Less than 5 – Skip it, 6 – OK, 7 – Good, 8 – Great, 9 – Phenomenal, 10 – You owe it to yourself to watch this episode!
4,722 hours was like a beautiful baby born from the best parts of Castaway and Agents of SHIELD. This is phenomenal television and Elizabeth Henstridge is outstanding.
Opting to pick up from the moment Simmons was taken by the Monolith as opposed to her conversation with Fitz was a telling opening. This would be a unique episode. Tracking (almost) her entire trip on the alien planet was a bold move, especially given that it’s such a massive departure from the usual format Agents of SHIELD is known for. Gone were the agents and typical SHIELD logo, instead we get a frightened Simmons trapped on a desolate world shrouded in a seemingly eternal night and then a slow title crawl in the middle of it. This is Simmons’ episode.
With The Martian fresh in most peoples minds (assuming you’ve seen it. If not you should) parallels to that epic film will be abundant. Attempting an episode of this nature, while not new when looking at the entirety of TV history, is still a tricky thing to pull off. Luckily, Elizabeth Henstridge is more than capable of holding her own.
Going back to the series premiere, despite the world largely being irritated by Fitz and Simmons’ admittedly quirky relationship, I have always considered Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge as the strongest performers on the show. If anything 4,722 Hours proves this emphatically. Henstridge’s PTSD infused performances have impressed up to this point in the few scenes we’ve seen her in but here she gets the chance to fully explain what went on with her on the other side of that portal.
For a good chunk of the episode she was the only actor involved. The way she started off as her usual overly optimistic self was great in the fact that her inevitable turn to despair was all the more poignant for it. Henstridge has always been able to make Simmons’ scientific and quirky nature pop on screen, here she simply electrifies. Seeing Simmons battle for food gave us a glimpse as to how far she was willing to go in order to return to her team and to Fitz. Watching her turn from the happy Earth Simmons to the primal creature killing/eating Simmons was a powerful transition. It was truly emotional to see a character we have followed for so many years change so drastically in the span of 45 minutes (though it was technically 196 days).
When Will (Dillon Casey, who looks a lot like Ward actor Brett Dalton) came into the picture it was pretty clear where this storyline was headed. Simmons and Will begin their relationship with distrust, soon realize they must work together to survive, bond over their shared hardships and eventually become a thing (which is exactly what happened). That being said, it is a testament to the performances that this episode still managed so much suspense and emotional impact. Casey and Henstridge showed fantastic chemistry on screen and their romance never once felt rushed or forced, despite taking place over the course of 25 minutes or so.
The intimacy between Will and Simmons is sure to have those FitzSimmons fans grabbing their pitch forks, let alone the fact that Simmons herself was the one who initiated the whole thing. But it was done in a very organic way. Hell, if I was stuck on a planet with little hope of escaping, a monster chasing me whenever I left my hole and an above average looking female as my only companion I would have caved a lot sooner.
Many shows write themselves into a corner in terms of long-term relationships the likes of Fitz and Simmons’. You either give in to fans and put the two characters together, potentially stripping away the magic that made them so lovable in the first place (see Oliver/Felicity, Castle/Beckett) or you keep them apart so long that any reason given is simply unbelievable. Having Simmons break under the pressure of living on a desolate planet works pretty well in my book.
The final moments of the episode, the only moments that took place on Earth, were equally as brilliant. Iain De Caestecker manages to prove he is the manliest agent of SHIELD on the show in a single action. After the heartbreaking tale Simmons spins for him he seems outraged that she would choose another man. Instead he immediately makes the decision to do everything he can to help get Jemma back to that planet and to get Will back.
There are still a lot of mysteries regarding that strange planet that need solving (what was the shape-shifting thing? She seemed a little too jumpy back on Earth to have only hung out in the bunker, what else happened?) And if they are addressed with the same level of precision as this episode, I am all for getting the answers.
Overall 4,722 Hours gets a 10/10.