This week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally gave us some of the answers we were looking for about Simmons’ interplanetary vacation, and while some may have been disappointed by some of the answers we got, we can all agree that Elizabeth Henstridge knocked it out of the park. Here’s our breakdown of the biggest moments from this week’s episode:
1) Simmons Sciences The Shit Out Of This
For the first fifteen minutes of the episode, the only character we see or hear (save for a flashback to season 2’s finale) is Simmons. As she tries to survive on the alien planet, she keeps her sanity through her conversations with Fitz –or at least, a picture of him that’s saved on her phone. In terms of plot development, there’s really not all that much going on for the first third of the episode, as we don’t find out anything we didn’t already know: Simmons is on an alien planet and she has to find a way to survive, that’s old news. However, the way she survives, using all of her skills as a scientist and an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., combined with the phenomenal performance from Henstridge make the first act of this episode absolutely riveting. The episode in general, and the first several minutes specifically, give Simmons arguably more character development than she’s had in the entire series so far, and it’s great to see.
In terms of speculation, there’s not much to be had in the first part of the episode. We can still make guesses as to which planet she’s on, but the first act doesn’t give us any new hints or clues about that. As for why she wants to go back after escaping, that’s quickly explained in the second part of the episode…
2) Simmons Gets A Space Boyfriend
It turns out, Simmons isn’t as alone on the planet as she thought, as she’s captured and kept prisoner by Will, an astronaut who has inhabited the planet for 14 years. Of course, the prisoner relationship doesn’t last for very long, and as soon as Will becomes convinced that Simmons is “real” and not just an illusion caused by whatever sinister force killed the rest of his team, the two become partners. Will gives Simmons (and the audience) a bit of an info dump about the planet, and it’s from him that we get most of our answers to the questions we’ve been asking since May. We learn that the sandstorms on the planet serve as a herald for the hooded figure (repeatedly referred to as “Death”) who kills the inhabitants of the planet, or drives them insane until they kill themselves. Simmons also learns what Fitz discovered when researching the obelisk: humans have known about the portal for centuries, and various great civilizations throughout human history have possessed it, and sent sacrifices to the planet. As far as we know, the last three groups to have posession of the portal were NASA, the Inhuman group residing in Afterlife, and S.H.I.E.L.D.
Of course, the biggest development from Simmons’ partnership with Will isn’t the information we finally get about the planet, it’s the damn kiss.
After missing what they believe to be their only chance at leaving the planet for years, Simmons resigns herself to the belief that she’ll be stuck on the alien planet forever, and lets go of the idea that she’ll ever be reunited with Fitz again. All told, it’s completely understandable that Simmons and Will would get together: they’re both lonely, going through the same experiences, and they have a lot in common.
One of the best things about this episode is that nobody does anything wrong. Jemma doesn’t simply forget all about Fitz after kissing Will, and Will isn’t portrayed as a girlfriend-stealing douche. Even better, once Simmons is back home, she doesn’t keep Will a secret from Fitz or soften the story to spare his feelings: she lays everything out for him so he knows exactly what happens. And he’s clearly heartbroken, but doesn’t act vindictive or jealous, he promises to help Will get back safe. Many who watched this episode were disappointed that the big mystery of what happened to Simmons wasn’t aliens or vampires, but a love triangle. However, it’s not a typical love triangle, full of petty drama and angst: it’s three people in perfectly understandable positions acting as best as they know how. Even if Will is still alive (more on that in a moment), I don’t think his odds of getting back to Earth are very good; still, if he does make it, it’s not hard to imagine he and Fitz being friends, no matter who Simmons winds up with.
3) Guessing Will’s Fate
In the coda for this week’s episode, we see Will leave the sandstorm and throw his now-empty gun to the ground. He seems to have survived his encounter with Death, but at the cost of his weapon and only way off the planet if things get too bad. However, are we sure he survived his encounter? Death, or whatever is on that planet, doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that would be deterred by a single bullet. Is it possible that Death took over Will’s mind and body like it took over his fellow Astronauts? It seems possible, perhaps even likely, that Will wouldn’t survive a direct encounter with Death, and therefore the Will we see at the end of the episode is somehow not actually Will.
If that’s the case, this could mean another heartbreak in Simmons’ future. If Will is dead and Death is taking his form, it could mean that Death is looking for a way off this planet, and when Simmons and the team come to rescue Will, they might wind up taking Death with them to Earth instead to cause all sorts of chaos. If Will has been driven insane, or is being controlled by death, his symptoms probably won’t manifest right away. In fact, he’ll probably seem fine, right up until Simmons tries to rescue him, when he’ll finally snap and try to kill her, forcing the team to put Will down.
Either way, I think it may be premature to call Will’s apparent survival at the end of the episode a hopeful note, since we don’t know exactly how alive he is.
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