Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Last Two Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. "Rewind" From The Doomed Future!

The Good: Decent performances by Iain De Caestecker and Nick Blood, A few good character moments for Fitz, Fills in much of the plot gap for Fitz
The Bad: Very much an unfinished story, Plot and character gaps, Issues with the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity
The Basics: "Rewind" fills in the gap with Fitz's character on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and rushes him into the primary narrative in a somewhat problematic way.

Every now and then on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., the show gives a single character an episode that allows their character to grow and develop. Those stories tend to be some of the best in that instead of trying to desperately service the broad cast of the show, the show is actually able to emotionally delve into one character. Most notable of these episodes in the past was the second Simmons-focused episode, "4,722 Hours" (reviewed here!) and the assumption at the beginning of "Rewind" is that this will be another episode that is dominated by a single character. The danger for "Rewind" is that the episode has so much plot to explore that if it fails to explore the character's journey in a satisfying way, it might continue the downward spiral of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D..

Fortunately, "Rewind" at least stops the show's backslide, though it is very plot heavy.

"Rewind" works its way back to the final scene of "A Life Earned" (reviewed here!), which makes it impossible to discuss without spoiling that. For the first four episodes of the fifth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fitz has been absent. A throwaway line made it clear that Fitz was not propelled into the future with the other Agents and there were artifacts found on the Lighthouse that made it clear that after the others were thrown into the future, Fitz worked tirelessly to find what happened to the other Agents. So, when "A Life Earned" climaxed with a scene that featured a single character in a mask, the instant reveal of who that character was was remarkably unsurprising. "Rewind" opens with the burden of explaining what happened to Fitz and how he arrived in the future, with an expectation that he would develop some way to bring the other agents back into the past when he makes his transition into the future.

Opening at Rae's Diner after the incident in the Framework, after the other six are taken by the other operatives, Fitz is left to be abducted by Talbot's assistant. Fitz is taken to an interrogation facility where he meets Hale, Talbot's replacement. Evans begins to empathize with Fitz as Fitz, in isolation, tries to figure out exactly what happened to his coworkers. From his cell, he manages to get a letter out to a soccer fanzine, which is actually a message to Lance Hunter. Six months into his work, Fitz theorizes that the Agents were abducted by aliens and Hunter comes to his rescue, posing as his lawyer. The pair escapes and Fitz catches up on the past six months of post-S.H.I.E.L.D. life and what Hunter has been up to since he was disavowed.

Hunter and Fitz track the beer truck from footage outside the diner to the home of Enoch. Enoch reveals that the six agents were sent to 2091 and that he was shown by a seer that those people needed to be sent at that particular moment. Enoch brings the pair to the seer, Robin Hinton, the Inhuman daughter who inherited her father's gift for seeing the future. Robin is foreseeing the future and is writing in an ancient alien language that no human knows. Enoch uses the same technology from the diner to help the group escape. Fitz, Hunter, Polly, Robin and Enoch go to the lighthouse on Lake Ontario that ends up as the future refuge for humanity. While there, Robin makes a prophecy that Fitz will save some of his friends. Enoch tells Fitz about his craft and Fitz and Hunter have to break back into the military facility where Fitz was kept in order to recover Enoch's ship.

The first act of "Rewind" is somewhat problematic in that the government abducts Fitz and quickly determines that he knows nothing about what happened to the other Agents. But Fitz is kept in isolation for six months, with only books to guide him. Fitz is not given a field trip to take readings and he has no resources. How does Hale actually expect Fitz to deliver his friends?!

As "Rewind" continues, Fitz moves the plot forward well-enough as he searches for his friends and Evans and her partner hunting them. Enoch provides the essential plot points needed to bridge the prior four episodes with "Rewind, but the show has to cover a lot of exposition. Hunter, for example, did not know about Robin Hinton, so the show has to take the time to catch Hunter (and anyone who did not watch that episode recently) up.

The moments of "Rewind" that work best are those that allow Fitz to explore the consequences of his own dark side. Fitz is struggling still with the fact that in the Framework, he was a villain and he knows that those traits came from within himself. Fitz is essentially at war with himself; his good instincts make him determined to find the others and his dark side allows him to threaten Enoch to get the anthropologist on his side. Fitz is adaptive and smart, which makes him a sensible character to be the team's savior. The fact that he and Hunter were not actually close in earlier seasons of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes their dynamic a bit more interesting (one assumes that Adrianne Palicki was unavailable for the episode due to filming The Orville, but Bobbi would have been a more organic choice to help Fitz in his quest to rescue Simmons based on how she had acted as Simmons's protector in the past). But throughout "Rewind," Fitz accesses his two sides fairly well.

The fundamental problem with "Rewind" is that it feels rushed and like the first half to a larger story. Fitz is a good character and Iain De Caestecker proves in "Rewind" that he can completely carry an episode on his own. But "Rewind" is incomplete; it does not actually connect to that final moment of "A Life Earned" and the problem there is that there seems like there ought to be an entire episode where Fitz is established in the future as a human who is somehow able to move among the Kree without simply being stopped when he shows up at Kasius's portion of the Lighthouse. Even on the character front, Fitz suffers some in "Rewind" because the episode references "Spacetime" (reviewed here!) without Fitz ever addressing the idea that time cannot be changed. The moment that Robin creates a prophecy of the Earth being destroyed, Fitz should be pretty much despondent arguing that the Earth cannot be saved!

As well, "Rewind" suffers because Enoch is used almost completely to move the plot forward. Enoch deserved more time with Fitz and the fact that the episode never has Enoch and Fitz passing jargon between them with Hunter utterly confused is disappointing. The end point of "Rewind" seems to promise a team-up period with Fitz and Enoch, but whether it is satisfactorily delivered remains to be seen; the feel coming out of "Rewind" is that that story will be similarly rushed.

"Rewind" also works to establish Hale as the new villain for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it feels like the show is stretched in far too many directions . . . much like it does when it creates an episode with all of the characters doing their own things. None of the plotlines seem as well-developed in "Rewind" and the fifth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems like it is working hard to figure itself out.

There is another issue with "Rewind" in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. itself. Enoch has a spacecraft on Earth that is in military custody. Somehow when Black Widow purged all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secrets, that remained hidden or no one in the Marvel Cinematic Universe wanted to steal the technology for themselves to study?! Banner, Stark, Pym, Vulture, Hammer, Killian, and other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents instantly come to mind as people who would want to get their hands on Enoch's pod . . . if for no other reason than to keep it out of the hands of others in the universe.

Ultimately, "Rewind" is a competent episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but it is rushed and less-developed than it ought to be to service the story and franchise.

For other works with Joel Stoffer, please visit my reviews of:
"Orientation, Part I" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"World's End" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull


For other elements of the MCU, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a comprehensive listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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