Set the confrontations, revelations, and potential deaths of last week’s exciting episode, because this week gave us perhaps the best Agents of SHIELD episode ever! “4,722 Hours” finally showed us what happened to Simmons after she was sucked into the monolith in an episode that was dramatic, exciting, scary, heartbreaking, and highly emotional, with constantly unexpected twists and turns that will no doubt have a huge impact on the season ahead. It was one of the boldest episodes imaginable, completely unlike anything we’ve seen from the show before, and it was all anchored by an absolutely stunning performance by Elizabeth Henstridge. So let’s go ahead and get sucked into the portal of “4,722 Hours”, written by Craig Titley and directed by Jesse Bochco.
The episode opens with the final moments of the season 2 finale, as Simmons and Fitz plan their date before she is sucked into the monolith. She is spit out on an alien world and after desperately trying to dig her way back to the portal she starts to take stock of her situation. She adorably leaves audio notes for herself on her phone, like a true scientist, and after sleeping on the situation decides to set off in search of water before she dies of dehydration, leaving behind her necklace and an arrow of rocks as a marker for when Fitz comes to rescue her. The sun never appears on this world, and after a while the constant twilight starts to wear on her. Just as she starts to reach the 100 hour threshold for survival without water, a massive storm rolls through, burying her in the sand but leaving a small pool of water behind. She drinks her fill and then floats lazily in the water, finally feeling like she might stand a chance, when something pulls her under. She struggles to the edge of the pool, climbing out with a tentacle wrapped around her leg. She grabs a rock and hacks away at it, finally cutting herself free and providing her first opportunity for food as she reluctantly takes a bite of the slimy monster.
Favorite Quote: Simmons: “You’re dinner, biatch!”
She waits as long as she can by the pool before deciding the only path to survival is eating a beast that wants to eat her. She fashions a makeshift weapon and wades into the pool and waiting to be dragged beneath the surface, she emerges moments later, triumphantly dragging the carcass back onto the land. She builds a fire and feasts, determined to never give up because she knows Fitz never will. After a month on the alien world she follows a sound into a forest of something vaguely like bamboo but falls through a hole in the ground into a cage in a cave, where a mysterious figure keeps her locked up. Surprisingly, the figure speaks English, asking “Still here?” after returning to check on Simmons. She tries to engage him but he simply walks away, leaving Simmons to do pull-ups from her cage bars like a badass. He eventually brings her food, though he isn’t convinced that she’s real, and when he returns later Simmons is lying on the ground, apparently poisoned. When he opens the cage door to check on him she attacks him, having faked the poisoning, and makes a break for it. Unfortunately, she takes a tumble and gashes her leg. The man catches up to her, covering her wound because “It smells blood,” and leading her back to the cave.
Simmons stitches up her leg without painkillers or antiseptics, and they start to talk. It turns out the man is a NASA pilot named Will, who was sent through the portal in 2001 with a group of scientists to study this new world. He was only supposed to be gone a year, but things went south pretty quickly. All of their equipment was solar powered, not much use on a planet that never sees the sun, and eventually the evil of the planet drove his companions mad until they killed themselves. The final one destroyed the gear and the camp before attacking Will, forcing Will to kill him and leaving him alone. He’s avoided the mysterious “it” that lives on the planet and kills and drives people mad merely by luck and avoiding the “no fly zone” he’s outlined on the map where the creature lives.
Simmons, ever a ray of sunshine, offers to work with Will to help them both get home, being the hope that balances out his constant vision of doom. The pair bond while working on ways to survive and return, but Simmons spends most of her down time either talking about Fitz or looking at his picture and video on her phone (which has a battery designed by Fitz to last for ages). She says goodnight to Fitz every night before bed, though she starts saying goodnight to Will too eventually. One day while out exploring Simmons ventures into the “no fly zone” and discovers the bones of a long-dead human, complete with a sword, a bottle of wine, and box containing a sextant. A storm comes up without warning, and inside the storm she thinks she sees a cloaked figure coming towards her. She flees, scraping her head and hiding behind a rock, using some mud to mask the smell of her blood (the scene we saw earlier this season). She meets up with Will and the two of them take shelter back in their cave, where she confronts him about the fact that he knew about the others who had been sent through and didn’t tell her. Regardless, she thinks the sextant she found will prove to be their ticket home.
