Okay so things are starting to heat up in the SHIELD headquarters. There’s a new big bad Inhuman on the loose, SHIELD is getting professional competition in the form of the ATCU, and tensions are really beginning to rise between humankind and the “enhanced.” So without any ado, let’s talk about what happened to Jemma Simmons. Spoilers ahead.
So far this season, we’ve seen a Jemma who is jittery and disconnected from her reality. We’ve wondered what had happened to the scientist while she was on the other planet, and in this episode, we find out. The episode is technically and cinematically unlike any other in AoS’s history (or indeed, almost any television series that I can think of) as it counts up to the 4,722 hours Jemma spent on the other planet. I’m almost reluctant to give a full synopsis of the episode because every fan of the show needs to see this one.
So, I’ll be as brief as I can:
Jemma arrives through the portal on a planet that seems like a fusion of Tatooine and the world from Pitch Black. Jemma survives by herself for quite some time as a bad ass sci-fi remake of Castaway. Jemma is captured by a hot-but-wary Ben Gunn type (that’s a Treasure Island reference, yes), who is actually more intent on saving her than killing her. The man, Will, warns her of a darkness on the planet, one that took his companions soon after they arrived over a decade before. The way to survive is to stay in the safe zones, he says.
Jemma, determined to get them off the planet, uses the remainder of her phone’s lifespan to calculate the next time and position that a portal will open. Unfortunately, Will and she are unable to make it through the portal in time, and a devastated Jemma realises that she will never see Fitz, her family, or any of her other friends again.
Fitz-Simmons shippers, you may want to turn away now.
As Jemma accepts that she will be on this planet indefinitely, she begins a relationship with Will, and time flashes forward to a period in which they’ve already established a routine and a relationship–which includes them watching the sunrise together (which, on a planet of almost-perpetually eternal night, is kind of an awesome date).
Then we see the flare, and we know that Fitz has found his way to Jemma. Now, however, we see the experience from Jemma’s perspective, and how the darkness encroaches and separates her and Will. The tears we see on Jemma’s face as she’s pulled through the portal aren’t entirely tears of relief. She’s distressed by the loss of Will, and now we understand her motivation to return through the portal.
Where We’re Headed
This episode changed the way I view this series. Technically speaking, it pushed boundaries in what a genre television show can do. It gave us 42 minutes, most of which was centered around one character, set on a new planet and did not directly connect to any of the larger story arcs we’ve seen so far this season. The second major character of the episode, Will, does not make his appearance on screen until ten minutes in, resting the weight of this story solely on Elizabeth Henstridge’s shoulders.
She carries it well.
“4,722 Hours” is less of an episode of a series than it is a story in its own right. It feels more like watching a feature film than a show, and I, for one, would pay to see 2.5 hours of Jemma and Will surviving together and learning to care for each other in the empty wilderness of this foreign planet. Everyone, slow clap for Craig Titley, the writer of this episode, who took the impossible and made it really frickin amazing.
But what does “4,722 Hours” mean in terms of the rest of the series? Well, it looks like a love triangle, for starters, between Fitz, Jemma and Will. In the bigger picture, this planet looks like a location that might be reappearing again in the future, even after Jemma inevitably saves Will. It could be a possible connection for the Marvel series with The Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, or the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok film.
Either way, I’ll be over here swooning over Elizabeth Henstridge until the next sunrise eighteen years from now.