And here I thought we finally had a clear path to FitzSimmons. I suppose I should have known better.
This week’s episode was, as I assumed it would be, a single location, single plot story, focusing completely on Simmons and her months spent on the alien world on the far side of the universe. What I did not expect–and maybe I should have–was that she did not spend those 4,722 hours alone. After a month on the planet, she was captured by, then befriended, and finally became lovers with an astronaut who had been sent to the planet by NASA back in 2001.
Simmons: This is Doctor Jemma Simmons updating the file on the monolith Fitz and I have been studying. I now know that it is an alternating matter transportation device. A portal. Quite remarkable really, I’ve been transported to an unknown planet. In a different solar system.
And on paper, that’s everything that happens. She and the astronaut, Will Daniels, are thrown together, polar opposites, who you just know will fall into bed together before it’s all over. She’s the hope and he’s the doubt. She’s the science, and he’s the brawn. And when it comes to the creature that’s stalking them, who sits in what he terms “the no fly zone” and alternately takes on the shape of different creatures, but most effectively that of “Death” in black robes, he’s the one willing to call it evil, and treat it superstitiously. She’s the one who’s convinced it must be some sort of natural phenomena…until the point where we rejoin her when we first saw her at the end of the season opener, as she runs in terror through the sand storm.
But this simple retelling doesn’t do the episode near enough justice. Agents of SHIELD has been an uneven creation from the beginning. There have been high points, like Season 1’s “Turn Turn Turn,” and Season 2’s “Melinda.” But this was head and shoulders above those episodes, partly because it was willing to drop everything else and focus. No Hydra, No Hunter & Bobbi, No Coulson and whoever SHIELD’s enemy is this time. In fact, we don’t even see Fitz and Simmons in present day until the end. Just Simmons, Will and survival on an alien world.
Simmons: “You’d be so proud of me Fitz, I killed the monster plant.”
I had thought at first this would be an entire hour of Simmons going feral, with Elizabeth Henstridge carrying the entire hour on her slim shoulders. And though we did get that sort of scene (her fighting, winning, cooking and eating of the water creature was fantastic), I suppose giving her a person to go back for was the logical explanation. Will, played by Dillon Casey, also gave her a great foil for the hour. But Henstridge was still the focal point, and her portrayal of Simmons’ discovering a steely resolve deep down that kept her going for all those hours before she was even captured was fantastic stuff.
It was also a testament to her performance (and Casey’s) that though we all saw where this was going from the first time he spoke aloud, that foreknowledge didn’t ruin the hour. Their slow bonding over the months together was fully believable, and well rendered, considering they basically had to squeeze it into 30 or so minutes. And the scene with the bottle failing to get through the portal was heartbreaking, despite knowing full well, just from the hour count on screen, that Simmons escape was mere days away. Of course, you instantly knew that this was when they would hook up–though it being Simmons to initiate it was a little more unexpected. (Also, thank god they didn’t make it a rape she succumbs to trope type thing. Seriously. Thank you SHIELD.)
Will: “What’d you think, I was going to build a helicopter?”
And in terms of wrenches to be thrown in the forever never getting together FitzSimmons, you have to admit, it’s rather brilliant. Look, I love FitzSimmons, and I have even since Season 1 when they were annoying little know it all kids just this side of Wesley Crusher. But I gotta admit, seeing Simmons with someone who is such a polar opposite actually worked really well. No, he’s not her intellectual equal. No, he’s not her “mind melded two-peas-in-a-pod” partner. Will Daniels is his own guy, who is good at different things, and who may not be “sciencey” but both respects what she does well, as she respects what he does well. He was sent to that planet in 2001 to take care of the scientists with him, and keep them alive. He may have failed in that mission, but when given a second chance with Simmons, he not only succeeds, but even sacrifices his own chance to get out to get her home.
Simmons knows it too–she would never have lived in nearly such comfort all those months without him. She probably would have been killed by whatever that creature is (was?*) if not for Will. And she has to go back for him.
*Did Will kill the creature? Is that what we saw with the sun coming out in the coda? Or was that some sort of hallucination, or planetary response to Simmons’ escape? Was that Will being taken over by the creature? Because the planet went blue again very quickly at the end….
Simmons: “How long have people known about the monolith? And why keep sending people when there’s no way back? It’s as if they’re being sacrificed.”
Next week, we’re back to the regular routine again in an episode that looks to focus on Melinda , Bobbi and hunter going for another round with Ward and Hydra, and failing again. but I’ll be honest. Despite the Inhuman interest I have for this season, and my love of Agent May’s character, the only thing I want to know now is how long until Fitz reassembles that portal with Simmons. How long until we return to the blue planet, and find out what happened to Will.
Also, NASA had the monolith in 2001? (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. So on the nose.) Who gave it to them? Who told them there was a habitable planet on the other side? Is it related to the generations of sacrificial lambs sent through to the slaughter that we saw in flashbacks, and whose bones Simmons found in the no fly zone? Who lied that they would come back? Why does NASA now not have the portal? How did it wind up with SHIELD? Oh my god, so many questions raised here, I can’t even begin to come up with them all. Because what SHIELD really needed was another mystery…