What is an LMD like you doing in a slightly altered past like this? “Out of the Past” is the film-noir tribute that the producers of “Agents of SHIELD” have probably wanted to do since one of them first mentioned time-travel. Fortunately, it’s a fun roll through the genre. It also packs a little more into the look at racism and sexism that “Alien Commies From The Future!” started. The future also gets a gift from the past that is pretty spoilery, so we’ll talk about that later.
Due to the EMP device shorting out his circuits last week, Coulson (Clark Gregg) can only see in black & white and can hear a narration of his surroundings in his head. This quirk sets up the entire episode being a tribute to 1950’s cinema noir. It’s a genre that may be losing color with the passing years (no pun intended), but it is still fun to watch. It doesn’t hurt that Coulson and Gregg seem like men out of their time, who might have fit in better to the era the episode pays homage.
The team, especially Deke (Jeff Ward), continues to notice the amount of sexism and racism in the past. Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) points out that you can either accept the status quo or work to change it. It’s a subtle message that gets somewhat lost in Deke’s pledge to work to change it, but it is there. One can’t help but think that, had events of the past few weeks occurred before filming this season; the message might have been a little louder.
What is happening with Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) could be an excellent thing, but it is also hard to watch at the same time. Becoming the Deanna Troi of Agents of SHIELD would undoubtedly give the team some benefits it’s never had before. Still, watching her walk up to Coulson and realize that she feels nothing from him is a gut punch. I was holding out hope last week that the change in eye color signified a path back to human status for Coulson. We seem to be getting further and further away from that and as such Coulson and May’s relationship. Hopefully, there is a way back for these two, but it doesn’t feel like it right now.
Of course, we need to take a minute to talk about Enoch’s (Joel Stoffer) treatment in this episode. Left behind in the 1930s and working in Koenig’s (Patton Oswald) bar, it’s a thrilling moment to see him again. You might think that the team would also be excited since they seemed to heartbroken to have left him behind in the first place. I am keeping in mind that the Agents are working on a mission vital to the future, so pleasantries with the Chronicom you haven’t seen in 20 years might not be in order. Still, the dismissiveness shown isn’t that cute. I understand it’s a joke, but considering at the end of the episode, Enoch is still behind the bar; it just wasn’t that funny.
And lastly, the team makes the most significant change to history yet. In the original narrative, Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) meets his end after making a delivery for Howard Stark. In a moment that is sure to be discussed further later, Mack (Henry Simmons) decides that the team has to rescue Sousa. Sure, the circumstances are a little different than the last time the team faced a time-altering decision. Removing Freddie Malick at the point they were at would have prevented Freddie from doing things in the future, namely, starting Hydra. Taking Sousa out of time changes nothing as he couldn’t have done anything more. You can see it on Daisy’s (Chloe Bennet) face, though. The ripples and waves of history are causing some ripples in the Agents of SHIELD.
And then off to the 1970s we go. Or at least it would seem based on the Alice Cooper song at the end of the episode. We’ve got a Sousa to introduce to a new period and a new team. We’ve got a May who can sense the emotions of everyone except the man she loves most. We’ve got a brewing argument between Daisy and Mack. And we still haven’t seen hyde nor hair of Agent Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), the most frustrating fact of all. I mean, who decided to sideline Fitzsimmons for a third of the season? Hopefully, he’ll reappear next week and start righting this wrong.