Friday, August 28, 2020

A True Friend - Deke Shaw

By Guest Writer C.L.Shoemaker

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

In the final time travelling season of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (season 7 episode 7 “The Totally Excellent Adventures of Mac and the D”) director Alphonso Mackenzie (Mac), the moral compass of the team, is crushed when he discovers his parents have been murdered. Killed by chronicoms, a robotic threat SHIELD has been fighting, Mac’s parents were replaced by sentient duplicates that he is then forced to destroy. Overwhelmed at having lost his parents, and having to kill their false copies, Mac leaves the team to go for a ride and clear his head. Upon returning the team’s ship malfunctions, jumping forward in time, leaving Mac and Agent Deke Shaw stranded in 1982.

After panicking about being stuck in the 80s, Deke, a new member of the crew, sets his concerns aside to help Mac. Despite having made mistakes in the past and failing to be an ideal agent, Deke values loyalty and is concerned for his friend. When Mac berates Deke for past irresponsible actions, Deke still tries to help. 

Deke: I’m sorry you lost your parents. If there was anything else we could have done differently –
Mac: You could have followed orders. Who are you to take a life in your own hands even if you think it’s right.
Deke: I lost my parents early too, ok. And I still think about it every day. If you want to talk, I’m here.
Mac: I’m good. 
Deke: Wait, wait, wait … We need a game plan. What if the chronicoms are still out there? Maybe that’s why we’re still here?
Mac: You figure it out. (Riding off)
Deke: (Yelling) Mac! Mac! You don’t have to go through this alone.

Just like Paul in second Corinthians, Deke knows the pain of suffering and loss. He understands that pain can be a training ground for helping others face a similar heartbreak. Deke grew up in a post-apocalyptic future where humans were under alien slavery. He survived by being smart, sly and determined. As he tells Mac, he also lost his parents at an early age. Deke is desperate for family and belonging, and as a result of that need, he understands loss and loneliness. He wants to help Mac because he has been there, and he understands what Mac is going through. 
Deke is also an ideal friend who never gives up. While Mac shuts himself away from the world and turns to drink (something he later comments he wasn’t proud of) Deke tirelessly tries to reach out. Upon learning Mac’s location, Deke arrives ready to go to the park and “kick the ball around”. Despite literally having a door slammed in his face, Deke keeps trying. He is unwavering in his love for his friend, dropping off groceries on New Year’s Eve and inviting Mac to a show at Swayze’s bar later in the year. 

When Mac shows up at the bar, Deke’s excitement is palpable. He introduces Mac to the new team, The D Squad, and makes him the director, despite Mac rejecting the role. Back at headquarters, Mac has nothing to offer but criticism. However, Deke is too thrilled to have Mac back to register the bad attitude. He even gives Mac his own personal weapon, the shotgun axe, noting: “You think I’m going to let my director go out into the field with anything less.” But Mac doesn’t want to be a part of a team. His anger and frustration come out in an attack against Deke, calling him and the D Squad useless. 

In the resulting argument Deke self-sacrificially stands up for his incompetent team knowing they simply need training. We also see that Deke won’t give up on Mac, even if his friend is lashing out in anger.

Deke: The team needs you to get it together.
Mac: That’s not a team. It’s a bunch of losers playing dress up lead by a Peter Pan in constant need of attention
Deke: Look, you can say whatever you want about me, I can handle it, but don’t you ever talk about my team that way … They have my back and they won’t give up on me when the going gets tough. Just like I didn’t give up on you.
Mac: I didn’t ask for that.
Deke: You didn’t have to because that’s what friends do for each other.

When Roxy chews Mac out for his bad attitude he learns that Deke has been visiting 1980s 10-year-old Mac and his brother Ruben, gifting school supplies, toys and a drum kit. While Mac couldn’t help his younger self, as he himself was grieving, Deke could. Having perspective and experience with loss, Deke went in Mac’s stead and encouraged the young brothers. Mac is both shocked and touched by Deke’s selfless nature and it is this kindness that turns Mac’s heart around.
Mac’s change comes at the ideal time as he saves the D Squad from a killer robot and takes over leading the rookie group. Deke, ever forgiving, welcomes Mac back with open arms as their director learns a lesson in forgiveness and humility.

Deke: You came back.
Mac: Never should have left (holds out his hand to Deke and they shake).
Chang: Any ideas on what to do next?
Mac: A few. If your team will have me.

When the original SHIELD team finally jumps back to 1983, Yo-yo, Mac’s girlfriend, reflects that “no one should ever have to go through [loss] alone.” Thankfully Mac wasn’t alone as he informs her, “It wasn’t easy, but … I had friends.” He had the unwavering friendship of Deke Shaw, “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov 18: 24). 

Mac was blessed by Deke, a faithful friend who cared about Mac’s brokenness. Community and friendship were vital to Mac’s recovery. It was unhealthy for him to try to go it alone as Coulson observed, “isolating yourself just isn’t healthy. You need your friends, especially during the rough patches.”

The Bible speaks about the importance of community and friendship when dealing with loss, pain, or hurt. God created the church as a community of believers to offer help and encouragement. Likewise, God praises friendship, highlighting the importance of close relationships for support and care: “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Prov 17:17). We can even use our painful experiences to help others who are struggling (2 Cor 1:3-4). What hurt have you gone through that you can use to help others? Are there any friends in your life, like Mac, that could use a support network? How can you be a Deke Shaw to someone you love?