‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: ‘4722 Hours’ Is a Harrowing Tale of Loss, Survival
Recap and review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 3 Episode 5 – 4722 Hours:
Going into tonight’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I admit I wasn’t expecting all that much. I love Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), but I was worried just how well a solo episode for her might flow. But I still kept my mind open for the possibility that it wouldn’t be bad. However, I never anticipated that “4722 Hours” would end up being one of my favorite episodes of this series ever. It was such a stark departure from convention, telling a harrowing tale of loss and survival, and offering Elizabeth Henstridge a platform for her considerable talent.
The story depicts the six months Simmons spent on the alien planet after getting sucked in through a portal opened by the monolith. The planet is bathed in a blue tint due to the lack of a sun, although the sky has two moons and a litany of stars to look at. Of course, it also has sand storms, weird plant monsters, and an unidentified “something” that’s out there, terrorizing any inhabitants, and slowly driving them to madness. What made such a straightforward story so gripping was the steady erosion of hope. At first, Simmons is confident that Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. will extract her within hours. When that proves fruitless, she resorts to hunting for her own food, discovering water, and building her own camp to wile away the hours, clinging to the belief that Fitz will come save her. She even says goodnight to his picture on the special phone he upgraded for her (because, really, they had to find a way to explain the nearly six months of battery life that crazy thing had). But as the hours became days, days became weeks, and the weeks became months, Simmons begins to wonder if she’ll ever be rescued. It’s a very human story that, at its most elemental level, is very easy to relate to, especially when you consider the uncanny nature of the planet. It’s very close to Earth, with its breathable atmosphere, drinkable water, and edible wild life. And yet, its alien nature keeps it from ever being a place a person from Earth could get used to. This is a planet to be endured, and it inspires a certain hopelessness in the people trapped here. And yes, I said “people”, as Simmons finds herself face-to-face with a mysterious man who, as it turns out, also hails from Earth.
Will (Dillon Casey) is an astronaut who was sent through the portal in 2001, meaning he’s been stuck her for the last 14 years. Initially, he’s portrayed as a bit of a sinister character. For one, he imprisons Simmons for days to see if she’s been infected with the same madness that caused the deaths of the team with whom he came through the portal. Then, he tells the aforementioned story about the unidentified “thing” that’s out there, causing the planet’s inhabitants to lose their minds. In recalling how each of his teammates killed themselves, Will seems to be inviting Simmons (and the audience) to get the wrong idea. Hell, he even comments on it, asking Simmons if she thinks he’s lying. In a self-aware moment, the script acknowledges that we’re all expecting the twist to be that Will was the crazy one, and that he killed his entire team in a fit of madness. And yet, the show is smart enough not to take it in that direction, since it really would have just been a twist for its own sake. Having Will actually be a decent guy is probably the biggest twist of all, and the bond he forms with Simmons is genuinely touching. You could argue that the story doesn’t sell the romantic aspect of it all that well, since there isn’t that much chemistry between them, and they haven’t really known each other for that long. But their initial hookup occurs after they’ve just missed their one shot at making it to the portal home. For Simmons, all hope of seeing Fitz again is lost. So, with that hope gone, she clings to anything that will give her purpose to live. Will is that person, as they basically keep each other alive with their romance, achieving an existence that borders on domestic. Hell, Simmons and Will are even smiling and cracking jokes in-between kisses! It’s a surprisingly affecting love story, made all the more dramatic for how suddenly it’s ripped away. Basically, Fitz comes through the portal to save Simmons, and Will chooses to stay behind to fight off the apparition the planet is creating, thereby giving Simmons a shot at reaching Fitz before the portal closes. And “apparition” is basically just a guess on my part, right now, since it’s hard to tell if the ghost astronaut is its own entity or simply an image the planet is projecting. Either way, it’s a terrifying image that’s all the more stressful for being added to the time-sensitive mission of getting to the portal. I mean, seriously, I’ve been wanting Fitz and Simmons to get together since Day 1, but damned if I wasn’t rooting for Will to make it to the portal too.
And yet, we know he can’t make it, because of everything we knew before this episode. Simmons never mentions there being another person on the planet with her, so we’re left wondering, throughout the episode, just what’s going to end up happening to Will. Is he going to die? If so, how? Will he go mad, forcing Simmons to kill him? Or will some other horrible fate befall him? And if he simply gets left behind, how did that end up happening? There are a lot of questions surrounding Will, largely because of the trauma Simmons is experiencing. Frankly, I was expecting a far more horrible fate for Will, considering how traumatized Simmons was by her experience. I didn’t think it was beyond the realm of possibility that she might end up having to kill him, or end up failing to save him. In a way, the latter option is what ended up happening, since she couldn’t bring Will back with her. It’s a guilt that weighs heavily on her as she tells Fitz her story in the present day. And it leads to a wonderful character moment for Fitz. Basically, Simmons reads Fitz’s stone-faced expression as jealousy over her having been with another man; however, it’s actually a bit closer to determination, as Fitz marches over to his computer, punches in some coordinates, and shows Simmons exactly how they’re going to get Will back. Sure, maybe Fitz was jealous, but I’d like to think he’d understand the plight. And even if he were jealous, somehow, he cares about Simmons’s happiness and well-being first and foremost. So of course he’s going to do everything in his power to get Will back, even if that’s the man she ends up choosing. Because he wants to make Simmons whole again, however he can. It’s such a subtly powerful moment, and it was a perfect way to close the episode, even without the stinger showing us that Will is still alive. I can’t wait to see how this gets resolved, and how Will adjusts to the present day if/when he comes back home.
In short, “4722 Hours” was an outstanding hour of television. While mainly focused on survival, desperation and hope, it’s also a very character-driven hour, showing us who Jemma Simmons really is. She’s more than just a scientist, she’s a dreamer, a romantic, a survivor and determination incarnate. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing great work with the character arcs it’s been building, and I’m genuinely impressed that such an isolated story could be so compelling. The more I think about it, the more I feel this might be my favorite episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever. If nothing else, it’s certainly the most unique.
But what did you think of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “4722 Hours”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., go behind the scenes of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. Agent Carter Dubsmash War!