Agents of SHIELD’s current sixth season had one question to answer: who the hell is Clark Gregg playing this time?
Since his death-by-Asgardian and resurrection after The Avengers, SHIELD proved that Coulson was born for a life of fighting alien gods and demons. Following his retirement to live out his remaining days in last year’s season finale, his fellow Agents found their grieving upended when a man named “Sarge” wearing Coulson’s face showed up. Contrary to some theories, he wasn’t a Skrull, or an LMD — in fact, even he didn’t know who he was, and he didn’t really care. All that mattered to him and his crew of alien mercenaries was killing an infestation of aliens called Shrike and their leader Izel.
This week’s episode “Leap” finally gave Sarge an origin story, and it connects back to the show’s eventful history. After using an atom bomb to end Izel and her horde, the Agents celebrated while Melinda May shot an imprisoned Sarge for wearing her dead lover’s face. Despite what it looked like, Sarge isn’t dead, and he doesn’t even have the bullet wounds to show for it. Neither is Izel, as it turns out: she spends the whole episode hopping from body to body while searching SHIELD headquarters. When he finally wakes from his scattered memories and escapes from the morgue, Sarge and Izel have a face-to-face chat that explains everything.
In last year’s fifth season, the 100th episode “The Real Deal” saw Coulson use a bomb to close a Fear Dimension created from the explosion of three Monoliths. The Monoliths have been in the series previously to send the Agents across space and time — last season’s journey to a destroyed years decades into the future was because of a time Monolith. Sarge is the byproduct of those Monoliths exploding: he was brought to life and blasted across space and time, where he eventually wound up in Izel’s realm of non-corporeal spirits.
One of the spirits in this realm was named Pachakutik and took over the Coulson Copy, which had just enough of Coulson’s identity to create Sarge as we know him. And to make things worse, the Shrike were a part of his and Izel’s wishes to give the rest of their people true form across the galaxy. He’s the only one who can stop her, if he can let whatever’s inside of him out. “Pachakutik” was the title of the season premiere and is a Quechuan concept for a movement in Earth that’ll bring about a new era. Peep Sarge’s hand during his ranting at the end of episode — whatever’s in that body is plenty powerful and has some powers of its own.
As Sarge comes to grips with who he is, fans will have to come to grips with the hard truth: Agents of SHIELD is ending after next year’s seventh season. The show has had an eventful ride since that bumpy first season, and it’ll be interesting to see how things conclude, especially if we get more of Sarge after Izel and her horde are defeated for good.