Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – 4,722 Hours Review
4,722 Hours is an odd episode. Not odd like Devils You Know, which strangely decided to divide its narrative right down the center, but odd in the way that it works very well as a standalone story. The atmosphere and narrative structure would feel tonally dissonant if the show were to try and pair it with anything else that is currently going on, so instead they keep the story isolated, much like its subjects, and allow the viewers to get immersed in the world that it is presenting. Given the amount of plot that has been flying about recently, it’s surprising to see an episode that I would be perfectly comfortable showing to someone who knows nothing about the show. Honestly, the bizarre alienating atmosphere and subject matter almost had me expecting a Rod Sterling narration.
At its core, 4,722 Hours is a survival story as it recounts the methods used by Jemma to survive on the deserted planet for half a year. Survival stories are a rather distinctive genre and the episode captures that feel perfectly, despite its alien setting. This feels like it could have trailer footage from The Martian mixed in with a blue filter without losing any of its narrative and tonal consistency. Much of the episode is devoted to Jemma’s search for water, food, and a method of getting back. It’s done in a gradually paced manner, with her dictating much of her work process to her phone. There is a line later in the episode about how Fitz had designed the phone to have a much longer lifespan, but it feels like that line should have been placed earlier on so as to prevent the viewer’s suspension of disbelief from being eroded. The story is told in segments with a time counter informing the viewer of how long Jemma has been there at the start of each scene.
She eventually ends up encountering a NASA astronaut named Will Daniels, who has been surviving on the moon for years. He was the sole survivor of a 2001 expedition into the Monolith. The other members of his team lost their minds after encountering an entity that Will simply refers to as Death that appears within sandstorms. Jemma is, of course, incredulous of such an entity’s existence, because while she encountered the sandstorms, she didn’t perceive anything abnormal about them. She hints that it might be a delusion from being isolated for so long, but fortunately it only takes one encounter for her to accept Will’s claims. I must admit, I’m quite curious as to what the entity may be. There are a number of possibilities. Death is admittedly a humanoid entity that appears within the Marvel Universe, but I question whether or not Agents would actually make use of her. That being said, most of the potential candidates are rather big from a conceptual standpoint, so who knows. There is also the possibility that they were on Ego the Living Planet, but I don’t know where the show would go with such a character either. It could also be Hela. Honestly, there are a ton of possible identities for the entity, but it’s fun to speculate… though, if the entity is Hela, then it clearly isn’t Niffleheim that they’re in. I’d expect there to be more mist. Could be Hel.
I enjoyed this episode far more than I had initially anticipated. That it proved to be a tightly constructed and yet gradually paced story surprised me, and the mysterious being that pursued Jemma and Will has me more intrigued than roughly anything else going on at the moment. The episode isn’t without problems though. Will and Jemma’s relationship seems to progress rather rapidly, and the episode could have served to smooth out that transition a bit. Part of this is due to the fact that it is forced to skip sizable amounts of time in order to fit in all the plot, but maybe one or two additional scenes could have helped flesh that out slightly more. They’re admittedly a believable pairing, possibly more than her and Fitz (poor Fitz), and they have a great sense of back and forth with their dialogue with Will being the fatalist and Jemma being the optimist. I’d be interested in seeing more flashbacks in the future, if they aided in fleshing out the relationship a bit more.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- So Fitz is on board with rescuing Will, but I wonder how Professor Randolph would respond if he realized they were planning on reopening the portal… Particularly if that was Hel on the other side.
- After I wrote out my theories on where they might have been, I went to see if there were any other fan theories worth noting. I mainly saw theories tied to Ego and Death, so maybe I was on the right track there.
- The image of Will turning and walking away as the sunlight fades and the shadows begin to stretch is a particularly striking one.
Of the first five episodes of Agent’s season 3, 4,722 Hours is easily the best. It brings a sense of focus, and clarity that the preceding episodes lacked. The relationship between Jemma and Will could have benefited for a bit more time, but that’s a constraint that comes from the medium in which the show is working. It’s rare for to me to feel that an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might work better as a feature length film. All in all, this is a great episode.
4,722 Hours is an episode that brings a clarity of focus to the table that Agents has been needing since the season began. It's a surprisingly exceptional stand-alone episode, though it does have some narrative issues due to time constraints. I hope that despite being a rather stand-alone episode, Agents will be able to carry that focus over into the following episodes.