Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 7 Episode 11 “Brand New Day”
Director: Keith Potter
Starring: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Elizabeth Henstridge, Henry Simmons, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Jeff Ward, Joel Stoffer
Runtime: 45 minutes
The end of any given Shield season is always a rapidly-paced, adrenaline-pumping stretch of television. At these points, the show barely ever slows down to breathe, even though at its best it’s still able to deliver humor and heart amidst the escalating action and plot as whatever the current threat to humanity becomes direr and direr.
“Brand New Day”, which because of the finale being a two-parter is the penultimate episode of both the season and series, doesn’t break with this tradition, per se. It’s full of big plot twists and bigger spectacles as one would expect as the last installment before Shield’s final battle. But it’s also full of a lot of nice, quiet reflection, with several agents pausing to consider how they’ve grown as individuals and as a group in the last seven years, as it becomes more and more clear that one way or another their time together is going to come to an end soon.
Let’s start with what is arguably the biggest development to come out of the episode which is that Fitz is back! Sort of. As Malick uses the Tahiti memory machine to search Simmons’ mind for any hints as to where her husband is hiding, we’re treated to some choice Fitzsimmons clips from past seasons before moving on to new content. Simmons’ mind eventually comes to memories of what happened to her and Fitz between when Enoch saved them from the Hunter Chronicoms invading the Lighthouse in the Season 6 finale and when she arrived at Izel’s temple to pick up the rest of the team for the time travel mission later that same episode. As has been hinted since the last finale, while this was a very short stretch of time for everyone else (probably hours at most) it was significantly longer for Fitzsimmons and Enoch. One of the new scenes shows Fitz losing confidence in their ability to build a functioning time machine. Enoch encourages him by pointing out that since they are making a time machine, they can take as long as they need to do so properly and still be able to get the others from the same moment. Fitz is taken with this idea and suggests to Simmons that they take advantage of it by spending some time to just live together for a while and then get back to focusing on saving their friends and the world. Ominously, Simmons asks him if his decision was motivated by “the blood work”. The final flashback shows them preparing to install Diana the implant in Simmons’ head, which she is refusing to do, saying that she doesn’t want to forget (what precisely she would forget isn’t revealed) but Fitz insists it’s the only way she’ll be able to function and help the team save everything. Clearly, the show wants us to go back to thinking Fitz is already dead and while I still doubt that’s the case, the scenes’ foreboding tones do a good job of making it seem like a real possibility. Regardless, it’s delightful just to see Iain De Caestecker, who is just as great in the role as ever.
Back at the Lighthouse, an outraged Daisy attacks Kora when she is brought in as a prisoner, before Mack orders her to calm down, after which Kora makes the baffling declaration that she wants to join Shield. This is really just her dramatic way of making the agents a Sith-like offer to join up with Malick’s crew, arguing that the violence they’ve committed was a means to achieve the goal of creating a better world. She also points out how a lot of the radical changes to history that have occurred since the conflict between Shield and the Chronicoms broke out have already created a new timeline. Given that Daisy didn’t fade out of existence when Jiaying was killed, along with all the other major changes that Shield has failed to prevent, this had started to seem like a given but it’s a still big deal to have it confirmed and it lends support to a popular fan theory that the agents being in a different timeline will be used to explain away the obvious discrepancies between the later seasons of Shield and the MCU films. In short, many fans have believed that since somewhere around the end of Season 5 Shield already has been taking place in a timeline separate from the MCU’s given that major events like Thanos’ snap from Avengers: Infinity War or the 5 year time jump from Endgame have never been acknowledged by the show. This still might not wind up being the case (Kora’s explanation suggests that the agents would only have been in the altered timeline since some point after when they first went back in time) but it makes it seem more likely that something similar is going on.
While she delivers a big revelation, the rest of the episode’s Kora material mostly continues to fall flat. It tries to set up some sort of battle for her soul, with Shield questioning whether she can be taken off the dark path she’s started down but there’s so much venom in Dianne Doan’s performance that it’s hard to buy the idea that she’s anything other than a true believer in Malick and the Chronicoms’ cause, regardless of the rushed manner in which she came to be one. It’s also just plain hard to care what happens to the character one way or another when she was only introduced a couple of episodes ago and the character that would logically care the most about her, Daisy, doesn’t either.
