Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Season 4 Episode 2
“Meet the New Boss”
The new director makes his debut in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD as Daisy continues to investigate the mysterious Robbie Reyes.
I had avoided information about the new director up until seeing this episode. All I really knew was that someone had been cast but I chose not to look into who that was. Whether that enhanced the reveal or not I couldn’t say but it did make the mystery surrounding him an effective one. Last week he was talked about but not seen so all we had to go on was the opinions of the people talking about him which would naturally be coloured in some way. Teasing his appearance in this way before letting the audience come to their own conclusions with all that in mind worked really well and possibly made him a more compelling character than he really was in this episode.
The new director goes by Jeffrey Mace (Jason O’Mara) which turns out to be an important name in Marvel comics. I won’t go into a lot of detail as that’s what the hyperlink is for but the important thing is that the character in the comics went by the name Captain America at one point. Basically the U.S. Government wanted to maintain the symbol after Steve Rogers was presumed dead and a number of different people carried on the legacy. Jeffrey Mace was one of them and later he became known as a different costumed hero named Patriot.
Whether this version of Mace ever went by the name Captain America is unknown –though I would guess not- but it’s an interesting choice for the writers to go with especially since Steve Rogers is mentioned in this episode as being the symbol of super powered protection. Mace was picked as the director because he is a powered person that the public can trust.
This version of the character is an Inhuman who seems to have super strength but we don’t find out about that until the end of the episode. As reveals go it works really well since there are no hints at it before it happens and then it’s almost shrugged off as if it’s no big deal. The dialogue was clever enough to suggest that the characters knew about this without it coming up in conversation. Saving the reveal until the end gets around any assumptions people might make about the mistrust that surrounds him. It’s clear that none of the characters care that he’s an Inhuman and dislike him for different reasons.
Put simply he isn’t trusted because he doesn’t do anything to earn it. It’s interesting that Agents of SHIELD seems to be poking fun at corporate bureaucracy in a big way this season. The previous episode had clearance levels changed to colours instead of numbers so that people don’t feel undervalued by having a lower number than anyone else and this episode extends that by having everything be about image rather than reality. S.H.I.E.L.D. has to be seen as a trustworthy organisation with honesty as its mission statement even if that’s not the truth.
Mace is fully committed to that but the really clever thing is that he is rarely honest. He does admit that it’s all about image but he projects this air of friendliness in an attempt to disarm those he talks to. His friendly demeanour has a lot of subtext to it as we see in his conversation with Coulson where he points out that he understands why Coulson went rogue to look for Daisy. He points out that loyalty is an important thing but quickly brings the conversation back to image. The dialogue is very well written to emphasise the things that Mace isn’t saying and Jason O’Mara’s line delivery is absolutely spot on.
Of course Coulson isn’t falling for it. He has enough experience to recognise thinly veiled subtext when he sees it. In fact he used to be the one deploying the same tactics back when S.H.I.E.L.D. was a legitimate organisation. The events since the first season have made him grow tired of those sorts of games and that’s clear in his interactions with Mace.
Coulson and Mace have an interesting relationship so far as there’s definitely a mutual respect there but it’s more complex than that as Coulson clearly doesn’t like him. There’s mention of Coulson not wanting to be the leader of a legitimate S.H.I.E.L.D. organisation for many reasons -chief among them probably being that most of the world still thinks he’s dead- and that he recognised the need for the public to see a powered person in a leadership position to prove that they could be trusted. Coulson’s problem is that he is sour that he wound up with Mace as a boss.
Mace realises that but really doesn’t seem to care. Coulson has to follow his orders and that’s the end of it. It also seems that Mace is going to keep being nice to him and complimenting him because he thinks that Coulson is a good guy and that he deserves it. I suspect this will only irritate Coulson more as time goes on. I really like this relationship so far as it’s a mature adversarial one that feels real.
The one issue I had with Mace is that he isn’t all that well developed so far. This is only his first appearance but beyond being a bureaucrat and an Inhuman we know very little about him. Jason O’Mara is a great choice for this role as he delivers the subtext laden dialogue effortlessly but so far there isn’t much to him other than how other characters see him. I’m sure he will be developed more as the episodes progress.
