“Real hand! Not Coulson!”

What is the nature of identity? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has always played with that conceit, either overtly with the Hydra reveal, or more subtly with the various permutations the characters go through. Being a government-sanctioned superspy has identity fluidity as a major perquisite for employment, one assumes.

So the welcome season six shakeup of re-legitimized S.H.I.E.L.D. and alt-verse Fil Coulson, along with this episode’s narrative fake-out of Remorath incursion quickly being revealed to be Deke changing identity once again to Silicon Valley entrepreneur developing a new game platform called “The Framework” is a welcome shake-up of the status quo, indeed.

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of national treasure Clark Gregg, so I love how Sarge is being written and presented. Who knows where “our” Coulson is or even if it matters, when Fil Coulson is kicking alternative universe ass and taking alternative universe names? Me, I love how Gregg is playing Fil as a tamped-down Iid. Everything he says is presented as neutrally ambiguous. Deke says, “Coulson!” and Fil responds, “That’s me?” Deke says, “Why didn’t you call ahead, like a normal person?” and Fil says, “Who wants to be a normal?” Deke: “How did they save your life?” Fil: “I don’t even know. What did they tell you?” Deke: “Dang; they gave you the S.H.I.E.L.D. memory-wipe, I guess.” Fil: “Yeah, I guess.” “What I’m dying to know is how’s Agent… Doug?” “Well, you know. Doug’s Doug.”

Now, setting aside the hilarious alternate universe, tangential call-back to New Doug in Ragnarok, this bit of character non-advancement is genius. It’s getting pretty obvious that Fil and his team are S.W.O.R.D. guys from the next dimension over, fighting Ley Line Crime as they see fit. Hey, give me a season of that and a seventh season of TV S.H.I.E.L.D. letting us know that all MCU stories are true. That it’s all connected, but not how we think. It’s not an issue if Jeph and the boys are that clever, because they are; it’s an issue if Disney/Marvel/ABC will let them do it.

They’ve set it up; the Simcoe guy with the facehugger metal problem wasn’t buying a ticket for Sioux City, Iowa, he was buying a ticket for Sioux City, Nebraska. There isn’t a Sioux City, Nebraska in our dimension; there’s a South Sioux City, Nebraska, but Simcoe’s departure times for his train ticket weren’t any time-stamp we recognize; it’s jumbled numbers. Jumbled numbered time-stamps from a dimension over. Keller says “Sioux City” is a convergence point for three separate ley lines, FYI” like he’s spouting baseball stats or Star Trek trivia. Esoteric facts enthusiasts know. Go figure; Fil Coulson has been “hunting your kind my entire life.” It makes sense he’s S.W.O.R.D.

And here’re some unconnected thoughts:

–“Mister Shaw, I just spoke to HQ. You do not have priority status… Mister Shaw?”

One of the things that drives me nuts and draws me out of the narrative about the newly-legitimized TV S.H.I.E.L.D. is they haven’t made it clear who is running the joint. If Mack is Director, cool, but who is HQ? Who is funding things? Who is mapping missions? Who is paying for the aviation fuel the quintets run on, and who is maintaining them? I don’t care what the in-story answer is, really, other than there actually is one. They don’t talk about infrastructure at all and expect the audience to squint at it? There needs to be a couple throwaway lines like, “Dammit, Goldberg can’t keep these things in the air forever” or “Sixty-four is fifty miles away and twenty-thousand feet up; there’s no help coming” or some crap. Quinjets appearing out of nowhere with no explanation might as well be Harry Potter.

–“Remember when I explained all this out on the playa?” This whole damned episode reads like a bunch of Millennial LA chuckleheads trying to make a comment on the Bay Area, to their detriment. In related news, it’s just too damned precious to have Mrs. Jed, who is an executive producer of the show, to take a job away from a working actor to play Sequoia, a stereotype. Honestly, even, I was fine with the self-indulgence, until the pre-credits tag at the end.

Hey, Other Whedons! Give us more bad-ass Fil Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff and leave your self-reference out of it

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