Yes, Daisy might not kill Kora but she doesn’t have any interest in her either, despite their familial connection. While Daisy agrees to make a solo attempt at interrogating Kora, which, as Kora notes, Sibyl knew she would, Daisy does something the Chronicom can’t predict by quickly abandoning any attempt to reason with her sister. She takes a Quinjet to go after the Zephyr accompanied by Sousa, of course, and Mack, who also resolves to do the unexpected by sanctioning one of Daisy’s aggressive strategies for once, rather than condemning it. As she heads off Daisy gives the episode a great “Hell yeah!” moment when she declares that, “I already have a sister to save. Her name is Jemma Simmons.” Meanwhile, the rest of the team continues to try to figure Kora out while also having to deal with Sibyl launching a hacking attack on the Lighthouse.
The Fitzsimmons stuff will have viewers on the edge of their seats but a lot of the episode’s strongest material revolves around other characters, many of whom are coming full circle in their series-long arcs. Daisy tells Mack about the prediction Enoch made that this would be the team’s last mission. Noting how the team became her family, she explains how frightened and heartbroken she is at the prospect of them going their separate ways and that she doesn’t know what she would do without them. But Mack assures her that she’s stronger than she thinks and will have a great life no matter what happens. The Daisy Mack surrogate sibling dynamic has been absent for a while now so it was nice to see it make such a warm return here. Mack continued to give off big brother vibes when he questioned Sousa about his “intentions” for Daisy after she told him about their kiss from during the time loop (even though Sousa himself remains unaware of that). While he says he’s happy that Daisy is ready to try out a new relationship, and thinks Sousa is a good, worthy man, Mack also tells him about how Daisy has been hurt before and that the entire Shield team will come down on him if he hurts her. When Sousa assures him that would never happen, Mack muses about how “the man out of time and Quake” are getting together. Sousa is amused to hear Daisy’s superhero name and while I don’t think the word is as “hilarious” as he convinces Mack it is Enver Gjokaj and Henry Simmons show great chemistry when the two share a laugh about it. It really is incredible how quickly Gokaj and the writers have made Sousa both a crucial part of the show and a worthy love interest for Daisy, and his charisma continues to shine in his later flirty exchange with Chloe Bennet when Sousa playfully mocks “Quake”.
While working on the multitude of threats they’re facing at the moment Coulson and May also take some time to reflect on their new circumstances. Coulson discovers a new ability to intuitively understand and communicate through computer code (I guess he’s now essentially Neo from The Matrix) and May is surprised when he suggests she might have success getting through to Kora. Kora might make a cruel quip about May’s history with unstable Inhumans but today’s May has grown and changed a lot since that fateful mission to Bahrain and her new powers are an appropriate match for her more empathetic outlook. She tells Coulson she has no idea how she became this new version of herself and he is similarly oblivious about the causes of his own changes but also says he likes the new versions of both of them. Coulson and May’s arcs throughout this season have seemed somewhat random but this episode helps them snap into focus and make them feel like appropriate ways to end their stories. And Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen are always great together and handle both the characters’ individual anxieties and the warmth they have for each other with practiced ease.
The quiet scenes are arguably the strongest parts of the episode, but it goes appropriately big at the end, setting up the large scale final conflict that would be the only conceivable way to end Shield. After Malick makes contact with other Chronicoms a fleet of their warships arrive in orbit and begin firing on every Shield base worldwide minus the Lighthouse (including the Triskellion, which is obliterated in one of the season’s largest VFX sequences). At this point, it seems all but certain that the season will end with the agents returning to their original timeline, as the new one has been altered so catastrophically that leaving them there wouldn’t really make for a happy ending. But they have to get through Malick and the Chronicoms first, which would be slightly more daunting if they were more intriguing antagonists. But the most shocking revelation is not related to the larger conflict but to the agents’ family. After Malick releases her from the memory machine and leaves, Jemma begins tending to the injured Deke, who asks her if Malick found Fitz, to which she replies with those devastating two words, “Who’s Fitz?” Say what you want about the writers’ obsession with putting the couple through Hell but they definitely saved the biggest Fitzsimmons cliffhanger for last.
- The choice of Malick and Kora kissing as the ending teaser scene was bizarre. I don’t mean to belabor this point but it’s really hard to imagine why the writers, who have done so well with most of the previous villains have messed up the show’s last ones this badly. But even if they had been well developed up until this point, either the Triskellion explosion or “Who’s Fitz?” would obviously be better choices for the final scene.
- While trying to sway the agents, Kora mentions Grant Ward as a possible target for their assassination campaign, but Coulson is repulsed at the idea, pointing out that he would only be a child at this point in time. I’d guess that that’s the most Ward we’re getting, as I don’t think even two hours would be long enough to reintroduce him and resolve everything else the finale has to.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 7 Episode 11
Shield's penultimate episode manages to deliver both big twists and effective character development.