UPDATE (12/9/15): For further theories on the identity of the Death Monster and the Blue Planet, check out my AoS articles before and after the winter finale.
Now six episodes deep, Season 3 of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has already accrued its share of mysterious cliff-hangers and possible further MCU entanglements. As I’ve done previously today I’ll work through some of the prevalent theories making their way around the interwebs, specifically focusing on Simmons’ time on the alien planet in episode 3.5 “4,722 Hours”. Though we did get a few reveals in last week’s episode “Among Us Hide…”, the largest obviously being the identity of Lash, the previous episode left us with many intriguing questions and corresponding theories, issues that may be addressed as early as tonight’s Episode 7. So strap on your nerdcaps, True Believers, and let’s theorize on some AoS questions, starting with…
Where was Simmons stranded?
By now we know quite a bit about the Monolith (it’s a portal to another planet/dimension) and its creation (fashioned by the Kree as an answer to their failed Inhuman experiments) but are left with several unanswered questions. The frequency of its liquefying transformation, and thus its creation of the portal, is linked to the alien planet’s orbit and alignment but also seems to respond to Inhumans being in its vicinity. Does this speak to Jemma being something other than fully human since it liquified to suck her in? We also know that it can be forced open through vibration as S.H.I.E.L.D. discovers in the secret chamber of their British experimenting forebears. We know that there have been experiments on it for centuries but the results have been continuously lost to inter-dimensional travel and a maleficent creature inhabiting the alien world.
Beyond these facts we have a lot of scattered information to compile into a comic book puzzle, and theories are abounding from all corners of the internet as to the identity of the mysterious figure of death that seems to rule, or at least dominate, the barren world where Jemma and astronaut Will Daniels were/are trapped. Given the storyline’s connection to the Inhumans and potential to connect to the other intergalactic goings-on of the MCU, this question could be rather significant going forward. For clarity purposes, here I will refer to the character as the Death Monster so as to differentiate from the Marvel character named Death (who may also play into this). Also, a disclaimer: while I wear my nerd mantel proudly I am not enough of one where these theories are my own. I have scoured the internet in search of answers, much like many other hungry fans and compiled the results for you here. I will include links to what I consider the most sound reports. Some are long-shots but some are sheer brilliance so let’s dig into the theories.
The Death Monster is… Death herself
There’s been a lot of chatter about the Death Monster being Death herself, the comic book embodiment with whom Thanos, big bad of the Avengers movies and specifically the Infinity War, is in love and continuously trying to impress. The actual connections to this character are minimal so far, making this theory more hopeful than concrete as a lead-in to the upcoming MCU films. Will does describe the murderous monster specifically using the words “only death”, our most prevalent hint here. “Death” is also the word written in Hebrew on the scroll that Fitz finds at the end of his frantic cross-continental research into the Monolith. These are hints that cannot be ignored.
But while Whedon and the AoS creators have not been hesitant to introduce big-screen ideas on the small screen (i.e. the Inhumans), the idea that such a large character as Death is trapped on a planet and hunting (in)humans seems a bit… small. How would that storyline play out, Jemma and SHIELD rescue Will (which they will) by further trapping and conquering Death? Seems a bit campy, even for AoS. While this theory seems to work well with Will’s constant references to her by name, I think we are actually looking for a character or characters with a more tangible and interact-able identity.
One of the more entertaining theories as to their location is that they’ve been transported to Ego, the Living Planet, one of the strangest character concepts in the Marvel universe. “This planet doesn’t have rules, it has… moods,” says Will, later making several references that “it” doesn’t want them to leave, though it’s unclear if he’s talking about the planet itself or the Death Monster, if in fact there’s any difference. The planet’s changing landscape seen in the widening chasm and its once being a paradise (unless this was just a sell to the astronauts) also support the idea of the living, ambitious, and bellicose biosphere. Many fans have said that Ego was their first thought during Episode 3.5 when Will began talking of the planet anthropomorphically. The question again, though, is what is to come in terms of storyline from battling a sentient planet? Would it be an enemy SHIELD would actually have to face or some kind of long setup for Infinity War? I think it’s undeniable that some of the material for those movies and GOTG2 are being laid out in AoS but I can’t really see how Ego would fit into all of that. So what else might it be?
Wraith, Dire Wraiths, and Wraithworld
We’ve seen the Death Monster take on different forms, including appearing as an astronaut as Simmons wandered in the final sandstorm. Will spoke at length about its seeming ability for psychological manipulation, having led (perhaps) his fellow astronauts to madness and death. Whether these are two powers or one in the same, the identity of our monster, almost certainly a character from canon, will be inevitably linked to its abilities. The biggest support for the Dire Wraiths and Wraithworld as our Death Monster stems from their ability as shape-shifters. Wraithworld orbits a black sun in a part of the universe known as the Dark Nebula, an area heavy in sorcery and dark magic, and it is home to the Dire Wraiths, an offshoot of the Skrulls which brings us into a whole other discussion about character rights, but a segment of the DW’s were experimented on by the Kree, which could bring them cleanly into the AoS fold. With the Dire Wraiths come the Spaceknights, a race of cyborgs created to defend against them. Could Will’s secret be that he agreed to a government program wherein he was adapted into something resembling a cyborg and that he’s actually a modern iteration of the Spaceknights sent to defend against the threat discovered on this alien planet?
