“As I Have Always Been” may be the greatest episode of Agents of SHIELD yet, or at least one of the most emotional in a long while. It’s also a tribute to the incredible character of Enoch (Joel Stoffer) and the journey Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) has taken over the last 7 years. It’s also lovingly and carefully directed by Elizabeth Henstridge, our very own Jemma Simmons.
A time storm threatens to erase the Zephyr and its team from existing, but only Daisy and Coulson (Clark Gregg) can remember the events of the loop they are in. As they inch closer to their final destination, time runs impossibly short with only teamwork and sacrifice having any chance of saving them.
Some Of My Favorite People Are People Like You
First, let’s talk the highest of highs in “As I Have Always Been.” From the moment Daisy awakes in what she thinks is the first loop, Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) is sleeping right next to her. He’s been watching over her to make sure she gets proper rest, see, and it’s clear Daisy is disconcerted by his care and support.
As she goes through the cataclysmic events 87 times and more, she wakes Coulson up from his LMD sleep phase and works on the problem with him. But she keeps noticing how helpful Sousa is even when he doesn’t know the details. He’s more than willing to put himself in harm’s way and even die – which he does once, courtesy of a murder plot that targets whoever tries to remove the implant from Jemma’s brain – in order to be of service to Daisy.
Eventually, she take a loop to confront Sousa about his ever so helpful ways, and gets the answer we’ve all been waiting for – even if it throws her for another loop. He sees how she keeps others at bay and pretends she doesn’t need anyone, and yet how much she sacrifices herself for her loved ones, and he wants to be the one to pick her up when she’s thrown herself against a wall. Dear reader, I gasped. And so did Daisy, of course.
In the climactic sequence – when everything must fall into place in order to keep the Zephyr intact and fix the time drive with the information locked in Jemma’s brain – Daisy actually gives in and lays one incredible kiss on Sousa before sending him to his (temporary) death in a battle against Enoch. I cheered out loud, and I’m sure many of you did too. Speaking of… We have to talk about Enoch, don’t we?
The Feeling Is Temporary, At Least For The Person Dying
It seems we were forced to say our final farewells to Enoch in “As I Have Always Been,” and I can’t even rage against the machine because it was so powerfully done.
Between Mack (Henry Simmons) getting blinded, Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova) being trapped, Deke (Jeff Ward) and May (Ming-Na Wen) being clueless, and Jemma getting killed by poisonous gas, Daisy and Coulson discover that Enoch is prepared to kill any team member who messes with Jemma’s memory block.
This isn’t solely Enoch’s choice for the protection of Fitz (his best friend, lest we forget), though. It’s programming from Jemma herself to prevent anyone including herself from accessing the information. Once again, this revelation feeds into the season-long theme of what it means to be human. Enoch and Coulson are two sides of a coin here, and each have heartbreaking ruminations on how alive they really are and what control they have over their emotions.
The most heartbreaking of all, though, is when the team realizes that the only way to fix the time drive is to remove what is essentially Enoch’s heart. They will be able to save the team, but lose one of their most precious friends in the process. True to form, Enoch removes it himself while the others are debate the morality of the situation, leaving half the Agents of SHIELD to stop the time storm while Daisy and Coulson stay with him until the end.
Giving such an important episode to Henstridge speaks to her prowess as a budding director, as well as to her deep understanding of the characters and actors she’s worked alongside of for the better part of a decade. There is an outpouring of love for the team in every frame, even though some characters don’t get as much time to shine this week as others.
And when Enoch explains that his friends will survive but the team won’t after this, which is their last mission together, we know he’s talking to the audience too. “It is the nature of families, I have seen it on countless worlds. People arrive and leave. No one escapes the circle.” We may be saying farewell to Agents of SHIELD sooner than we’d like, but the friendships that have blossomed onscreen and the love we feel for the story will outlast the series.
Meanwhile, Nathaniel helps Cora direct her powers and reminds us that she’ll be running into her baby sister Daisy soon. Wonder how good of a final boss they’ll turn out to be?