Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review: “Spacetime”

(Episode 3.15)

TV Reviews
Share Tweet Submit Pin
<i>Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.</i> Review: &#8220;Spacetime&#8221;

Ohhhh, spacetime. Are you a comic book superhero? A Doctor Who companion? Matthew McConaughey? Did you ever get the feeling that math and physics are personally conspiring against you? Then you’re probably in a battle of wills with spacetime.

It works kind of like this: we are three-dimensional beings only able to acknowledge height, width, and depth at the same time. Unfortunately for our human brains there are additional dimensions that we aren’t so good at comprehending. One of these is spacetime, which is simply an expression of the fact that space (height, width, and depth) and time are inseparable, mathematically speaking. So even though we experience time as a chronological succession of moments, spacetime tells us that all moments are actually occurring at the same time. What we perceive as a constantly variable future is actually predetermined and happening right now. At the same time you read this article, you’re also reading next week’s article and having your fifth birthday party and quitting your job. It’s a kind of scientific argument against freewill—a scientific argument for the concept of fate. Or as Fitz says, “If you saw the future, then that’s the future.”

Whether this idea comforts, confuses, or scares you, if all of your peaks through spacetime involve the death of friends and family that’s going to get a bit overwhelming. It’s not hard to see how Charles Hinton—newly introduced inhuman—may not come to the happiest end. Given the Sarah McLachlan music video we started last night’s episode with, it’s pretty safe to assume he hit rock bottom long before we met him.

A lot of times the abilities of Inhumans focus on the concept of power. Daisy has power over energy fields. Lincoln has power over electricity. Anti-Ward has power over… well, I’m not exactly sure, but whatever those things are, they leave you looking like a prop corpse from Mars Attacks, so for now let’s just settle on life and death. Meanwhile, Charles is the first Inhuman we’ve met who is distinctly powerless. I mean even Raina got spiky quills. What he has instead is knowledge, which despite Anti-Ward’s implications otherwise, isn’t quite the same thing.

Knowing the future isn’t the same as having power over it, which is pretty much the central conflict in tonight’s episode. Despite Fitz’s early episode explanation about not being able to change anything, Daisy and the team seem hell bent on preventing Daisy’s visions from coming to pass. These kind of plotlines can be a bit tricky. As human beings we are a bit in love with the idea of our own autonomy and freewill, so telling us that it’s all an illusion isn’t a great way to stop anyone from doing anything. This is compounded further by our knowledge that Agents works with a whole team of writers who, quite literally, predestine anything that will happen to our characters. It can make episodes where one tries to “fight fate” feel a bit futile.

Agents does a great job of side stepping this issue altogether. Instead of focusing on what happens in Daisy’s visions, our team chooses to focus on what’s missing. May is a variable, so it makes sense to try using her to subvert fate, and watching our agents use old school theatre rehearsal practices to get May moving faster is pretty funny and pretty effective. In fact, it seems like it’ll be easy to avoid the visions Charles and Daisy shared up until right before May is about to leave. While I love that Agents didn’t let the Lash-on-the-run plotline drag out too long, I will say that this moment is where the episode fell just short of perfect for me. We knew that something would ultimately keep May from being able to go on the mission, but even Cavalry herself insists that the mission is more important than hanging out with Andrew. It’s sweet of Coulson to be concerned over May’s future feelings of guilt, but when you’re intentionally trying to foil future visions, scrapping your plan in favor of doing exactly what the visions say you will is not going to get the lifesaving results you want. It’s a weak move that pretty much guarantees the visions will play out exactly as Daisy saw them.

So maybe it’s a good thing that Daisy isn’t so great at interpreting the things she sees. This is exactly why seeing the future is an inherently powerless situation because no matter how much of it you see, there are always other elements at play. Motivations, thoughts, and feelings all add up to information that can’t be known through visions, so interpreting what a specific vision actually is can be more than difficult. Daisy’s interpretations of her visions are often flat out wrong, and sometimes even we as the audience want to smack her upside the head for assuming things we know are unlikely. I mean honestly, Daisy, your pseudo-father who still has trouble symbolically separating you from “Skye” is not going to just shoot you. He’s just not.

Fate isn’t always what we interpret it to be, and this is the crux of the problem. So it’s important to remember tonight as Anti-Ward drones on and on about the meaning of true power, as he insists that the only way to feel truly powerful is to take someone else’s power from them—which ew, gross and kind of rapey—and as he chooses to make fashion choices inspired by 2002’s Equilibrium, spacetime already has his number. His doom has already happened, is currently happening even as his power rises. Because even the most powerful being on the planet can’t outrun math and physics. The laws of the universe always win in the end. So in that way, yeah. I guess knowledge is power.

Katherine Siegel is a Chicago-based freelance writer and director and a regular contributor to Paste. You can find out more by checking out her website, or follow her on Twitter.