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Recap / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S5E12 "The Real Deal"

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In the 100th episode, Coulson's deal with the Ghost Rider is finally revealed.


Tropes in this episode:

  • Absurd Phobia: While the team discusses the implications of "What Do They Fear?" Episode, it turns out that Deke is afraid of forests — which for him are just open spaces with "branchy things" and creepy crawlers. He seems comfortable inside one by the end of the episode, however.
  • All Just a Dream: The 'fear dimension' version of Mike tries to convince Coulson that everything since Loki stabbed him has been nothing but a near-death experience while the medical team on the HeliCarrier try to save his life.
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  • Altar the Speed: Played for laughs at the wedding, when Coulson says that they dare not put the wedding off any longer lest something jinx it; when Fitz hesitates at one point, Coulson jokes that he should hurry up before the forest collapses.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's not clear if Ghost Rider deliberately took the Kree blood out of Coulson's system For the Evulz or if the Spirit's very nature meant there was no way to avoid it even if the Spirit wanted to.
    Coulson: Whatever alien voodoo was holding me together, Ghost Rider burned through it. That was the price.
    Mack: So, what he gets to burn longer?
    Coulson: I don't know, but my clock ticks faster - and we get to fight another day.
  • And You Were There: The 'fear dimension' version of Mike tries to convince Coulson that this is what's happening; that Mike Peterson is an EMT trying to save Coulson's life, and Coulson's subconscious has rewritten him as Deathlok.
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  • Anger Born of Worry: The team's reaction when they find out Coulson's deal with the Rider means he's dying is a lot of anger, frustration, and feeling of betrayal that he would hide this from them.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: The fake Mike Peterson tries to convince Coulson that nothing that happened in the show was real and he's just having a Dying Dream after he was fatally stabbed by Loki in The Avengers. His argument is that in real life, it's simply impossible to do ridiculous things like becoming host to a demon that turns your head into a flaming skull, get trapped in a virtual reality world with an alternate history, or travel through time. But even if what he says is true, then Coulson still got stabbed by a Norse god who is actually an alien, but Fake Mike doesn't treat that as ridiculous.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Coulson's loss of GH-325 means he's dying, and cannot be cured by any means that Jemma knows of, while the rift is still present and has only been temporarily sealed. However, the immediate danger of the rift is contained for the moment, Hale leaves River's End after writing it off as a dead end, FitzSimmons finally get married, and the agents Deke gathered allows S.H.I.E.L.D. to reform.
  • The Bus Came Back: Deathlok returns to help Team Coulson, though he's apparently "gone solo" outside of helping S.H.I.E.L.D.. Agent Davis also returns, as it turns out he was Not Quite Dead after being attacked by Aida.
  • Brick Joke: A double: apparently, one of the things Coulson had Deke buy is a bottle of Haig (to replace the one that was consumed with the May LMD), but Deke couldn't find that anywhere... so he bought Zima instead.
  • The Cameo: Lash and Hive make cameos as manifestations of the "fear dimension".
  • Career-Ending Injury: Referenced with May; Daisy blurts out in anger that she's never going to be full-strength again after having her leg impaled back in Orientation, and May's reaction shows she knows this too. It doubles as a way to reference the serious real-life knee injury Ming-Na Wen sustained early in filming this season.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: This episode establishes the origins of the Monolith stone that was formerly in Deke's father's possession: the original monolith was blown to bits in this episode, with FitzSimmons presumably keeping a piece of it. With the reveal that Deke is actually one of their grandchildren, it would appear that the stone was passed down for future generations as it would be used in the machine that would eventually return the team to the present.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The forest generated by the fear dimension. Hey, if you're going to hold a marriage ceremony, what better place to do it?
  • Continuity Cavalcade: The "fear dimension" leaking through the portal created by the destroyed Monoliths creates illusions that include several past antagonists — Lash, Hive, some Vrell'Nexians, a Kree warrior, and an LMD (albeit one of Simmons, whose LMD ironically did not act as an antagonist during its brief appearance). There's also a lightning-fast set of flashbacks involving Daisy, and we also get a direct reference to the events of The Avengers (2012) complete with a Name Drop for Tony Stark.
  • Dangerous Phlebotinum Interaction: Mixing three monoliths of different purpose and an explosion creates a rift to another dimension, as well as an idyllic outdoor forest several hundred feet underground.
