The latest episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "The Other Thing," finally started to answer some of this season's most mysterious questions. The first few episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 followed a simple pattern, alternating between Mack's Earth-bound team and Quake's splinter group in space. But the series has never liked to be predictable, and as a result "The Other Thing" runs through both arcs.
"The Other Thing" attempts to divide its time between three plots. In space, Quake and her team are captured by the Chronicoms, and learn just why Fitz has been pursued across the cosmos. On Earth, Doctor Benson is studying the body of the parasitic alien creature killed by Yo-Yo. Meanwhile, Agent May is a prisoner of Sarge, the Coulson doppelganger who's never even heard of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Episode 5 is largely an attempt to progress the season's plot, but it carefully avoids infodumps, and staggers the reveals across each arc. It's generally pretty effective.
The episode ends with the various S.H.I.E.L.D. groups reuniting, with Quake forced to leave Fitz and Simmons in space and return to Earth; meanwhile, Agent May calls in to report that she's successfully returning to base, having captured Sarge and Snow. Meanwhile, Doctor Benson comes up with a long shot idea that may shed further light upon the alien threats S.H.I.E.L.D. is facing. Let's take a look at the answered, and unanswered, questions.
12. What Is Sarge?
The mystery of Sarge's identity is central to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 - and "The Other Thing" dropped an important clue. It seems that, despite his Coulson-like appearance, Sarge is no human being. In conversation with May, he reveals that he's lived for hundreds of years already, and expects to live for hundreds of years after May is dead.
11. What Is The Connection Between Coulson And Sarge?
The revelation that Sarge is impossibly ancient subtly transforms the story of the entire season. The question is no longer why Sarge looks like Phil Coulson; it's why Coulson was identical to a cosmic traveler who's been battling against an alien race for centuries. The mystery is further deepened when May notices that they share certain turns of phrase; "Every dream is someone else's nightmare," and "The tick of the clock is only getting louder." It's interesting to note that this link seems to have manifested as Coulson was dying, because so far Sarge hasn't used any phrases viewers have seen in previous seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
10. What Are The Shrike?
It seems the parasitic aliens Sarge is hunting are known as the Shrike, and they settle upon a world, infiltrating it and then destroying it. There seems to be no comic book precedent at all for the Shrike, and they seem to be named after a predatory race of birds that are native to Eurasia and Africa. Shrikes are known for their habit of catching insects and small vertebrates and impaling them on thorns, the spikes of fences, or any available sharp point. This helps them tear into the flesh of their prey, and serves as a cache so the shrike can store its food.
9. Who Is The Shrike's Creator?
According to Sarge, the Shrike are an artificial race who serve an unknown Creator. Sarge's real target is this Creator, who only arrives on a planet when his creatures are well-established there. Given the Shrike don't appear to have any links to the comics, it will be fascinating to see if their Creator does. Whoever or whatever this being is, they seem to be the true villain of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6.
8. How Do The Shrike Destroy A World?
As revealed in last week's episode 4, "Code Yellow," the Shrike take possession of a host by forcing themselves down a person's mouth. Once inside the body, they attack themselves to the cardiovascular system and flood the body with a potent neurotoxin. This kills the host, transforming them into a zombie piloted by the alien. The neurotoxon is a potent accelerant, but it's not just deployed as a self-defense mechanism. Doctor Benson deduces that a release of this energy at a leyline could literally shatter an entire planet. Presumably the footage S.H.I.E.L.D. retrieved from Sarge showed his team fleeing just before a world was ended by the Shrike.
7. How Are The Shrike Connected To The Monoliths?
When a Shrike dies, its body is transformed into a crystalline form - one that Yo-Yo recognizes. It seems there's some sort of connection between the Shrike and the Monoliths seen in previous seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. These Monoliths had previously been believed to be of Kree origin; a Monolith in season 3 allowed instantaneous transport between two worlds, while another seen in season 5 could be used for time travel. It's possible that the Kree were never the creators of the Monoliths at all, but that they were fashioned by the same being who made the Shrikes.
6. Have The Shrike Been On Earth Before?
If the Shrike really are connected to the Monoliths, then it suggests that they've been on Earth before - and possibly even originate from this planet. Supporting this theory is the fact they seem to be associated with the word "Pachakutiq," an Incan term that Doctor Benson translates as "the Death of Everything." Pachacuti Inca Yupanci was the ninth Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cusco, which he transformed into the Incan Empire; he was a cruel but brilliant military leader who was known for destroying the old and giving birth to the new.
5. Did The Shrike Destroy The Chronicom Homeworld?
Meanwhile, in space, Quake and her team learn that the Chronicom homeworld, Chronica II, has been destroyed. The ancient race of the Chronicoms have been watching strange, destructive phenomenon on distant planets, minor distortions in the fabric of space that release a plague that ultimately consumes the world. They didn't expect the same thing to happen to them. The account matches perfectly with a Shrike attack, although it's difficult to imagine how the creatures could inhabit a Chronicom.
4. Has The Confederacy Been Destroyed?
Last season's villains were an ancient alien Confederacy, comprised of six races: the Kree, the Kallusians, the Astrans, the Remorath, the Rajaks, and an unknown sixth species. They were established as a threat that had been lurking in the shadows since 2012's The Avengers, and although they failed to conquer Earth, they were left with good reason to seek revenge on S.H.I.E.L.D.. However, in an unexpected twist, it seems the Confederacy were defeated off-screen. The Confederacy made the mistake of attempting to take advantage of the Chronicoms in their hour of need, and they were easily defeated, their entire fleet captured by the Chronicoms.
3. Can Fitz And Simmons Crack Time Travel?
The Chronicoms are seeking to save their homeworld by rewriting history. They know that S.H.I.E.L.D. succeeded in saving Earth from destruction by using time travel, and they want to do the same. Unfortunately, of course, because the timeline was changed Fitz and Simmons have never actually worked out how to travel through time, and they'd need a Monolith in order to pull it off.
2. Has Enoch Really Betrayed Fitz?
Episode 5 apparently sees Enoch betray S.H.I.E.L.D., much to Fitz's fury. He tells the Chronicoms that Fitz would do anything for Simmons, and at the end of the episode he released some sort of knockout gas in Fitz's cell, knocking him out. While this certainly seems like a betrayal, it's entirely possible that Enoch was actually working to keep the whole S.H.I.E.L.D. team alive. The Chronicom seem to have successfully captured the Confederacy vessels with ease, so presumably in all-out battle even Daisy Johnson would be outclassed.
1. What Does Deke Have To Do With All This?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 promoted Jeff Ward to a series regular, and his character Deke was finally brought back in the previous episode, "Code Yellow." Surprisingly, though, he was again relegated to the background in episode 5, undergoing medical treatment after injuries sustained last week. It all feels rather odd, perhaps suggesting that Deke will be a key player in the the rest of the season. Originating from a future in which humanity interacted with alien races, it's entirely possible Deke has heard rumors of the Shrike and their ways. Naturally, in Deke's timeline, the Shrike never came (or came back?) to Earth - there was no planet for them to return to. But that doesn't mean he couldn't have heard of them, and thus give S.H.I.E.L.D. an edge with unexpected knowledge.