Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes
I try not to read reviews etc. of Agents of SHIELD because I have a weirdly fragile headspace about it, but a few of the taglines for “The Singularity” I just had to click through. I’m so specifically and intensely into FitzSimmons that I was curious if other people felt like they worked as well as I claim they do. What I noticed was the general consensus that everyone feels like Fitz or Simmons is who is going to die by the end of the season. That’s also the feeling that I’m getting, but I feel like that literally every time anyone suggests a character is about to bite it. For me, it’s just that I’m most invested in them, I dread it, and it would hurt the most. But, more than that, it comes from long conditioning to television romance narratives .
(Editing to add: I’m not saying they will, as many discussions lead me to believe that if they killed off either the show would essentially commit suicide. But this is the reason we all feel like they’ll get offed. It’s a thing.)
Additional spoilers for a ton of things, including: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel the Series, Battlestar Galactica, and The X-Files.
Firstly, the entire marketing department at ABC needs an adjustment. I was forewarned by an East Coaster last night that the preview for the upcoming episode “gave a lot away” and I shouldn’t watch it. So I didn’t. They’ve done crazy things with promos before like suggesting that Simmons was legitimately in Hydra in the preview for 2×03 (I was flamingly mad about that misdirection) and weird things like outright telling you people are going to kiss, die, or leave in the leader over the show that airs before. I hate spoilers, so this ruins the entire episode before I get a chance to experience it. That all of the marketing is toying with the uncertainty of who will die exposes Skye’s future-vision as the desperate ploy that it is. I hated “Spacetime.” Like, hated that episode. For one, Skye’s future-vision was the first scene we got when we returned from hiatus so we already knew someone was going to get hurt. That Skye saw it really serves no purpose at all. Also, since the show overtly suggests that it’s Elena who dies, you expect that it won’t be her. To be honest it would be a welcome subversion if they just went with it instead of trying to misdirect the audience for two months.
Now, about Fitz and Simmons. Generally, when you watch television and two characters dance around a romantic relationship, if they ever finally get together one of them will inevitably die shortly thereafter to emotionally gut both the audience and the other character. This ploy is so ingrained in network television narrative that it is absolutely expected. I’ve been burned by it so often that at this point when characters get together I completely disassociate. It’s like putting a huge target on their chests. Mulder and Scully never got together until Duchovny left and they retconned that they’d hooked up off-screen. Kara and Lee on Battlestar Galactica only reconcile their tempestuous relationship just before Kara dies. Like, minutes before. Buffy and Spike come together only to have their romance culminate in the actual fiery death of Spike. And, ah, the coup de grâce of Fred and Wes on Angel: The Series. After two and a half seasons of gentle, nerdy pining, the two finally come together only to have Fred die in Wesley’s arms as she’s taken over by an ancient demon who then walks around in her body for the rest of the season. Yeah. That one I’ll never get over. Of all the ships I’ve ever shipped, Fred and Wes remind me most of Fitz and Simmons and always have. It’s just that I started to believe the show wouldn’t go there. Now I’m not so sure. I’m fairly certain you can think of any show that you’re into and the same pattern will repeat. Requited romance traditionally equals death. (What a happy observation!)
The thing with Agents of SHIELD is that it’s used this expectation to screw with the audience before to delightful effect. In 1×22 Fitz tries to sacrifice his life for Simmons, but survives. In 2×22 they get you twice, first with the gotcha that Fitz has been stabbed through with a pipe on the aircraft carrier (just after Simmons has admitted her feelings in return), and then Simmons get swallowed by the monolith immediately after Fitz asks her on a date. I have issues with the first half of the third season, but the observation that the two of them are cursed is spot-on to the point of breaking the fourth wall. There’s always something that artificially prevents them from getting together. Now that they are, the general expectation is that they won’t get to keep their happiness. Something terrible will happen. They’ll just get offed. An enormous part of what I love about Fitz and Simmons’ relationship is that it systematically rejects traditional modes of romance. Their relationship was already so close that to shift it to a romantic space wouldn’t change it that much. More importantly, it should in no way affect the function that they play in the structure of the story. Their interpersonal business is incidental and always a background enhancement to how they advance the plot each week through sci-fi science. That’s the charm of it. It’s not central, but it’s essential. They are the heart and soul of Agents of SHIELD. To me, anyway. They add depth that an international spy show primarily focusing on ass-kickings and explosions otherwise wouldn’t have.
Agents of SHIELD used to subvert trope-y expectations left and right. It felt as if it was one of its main missions to eviscerate soapy, cliched, default options. That was why I trusted it so much after the second season and how I got burned so badly by the third. Additionally, Agents of SHIELD (unlike everything else with Joss Whedon’s name on it) seems to have realized that you don’t need to kill characters to gut your audience or your cast. The first season finale is exemplary in that regard. No one dies, but it completely undermines central aspects of everyone’s characters which keeps your cast intact and offers a ton more future dramatic potential than killing someone off. Frankly, I’d be fine if this entire thing was just a desperate marketing push to get people to tune in and no one actually died.
As for who I’d like to die? To be honest, I want Lincoln gone and I’d be completely cool with killing Skye. I love Elena to bits but would be fine if they went with the straight-forward option instead of all the dekes. Additionally, she could give that rosary to Mack, but if you take Mack away from me (on top of losing Bobbi, Hunter, and probably Ward) you will not have a happy camper.
What I do know is that Agents of SHIELD without Fitz and Simmons is a show I wouldn’t watch. At least not with any enjoyment. That show would suck. But, beyond that, for the two of them to get together and then get killed off would let me down. It would prove that it’s just your average television fare and all that brilliance was a fluke.