Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 6 Episode 3 “Fear and Loathing on the Planet of Kitson”
Director: Jesse Bochco
Starring: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Henry Simmons, Natalia Cordova-Buckley
Runtime: 45 minutes
This was an unusual one. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. generally maintains a tight balance between action, serious character work, and humor. Certain installments have broken away from the formula but usually by going darker or being more heavily focused on blockbuster spectacle. “Fear and Loathing on the Planet of Kitson” is arguably the first episode to be mostly focused on humor, with the potentially dramatic premise of Fitz, Enoch, Daisy, and Simmons crossing paths in an alien casino being played almost entirely for laughs. The comedy mostly works but the episode does breeze over some dramatically interesting material among the space team and raises some concerns about the season’s narrative form as well as how it’s approaching the Fitzsimmons storyline.
Fitz and Enoch are at the casino trying to build a cash supply to get back to near-Earth orbit, leading to some amusing scenes of Fitz trying to teach the earnest and factual Chronicom how to have more of a poker face. After getting a solid lead on Fitz, Daisy and Jemma get to the casino as well, but not before they (and Davis) carelessly eat some alien food that causes humans to become wildly high, allowing for some trippy scenes of their drugged perspectives and Daisy and Jemma’s most comically clumsy mission ever.
While at times “Fear and Loathing” feels like the S.H.I.E.L.D. writers’ attempt at capturing the type of lovable absurdity patented by Legends of Tomorrow, most of the comedic beats do land thanks to Joel Stoffer, Chloe Bennet, and Elizabeth Henstridge. Enoch’s moping reaction to being decommissioned by whoever’s in charge of the Chronicoms could have easily been too silly if not for the perfectly naïve energy Stoffer brings to the part. Similarly, Daisy and Jemma’s intoxicated shenanigans wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining if not for the vibrant chemistry between Bennet and Henstridge. Indeed, a lot of the episode seems to serve as an opportunity for the actresses to play out their real-life dynamic onscreen, to immensely enjoyable effect. Still, one can’t help but miss the more dramatic moments of a regular installment. The episode peaks early with a scene in which Piper, Davis, and Daisy call Jemma out for her inconsiderate choice in the season premiere. But the quick shift to a comedic focus for much of the rest of the hour immediately afterward raises concern that the show will breeze over the potentially interesting storyline of a rift within the team. Sure, Jemma apologizes to Daisy for dragging her this far into space during their “ladies’ night” but that’s not really enough. The series has a habit of letting Fitz and Simmons off the hook for their more questionable decisions too easily and it, unfortunately, seems possible that it’s going to do so again.
And that’s not the only problem with this season’s Fitzsimmons story. I was willing to forgive last week’s overly ironic scene of the couple’s ships just missing each other but the fact that this installment sees them reunited for seconds before Fitz is taken by Christopher James Baker’s intergalactic hunter character is too much. The whole “Fitz and Simmons are cursed” idea has always worked more as a grim superstition (the result of Fitz’s pessimism) than as a literal truth and Season 6’s decision to so far play it as the latter is making things too melodramatic.
The most notable contribution to the ongoing plot is the reveal that there are different kinds of Chronicoms other than anthropologists like Enoch, with hunters like Baker’s character (who I believe goes unnamed in the episode but is credited as “Malachi”) seeking to detain and likely eliminate people or things that breach the space-time continuum. This explains the hunter’s preoccupation with the idea of a second Fitz existing in the timeline after one already died. Additionally, it offers yet another possible explanation as to Sarge’s origins. The promo for next week features Sarge and crew hunting Deke, who himself was born in an alternate timeline, implying that they at least share a purpose with Malachi, although I’m not convinced Sarge will simply turn out to be a Chronicom. The most likely explanations for Sarge’s resemblance to Coulson are still either that he’s his doppelganger from an alternate reality or something to do with Snowflake’s talk of reincarnation, or perhaps a combination of the two. Regardless, the additions to the Chronicom mythology are a nice inclusion in an episode that otherwise raises concerns about the pacing of the season’s main storylines. Alternating between the Earth and space teams’ stories on an episodic basis has made both feel like they’re moving too slowly. Part of what was so appealing about the season premiere was the constant energy generated by alternating between the hunt for Fitz and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s conflict with Sarge’s team. Future installments should go back to using that format.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 6 Episode 3
S.H.I.E.L.D.'s experiment with a more comedic tone mostly works but the season is starting to have some issues with pacing and structure.