This week Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns to the tried and tested formula of “case of the week” storytelling, which after the last few weeks unfocused episodes is a welcome break. Why “Spacetime” is so enjoyable is that not only is the A-story well structured and original enough to feel exciting, but it dovetails naturally with the overall season arc without feeling forced – a sign of any good standalone episode.
This week the team are called to a case involving Charles Hinton (Bjorn Johnson), a homeless Inhuman with the power to grant visions of the future to anybody he touches. It’s his encounter with local restaurant owner Edwin (Wolfgang Bodison) that draws the attention of the team through S.H.I.E.L.D.’s monitoring of police scanners, when Edwin specifically mentions Daisy and HYDRA.
Upon arriving at the scene and questioning Edwin, the group discover he had been shown the exact moment they are currently standing in. His warning of HYDRA proves prophetic when Malick’s Inhuman abduction craft sweeps in, killing Edwin, causing destruction and abducting Charles in the process, but not before Daisy tries to save him, grabbing his hand and receiving her own vision of the future.
We get flashes of Daisy fighting a room full of goons; Charles dying on top of a building; Lincoln covered in blood. The images are broken and the team sets to work on piecing together what they mean and what Malick intends to do with the Inhuman prophet.
As the team learn more about Charles, we learn more about the nature of perceiving the future and it becomes clear through both Fitz’s explanation of unchangeable futures and Charles’s inability to prevent any of the visions he shares with his unwilling victims that the team must essentially play out what they have seen. Daisy refuses to step aside and let events play out how they do, so Coulson grounds her – if she stays in the base, they’ve immediately changed events.
As the others try to pinpoint the location of the vision, Coulson orders May to take the mission, leading to the very clever idea of Daisy teaching her future fight to May; the team blocking and rehearsing it to a time limit is a highlight of the episode and only one of the many clever ideas that “Spacetime” showcases.
Elsewhere, Malick takes the newly refreshed Hive above ground for the first time where we see the creature already starting to supercede him. Its questions on power, and what a man with a 9.2 billion fortune and unlimited influence could possibly be craving are well placed and directly address the pointless concept of world domination. What does it actually get someone?
As Malick and Hive acquire the Transia Corporation with the help of Charles (and with gruesome results) we see the steps towards Daisy’s vision slowly coming to fruition. Which reminds us, S.H.I.E.L.D. seem really blasé about the discovery of Wards corpse walking around with an alien inside it. Kind of a massive deal, isn’t it? More of reaction would have been nice.
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. the unexpected, and convenient, return of Andrew Garner forces Coulson to pull May off mission. Garners Lash form is about to manifest permanently and he’s come to say his goodbyes. His conversation with May about how his urge to kill must serve some higher reason is an intriguing link to Lincoln’s explanation that all Inhuman abilities have a deliberate design to fill an evolutionary need…
With Daisy now back on Mission, her, Lincoln and the others set out to rescue Charles as they, and the audience can only watch helplessly as every piece of the future starts to play out before us. It’s here that the episode loses its final star as it is baffling why Daisy rehearsed an entire fight and goes through all the struggle to make it in time when she has superpowers. One change of mind to blast her way through Transia and the future would have been changed. Slightly forced plotting, but does otherwise give us a brilliant one take fight as she takes out the grunts as practiced.
Unfortunately, it’s all in vain, Hive and Malick escape; and Charles dies, but not before giving Daisy another vision whereby it’s implied, that she will be the person on board the exploding spaceship come seasons end…or maybe not… if they can perhaps change events.
“Spacetime” is a great example of what season 3 implied in its premiere – Inhuman case-of-the-week episodes that connect to a larger picture. This simple approach could have tidied up pacing and ejected a lot of dud moments this year if it had just arrived a bit earlier in the season.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is currently airing on E4, Sundays at 9pm