Somewhat more likely is that the Death Monster is the character known as Wraith, one of his several iterations. In the version of the character known as Zak-Del he is the son of a Kree inventor exiled to a barren world. Zak-Del ended up in a region called the Exoteric Latitude, the realm of the Nameless, a division of fucked-up Kree, a place that our alien planet could certainly represent. He controls a parasidic swarm called Exolon which is especially interesting because the swarm disappears when he’s rendered unconscious (like at the last gunshot). In the human Brian DeWolff iteration of the character his powers are the result of scientific experiments and range in the more ordinary psionic projection realm, a nice fit for our Death Monster. But the DeWolff version has no existing reason for inhabiting an alien planet and thus this theory seems a bit of stretch.
Other dangling points of foreshadowing
So while we have little in the way of a resounding theory here, we certainly have a plethora of puzzle pieces with which to play. In addition, there are a number of lines that struck a chord too ominous/specific to ignore.
-Jemma makes mention that it seems people have been sent to this planet/beast for centuries as if they’re being sacrificed. Will makes no reaction of surprise. To whom, by whom, and why would people be willingly sacrificed?
-How did NASA now the planet would be habitable? Will says that is classified, above his pay grade, hinting at involvement of a shadow organization. SHIELD perhaps? Or even SWORD?
-When Will describes the death of his fellow astronauts, he then follows the line of logic out that perhaps he was the one who went crazy and killed them, creating a menacing possibility for Jemma’s future. He never refutes that theory and is definitely dealing with questions of his own sanity when he first encounters Jemma. Perhaps it’s all just too obvious, too much of a red herring but again, it can’t be ignored.
-He mentions that he was never very “science-y”. While others have interpreted this as deception given that he was a member of NASA and thus inherently sciencey, I read it as a character comparison to other super-nerds like Simmons and his fellow astronauts. While I can understand the reading that says he’s trying to hide his true nature and I do contend that he is hiding something, I don’t think his actual intelligence is it.
-Will mentions and we see that the planet has a burning hot core, which keeps it warm and hospitable. Perhaps this is just given as background to his underground habitat but it seems too keen a detail to the planet’s identity to mean nothing.
-Will calls the area centrally inhabited by the Death Monster the “no fly zone”. While this is a fairly commonplace military term his repeated use of the phrase cries out as a hint. Is the “no fly zone” shorthand for The Negative Zone?
-As Simmons is getting off the alien planet in the sandstorm we hear Will fire his final bullet. We are left with no idea if he hit his target but we see him drop the gun and walk away defeated after the portal has closed and while the planet experiences its 30 seconds of sun. What is notable to me in this moment is that the sandstorm seems to clear after the shot and Will walks away unsurprised. Was the Death Monster’s appearance linked to the portal’s opening and not simply to hunting them? Is it no longer hunting Will? And was Will expecting that outcome, to be able to shoot the Death Monster, have the sandstorm clear, and walk away, because he certainly didn’t seem surprised by any of it. Is he actually Will?
So what do you think? Will we find out the identity of the Death Monster and will it happen in tonight’s episode?
Tweet me your thoughts @DrProfEsq and join us as we live tweet during the show @JPLime.
Ok, so while last night’s “Chaos Theory” episode stoked several different plotline embers, we got little more to add to our alien planet puzzle. The team finally dealt with Lash complete with help from Lincoln and Rosalind Price and Coulson knocked boots (!) only to find out that Price is working for Gideon Malick (!!). It wasn’t until the near end of the episode that we see Fitz futzing with Simmons’ phone data and we get another hint concerning Will Daniels. Though I failed to say much about it above, the secret society featured in episode 3.02 (“The Purpose in the Machine”) has loomed as a festering hint as well, their identity and purpose both shrouded in mystery. Their lottery sends a member of their society through the portal, a continuation of systemic research into the Monolith that has been going on for we know not how long.
The Asgardian known as Elliot Randolph (“the Warrior Who Stayed”) lays out a few hints in recounting his 19-century interactions with the secret order. He mentions a party at the English castle where the chamber is located, having seen the Hebrew symbol there from Fitz’s scroll and a man in an owl costume. Are we being introduced to the ancient order from the comic books known as The Brotherhood of the Shield, who members have included Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton?? Is the man in the owl costume Archimedes?
Here are the symbols that Fitz pulls out from Jemma’s data at the end of last night’s episode. Who do you think the secret society might be?