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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - As I Have Always Been - Review

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This week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “As I Have Always Been” was epic. The terrific script was written by Drew Z Greenberg, and featured the directorial debut of Elizabeth Henstridge (Simmons)! Henstridge, not surprisingly, knocked it out of the park – keeping the story moving at a breakneck pace, hitting the right comedic and dramatic notes, and getting the actors to deliver some of their best performances – everybody brought their A-game to this episode, including Henstridge herself. Chloe Bennet (Daisy) and Clark Gregg (Coulson) were fantastic. Enver Gjokaj (Sousa) once again proved why he’s one of the best things about this season. And then there was Joel Stoffer (Enoch). Show had better be finding a way of bringing Enoch back – and I don’t even care if that would lessen the impact of that amazing, emotional death scene. I just want my Enoch back! Let’s take a deep dive into the twists and turns of this Groundhog Day tribute episode…

The episode begins with Daisy waking up. Presumably being in the healing chamber – developed through chronicom technology is what helps her remember – and the same with Coulson’s “taking a nap” and having some chronicom tech. She finds Sousa still sitting with her – also asleep – and he’s been with her the whole time. The two go to find out what’s happening, and it’s not good.

They make it to the command center, and May (Ming-Na Wen) tells them that the time drive overloaded. Outside is some kind of crazy wormhole. YoYo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) is on the quinjet to fix its fried flight system. Simmons reports that the radiation levels are off the charts. Deke (Jeff Ward) runs in to tell them that they’re trapped in a time storm.

        It’s all a little too much for Sousa at this point, who asks “Are you just taking unrelated words and putting them together?” Deke tells them it was a jump within a jump and they are being pulled down a vortex. If they get to the end, they will cease to have ever existed! They are 94 kilometers away from the end – and that’s important because it’s how we are going to tell time throughout the episode. I loved the fast paced, rapid-fire delivery of this scene that really heightened the tension. Henstridge was on fire right out of the gate!

YoYo ends up trapped in the quinjet, and Mack is burned and blinded by a radiation flare. They take Mack to Simmons and she opens a drawer to get something for the burns and it’s the one containing the tool that controls her brain implant. She covers by saying it’s just some things Deke has left lying around. Enoch comes in and offers to help fix the time drive. Daisy goes to put out a fire, the time machine jumps, and she wakes up again. Reset.

And then we get the first scene again… sort of. This time Daisy remembers. What’s really brilliant is how well the other characters completely mimic the first scene. Gjokaj is particularly good. And we even get the credits repeated. Daisy gets to Simmons more quickly, with Sousa in tow. Daisy tells Simmons that she’s caught in a time loop – and is quickly able to prove it. I loved that Sousa is right there and believes her immediately. Daisy puts the fire out and is about to wake Coulson when… reset.

This time, she doesn’t wake Sousa – which is a nice shout out to the first loop when he said that he was happier asleep – did she hear that? Daisy flies through the command and right to Coulson – who is already on board and knows everything. Apparently, Daisy doesn’t remember every time.

Coulson is about at his wit’s end. He tells her that if she forgot everything they’ve already gone through – it means she died again! Bennet is hilarious – “I DIED? AGAIN?!?!?!” and Coulson tells her she always says that, just that way! I know I’m just repeating myself but these two are always amazing in scenes together! Daisy thinks it’s awful that she forgets everything when she dies – but Coulson insists it’s annoying because he has to teach her every time! He tells her that she’s died 14 times but they’ve looped 87 times. But then, she doesn’t come and power him up every time. And they’ve also already figured out about the futuristic sleeping pod thing… and reset.

We get a couple of resets as Daisy and Couslon work through some fixed that they’ve already tried. It’s now 90 loops… but they can’t keep going forever. On the next reset, Daisy learns that they’re 79 kilometers from the vortex. They’ve tried increasing the time between jumps and it didn’t work, so Daisy suggests that the only other option is to solve faster. Reset.

On the 65th kilometer, Daisy fills in the team by quickly proving that she knows the future. Mack asks if there’s anything else on the time drive that Fitz might have left behind. Deke looks shifty as he says he’ll check – and we know that he’s thinking of Simmons’ secret. He goes to Simmons and insists that if the implant weren’t in place, they could solve the problem. He insists that he kept her secret – but then Daisy and Coulson arrive. They tell them that they don’t have time for secrets.

Simmons insists that she can’t do it because the Chronicoms will then know what they know, including where Fitz is. Coulson points out that they wouldn’t have to take the risk if the stakes weren’t so high. Daisy points out that once the loop happens, the implant will be back in place but they’ll know what to do. Simmons wants proof of the time loop, so Daisy tells her to say a fake word out load. As she does so, Daisy says it with her in perfect unison. Simmons tries to remove the implant herself and ends up dead as Deke, Enoch, Coulson, and Daisy watch – reset.

