Agents of SHIELD Swiftly Sidesteps a Time-Travel Paradox

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Inescapable," the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Say goodbye to Leopold Fitz, at least for the moment. "Inescapable," the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., swiftly and efficiently put Fitz's evil alter-ego to bed.

Back in Season 4, Phil Coulson and his S.H.I.E.L.D. team found themselves at the mercy of Aida, a Life Model Decoy created by Holden Radcliffe and Fitz. With some help from Radcliffe, she built the Framework, a virtual reality that he hoped would create peace for mankind. However, Aida took her mission to fulfill everyone's personal dreams a little too far. This created a reality where Hydra ruled over all. She put herself in charge as Madame Hydra, with Fitz as her right-hand man.

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In the Framework, Fitz finally got the father he never had. In reality, Alistair Fitz abandoned his son when he was 10 -- but not in the Framework. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Alistair was cruel and abusive, which in turn changed Fitz's personality drastically. As a result, Fitz was molded into a top Hydra scientist who was willing to torture and maim to get what he wants.

Although S.H.I.E.L.D. ultimately defeated Aida and shut down the Framework, its scars lingered. Leopold lurked in the back of Fitz's mind, allowing Fitz to become capable of shocking acts of violence. Season 5 pushed him to the brink, so much so that Fitz suffered a mental breakdown. This mental breakdown freed Leopold, who seized control. As a result, he performed an invasive surgery on Daisy against her will. In doing so, he closed a rift that had opened into the Fear Dimension, but lost himself and his friends in the process. He spent the rest of the season locked up, until he sacrificed himself to help stop Graviton in the Season 5 finale.

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Despite his death, a past version of Fitz still existed. Unlike his teammates, who were sent to 2091 through a monolith, Fitz went "the long way" -- that is, he entered a cryosleep chamber to wait those years out. So, when they successfully averted their cataclysmic time loop, S.H.I.E.L.D. created a paradox in which two Fitzs existed simultaneously. Realizing this, they set out to rescue the past version of Fitz, who did not experience any of the events of Season 5.

Since he didn't live through Season 5, the Fitz that appears in Season 6 did not have the same breakdown, meaning that Leopold still haunted him. "Inescapable" made swift work of that dangling plot thread by allowing Fitz to overcome Leopold once and for all.

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The chromicons made good on their threat from the last episode: to imprison Fitz and Simmons until they came up with a way to invent time travel. This prison happened to take place on the mental plane, in a device that connected their brains and allowed them to work in their subconscious. Of course, that is also where Leopold lurked, unbeknownst to both Fitz and the chromicons.

Naturally, Fitz and Simmons' mission went sideways as soon as Simmons' memories of Fitz's death surfaced. This sent them both down a rabbit hole, where their fear and pain manifested physical forms and tormented them. In doing so, Fitz and Simmons were able to literally fight their anxieties. For Fitz, that meant combating Leopold.

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After getting chased through each other's memories, Fitz and Simmons found themselves trapped in Fitz's Inhuman containment pod, while their personal demons lurked just outside. Soon, they fell to arguing, having a spectacular screaming match that ended with two intense confessions of love. Ultimately, their love for each other overcame their pain. As a result, their demons stopped fighting and made out passionately instead. This appears to have neutralized the threat of Leopold, all while resolving some of Fitz and Simmons' longstanding issues.

By exploring Fitz's subconscious like this, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. avoids repeating the Leopold storyline from Season 5. Now, Fitz can move forward with a clean slate, without the baggage of what he did to Daisy. What's more, he is no longer a time bomb; Simmons and the others don't have to wait for Leopold to rear his ugly head again, because Fitz successfully found closure for that chapter in his life. Whether he realizes it or not, his capture by the chromicons may be the best thing that happened to him.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Fridays at 8 pm ET/PT on ABC. The series stars Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Henry Simmons, Iain De Caestecker, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Elizabeth Henstridge and Clark Gregg.

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