Jess and Jared recap and discuss season 5 episode 12 of Agents of S.H.I .E.L.D., “The Real Deal.”
We’re back after another long delay, and this was recorded several months ago, so we’re a bit out of date with our “current events” references. We got into some wild digressions, starting with some Star Wars talk circa the Mandalorian’s second season where we complain a bit about Filoni, because he’s kind of awful, and gush a bit over Taika Waititi, because he’s freaking great. Jess talks about how even Billy (boyfriend of the pod) gets sick of Filoni’s nonsense sometimes, and we compare and contrast Filoni and Waititi’s relative weakness and strength at subverting problematic tropes.
We then get into “The Real Deal” episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. we’re covering, the 100th episode! The episode title gets some guff. We left off with Noah, the mediocre Chronicom, saving the day by sacrificing himself for the team, and catch up with found footage of Andrew/Lash, apparently back from the dead. This sets up the “best of villains” episode in a unique way, without relying on a clip show formula. Fitz shows Coulson and May the drone footage showing them what appears to be the outdoors inside the base, and hypothesizes that the monoliths’ destruction opened a portal to another dimension. Mack tells Yo-yo he’d leave S.H.I.E.L.D. if she wanted to, but she insists they have to stay. Daisy and Deke search the store rooms and Deke attempts to bond with Daisy, which she rebuffs. This is one of many examples of Deke’s personality solidifying into the character he will become, the annoying kid brother of the team’s “family.” Jess calls out some of Daisy and Coulson’s similarities as empaths, and we enjoy that Deke and Daisy’s eventual relationship is just a friendly/familial one, and that they backed off any attempt at a contrived and predictable attempt at romance. A Kree warrior shows up and attacks them in the middle of their storeroom run. They dispatch him and regroup with the team, where after taking the Kree warrior into consideration, looking at the footage of Lash, and identifying Deke’s fear of the open wilderness (hence the forest/outdoor level) Fitz dubs the dimension they’ve accessed “the fear dimension,” naturally. Fitz mentions a potential sacrifice and looks to Deke, who gets very defensive, but he meant he needed his anti-gravity belt. Coulson volunteers, Fitz suggests Piper go to redeem herself, and everyone argues with them. Daisy says she’ll go, but Coulson insists she needs to stay to lead, and she argues that they’re so broken, there isn’t even a S.H.I.E.L.D. left to lead.
Deke is sent out by Coulson for supplies and is uncharacteristically grumpy when he tells him to go, reminding him not to get arrested this time. Coulson joins the rest of the team and Jemma explains that the necrotic tissue has grown to Coulson’s lungs and heart, and that his condition is terminal. He’s known since they last saw Ghost Rider, having given up whatever Project T.A.H.I.T.I. had done to him to bring him back in return for hosting the Rider. Coulson is frustrated, having never had any agency when it came to his own life, but the team, and Daisy in particular, are exceptionally hurt. Yo-yo wakes up to a sadistic Jemma channeling Nurse Ratched who tells Yo-yo to give up and let Mack leave her, gaslighting all Twilight Zone style her before trying to smother her. She’s stopped by Mack who reveals she’s an LMD, and the real Jemma comes in and sees what’s going on. We think it was Mack’s fear, and we realize we never see Yo-yo’s own fear manifestation. Deke is outside and sees General Hale’s troops have invaded the town looking for them, and gets anxious. He ends up in a funny disguise where he looks like a time traveller from 30 years in the past instead of the future, in a baseball cap, carrying a red, white, and blue bomb-pop and a Zima. May and Coulson have a heart to heart, and talk about him hiding his dying from her, and his pushing the team away, denying what they really mean to each other. Fitz prepares Coulson to seal the portal, and Coulson gives a speech that’s somewhat problematic about how S.H.I.E.L.D. is an important symbol, and it reflects the issues with patriotic idealization of an inherently corrupt system that was founded on oppression. We go on a bit of a digression discussing what it means in terms of copaganda from the show, and also the deeper levels in which the character of Phil Coulson’s words are meant to ring hollow, and are somewhat betrayed by the denial of his current situation. And we discuss how voting is such a frustration situation, because it’s one of the most effective ways to create change, but it also requires participation from those being oppressed in the very system that works against them.
In the basement, getting ready to destroy the fear dimension portal, Coulson encounters Mike Peterson, Deathlok, the character he tried to save in the first episode of S.H.I.E.L.D., but he appears as his pre-cyborg/pre-Deathlok self, and tries to convince Coulson that none of what was happening was real. This is Coulson’s fear, that he’s never come back from the dead, and the entire series of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been what’s happening to him on the operating table, and that it was him trying to live out his fanboy dream life as they experimented on his brain at the brink of life and death. The fake Mike Peterson makes Coulson begin to doubt his reality, and question his very existence. Daisy and Fitz argue about what to do, and she puts him in his place, calling him Leopold, and May tells them both to shut up. And this makes Jared tell a pretty ridiculous story involving his dad walking in on his brother…in the middle of something. Coulson tries to ignore the fake Mike’s attempts to discredit his life when a Quinjet arrives. Having been called by Deke, the Quinjet brought the real Mike Peterson/Deathlok, along with a team of what’s left of S.H.I.E.L.D. there as reinforcements. Deathlok shoots the fake Mike, and as Coulson activates the device a gravity well starts to absorb the fear dimension rift when a bunch of villains show up to to stop them, like the Vrellnexians and Hive. It’s a bunch of chaos as they fight off the villains and are pulled toward the gravity well when the plan is successful, and the smoke clears with Coulson in Deathlok’s arms, asking for assurance from Mike that he was real. Still at the local police station Hale wonders who Deke might be before leaving after words of a Daisy sighting is reported, having been sent a tip by Deke to get them off the trail. Coulson, Fitz and Deke are on the elevator at the base, and Coulson and Fitz talk about Deathlok saving the day, which Deke thinks is about him. On the weird forest floor (which like, should’ve disappeared with the villains, right?), the elevator opens where Fitz walks out, dressed up all nice, for his and Jemma’s wedding (*squee*)!! It’s super sweet, and the two of them finally get a little bit of a break. Us viewers find out that Deke is their grandkid right as Deke and Mike Peterson discuss what side they should be on, and Deke punctuates his family reveal by saying he doesn’t really know either of them, and cements the goofball character Deke was always meant to be.
And now, as always, Black Lives Matter. Now more than ever voting, and voting laws, are important in the U.S., and under attack by the far Right. Visit blackvotersmatterfund.org/donate/ to help protect voting rights, improve lives, and strengthen communities.
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