As referenced in the title of this special episode of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” 4,722 hours is how long Agent Jemma Simmons spent on that other planet on the other side of the universe. That’s six months. That’s a long time. In this episode we finally get to see her struggle to survive on the blue world that might just be Hala, home of the Kree. Meet me on the other side, for my thoughts on “4,722 Hours.”
Six months is a long time. Simmons was trapped on this blue apparently sunless planet on the other side of the universe for six months – the time between seasons, from her startling ‘abduction’ by The Monolith at the end of “S.O.S.” to her daring rescue by Fitz in “Purpose in the Machine.” Anything could have happened in those six months, anything, it seems, except for a full recovery by Mockingbird. Ahem, but that’s a battle for another day.
In “4,722 Hours” we find out what happened to Simmons on this other planet, what she went through, what she saw and experienced. It’s a special episode featuring no other cast members, except for Iain De Caestecker’s Leo Fitz in the framing sequence at the beginning and end – and Elizabeth Henstridge’s acting tour de force as Jemma Simmons for the rest of the hour. It’s not easy filling forty-odd minutes, essentially on one’s own for the most part, but she pulls it off… with a little help from a new friend, that that’s getting ahead of ourselves.
The first fifteen minutes are Simmons alone in this blue tinted world. At first she’s doing her scientist thing, taking readings, taking audio notes, and video images with her special S.H.I.E.L.D. cellphone. On a side note, I just gotta get one of these. This special cellphone battery not only lasts for months, but also powers up a N.A.S.A. computer before it dies out. Not only s this battery Fitz came up with super-cool, but mad props to Simmons’ self control. Could any of us have gone that long alone without at least one game of Angry Birds or Candy Crush?
After a few hours, the scientist gig wears off however, and Simmons starts thinking of Fitz and being rescued. She doesn’t outright panic, but this has gone from brief adventure to manic exile in a very short time. In her head, I can see Ann Margaret’s character in Bye Bye Birdie being told her idol will kiss her on national television – she goes from an adult calling her parents by their first names to a screaming teenager screaming for mommy. The reality of Simmons’ situation is settling in, and the cold silent title card cements that.
As the hours tick by and rescue is becoming a more and more disputable surety, Simmons’ mind turns to survival. The atmosphere on this blue planet is breathable but food, water, and shelter are the next obvious objectives. The rocky desert terrain with its shifting sands, wild winds, and oppressive blueness do not help. And as Simmons continues her external monologue, mostly directed at Fitz, it looks as though our girl may be losing it.
Thankfully she finally finds water, a small oasis of water that is refreshing and drinkable, but at the first moment of relaxation, she is pulled under by a tentacled beastie. The fight for survival begins. Once she’s torn off a tentacle and sated her starvation once, Simmons’ mission is to get the rest of it, and make it her “dinner, biatch!” She’s making it, just barely, fueled by memories of Fitz and her other friends, and a birthday video on her phone. She is still talking to the air when she realizes she’s not alone on this world.
After a rough start where he captures her and imprisons her because he thinks she’s a hallucination, Simmons meets Will. He’s a N.A.S.A. astronaut whose been there for fourteen years. Apparently before S.H.I.E.L.D. had The Monolith, N.A.S.A. had it and sent this exploration team. Dillon Casey’s Will Daniels was the only one left. The other astronauts are intriguingly named – Austin is a reference to “The Six Million Dollar Man,” Taylor for Planet of the Apes, and Brubaker Capricorn One, fun stuff. Will says the planet got in their heads and killed them.
It is interesting to note that there is no Will Daniels in the Marvel Comics, but there might still be an “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” connection. Could astronaut Will Daniels be related to Marcus Daniels AKA Blackout from season one’s “The Only Light in the Darkness“? Nevertheless, once Simmons gets out of his bamboo cage, they make fast friends, talking truffle fries, and possible rescue. My favorite line is Will remarks that “Fitz” is her favorite word.
Simmons figures out when The Monolith will appear and open again, but it’s in one of the areas Will calls a ‘no-fly zone.’ It’s where the evil alien storm is, where his fellow astronauts went mad. At first he forbids her to go, then relents as they get to know each other better. When they miss their chance however, he comforts Simmons, and you know. Let’s just say they find love in outer space. That’s what six months without Fitz will do. He should have asked her out in the first season. That’s what happens when you wait.
Nevertheless Will gets Simmons to the next Monolith opening, and Fitz pulls her out. Now we know why she has to get back there. As we close on the episode, we find that Simmons is telling this tale to Fitz. His reaction is what one might imagine, but he doesn’t express it. He only vows that he’ll help Simmons get back. Now that‘s love. Poor Fitz.
This was probably the best and the strongest episode of the series so far, and has set the mark for future episodes. I have new respect for the actors, and all those involved in this one, serious props. Next week, back to work, back to Hydra, and back to reality…