On the next loop, Daisy insists that she’s going in with Simmons. When they both start coughing, Enoch and Coulson go in because the gas that killed them can’t affect them. Simmons and Daisy are dead – Enoch is upset, and Coulson is annoyed – “What a pain in the ass” – Daisy will completely reset…. Enoch discovers that the gas line was cut – it was murder!

At 48 kilometers, Daisy starts all over again. Coulson is again frustrated by having to start all over again, and now it’s 41 kilometers. Daisy and Coulson narrow down the murder suspects – to the people who knew about the secret: Enoch, Simmons, and Deke. Coulson considers Simmons less of a suspect because she was the one killed. Enoch admits that they want to protect Fitz, but killing seems rather short-sighted and counter productive. They still have to get the implant out to fix the time drive.

Coulson fills in Mack and May. I really liked this scene. Gregg really is terrific in this episode as he bounces between comedy – “Vinyl’s back!” – and dramatic scenes like this as he tells them that he doesn’t want to see his friends die again. They try to get YoYo out of the quinjet on the next loop, thinking she might be fast enough to get the implant out without getting killed. It takes too long to get her out.

The next loop has us back with Daisy and Simmons. They’re joined by Sousa, whose first thought is that Daisy should be resting, but who believes everything she says quickly. Daisy has already noticed that the things in the drawer with the implant remover have been disturbed. Sousa asks her if they ever have a “normal” day – but it’s clear that he’s loving the excitement. He tells her it’s why he wanted to join and that it reminds him of his SSR days. I loved that Sousa figured out that it was a trap – and that he wouldn’t let Daisy risk getting killed – granted, her having to reset again would waste time that none of them had, but we all know there was more to his gallantry than that, right? And he dies, and we reset.

I loved the long look that Daisy gave him before leaving him to sleep. Coulson is angry that Daisy is angry that someone is trying to kill their people. Coulson returns to not liking having to watch them die over and over again. He tells her that it’s soul-crushing – if he even has a soul. Daisy tells him of course he has a soul – but Coulson isn’t buying it. He’s not who he was. Being caught in a time loop is a metaphor for his life. Daisy points out that she knows something about watching her friend die over and over again. Coulson insists that this is different because he will watch everyone he loves die one by one because someone decided that he should. He tells her that he’s a machine now and that he has programming that won’t even let him…. And that immediately leads Coulson to know that the murderer is Enoch!

Coulson tells Simmons and Deke – and Enoch – that he could have had it programmed into him without his knowledge to protect the implant at all costs. Simmons wouldn’t remember because her memory has been blocked. Deke doesn’t believe it, and Enoch insists that everyone on the plane is his friend and he would never harm them. Coulson agrees, not willingly – but for something big, like the fate of all humanity… Coulson has a test, and sure enough when Daisy goes to remove the implant, Enoch shoves Simmons back, hits Coulson in the face and grabs Daisy by the throat – and he can’t stop! Simmons tells him to stop, and he tells her that she programmed him to protect the implant at all costs – even if he had to kill her! Daisy quakes him off of herself and sends him flying to the back of the loading bay. I loved Enoch’s “Oh dear” as he realizes that he IS the murderer!

The next time Daisy resets, when Sousa asks her what she’s doing up, she asks him why he cares. He tells her because she doesn’t. Daisy goes to Coulson and they determine if they can get the implant out without Enoch knowing, they won’t have to fight him. But they forget that Enoch starts every loop by going to Simmons in the lab, so their first attempt doesn’t end well. They decide to get Sousa to distract Enoch. I loved that he asked him when lunch was served! Enoch quickly realizes that Sousa is using false pretenses – and I loved him showing up tied and gagged before Coulson and Daisy got any further than the last time!

Again, we get treated to a quick succession of – hilarious! – failures. In one, Enoch fails to see the irony. In another, the countermand order is password protected. And finally, when everyone gets in on the act, it also doesn’t go well. I loved Mack asking if they need to be sad about Deke being dead, and Daisy saying no, they do not – because he’ll be alive when they reset!

I really liked using the closeup of Daisy’s eyes as a scene bumper. This time when Daisy wakes up, she tells Sousa that she’s up because she’s stuck in a time loop. Without missing a beat, he just asks how he can help. Daisy decides to take a loop. She’s impressed that nothing seems to faze Sousa. He tells her that everything fazes him. Just not his face. She wants him to be honest and tell her why he’s also so willing to help her even when she doesn’t ask.

I really loved this scene. There really is some great chemistry between these two. I loved getting this nice juicy insight into Sousa too. He tells her that he knows her type – and Daisy takes some legitimate offense to the word until he explains further. He knows people like her – and some of his favorite people are people like her (Agent Carter!!!! – c’mon, we were all thinking it). Focused on the greater good even at your own expense. You want people to think you like being alone even though you always end up back with friends. You hate losing – Daisy is quick to jump in that everyone hates losing. But Sousa points out that people like Daisy never give up.