Favorite Quote: Will: (about the heat in the cave walls) “I think it’s the fires of hell.” Simmons: “Ok, then…”
Using Will’s hand-drawn map, the battery from her phone, and the 2001 NASA computer, Simmons plots out the movement of their end of the portal, which has traveled across the landscape thanks to the planet’s rotation. She predicts its next opening, which is a 40 hour hike away across a canyon. They set off with an improvised harpoon gun to cross the canyon and a message in a bottle in case they can’t make it into the portal, but when they reach the canyon it’s hundreds of feet wider than they thought it would be. There’s no way they could slide across. As a last ditch effort, Will loads the bottle into his launcher, and when the portal opens they fire it across the chasm, but it closes just before the bottle makes it and it smashes to pieces on the rocks. The message didn’t get through, the computer is now permanently dead so they won’t be able to predict more portal openings, and hope is now finally gone. “This is hell,” Simmons says, giving up all hope. And as Will holds her while she cries, she turns to him and they kiss.
A while later, the couple has settled into a relatively normal domestic life. They’ve moved their cots together, Simmons has retrieved her necklace from its place marking her arrival, and they’re preparing to watch their first sunrise on the planet, a feat that won’t happen again for 18 years due to their location on the pole. Will even retrieved that bottle of wine from the graveyard in the no fly zone for them to share. Only after a couple centuries it tastes like vinegar. As they get ready to enjoy the dawn, out of nowhere a flare appears in the sky. Simmons immediately shouts out “Fitz!” and begins running towards it. She won’t leave without Will, though, but things take a dark turn as a storm kicks up out of nowhere and the mysterious figure of death appears. Will stays behind with one bullet left in his gun while Simmons stumbles blindly through the sand until she hears Fitz’s voice calling to her. She hears one solitary gunshot and calls out for Will, but Fitz grabs her and brings her back to Earth, as we saw so dramatically a few episodes ago.
Back in the present and in Simmons room, she has just finished telling Fitz the story. She laments that she doesn’t know if Will is alive or dead, but knows she could never have survived without him, and she has to go back to find him if she can. “Talk to me, Fitz. Please,” she begs, tears in her eyes, but he gets up and walks out. Simmons follows and finds him in the lab, assuming he won’t talk to her because of her feelings for Will. But Fitz is pouring through her notes on the monolith fragments, and working away on the computer. He shows her what he’s working on, and as tears roll down her face he tells her, “We’re gonna get him back.” Cut to Will, still alive but with an empty pistol, forlornly watching the sun rise for just a few brief moments, all alone.
Favorite Quote: Will: (about Fitz) “His name is like your favorite word.”
Holy shit, that was a hell of an episode! I hardly know where to start. Elizabeth Henstridge really knocked it out of the park this week. She spent the first half of the episode entirely alone, and was simply captivating to watch. Simmons faced a plethora of emotions in this episode, and Henstridge portrayed them all in a way that felt completely relatable and really helped to ground what was perhaps SHIELD’s most fantastical episode yet. From the fear, desperation, and anger at her situation to her sadness over losing Fitz to her triumphant moment defeating the tentacle monster, it was such a rollercoaster for both character and actress. If this doesn’t get submitted to Emmy voters at some point, there’s simply no justice in the world. It’s always great to watch characters we know and love pushed to the limit and thrown outside of anything they’ve known in order to see what they’re really made of. I never had any doubt that Simmons would find a way to survive, but it was still a joy to watch her kick ass and survive despite her relative lack of field work.
Of course, Simmons wasn’t alone. It’s a mark of the quality of the writing in this episode and the show in general, as well as the performance of Dillon Casey, that Will’s appearance and eventual connection to Simmons felt natural and interesting rather than forced and awkward. After just 20 minutes or so of screentime I found myself caring about Will and what will happen to him, and rooting for FitzSimmons to bring him back. I know not everyone is going to agree with that, but I thought the pair had a good chemistry and the ebb and flow of their relationship (viewed through small glimpses of months spent together) was enjoyable to watch develop.
