That sound you thought was thunder that rolled through across the sky last night was actually the minds of a certain subset of Agents of SHIELD fans having their minds blown.
The episode “4,722 Hours” was all about how Jemma Simmons spent her time stranded on the alien planet after the monolith gobbled her up. As the hours clicked by in the corner of the screen, Simmons experienced the highs and lows of survival and solitude.
She found water, nearly got eaten, ate what tried to eat her and made fire. The thread that kept her sane was documenting the experience into her phone as a running one-sided conversation with Fitz while replaying videos of happier times on the same device.
(Side note to Fitz: you developed a phone battery that lasted for three months. That is the better mousetrap. Apply for the patent, hit the private sector and start pricing tropical islands.)
There’s also the small matter that Simmons got lucky, which surely blew the minds of FitzSimmons shippers across the country. Jemma didn’t get a case of Captain Kirk’s Itch with an extraterrestrial or anything like that. She pushed the bunks together with Astronaut Will, who found her after she fell into his underground hovel.
After thinking Jemma was a figment of his space madness addled mind, Astronaut Will eventually told her his tale. NASA had the monolith before SHIELD got took possession of it and sent a crew to explore and chart the world that was on the other side in 2001.
In the ensuing 14 years, the other two members of his crew cracked up under the influence of a malevolent being and died, leaving him alone in his hole in the ground. With his maps and her study of the stars, they were able to determine that the portal opened according to a calculable stellar cycle on the planet (which would appear to be completely random on the Earth side of the doorway) for a chance a getting home.
After a near miss with an open portal, Jemma gave up hope and landed in the comforting arms (and bunk) of Astronaut Will. (Kudos to Iain De Caestecker for his gobsmacked expression when they finally cut from the flashback).
Comfy in their new domestic bless, Jemma and Will just happened to be out planning to enjoy the few minutes of daylight their planet would get for two decades when Fitz showed up and the rest is history. Despite Jemma breaking his heart for a second time, Fitz agrees to help mount a rescue mission for her intergalactic guy.
All kidding aside, this episode was a rare moment where the series took a break from the superpowers and spy games to tell a personal story. With the focus recently on May, Mockingbird and Skye/Daisy, Jemma has been lost in the shuffle and largely been reduced that combo of tech nerd and object of Fitz’s desire.
This episode gave Jemma a chance to show that even though she might not use a gun, earthquake powers or a roundhouse kick, she has just as much strength as the rest of the women in SHIELD.
A lot of weight was heaped on the shoulders of Elizabeth Henstridge, and she pulled off the emotional roller coaster that complete isolation can be. Like most of the core cast of the show, she’s come a long way from the first season as a performer and knows Jemma well. This performance combined with some deceptively simple, yet effective special effects helped deliver one of the best episodes of the series’ run.
Craig Wack is a little sad this episode got Jemma no closer to wearing a Jumpsuit of Evil. Please follow his Twitter.