Warning: major spoilers ahead for Episode 11 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5, called "All the Comforts of Home."
While Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally brought the good guys home from space in "All the Comforts of Home," they didn't get the homecoming they wanted. Sure, they had access to food that wasn't laced with sterilizing agents and there were no crazy Kree in control, but they were the most wanted people in the United States. The episode also featured the introduction of Dove Cameron's character, Ruby, who turned out to be one of the bad guys. S.H.I.E.L.D. used Ruby to deliver a truly devastating twist that means permanent change for one character: Elena.
In "All the Comforts of Home," the agents (sans Daisy, who was off fetching the not-so-dead Deke) thought they had an ally when they reunited with a fellow former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who claimed to also be on the run from General Hale and the rest of the government. She soon revealed that she was actually informing on them to General Hale, believing it for the best and they wouldn't actually be hurt.
The agent was proved wrong when a masked woman (Ruby, as we later found out) with a circular scythe-like weapon showed up leading a squad of battle robots with the intent to kill. Elena was on hand to snatch all of their guns away with no problem, and it seemed like the good guys had a fighting chance of defeating them all... until Ruby threw her weapon at Elena as she was zipping around the room. At first, Elena looked like she hadn't been hit at all. Then, we saw the terrible truth: both of her arms had been severed above the elbows.
Sadly, the sight of Elena without arms was not something new for S.H.I.E.L.D. viewers, as the first arc of Season 5 revealed a future version of Elena who had been kept on ice by the Kree, revived every once in a while whenever they needed her Inhuman blood. That version of Elena didn't have her arms, and it seemed like the reason she lost them was simply that her body had been worn down by repeated death, resurrection, and draining. Whatever had happened that she lost her arms, surely it happened far in the future and because of the Kree, right?
Not so much, as it turns out. The fact that Elena lost her arms so soon after facing her future self makes her injury all the more tragic. She didn't have the chance to really process what she'd seen of her future self, and she didn't have the time to appreciate what she had or take steps to try and prevent having her arms cut off. Elena never had a chance. Now, she's grievously injured, Mack is beside himself with grief, and the good guys are down one of their greatest assets. Poor, poor Elena.
The twist of Elena losing her arms is devastating for more reasons than simply the damage done to a hero. It's a sign that the agents really may not stand a chance of changing the future as they intended when they returned to the past from the Lighthouse. Elena lost her arms and failed to convince Coulson to get checked out, both of which support what happened to future Elena when she warned that there was no stopping events already in motion. The Earth may still be doomed.
Of course, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has set a precedent for characters getting back into the action easily enough after losing a limb. Coulson himself had a hand chopped off, and his life is arguably easier now that Fitz can give him replacement hands with all kinds of gizmos. That said, Coulson only lost one limb, and it was only the hand. Elena lost both arms, nearly up to the shoulder. It's difficult to imagine how she could possibly return to her former life, and that is just heartbreaking. Elena deserved so much better.
We'll have to wait and see what's in store next for Elena and the rest. New episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. air on Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. For more viewing options, be sure to take a look at our midseason TV premiere schedule and 2018 Netflix premiere guide. Don't forget to cross your fingers and hope that S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't go the way of Once Upon a Time and get the axe, although at least the writers will be prepared.