Agents of SHIELD 5.10 Review: “Past Life”

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“Past Life” commits to the time loop that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been playing with all season, and this one one of our main characters confronts their own future self before everyone gets out of Dodge. In a killer midseason finale, all the pieces needed to return to Earth are finally put in place – but sacrifices must be made along the way.

The Seer

When Kasius claimed he had a seer of his own last episode, I don’t think anyone expected it to be an undead version of Elena (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) who had been killed and resurrected as many times as the Kree required. But that’s exactly who Yo-Yo runs into when she leaves Mack (Henry Simmons) and Flint behind to search out any Inhuman survivors to shepherd to the trawler and away from the Lighthouse. This future Elena is a gruesome sight, and worse, she speaks frantically of how the world will end at the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s hand and there might not be any way to stop it. The title of “Past Life” becomes quite literal when Elena is forced to listen to the tale of how everything went wrong, though not many details are shared due to the older Yo-Yo’s fractured mind and fears.

One thing we learn for sure? Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) choices and sickness are to blame for the world ending in Elena’s eyes, and she was unable to change anything in the previous iteration of the loop – even with the foreknowledge granted her in this scene. Sure enough, as Yo-Yo is hearing this for the first time, we see that Coulson is covering up the signs of his illness and can only imagine how faer May (Ming-Na Wen) and the others would go to save him. The seer sends Elena away before a mad-with-grief Kasius can come for her, but of course there must be a case of mistaken identity.

While Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) are helping Flint gather the strength of will to create the Monolith, Mack heads off in search of his beloved. As one would expect, he comes across Kasius about to murder the undead Elena. He is frozen in horror watching her throat be sliced, and I was too despite knowing it wasn’t really her. Then, in a final grab for glory, Kasius takes the Kree equivalent of PCP and turns into a rage-fueled super-powered monster in order to attack Mack. Obviously Mack doesn’t have superhuman strength, but Kasius also gets the better of him because he’s weakened by the death he just witnessed. Thankfully, Simmons appears and uses the very same torture device he used on her. Deafened by an instrument of his own design, Mack delivers the killing blow in a moment of poetic justice for both himself and Jemma.

Just then, the present-day Elena rushes into Mack’s arms and the reunion that ensues is truly beautiful. Henry Simmons plays with the conflicting emotions Mack is experiencing with skill and grace, allowing “Past Lives” to dwell on the heartwarming aspects just as much as the heartbreaking ones. They’re not the only ones to get a semblance of a happy ending, but the future is still very cloudy and there are many tragic endings left to discuss.

A Hero’s Journey

Enoch is minutes away from being discovered by the Kree, but the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cannot abandon their posts to go protect the Zephyr because they have to be ready to make the journey back to Earth. So Deke volunteers Deke volunteers to go save the “weird robot,” leaving Daisy (Chloe Bennet) behind because she’s too valuable – although he has a really mean way of saying it.

Heedless of Deke’s words, Daisy refuses to return home because she believes herself to be the cause of Earth’s destruction. Coulson and May try to convince their daughter Daisy to come along, but Coulson takes matters into his own hands and just shoots her with a paralyzer. Meanwhile, Deke saves Enoch’s non-life from the Kree just in time but the Zephyr is badly in need of repair. With Herculean effort, Flint manages to create the Monolith and now everything is set to travel… except for the Zephyr.

Enoch offers himself as battery to restore the ship, which will decimate the Lighthouse and kill Deke as well as himself. Obviously Deke hates this plan, but he forges ahead regardless, and the two of them hold out as long as they can to make sure everyone is in position to travel. May reminds Coulson that Daisy will never forgive him, adding another layer of bitterness to the moment the Monolith explodes. Though we don’t see their deaths, the heroic sacrifices of Deke and Enoch linger over the final moments of “Past Life.” Whatever we felt about Deke especially at the start of the season, it’s clear that knowing Daisy and the other agents changed him for the better – and hopefully he will find peace when he is reunited with his parents in the afterlife.

But the last scene provides another flicker of hope: Flint made it to the trawler with Tess, and they both prepare to take what remains of humanity to live out its second chance. The touching moment between them – featuring a keychain blueprint of Earth – serves as a perfect farewell to the Lighthouse arc.

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