This week, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes a closer look at May’s (Ming-Na Wen) grief and how it affects her interactions with Sarge (Clark Gregg), which she has a lot of given that he’s abducted her to better understand their connection. But “The Other Thing,” while it is primarily about those two, also breaks away from the previous two standalone episodes to hope between storylines and spatial dimensions.
Flashbacks of May and Coulson’s last days together interrupt her current face-off against Sarge, and the latter takes note of her reactions to him. Once Sarge realizes May didn’t kill his doppelganger, he finally understands that her obsession must come from “the other thing.” Interestingly enough, he is convinced there cannot be two men with the same face in the same universe and therefore Coulson must have been some kind of synth. But the audience and May both know that can’t be the case, so Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns to the question that kicked off the season: what exactly is Sarge? This time, though, a new question arises alongside it: why doesn’t he know about it?
What Sarge does know about, and what he relays to May through rather violent means, is the parasite that led to Keller’s death. He plans to turn May to his side, if not through her romantic feelings for Coulson, then through firsthand knowledge of what the Shrikes can do. So he infects a poor bystander, and May is forced to kill the man the way Yo-Yo had to end Keller. But on the bright(?) side, we confirm that Sarge’s team has been chasing these creatures rather than creating them – and they attacked Deke thinking he was one, as well. That’s all well and good for May, but she’s not about to make amends. Instead she fights back, knocks Sarge, and brings him back to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters.
Helpfully enough, Benson (Barry Shabaka Henley) has been conducting his own investigation on the Shrikes. He and Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) deduce that they act like Monoliths, except with life and death. Further research is now going to send them to South America and ancient Incan ruins, but not before Mack (Henry Simmons) deals with some insecurities regarding his leadership and Yo-Yo’s love.
On the other side of the galaxy, “The Other Thing” cycles through a few more near-reunions for Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker).
This is brought on by the appearance of Enoch’s Chronicom supervisor Atarah, played with delightful deadpan by Sherri Saum, who turns out to be the one behind Fitz’s capture. She shows Jemma that her people have Fitz in order to coerce the crew to reveal how they made time travel work. It just so happens that the Chronicom’s homeworld was destroyed (wonder what planet-destroying parasites made that happen?), and Fitz’s timeline meddling is looking mighty appealing right about now.
Enoch makes the most surprising turn in this week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as his role of Best Friend morphs into something a little more ambiguous after he meets with Atarah and also learns that he sacrificed himself for Earth in the future. He offers Jemma as a hostage to make Fitz develop time travel, but allows Daisy (Chloe Bennet) to escape after she knocks Atarah and a few other Chronicoms out. Even his confrontation with Fitz in the after-credits scene, which included a heartbreaking performance by De Caestecker, seemed to have multiple layers up until the point that he knocked his Best Friend with some kind of gas. I’m sure Enoch still has the team’s best interests at heart, but what does it all mean?
The most important, or at least emotionally resonant, moments from “The Other Thing” still tie back to May and Coulson. Not only does there have to be more than meets the eye with Sarge, seeing as he shares similar lines of dialogue with Coulson, but he also wasn’t entirely wrong about the man’s death. May certainly didn’t kill the man she loved, but she did help him die. But is death the end of the road when Sarge exists? What does his existence mean for Coulson, and by extension for May? Hopefully Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. lets us find out.