was right. He recognizes the swordfish symbol on the bottle from his first year history course at the S.H.I.E.L.D. academy. Swordfish is the password to get into a speakeasy that was a safe house about the time that the SSR became S.H.I.E.L.D.

Coulson and Mack go to check out the speakeasy while Daisy and Deke stay back to try to identify the bodies. Back on the Zephyr, Enoch works with advanced technology to fix May – and it’s another great effect. YoYo worries whether they can trust Enoch. Simmons assures her that they can, and adds that May should be up and around in a week or two.

Simmons has good news for YoYo. The Shrike material in her body is being broken down and absorbed. YoYo wants to go outside, but Simmons has one more surprise. New arms that Fitz made. They are more advanced even than Coulson’s were and they are precisely calibrated to her ability. I love that the show answers questions even before we can ask them! YoYo doesn’t want them, but Simmons points out that they are a long way from home – people here won’t accept mechanical arms. YoYo isn’t ashamed of who she is and she doesn’t want to forget. Simmons, however, asks her when the last time was that she could actually feel something. She leaves her to think about it.

Coulson and Mack arrive at the speakeasy. Coulson tells him that the password was only ever spread by word of mouth – although it did appear in a Marx Brothers movie – Horse Feathers – but not for another year! Coulson again thinks it’s “cool” when the password gets them in. Their contact is an SSR agent by the name of Gemini who tended bar. Mack offers to buy him a drink – and Coulson isn’t sure if he can drink. Coulson asks to talk to Gemini – and the bar tender pulls a gun – and so do the rest of the patrons!

Back at the crime scene, Daisy asks Deke to hurry up – but the machine can only go so fast. The Chronicoms show back up at the scene. The leader (Joe Reegan) recognizes Quake. He tells his team that they need to isolate and eliminate all members of S.H.I.E.L.D. One of the Chronicoms invites Daisy to investigate a suspicious truck in an alley. The other enters the crime scene – telling the cop on duty not to enter if he hears screaming if he wants to live – and then smiling hideously as his leader told him to do!

Deke and Daisy both find themselves attacked. Deke gets away by stabbing the one attacking him. We get a good Daisy fight, but she only uses her abilities when he’s about to shoot Deke. Deke hotwires the truck and they take the now knocked out Chronicom with them.

Back at the bar, Tillman (Greg Finley), the bartender, thinks that they killed the bootlegger. He tells them that no one is ever going to find them because they’re dead. Coulson thoughtfully says, “You’re right” and starts advancing on him. Mack asks him what he’s doing and Coulson tells him that he’s testing a theory – he’s already dead. Mack points out that he’s not – but Coulson keeps going. He grabs the gun, which goes off but only damages his suit, leaving Mack to take out the other three! Coulson remarks that being an LMD might have some perks after all!

The ruckus finally brings out the man in charge – Ernest Hazard Koenig! But he’s nothing like the Koenigs they know…

YoYo tries the new arms – and Cordova-Buckley is fantastic in the scene in which she touches her own face for the first time in a very long while. It’s only a few seconds, but it’s a lovely bit of acting. YoYo then goes to thank Simmons, who is looking for a message that Fitz sent. She’s not entirely sure how to find it. She misses him, but knows he’s safe. She won’t reach out to him because they have to assume the Chronicoms are listening.

The two are interrupted by Daisy and Deke driving in with the truck and the Chronicom. Surprisingly, while Simmons isn’t happy that they stole a truck, she is the first to suggest tying up the Chronicom and interrogating him!

Koenig isn’t happy about them shooting up his bar – and we get another little taste of 1930s racism when he talks to Coulson as in charge and refers to Mack as Coulson’s “shadow.” Koenig insists that he’s a business man and a man of the people. Coulson and Mack intimate that they are bootleggers from Canada and that they are only there to get rid of the new gang in town. Koenig finally reveals that he’s hosting a political party that night and that the guest of honor is the Governor of New York. And Coulson knows that’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Joseph Culp) – he’ll become President the next year and form the SSR shortly after that becomes S.H.I.E.L.D. Mack points out that it’s easy to assassinate the President – before he’s the President.

