Agents of SHIELD’s Elizabeth Henstridge on Simmons’ harrowing journey

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. #305Well, now we know why Jemma Simmons is desperate to get back to that hellish planet. Elizabeth Henstridge was the first billed name on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast list tonight, and regardless of the fact that no other regular cast member appeared in this episode (until the very end), boy did she deserve it.

When the show told us that we would finally find out what happened to Simmons when she was pulled into the portal, I expected an episode that worked like most S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes do — a volley of back and forth flashbacks, alternating from past to present, especially given last week’s events. This has been happening more and more in recent years due to the golden age of television we’re living in, and all of the incredible offerings on display across basic cable, pay cable, and streaming options. After literally falling into his trap, Simmons finds a fellow earthling named Will (Dillon Casey), a former astronaut sent through the portal by NASA in 2001. We start from the beginning — the actual beginning, as in, six months ago where Simmons and Fitz are making dinner plans before the unfortunate monolith incident — and we pick up right after Simmons lands on the other side of the portal.

There are good shows on the big five channels, for sure, but usually you’re gonna get the same medical or legal dramas and you can go a long time without seeing something you’ve never seen before. But his fellow astronauts were one by one killed by “it,” a mysterious monster that appears within the planet’s giant dust storms and is attracted to the scent of blood — hence Simmons using dirt to cover up her cut, as we saw in the premiere. Will and Simmons spend months trying to figure out the location of the next portal opening, only to miss it because the monster doesn’t want them to leave — which is what finally breaks the usually optimistic Simmons.

Not only was “4,722 hours” one of the best episodes of this series, but it was one of the best episodes of TV I’ve seen all year and a star making performance for the hugely talented Elizabeth Henstridge. But there something else on that planet, a malevolent presence unlike anything we’ve seen before on the show, and one devious and powerful enough to drive NASA scientists to suicide. I mean, The Martian had Mark Watney growing potatoes on Mars, so anything’s possible.) She quickly surmises that she’s on another planet, which throws her into a disbelieving panic.

We spoke to Henstridge about the episode prior to its airing, and we asked her what it means for Simmons’ relationship with Fitz, and what she knows about the mysterious alien evil. At first I was really excited that they were showing the self restraint to keep these two just friends for so long without falling in love, but then after almost three months together they finally hooked up and I was still happy! Right now, her feelings for Fitz, and his feelings for her, they’re just putting them aside to try and concentrate on this task, and that’s what they do best. If I’d been stranded on a deserted planet for 14 years and a woman as beautiful as Elizabeth Henstridge gets teleported there, I don’t think I’d be able to show that kind of restraint!

There’s a (really cute) picture of Fitz on her phone that she keeps staring at, and she immediately starts talking to it, using her partner’s logic to reassure herself. That’s just the first time our heart is going to be broken this hour regarding these two, because even though Fitz didn’t appear in the episode until later, his presence was very much felt throughout the whole hour.

But for right now, they’re putting all that aside and just concentrating on doing the right thing, which is trying to get this man that saved Simmons’ life back home. Simmons may be on a different planet, miles away from the entire world, but Fitz is tethering her to Earth — that’s not love so much as it is being the most important part of someone. (Think about that first time Simmons woke up after Fitz rescued her, and how she immediately crawled into Fitz’s arms. There wasn’t much explanation given to me, as to what it is, and I think a lot of that is because Simmons finds out through Will, and then doesn’t really believe it, and then experiences it, and then does believe it. I remember hearing an interview with her that said she was speaking to Ellen Pompeo from Grey’s Anatomy, and she advised Kerry to treat yourself like an athlete. Because practical Simmons has realized exactly how long she can be here without food and water, and that deadline is fast approaching. “But if you do show up while I’m away, you’ll know where to find me,” she promises her friend as she leaves her necklace in a formation of rocks near the portal’s original entrance.

Ah well, when that’s your only complaint you know they did something right. – It was a little weird that Jemma was so doubtful about the evil being that Will was talking about. Simmons talking to herself is great; Simmons using the time to voice all her fears about Fitz’s dinner date (what she’ll wear, what to do if they run out of things to talk about) is even better.

She finally makes it to the top of a hill and sees what looks like an approaching sandstorm; two hours later finds her passed out and awakening to (miraculously) find a hole filled with water nearby. That contentment doesn’t last long — and Simmons gets her first taste of fighting for survival when a mysterious water plant tries to drag her under. She manages to save herself by cutting off one of its limbs… and then attempts to eat said limb as a way to compensate for the food she’s still looking for. You’d be so proud of me.” (Jemma, WE are so proud of you.) In short, Jemma Simmons could probably go on Survivor right now AND The Amazing Race right after, and beat everyone by a long shot.

She wakes up in a cage with a mysterious person watching over her, a man who we later learn is an astronaut named Will Daniels (Dillon Casey), who has been on this planet since 2001. The last thing Simmons wants to do is let this guy help her, but another sandstorm is coming, and Will ominously tells Simmons that, “It smells blood.” He drags her back underground and when Simmons asks what the heck “it” is, Will only has one answer for her: death. (It’s All Connected: What did the parchment that Fitz uncovered, the one that held the “key” to the monolith’s secrets, say in Hebrew? Death.) According to Will, the planet has “moods, not rules” and the dust storm called “death” affects the planet (that’s how you can tell it’s coming). As she’s stitching herself up, Rational Scientist and Resident Bad Ass Jemma Simmons refuses to believe Will’s explanation that a planet can be evil — she describes how certain environments can have different scientific properties.

Nearly everything is outdated, however, leading Will to admit how long he’s been here… and Simmons is the first person he’s seen in a very, very long time. He couldn’t turn down the temptation, so he volunteered, along with a team of scientists who were supposed to study the planet’s properties and gather samples to bring home.

And while NASA sent them off with a bunch of powerful items, everything is solar powered…and of course, this planet has no sun. (By the way, did you all catch the Easter egg of the name “Brubaker,” a.k.a. famous comic writer Ed Brubaker?) Will and Jemma bond over updated technology, and he’s both surprised that she got here without NASA, and that S.H.I.E.L.D. is a real thing. Will tells her if it doesn’t work, then it’s the end of “Fitz.” She watches the video one more time and says, “See you soon.” She’s able to get the equipment working to track the stars and collect data. She feels a tremendous amount of guilt for that now being back, and guilt for asking Fitz to do something she knows is so painful for him and might completely sever their friendship.

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