        Sousa tells her that when people like her run into a brick wall, they should have someone there to pick them back up. Daisy asks if he likes to be that someone – and he tells her not for everyone. And here they exchange a look that fairly crackles with chemistry. I loved Gjokaj in this scene as he squirms with a bit of embarrassment as he adds that “It helps if they’re fun to be around and if say what they mean, and have that superpower where they can rock things around which is very impressive…” She tells him that that’s awfully specific – and we get another long look between the two. And then he’s ready to get to work.

This time Sousa goes to Simmons and sets up the procedure. But it’s a trap. Mack, Sousa, May, and YoYo are prepared to fight Enoch while Daisy removes the implant with Coulson and Deke’s help. They run out of time and Coulson tells them, next time, same thing but faster!

Daisy wakes up and tells Sousa that she needs him to do something for her. He immediately gets up asking what she needs – AND SHE KISSES HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YES! She says that was nice – and now we need to trap a space robot!

They’re now 11 kilometers from the vortex. They finally remove the implant, and Simmons gets her memory back – she tells them that Enoch is the key. His electricon displacement mechanism – it’s how Chronicoms regulate energy stability. Simmons then tells them the bad news – taking this out would be like taking out his heart. But then, Simmons suddenly gets very upset asking what has she done? Henstridge is fabulous here – she is more like the real Simmons when the implant comes out – and this emotional moment is impactful. What has she done? Has she given away Fitz’s position? Is Fitz even still really alive? We get no answers about this because when Daisy wakes again, the implant is back in.

This time when Daisy wakes, she is subdued and just tells everyone that everything will be ok. Daisy tells Simmons to bring Enoch with her to the LMD lab. Deke arrives and tells her that they are less than 1 kilometer from the vortex. It’s now or never. She takes Deke with her to the lab. Daisy and Coulson quickly fill them in and tell them about Enoch’s electricon displacement mechanism. Enoch immediately understands. Deke says he can figure out how to attach it to the time drive. Simmons is dead set against harming Enoch but before the conversation goes any further, Enoch simply rips his heart out and presents it to Simmons. The rest of them are stunned, but to Enoch, he just did what had to be done. He’s fine with dying so the rest of them will live.

Simmons and Deke leave to fix the time drive, and Daisy and Coulson stay with Enoch. Daisy asks if it hurts. Enoch admits that it hurts a bit, but that’s not what’s troubling him. He tells them that over his long life, he’s been alone a lot – and mostly preferred it – and never felt lonely. It wasn’t until he met this particular team that being alone meant feeling lonely – and he doesn’t care for it. He’s feeling some anxiety. Coulson tells him it’s ok, he’s not alone – Coulson and Daisy will stay with him. Enoch tells him that that is very kind, but at the very end, he will have to leave them alone. When that happens, he wonders if he will feel lonely. Coulson tells him that he can say with some authority that he’s not wrong. Dying is lonely, but the feeling is temporary. Less so for those left behind. It’s the one advantage to going first. Enoch agrees that it’s different watching your friends go first. It can be harder to stay. Enoch tells Coulson that he’s sorry.

Daisy tells him that the team will carry on the mission because of him and thanks him. Enoch tells her that she’s welcome, but while her friends will survive, the team will not. Enoch has seen the future. He tells her to carry on and enjoy the mission because it will be the last they have as a team. And it felt like Enoch was also talking to us. Daisy tells him that that it’s not possible – the team is her family. Enoch agrees – but that’s the nature of families. He’s seen it countless times on countless planets. People arrive and we celebrate. People leave and we grieve. And in between, the cycle is always there. No one escapes it, not even him. Coulson tells him it proves that he’s not alone. Enoch is a part of the cycle – and Daisy adds like every other living thing. Enoch’s last thought is for Fitz – his best friend. Daisy tells him that he was a good friend to all of them. It was a wonderful final scene for Joel Stoffer, but I know that I’m not alone in hoping that they will find another way to resurrect Enoch.

The final scene takes us back to Kora (Dianne Doan) – who is apparently Daisy’s sister – and Nathaniel (Thomas E Sullivan). I’m liking Doan, but they can’t kill Sullivan fast enough to suit me – he’s not been a great addition to this season.

This was simply a fantastic episode with brilliant performances from Bennet, Gjokaj, Gregg, and Stoffer. Kudos to Elizabeth Henstridge for a really wonderfully directed episode. She caught all the emotional beats and action. I wasn’t distracted by overly-artsy shots, yet it was more than simply workmanlike. Can’t wait to see more from her – though I thoroughly enjoyed her in front of the camera too! This was a terrific episode for me – best of the season so far – and DOUSA for the win! What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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