Mack poses as a bartender. Deke, Daisy, and Coulson pose as guests. Daisy’s dress may be the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen! Coulson makes a very Coulson joke about FDR’s arrival being a “whole new deal” – and then apologizes for the bad jokes as a glitch… No they aren’t! They are an endearing part of Coulson!!! Mack gives everyone their orders and when Deke and Coulson go to their stations, he and Daisy discuss Coulson. It’s clear that on some level, they’re happy to have him back in any form.

Back on the Zephyr, Enoch tells them that the Chronicom they’ve captured won’t tell them anything. As a hunter, he’s programmed to withstand any form of questioning. He accuses Enoch of choosing humans over his own kind, and Enoch points out that he didn’t choose anything – he was reassigned. Simmons has another tactic – she’s simply going to overwhelm his system with junk data and sees what he spits out. I loved her saying that at the end of the day, Chronicoms were just hardware and software and Enoch saying it was rude but true! Simmons shows no mercy.

The Chronicom is spitting out nothing useful. Even after Simmons pulls the plug, he keeps overloading. Eventually, he spits out “Freddy” before he melts!

We get a wonderful scene between Daisy and Coulson – and Bennet and Gregg shine. She apologizes for pushing the button. Coulson says it’s weird that there’s a button. He knows he left her a letter, but he wasn’t there. She tells him it was a very nice letter and maybe she’ll let him read it some time. He tells her that he’d like that. I love how you can see what a generous actor Gregg is in this scene. He stays very still as Bennet has the scene – so she has her moment. But he also plays the emotion at just the right pitch too. Contrast this with how excited he is when FDR comes in. I also loved how much of an FDR fanboy Coulson is. He points out how hard it was for FDR to walk in – having to use leg braces because polio meant that he mainly used a wheelchair.

It turns out that Mack is also a big fan of FDR – and his anti-discrimination policies for the workplace. He almost gives it away as he waxes poetic to Deke – in front of Freddy (Darren Barnet) – one of the other bartenders, who turns out to be Wilfred MALICK!!!!

As Daisy and Coulson wander through the party, Coulson remarks that this LMD thing might not be all bad. FDR is there. They’re together. He looks good and she looks great – and for the first time they are both superheroes! Daisy points out that it’s not normal – FDR is totally exposed. Why don’t the Chronicoms act. When FDR goes to leave out the service entrance, Daisy is sure that’s where they will try to kill him. Coulson goes running after him, but there’s no danger. Daisy covers by saying Coulson is a big fan. Coulson gets to shake FDR’s hand before he leaves. Deke and Mack arrive and they all realize that they are missing something.

At the bar, Nora (Nora Zehetner), Freddy’s “contact” shows up. She takes him into the back. She tells him that she knew his father before he took the coward’s way out. She has a case full of the green serum that she wants him to deliver. He asks what it is and she tells him the future. The Chronicoms show up to “pull the thread” and shoot Nora. Before they can kill Freddy, Daisy shows up.

Mack and Deke show up and take Freddy to safety – Coulson tells them that Daisy is dealing with the ChroniCOPS – he’s still got it – and goes to help her. This was easily my favorite fight of the episode. And yes. Because Coulson gets to be a total badass. Presumably, Daisy didn’t want to use the quake because it would cause waves rather than ripples. But the “1930s baseball reference” was a classic.

Coulson and Daisy take the wounded Nora into Koenig’s backroom. They tell him that the new gang is after Freddy. Koenig insists that he’s a nobody, but reveals that Freddy is a Malick. Daisy and Coulson realize that if HYDRA isn’t formed than S.H.I.E.L.D. won’t be either. In order to save S.H.I.E.L.D., they have to save HYDRA. Meanwhile, Deke and Mack are helping Freddy make his delivery.

In the final scene, Enoch goes to check on May. And she’s gone. He walks through the ship, saying he’s there to help – and then muttering to himself “You had one job, Enoch….” Meanwhile, May is frighteningly lurking in the ceiling! Is she just not sure what’s going on or is something wrong with her??

This is shaping up to be another great season. I wonder if there is any way to lobby for more? I’m already sad we are losing this great show… And it’s because this episode highlighted why it is a great show – there isn’t a dull moment. There are laughs, thrills, and tender moments. It’s not often that you get the great writing, directing, and acting that make a show truly super. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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