  • Dying Dream: A manifestation of Mike Peterson caused by the "fear dimension" tries to convince Coulson that the entire show has been one of these for Coulson as he is dying on the operating table after being Impaled with Extreme Prejudice by Loki in The Avengers. Since Coulson is a big Ascended Fanboy who loves dealing with superheroes and other weird stuff on a daily basis, the notion that none of his adventures were real is almost certainly a much bigger fear for him than just simply dying.
  • Easily Forgiven: Averted with Piper, who is being kept imprisoned, with Fitz even bringing up the possibility of sending her on a suicide mission.
  • Everyone Can See It: Coulson Lampshades this during FitzSimmons wedding, saying that everyone knew this day would come "before these two did".
  • Face Death with Dignity: Coulson has made peace with dying, and certainly does not want to be put through the same painful process of resurrection again. In talking with May later, however, he notes that just because he's come to terms with the fact that he's going to die does not mean he's in a hurry to do so.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The 'fear dimension' version of Mike is extremely polite to Coulson and doesn't attack him in any way...at least not until Coulson sees through the charade and stops walking towards the rift.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Deke says he picked Simmons' ring because it looked like his grandmother's wedding ring, right before Hale's associate points out Deke is genetically related to Fitz and Simmons.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Fear!Mike's suggestion that Coulson effectively dreamed everything after being stabbed by Loki on first glance almost works given the fact the TV series tends to remain separate from the films, but loses logic when one recalls that the TV series featured story arcs following on from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World, among other things.
  • Hand Cannon: Fitz gives Coulson a .50 caliber Desert Eagle, saying it should be enough to take out anything he runs into on the way to the rift. It is.
  • Internal Reveal: The rest of the team learn that Coulson is dying, which Yo-Yo and the audience already learned from her future self back in "Past Life". The only thing that's new for the audience is why (see The Reveal below).
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: For obvious reasons, the team is quite pissed at Coulson keeping his impending death from them.
  • Kid from the Future: Deke is revealed to be one, specifically the grandson of FitzSimmons, but only the audience is aware of it.
  • Last-Name Basis: A rare aversion for Fitz: Daisy calls him "Leopold" out of frustration with his apparent view of acceptable losses, referencing his time in the Framework as "The Doctor," since Aida almost exclusively called him that instead of Fitz.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • Coulson's line at the wedding: "We are gathered here today for a moment we all knew was coming, some of us even before these two did," could be directed at the other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, or at the audience watching the show.
  • Like a Son to Me: While Coulson doesn't outright say it, his hallucination of Mike makes a reference to "the daughter [Coulson] never had" as shots of Daisy flash on the screen.
  • Lowered Monster Difficulty: The roaches and the LMDs each took considerable punishment to defeat in their original appearances, while Hive and Lash were virtually indestructable. The manifestations of them here dissolve into smoke as soon as they're injured, such as being shot by a handgun.
  • More Hero Than Thou: After Fitz's plan requires someone possibly going on a Suicide Mission, the team argue who should go. Deke refuses by virtue of already having done that once, Fitz-Simmons are needed for engineering and medical, Yo-Yo is mutilated and needs Mack. It comes down to Coulson, May, and Daisy arguing which of them should go. In desperation, Fitz briefly brings up that they could send Piper, as a form of atonement/payback for her betraying them the previous episode, but this idea is quickly dismissed by Coulson.
  • Not Quite Dead: Agent Davis is revealed to have survived AIDA's rampage off-screen, after being presumed dead by characters and viewers alike.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
    • Deathlok has been running solo and single-handedly helping many surviving S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (including Agent Davis).
    • Davis was able to survive a run in with Aida with nothing more than a scar along his right cheek. Given that Aida was emotionally unstable, possessing superpowers, and Davis had just emptied a clip into her, Davis is either more skilled than he appears or is just lucky Aida didn't tear him to pieces.
  • Paranoia Fuel: The fake Mike Peterson Lampshades this In-Universe: as there HASN'T been an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. reference in the movies, it's slightly possible that the entire show really is just Coulson's Dying Dream...
  • Passing the Torch: Coulson wants Daisy to take over for him when he dies. Still convinced that she's going to destroy Earth, she's less than enthused about this, and argues that Coulson himself is the best example of a S.H.I.E.L.D. leader.
  • Product Placement: More for Zima since Deke buys it for the wedding.
  • Reality Bleed: As a consequence of the Monoliths being destroyed, part of the Lighthouse opens into a forest somewhere. It makes for a nice spot for a wedding.
  • The Reveal:
    • Remember that deal Coulson made with the Ghost Rider? We finally find out what it entails — when the Rider took control of his body, he burnt through the Kree blood that brought him back and kept him alive. Now he's slowly dying.
