Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Season 4 Episode 11
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD continues to up the level of intrigue brought to us by Dr. Radcliffe’s plan in conjunction with the threat that Senator Nadeer represents.
This show has been guilty of having far too much going on the past. It would often mean that potentially promising stories would get lost in the white noise that was the rest of the plot. It makes sense for a show like this to have a lot going on because there are a lot of characters and they should really be given something meaningful to do otherwise there is no point in them being there. It’s something this show has often had trouble with but I’m glad to say the problem has been largely solved.
My personal favourite part of the episode was Agent May -the real one, not the fake one- and her attempts to escape captivity. Last week it was established that she woke up because the scenario given to her to experience wasn’t a believable one so her brain rejected it. May is fuelled by conflict so she has to experience that to become invested in the experience. I’m not sure how I didn’t figure it out but I was really surprised when May’s escape proved to be the revised simulation. It might have had something to do with the fact that it seemed as if Dr. Radcliffe hadn’t had time to program it before she escaped. Either way it was a nice surprise and gave us some really cool action for the episode.
It gets even more personal later in the episode when Dr. Radcliffe uses one of her memories as the scenario. Of course the memory used is of Bahrain which we saw back in season 2’s “Melinda“. There is an important twist to this memory which comes across as really sadistic in a lot of ways. May is allowed to save the little girl this time. The Bahrain mission defined the rest of May’s life and is a big part of why she is so guarded now so revisiting that could potentially be very destructive to her. For someone who claims to not be able to relate to people, Dr. Radcliffe definitely knows the most important buttons to push.
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. the May LMD -henceforth known as LMayD- is continuing to process her injury from last week and the discovery that she’s artificial. Her programming won’t allow her to approach anyone with it but her “feelings” about it will be so complex that she doesn’t really understand why she doesn’t bring this up with those she trusts. Eventually she figures out that she is one of Radcliffe’s Life Model Decoy’s and goes to confront him about it.
This results in a fascinating and complex scene where LMayD is showing panic as well as confusion concerning her reason for being. We know for a fact that the feelings are only programmed responses designed to mimic emotions but it’s hard not to feel sympathetic when the emotions are played so genuinely. On the surface LMayD is someone who has been exploited and is being controlled without being able to do anything about it. Beneath that surface she is following her programming which means she is unable to hurt Dr. Radcliffe or even reveal his plan. By considering her a victim I am applying human characteristics to something that isn’t human which allowed Dr. Radcliffe to fool everyone in the first place. It’s a really complex handling of this story and it never ceases to be compelling.
Dr. Radcliffe was found out a lot earlier than I expected. It didn’t take long for Fitz and Simmons to realise that Aida had never actually become sentient which means that it takes even less time for S.H.I.E.L.D to bring him in. Dr. Radcliffe has prepared for this and replaced himself with an LMD which I also didn’t see coming. This is mainly because I suspected Fitz had been replaced by one but for now it looks like I was wrong about that.
Fitz hears what motivates Dr. Radcliffe and it’s not entirely unreasonable, at least from his point of view. He has gone past the point of no return when it comes to his methods but his goals are simple enough. The main problem as I’ve said before is that he is blinded by his own desires and is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure he gets what he wants. His decoy’s conversation with Aida about the value of life and how it should only be taken as a last resort shows that he has some a sense of morality but will cast it aside when he feels it’s necessary. This is more of an ideological conflict and it’s working brilliantly.
Mack and Elena’s relationship has already hit a rough patch which initially frustrated me because it’s something we’ve seen before but I changed my mind once Mack told the story of his daughter Hope who only lived for four days. Henry Simmons nails the pain in Mack’s voice as he tells Elena the truth and it adds an extra dimension of trust to their relationship. I do feel that this was slightly out of place in this episode when it could have been put to better use in another less busy episode but I can’t deny the effectiveness of this as a character development opportunity.
The mission to the Capitol Building so that Daisy can sign the Sokovia Accords from Captain America: Civil War while Coulson and Elena do some discrete snooping is another good use of characters as it furthers the Senator Nadeer plot, deals with the Inhuman persecution as well as explores the shaky relationship S.H.I.E.L.D. has with the government.
Coulson and Talbot’s argument over Coulson’s actions sums up these characters in really clear ways. Talbot doesn’t trust Coulson because he constantly does things behind his back that, in his opinion, threaten National Security. Coulson doesn’t trust Talbot because he barely tells him anything. There’s a gap in trust there and they will never be able to work together effectively until they bridge that gap in some way. Talbot is well within his rights to launch a full investigation into this but it will also do him more harm than good in the long run.
Daisy’s heartfelt appeal to Nadeer to recognise the persecution that Inhumans face was really well done as well. She speaks as someone who has been out out in the real world and experienced it first hand. What she says echoes a lot of the sentiments applied to Mutants over the years in the comics but it’s not hard to relate this to Inhumans as well. What it boils down to is that anything different is feared by those who are closed minded. The fact that the people being persecuted have special abilities and can do lots of harm to others is only the reason for them being different as far as this argument is concerned. Daisy wants to remind everyone that there are people behind the powers and she makes this personal by bringing up Nadeer’s brother.
The issue of Inhumans actually being dangerous because of their powers is yet to be addressed. They can be much more dangerous than someone with a gun but that doesn’t mean that they should be persecuted. It’s not something they can control and if they mean no harm then they should be allowed to live their lives as anyone else does. Inhuman villains or criminals should obviously be dealt with but not all of them will turn out that way. These are really obvious points but they still need to be said.
Chloe Bennet really outdone herself with her performance this week. The heartfelt sincerity and confidence in her voice was really well done. Daisy could very much be the face of the Inhumans and Chloe Bennet’s performance proves that she’s more than up to the task.
Since the S.H.I.E.L.D. plan was easily rumbled Nadeer has proven that she is a few steps ahead of them. The reveal that Dr. Radcliffe is working with her answers how that’s possible since LMayD is unwittingly supplying the much needed information. I’m impressed that the villains are so naturally connected and I really look forward to seeing how this develops.
Another great episode that juggles a number of different stories expertly while managing to connect them in clever ways. The best for me was the real Agent May as she lives out her fantasy of escaping on repeat without knowing what’s happening to her. It allows for impressive action and the transition to the altered Bahrain memory is great as well. May’s LMD also manages to make me feel sympathetic despite repeated reminders that she’s only following her programming. She knows what she is but her programming won’t let her reveal it. It’s a really complex and clever story. The reveal that Dr. Radcliffe also has an LMD was a nice surprise as well as not being unexpected.
Mack’s roadblock in his relationship with Elena was initially frustrating but the reasons were very well played by Henry Simmons. I think it belonged in a far less busy episode but I can’t argue with the effectiveness. The mission to the Capitol building is well handled as well because it furthers the Inhuman persecution story as well was bringing up the conflict between Talbot and Coulson all while reminding us of how dangerous Senator Nadeer is. The episode uses characters well and keeps the stories moving at a decent pace.