The Good: Decent performances, Good direction
The Bad: Storytelling/character issues, Obvious reversal, Packs a lot of disparate pieces in without a good sense of flow
The Basics: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns with "All The Comforts Of Home," which has the team - and Deke - returned to their native time in an episode that sets up a lot of future plot events without being a particularly impressive episode on its own.
It is hard to sit down to the episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., "All The Comforts Of Home," without a sense of "how are the writers and producers going to screw this up now?" "All The Comforts Of Home" puts Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. in a tremendously weird narrative position. The show is now at the start of the tangent timeline that was explored in the first ten episodes of the season and the season is progressing toward a point where it will, by necessity of being a part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, undo itself. But the obvious time travel story is complicated by aspects that one has to wonder if the writers have actually considered, life for example there are now two Fitz's on Earth. Fitz has just returned from the future, but because he was left behind (took the long way around to get to the future) there is a version of Fitz native to the timeline who will be captured by the military. So, while one of the people who captured Fitz was set up to be the villain for the second half of the season, it seems like a stretch that she wouldn't be weirded out by the fact that Fitz is both captured and running around with the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D..
"All The Comforts Of Home" follows "Past Life" (reviewed here!), which had the Agents in the room with the portal that was there to return them to the past. Yo-Yo also learned that Coulson is dying and hinted that the attempt to save him was, at least in part, what led to the destruction of the Earth.
Opening with Hale, the officer who has Fitz in custody, reprimanding her daughter, Ruby, Hale is given hard questions about her nature. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents return to the past, where videos of General Stone detail exactly what The Lighthouse is. In the basement of The Lighthouse, the Agents discover three Monoliths and they are greeted by Noah, another Chronocom. When the light that foretold the destruction of Earth appears in Milwaukee, the team - less Daisy - go to investigate it. But, while they are out, Deke appears from the future. Deke visits a bar, where he experiences the joys of Zima and hamburgers, but is frustrated when he is asked to pay and is too drunk to run away from his problem.
Fitz determines that the light is actually being sent from Earth and it is the same frequency as the beacon Hive used to lure the Kree to Earth! After the team finds their cloaked Zephyr, Rodriguez is thrown by her experiences in the future. When Deke sets off an alert Johnson has set up, Johnson feels like she must rescue him. At the facility in Milwaukee, the Agents find Agent Piper trying to disarm the beacon. The beacon is deactivated, but when that happens, Piper turns on the team and a heavily-armed kill squad arrives. Their leader, a masked woman, uses a vicious thrown weapon to slice off Yo-Yo's arms. And, despite the paperwork, Daisy is able to liberate Deke and help get the Zephyr to a safe house.
"All The Comforts Of Home" introduces a new Chronocom, which is cool, but when Deke arrives and Johnson finds out, it is a mystery as to how. Given that Johnson has no reasonable belief that Deke could show up from the future, how the alert would include him seems impossible. That sense of impossibility is increased by the fact that Johnson has a picture of Deke that is brought up as part of her alert - she did not have any pictures that could have been matched by the terms of her alert. But the solution to her problem, Deke being in play in the past and getting arrested, shows a troublesome resolution. Rather than Johnson going into the field, she could have sent the Enoch who would be native to this time. In other words, there is no reason for Johnson to go somewhere she might be recognized when there is someone who is not affiliated with S.H.I.E.L.D. who could run the errand for her.
The acting and direction in "All The Comforts Of Home" are fine, but the episode is pretty mediocre. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. does not belabor the mystery of the masked woman, which is refreshing, but given how there were only two new characters (essentially) introduced in "All The Comforts Of Home," her identity is hardly a surprise. As predicted, General Hale is the season's new Big Bad, but "All The Comforts Of Home" has her motivations muddied by as plotline that includes her assembling a team of super-villains.
"All The Comforts Of Home" continues to hint at Coulson's medical issues without revealing it to the team, which is made frustrating given that Simmons makes a reasonable request when she asks to give all of the members of a team physicals. Beyond that, "All The Comforts Of Home" seems only to serve to give an ironic payoff to the future Rodriguez's line about holding onto Mack while she can. That payoff is momentarily amusing, but it increases the suspension of disbelief that Yo-Yo would not reveal what she knows about Coulson now to ridiculously high levels and the resolution to her current ailment can pretty easily be reasoned out given the scenes that showed her future self during the fall of Earth.
While Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had a way of pulling out its seasons and the extraordinary plots in interesting ways, if "All The Comforts Of Home" is any indication, it might be harder this season to do!
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