    • It turns out Deke is the son of Fitz and Jemma's future daughter.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Fitz demonstrates again how much his Framework Hydra experiences have changed him when he argues that Piper is the most expendable agent to be sent on the rift-sealing suicide mission, for having betrayed them to Hale.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The device Fitz rigs up to seal the rift only contains it, so they'll need to find a more permanent solution at some point.
  • Shout-Out: The rift looks a lot like the cracks in time from Doctor Who (season 5 of the revived series).
  • Special Edition Title: In celebration of this being the 100th episode, every custom logo that appeared in the past is used for this episode's title sequence.
  • Stable Time Loop: Deke got Simmons a wedding ring that looks just like the one his mother wore, which she told him used to belong to his grandmother. Turns out Simmons is his grandmother, so it's actually the same ring.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: FitzSimmons status as this is Lampshaded by Coulson, saying that risking any further delay in them getting married would be "playing with fire".
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: After helping to save the day, Mike (the superhuman cyborg) informs Coulson that he will stay for the wedding and then move on. This is to continue his solo hero gig, while helping out any other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents on the run.
  • Tears of Joy: Jemma is fighting back tears while marrying Fitz. Daisy actually does wipe one away during the ceremony.
  • They Do: Fitz and Simmons finally get married at the end of the episode.
  • This Cannot Be!: Substitute "can't" with "cannot" and this is literally May's reaction to seeing a D.W.A.R.F. photo of Lash, her greatest fear.
  • The Un-Reveal: When the fake Mike tries to convince Coulson that everything he'd experienced in recent years was a dream/hallucination, Coulson gets flashes of memory of being on the operating table. A voice is heard referencing Tony Stark supporting the effort to save Coulson. The unreveal part is it's unconfirmed whether this is a false memory, or if it is actually a real memory meaning the episode just revealed that Tony Stark was fully aware that Coulson survived being stabbed by Loki, contradicting what we saw in The Avengers (2012).
  • Vorpal Pillow: Yo-Yo's fear manifests a Jemma LMD which attempts to smother her. Alternatively, it may be Mack's fear manifesting, given his fear of killer robots and of anything happening to Yo-Yo.
  • Wham Line: When Deke is making small talk with Deathlok, he casually mentions he picked the ring he got for Simmons because it looked like his grandmother's — which, given the time-travel shenanigans, is all a savvy viewer needs to hear before the Wham Shot below confirms it.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Deke is genetically-linked to two members of Team Coulson — Fitz and Simmons. Turns out they're his grandparents.
    • To a lesser degree, when Coulson, Fitz and Deke are discussing the current situation in the elevator. At one point Coulson asks Fitz if he was stalling, pointing out that the elevator had stopped moving over a minute ago. They leave the elevator, arriving at the underground forest where the whole team is waiting for him. Then Simmons appears in a white dress with a bouquet in her hands, confirming that, yes, they're getting married now.
  • "What Do They Fear?" Episode: The reality bleed causes most characters' worst fears to manifest.
    • Coulson's greatest fear is that nothing he's done since being stabbed by Loki is real.
    • May's greatest fear is Andrew/Lash being alive again.
    • Deke's greatest fear is a lush forest, because he's totally unused to nature.
    • Yo-Yo's greatest fear is being told that Mack will leave her now that she's crippled.
    • In turn, Mack's greatest fear is seeing an LMD trying to kill Yo-Yo.
    • Daisy's greatest fear is a bloodthirsty Kree warrior attacking, because she's become hesitant to use her powers since learning that she supposedly causes the Earth's destruction.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Daisy is furious that Coulson never told the team about his deal with the Rider. Especially since their time in the Bad Future gave them access to the one thing that could've kept him alive — Kree blood. Coulson responds that he'd rather die than be put through the excruciatingly painful resurrection process a second time.
    • Daisy also calls out Fitz about "acceptable losses", adding "this isn't HYDRA".
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Thanks to his deal with Ghost Rider, Coulson's old stab wound is catching up to him. The tissue around the wound is turning necrotic, and will eventually spread to his heart. It can't be cured, because the tissue is already dead. Simmons confirms that at some unknown point in the future - no time frame is suggested - Coulson will simply drop dead.
  • Your Worst Nightmare: The fear dimension causes realistic illusions of the team's worst fears, which is mostly past enemies. In Coulson's case, however, it also manifests a fear of his impending death, in the form of suggesting that everything that's happened since Loki stabbed him has been a near-death hallucination.

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