“What we do here matters.”

As I’ve been writing in one form or another since the Hydra section of the season started, “appearance vs. reality” and the nature of identity, while a staple of fiction since storytellers first regaled their friends around the campfire in an effort to stave off the cold and make the night pass quickly, has always sort of given me the heebie-jeebies. Fire and wind come from the sky… from the gods of the sky. But Crom is your god; Crom, and he lives in the earth. Once, giants lived in the Earth, Conan. And in the darkness of chaos, they fooled Crom, and they took from him the enigma of steel. Crom was angered. And the Earth shook. Fire and wind struck down these giants, and they threw their bodies into the waters, but in their rage, the gods forgot the secret of steel and left it on the battlefield. We who found it are… just men. Not gods. Not giants. Just men. The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one… no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts. This you can trust.

You know? To thine own self be true, Polonius. This “who am I?” thing has been going on for a while, and with the modern political climate, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has just stopped being cute and is addressing its Real World American Hydra metaphor head-on, now. “Nevertheless, she persisted.” Come on; that’s great.

Anyway, this is a little disjointed, I know. I was never one for straightforward recaps as a rule, and I always sit down to write with the assumption you’ve seen the episode already because A., if you haven’t, why are you reading my thoughts on it, and 2., if you need a recap, a hundred people do that already online two hours before the show airs on the West Coast, so you don’t need <me. I give the observations only I can give, right? Real-world deep thoughts, cheap shots, and bon mots that only come from me, and not any sort of digital hologram of a replica of a copy of good ol’ Lar, right?

Well, funny you should bring that up.

You know how I know I live in the real world? I’ve been following this show since before it started. I have loved the concept of S.H.I.E.L.D. since I first picked up a comic book with them in it. The American James Bond? What’s not to like? So, I followed the comics and I soaked up the movies and I fell in love with Agent Coulson like everyone else in the audience, and I felt like I had personally won some sort of international race when they announced the guy who killed Phil in the movies was writing the pilot to the show and I followed every episode through highs and lows and good decisions and bad and like any sap I started to really care about the fictional adventures of these characters.

Season Four has been frankly excellent, you ask me, and the kids seem to think so, too, with its word-of-mouth causing ratings to go up percentage points weekly, so people are responding to it. But as an old man with a wife and a kid and a mortgage, I always found it a little funny I looked forward to what my friends on S.H.I.E.L.D. were getting up to on Tuesday night moreso than just enjoying an ep of Modern Family or Designated Survivor or whatnot to relax and end the day. I’m not a loon, but maybe as a S.H.I.E.L.D. fan from way back, my suspension of disbelief in its fictional word was a little easier to explain. And then my fictional pals enter a fictional realm, and that’s where the existential and metaphysical fun starts, because then just a guy on the couch as his wife and kid are asleep at 10 pm Tuesday night after a long day (come on, ABC, an adventure show in a Tuesday-at-ten death slot is going up in the ratings? Surely that isn’t lost on you) starts to seem like Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder: “I know who I am! I’m a dude, playing the dude, disguised as another dude!” You start to wonder where the line of consumer of entertainment is, and content generator, and context provider, and producer and all, and you’re wrapped up in the show and you really love Jason O’Mara’s work and you know The Patriot is the Captain America stand-in (in the comics and the show) and seriously the American version of Life on Mars is better than the UK one and I know that won’t make me any friends but dang! the SFX for this ep are great with the Hydra Triskelion establishing shots and the quintets and Jesus! they just dropped a building on The Patriot and he’s holding up the building to get the kids out and he knows he’s everyone’s last hope and he’s putting his money where his mouth is that real or not what he does matters and Phil is telling May to snap out of it and you can see she kind of does and who isn’t emotionally invested at this point and and and

Our sixteen pound cat with the penchant for eating Nerf bullets my kid isn’t great about picking up when we battle starts coughing up a cat-barf pancake made of roof tar and old coins and foam Nerf bullets and chewed up Christmas cards and LEGO pieces and all. She’s got a problem, and now she’s puking it everywhere. She sounds like some Atlanta fan in the last two minutes of this year’s Super Bowl, but up and down the hallway from the living room where I am watching a supremely emotional moment in a show I love so much down the hall in a feline drama of hacking that wakes up the missus who is understandably worried about our Matter-Eater Lad of a cat right when The Patriot and Agent May are exchanging meaningful looks and I’ve thrown paper towels down and I’m going to clean it up but my wife is bustling half awake down the way and letting all the air out of the scene and I yell up the hall: “Honey! I’ll clean up the puke, but can you give me a second? The Patriot is about to die.”

And that’s how I know I’m in the Real World, because any sort of computer algorithm designed to remove regrets would never throw in Personal Cat Barf Opera in the last five minutes of one of my favorite shows.\

But, oh…. that smirk Daisy gets just before her face is covered by the Terrigen husk. She knows the Riddle of Steel.

Bit of housekeeping: this is my one hundredth column, writing for Spunkybean. I can’t thank EJ and Myndi enough for letting me play in their sandbox, and I can’t thank you readers of me scribblins here enough, either. I appreciate you all letting me into your brains, five or six hundred words at a time. Hope you were cajoled and entertained with pathos and joy and fervor and outrage, and I’ll keep doing so as long as they let me. See you next week.



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