Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. sent us all for a loop with “The Devil Complex,” turning the fear dimension storyline on its head and proving that some of the most salient fears on the show are in the characters’ heads rather than hiding in a rift.
Now You See Me
After stealing the Gravitonium off the Principia last week, Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) are working on compressing it to fit into the device that will close the breach. They share a sweet moment trading wishes like honeymoons and flying ponies back and forth until they are interrupted by a new fear, and this time it’s an astronaut that attacks Jemma. Since the side effects are spreading, Daisy (Chloe Bennet) gets to work searching the database for research and answers while Deke (Jeff Ward) has a minor existential crisis revolving around his grandparents’ psychical safety and marital health.
What seems like an otherwise routine turn of events, at least since the the 100th episode, shifts immensely when the fear dimension apparently spits out something far worse than an astronaut. The Hydra version of Fitz enters “The Devil Complex” with a bang, promising our Fitz that his other self is here to finish what he started. Which involves knocking out Deke and making off with Daisy for some nefarious purpose. Watching Daisy under his surgeon’s knife and removing her inhibitor against her will is painful and tragic, but at the same time it leaves us with a moral quandary. As happy as she has been without her powers, it’s also left her powerless to defend herself or others to an extent. And while it seems those powers caused the destruction of the world, isn’t it possible that they are also what’s needed to save it? They’re certainly what’s needed to close the rift, which winds up being crucial to the most shocking reveal of the night.
We sense that something is wrong when the ‘real’ Fitz finds Daisy and proceeds to try to talk his other self down… Except Daisy keeps wondering who he’s talking to. Then Jemma shows up and focuses only on Fitz, telling him to put the scalpel down rather than speaking to the Doctor. And soon everything is clear: there was no anomaly. Fitz knocked Deke out himself, kidnapped Daisy and began performing surgery on her, egged on by the voice of the Doctor that had since manifested into a vision. Jemma’s attempts to reason with him and Daisy’s pleas for help are both equally heartbreaking in different ways throughout this scene, especially when Fitz chooses to go ahead and complete the procedure.
Once the inhibitor is out, Fitz explains what Daisy must do to compress the Gravitonium and heal the breach. It’s surprising that she follows through with his instructions, but she’s nothing if not a team player. More surprising is Fitz confessing to his wife that he’s been hearing and only recently seeing the Doctor, and insisting that it is part of him rather than a psychic split or an evil doppelganger. Jemma has already forgiven him, and she believes Mack and Daisy will forgive him in time. She even goes so far as to suggest that making harder choices in the face of the apocalypse is the right thing to do – but there’s no way that kidnapping and assault of one’s friends can be the right thing regardless of intent, so it feels a little like Jemma is letting her love of Fitz stand in the way of her reason as well.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Deke spends some quality time with his grandmother for the first time, sharing intimate information about their lives together before finally revealing that he is their grandson. Simmons’ reaction was both hilarious and eyebrow-raising, because a woman throwing up on television often implies that she may already be pregnant.
Robot Limbs and HYDRA Traps
Elena (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) is making progress on her arm with Mack’s (Henry Simmons) help, but she is more focused on watching out for anomalies and helping the team in whatever way she can. Mack wants to protect her, though, which leads to small clashes given their strong personalities but also allows the writers to capitalize on their love for each other. Their moments are incredibly touching as always, and the presence of the future they both dread is a heavy weight over “The Devil Complex” that can be felt every time Yo-Yo uses her robot arms.
Meanwhile, Piper helps Coulson (Clark Gregg) and May (Ming-Na Wen) track down General Hale and bring her in. It’s a short-lived victory, though, since they soon realize Hale planned this all along and brought Crusher Creel and Anton Ivanov with her as back up. Interesting to note that while Coulson is questioning Hale, she admits that Elena’s arms being cut off was a mistake. It’s almost enough to make one wonder if there’s something decent in her, until she doubles down on how she’s saving humanity from the terrorist organization that is S.H.I.E.L.D. After her little presentation, Phil decides to make a deal with Hale to let her go in exchange for learning what she’s up to. While Melinda’s concern doesn’t stop him from going, it still does a shipper heart good.
In the bonus scene, we learn that General Hale is HYDRA when she reports to a superior. And while this feels like it should be a surprise given its placement in the episode and the music playing as the words are spoken, it’s also pretty obvious. Guess it’s good to have confirmation that the evil is far from defeated, though.
While “The Devil Complex” doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first half of Agents of S.H.I.E.LD.‘s fifth season, De Caestecker’s gut-wrenching performance makes for an emotional rollercoaster of an episode.