Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 6 Episode 4 “Code Yellow”
Director: Mark Kolpack
Starring: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Henry Simmons, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Jeff Ward
Runtime: 41 minutes
While last week’s goofy outing mostly worked, it’s still very nice to see S.H.I.E.L.D. put its foot on the gas this week. Deke’s return ensures there are still plenty of jokes (a few too many really) but “Code Yellow” is mostly an intense installment that raises the stakes nicely while bringing the team further down the rabbit hole of this year’s central sci-fi storyline, which may be the show’s weirdest ever.
It turns out Deke has spent the year in between this season and the last building a start-up company that sells tech that the time-displaced former scavenger either knew about from the future or plainly ripped off from S.H.I.E.L.D. The episode opens with an amusing sequence of Deke “heroically” shooting down aliens in a Framework simulation that he plans on turning into a VR video game, complete with a celebratory sensual greeting from a very… forward simulation of Daisy (allowing Chloe Bennet to once again show off her considerable comedic chops) before introducing us to his company and influencer girlfriend Sequoia (co-showrunner Maurissa Tancharoen making her first ever cameo). It’s a fitting reintroduction to Deke’s character as everything he’s up to is fairly slimy but Jeff Ward’s goofball charm and brief reminders of some of the character’s traumatic experiences and latent altruism ensure that Deke remains a lovable doofus, not a callous cheat. But it’s not long before his bliss is interrupted when Sarge turns up in his office looking to kill him because of his unnatural status in the timeline.
Fortunately, Mack’s had an undercover agent posing as Deke’s right hand this whole time. While he and May lead a rescue/counterattack against Sarge, Yo-Yo and Keller remain on base to help Benson investigate the corpse of Sarge’s latest victim and what they find is horrifying. Apparently, Sarge’s targets (with the likely exception of Deke?) have been infected with parasitic bat-like creatures that cause diamond-like spikes to erupt out of their bodies if they go long enough without being stabbed by a special dagger. Even more disturbing, once they make the mistake of removing the dagger the creature escapes and flies around the base before infecting Keller by diving down his throat. Benson tries his best to dream up a solution but he and Yo-Yo are in way over their heads and once the spike things start shooting out of Keller Yo-Yo has no choice but to run the dagger through him (allowing for Natalia Cordova-Buckley’s first real stand-out dramatic moment of the season with Yo-Yo’s perfectly broken reaction afterward). As creative as it is S.H.I.E.L.D. has pretty much always stuck to putting its own spin on standard sci-fi and fantasy concepts (Season 4 had dark magic, robots, and virtual reality and 5 featured both space and time travel, for example). But while Season 6 has more space and is almost certainly building up to the reveal of alternate realities this episode makes it clear that the Sarge storyline will also touch on concepts that are fairly new to viewers and that’s very exciting. The bat reveal gives the season a dose of mystery and stakes that have sometimes been missing and Keller’s transformation is an impressive example of body horror that shows the series is still willing to go dark when necessary.
“Code Yellow” is mostly a welcome return to S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s usual style and tone (the base sequences with Yo-Yo and company stand out more but the S.H.I.E.L.D. vs Team Sarge confrontation is also nice and tense, with an amusing fight between May and Snowflake) but the more absurdist style of humor is still a little problematic. Jeff Ward predictably delivers all of his material well and the start-up is again a funny place to find Deke but the accompanying start-up/tech company and influencer jokes often either feel like they belong in a different show or simply don’t land. Tancharoen, in particular, does her job a little too well with the Sequoia scenes often being more truly cringe-worthy than cringe-humor. S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s desire to be more lighthearted following the exceptionally dark fifth season makes sense but the show would be better off simply expanding on its own witty, more dialogue-driven style of humor than continuing to attempt to replicate the slapstick style of less dramatic superhero series like Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash. Still, with Keller possibly dead and May in the hands of the enemy things are heating up enough that some tonal issues aren’t that problematic.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 6 Episode 4
Some lame jokes aren't enough to derail an exhilarating S.H.I.E.L.D.