But the wrinkle here is FitzSimmons. It’s a wrinkle that has led to some pretty angry responses among the small section of fandom with whom I interact. Some people are angry at Simmons for hooking up with Will, or are even slut-shaming her, which is asinine and ridiculous. When that bottle shattered, Simmons lost all hope (we heard her discussing it with Andrew last week), and in an effort to feel anything positive at all and get whatever comfort she could, she turned to Will. And while he was the only person available, that doesn’t mean she didn’t develop feelings for him during their time together. I’ve seen arguments that Fitz would have never done that had the situation been reversed, but we have no way of knowing, and it’s insane to blame Simmons for her actions given her situation. Plus she’s a grown woman and can do what she wants. She doesn’t owe Fitz.
But on a larger scale, I’ve seen a lot of hate directed at those behind the show for all aspects of Will’s existence. People feel like his appearance in the story takes away from Simmons in some way, as if she only survived because of his intervention when she clearly could have survived on her own. I think Will’s appearance serves a variety of storytelling purposes. It gives Simmons a reason to go back, and allows her ordeal to have a longer effect on the season-long storyline without feeling run into the ground. And, of course, we don’t know what the writers have planned. But beyond that, a lot of people have been complaining about the unnecessary insertion of a “love triangle” into the story. While I definitely would not call it a “love triangle” at this point in the story, it makes no sense for a series with hopefully many years still ahead of it to have Fitz and Simmons live happily ever after at the beginning of season three. In order for the relationship to remain dramatically interesting, there has to be conflict and obstacles for them to overcome to avoid stagnation. I have no doubt that FitzSimmons is the endgame goal, and I doubt the writers would ever take that away from us, so I don’t worry about Will coming between the pair for a while. I don’t want the show to turn into Twilight, and I don’t think that’ll happen, but the current situation feels earned and it takes the relationship into new territory.
(Of course, none of that heals how heartbreaking it was to watch Fitz spring so quickly into action in order to make Simmons happy, even if it means rescuing Will and ending his chance at romance with Simmons. That’s devotion right there.)
Favorite Quote: Simmons: “I’m gonna eat in the shower and fall asleep while doing it.”
I’m still left with so many questions, especially about what the mysterious creature was that so terrorized those who went through the portal. Will called it “Death” but also felt like it was a manifestation of the planet. I imagine this threat will be more important than just a monster on another world to be left behind. Does the planet itself have some role to play, or will this monster/man find its way to earth and unleash hell? Given the Kree connection, and its design as a way to end the Inhumans, might it be some kind of Inhuman hunter? Or maybe it’s an Inhuman that was sucked through the Portal and has been exiled for ages. I somehow doubt that Will killed it. Of course, given its ability to mimic others (it disguised itself as an astronaut to Simmons), might it have killed Will and assumed his appearance? So very many questions, and we might have to wait a little while to get some answers.
In my opinion, this was the best episode of SHIELD yet, and it really showed the strength of the characters and the universe the team behind the show has created. Stripped of all of the dangling plot strands, no HYDRA, no ATCU, no Inhumans (that we know if), no Ward, no May, no Andrew, no Coulson, no Daisy, no Bobbi and Hunter, this episode still managed to feel like it 100% belonged to the show we’ve come to love. Yet it was something we’ve never seen before, in an unfamiliar setting, with one solitary character for half the episode who was then joined by a stranger. Without two seasons of history to back it up, this episode would never have been as powerful as it was. We wouldn’t have felt as deeply as Simmons lamented being apart from Fitz, or been as devastated when Simmons finally lost all hope. You can’t care about what happens until you’ve grown to care about it, and despite the story being so separate from the rest of the show, every moment through 49 episodes helped build the foundation upon this episode was built. So kudos to everyone involved with the show up to this point, it’s quite an achievement.
What do you think? Did you enjoy “4,722 hours”? How fantastic was Elizabeth Henstridge? Was the true story of what happened to Simmons what you expected? Could anything be better than Simmons killing that creature and shouting, “You’re dinner, biatch!”? What did you think of Will? Are you upset about Simmons’ relationship with him? Do you think she’ll find a way back? What will she find when she gets there? Where in the universe were they? What is the monster with such mysterious powers? Where does this episode rank all-time for the series? Am I the only one who wants to give both Simmons and Fitz a hug? (And am I the only one who dug the way the Agents of SHIELD title card was presented this week?) Let me know in the comments!