Speaking of subtext laden dialogue there was plenty of that when Daisy continues her investigation of Robbie. Daisy goes for the direct approach which is consistent with her personality and decides to talk to him directly. She does this by showing up at his work and interrogating him through veiled dialogue.
She presents herself as an old school friend of his which gets her in the door and lets the writers have a lot of fun with the chosen dialogue. Chloe Bennet completely nails this side of Daisy rather than the morbid brooding she has become known for. She has great comic timing so it’s nice to see that she gets a chance to use it.
There is also some development of Daisy’s emotional state. Robbie sees that she has a death wish but also that she has a desire to help people to counter it. Daisy isn’t suicidal but she’s reckless when it comes to putting herself in harm.
This episode brings Daisy into contact with Mack and Simmons and it is made very clear that there is a long way to go before she’s back on the team. She simply doesn’t want to come back and is apologetic about that fact but sticks to her guns. It was a surprisingly understated moment when she reconnects with her former teammates but it worked all the better for it. The look on Mack’s face when he discovered that Yo-Yo had been helping Daisy to steal supplies said more than dialogue ever could. He feels that Daisy has betrayed the trust they put in her. To his mind it’ll be stealing from family and the fact that she makes no apologies for it shows how far she has to go.
Fitz is just frustrated with the whole thing as he points out that they’ve all been through terrible things so she’s hardly alone in that but to his mind Daisy is selfishly cutting herself off without considering the impact it has on them. It looks like it’ll take a while for those fences to be mended.
Robbie continues to be tortured and more clues are given about the nature of his abilities. Nothing is confirmed but him being an Inhuman is ruled out completely after Daisy makes the assumption. Teasing his supernatural origins is a smart move as the general audience will have to be eased into the concept of the supernatural in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so it makes sense that the exploration of that is happening gradually. This episode is a little light on actual character development for Robbie beyond his curiosity at the bigger story happening around him but Gabriel Luna’s performance remains compelling especially the subtlety in his facial expression once his brother is mentioned.
His growing connection with Daisy is working well so far. They are both isolated in different ways and seem to understand how that feels. There’s also the suggestion that both of them feel as if they are a danger to those around them which naturally brings them together. I’m looking forward to the Quake/Ghost Rider team-up that seems to be coming our way.
The ghostly figure shown last week definitely forms the arc for the early part of the season. It turns out that the ghost is named Lucy (Lilli Birdsell) and she is one of many that have been imprisoned in a mysterious box for a number of years. There are references to something called the Darkhold which seems to be a book of some sort and the desire for power that went horribly wrong. It all sounds very mystical but as I said above the show is really taking their time with confirming it. The team even mention that Lucy being a ghost is a possibility and Simmons acknowledges that it’s a theory but turns her nose up at it. The delivery of that was perfect and Simmons seems to be the stand-in for the audience in coming to terms with the supernatural.
May is really struggling with the mysterious infection to the point that she is restrained and screaming. Using May to show the full impact of this is a good idea as it’s jarring to see someone who is always so collected driven to the point of insanity. If May can’t handle it then who can?
As a final point I wasn’t quite sure where to put this in the review so I’ll leave it as an aside. There was an extended reference to Peggy Carter where it was mentioned that not all of her accomplishments were recorded but she was a remarkable person. I wonder if the unrecorded accomplishments are a reference to the fact that the Agent Carter TV series was recently cancelled. Maybe we’ll see Peggy return in flashbacks sometime.
Another excellent episode that builds the supernatural elements really well. The new director is an interesting character despite being a little underdeveloped so far. Coulson’s issues with his leadership style and the slick dialogue riddled with subtext during their conversations works really well so I imagine this will only get better. Daisy and Robbie being drawn to each other because of their similar desire to help others makes a lot of sense and I like that Chloe Bennet gets to use her comic timing rather than being overly morbid.
The ghostly figures and mentions of other supernatural elements are a nice gradual tease for what is to come and it’s a smart move to build all of this gradually.