Thursday, January 12, 2017

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 9: Broken Promises

Hey, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is back!

I didn't expect the show to be back so soon, and would have missed it if I hadn't accidentally seen a mention of it online the day it aired. There's usually a two to three month gap between the halves of the seasons, but this time it was only about thirty days. I guess now that Agent Carter is kaput, ABC needs something to air, so they shortened the series' hiatus.

Whatever the reason, I'm glad the show's back. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. became my favorite show in the first half of Season 4, mainly because of the addition of Ghost Rider. He seems to have ridden off into the sunset for now, so I hope this new "Life Model Decoy" storyline is as good.

Speaking of Life Model Decoys, as I said last month, I'm sure the fact that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.  is doing an ultra realistic android plotline in the back half of the season has absolutely nothing to do with the phenomenal success of HBO's Westworld series. Nope, totally a coincidence!

Last month I also said that making AIDA turn evil was too obvious, and had already been done in Avengers: Age Of Ultron. I had a different theory for AIDA's motives. I said that Radcliffe programmed her to protect S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at all costs, so they wouldn't have to risk their lives in the field. What if she's systematically abducting the various agents, and replacing them with Life Model Decoys to protect them. Just like the well-meaning, but terrifying robots in the 1947 Jack Williamson sci-fi story With Folded HandsThen the imprisoned agents will eventually have to rebel against her to get their lives back. 

Welp, that was an interesting theory on my part, but as we saw in this episode, completely erroneous. Ah well. Better luck to me next time.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Picking up right where we left off in The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics, AIDA changes out of her bloodstained clothes after killing Agent Nathanson. She then pokes her head into her closet, where she's holding Agent May. AIDA tells her she'll make her more comfortable as soon as the Life Model Decoy of her has served its purpose.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters, Director Mace meets with the team (including LMD May, who's secretly replaced the real thing). He tells Coulson to give the Darkhold to an agent who specializes in getting rid of mystical objects (?). He then orders Fitz and Radcliffe to wipe AIDA's hard drive (ouch), to remove her knowledge of the ancient and forbidden book. Simmons discovers that the Inhuman she helped treat in Deals With Our Devils was Vijay Nadeer, brother of the evil Senator Ellen Nadeer.

Daisy meets with Mace, who apologizes for threatening to have her arrested a few episodes ago. He welcomes her back to the team and tells her he wants to make a fresh start with her. He then recruits her and Simmons to go on a mission with him to rescue Vijay for some reason (I think because Senator Nadeer vehemently hates Inhumans, and Mace is afraid she'll do something to Vijay).

Meanwhile, Radcliffe takes Fitz and two grunts to his house to erase AIDA's memory. Radcliffe uses a remote to shut down AIDA (!), but she reactivates herself. She says she's upgraded her system and is now autonomous, and can no longer feel pain. She knocks out Radcliffe, kills the grunts and throws Fitz through a glass door, where he sees Nathonson's dead body (see The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics). Funny how she always seems to kill everyone except the main cast, eh?

Simmons goes undercover as a lobbyist to try and find Vijay's location from Senator Nadeer. The Senator's not in of course, and her aide recognizes Simmons and attacks. Simmons knocks him out and grabs his phone, which she can use to find Nadeer.

Vijay dreams about his mother, who died when the Chitauri attacked New York in The Avengers. He wakes up and has breakfast with his sister, Senator Nadeer. She asks him if he remembers being in the Terrigenesis cocoon for seven years. He says he kept hearing her telling him to fight, and he didn't let the cocoon change him. He tells her that Simmons saved him.

Senator Nadeer takes Vijay for a walk around the grounds, which is the secret signal for a group of Watchdogs, hired by her. They move in to kill Vijay, as Nadeer apologizes to him. She reminds him that when their mother was killed by aliens, they vowed to "do the right thing" if either one of them ever became infected by otherworldly forces. Vijay pleads with her, insisting that he resisted Terrigenesis and isn't an Inhuman. Nadeer believes him and calls off the Watchdogs.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., AIDA hacks into the system and addresses Coulson and the others. She tells them she wants the Darkhold or else. She then shuts off the power to the entire base. Fitz says he and Simmons set up a special "non-internet" server to power the Headquarters in cases like this. He and Radcliffe rush to start it up. Coulson tells Mack to go round up Yo-yo, while he and LMD May try to keep AIDA from entering the base. As they patrol the halls, they run into AIDA, who knocks them both out and throws them into a cell.

Mace, Daisy and Simmons arrive at Senator Nadeer's home, and demand she hand over Vijay. She refuses and orders them to leave. The Watchdogs arrive and attack Vijay, He easily dodges their attacks, as he appears to be an Inhuman after all, having developed some kind of superspeed while he was in his Terrigenesis husk. Mace, Daisy and Simmons hear the commotion and return. Daisy takes out the Watchdogs, and Simmons pleads with Vijay to come with them. He refuses and goes with Nadeer. Simmons tries to stop him, but Mace says to let him go, as he's made his choice.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., Fitz and Radcliffe debate what happened to AIDA, and if she's actually become human or not. Mack arrives with Yo-yo, and they're pinned down when AIDA takes control of a Quinjet and uses it to fire on them. Coulson and LMD May wake up in their cell. Coulson knocks out the cameras and tells LMD May where he hid the Darkhold in a drawer in Mace's office, disguised by a holographic generator. Unknown to Coulson, AIDA is monitoring everything LMD May sees and hears. She heads to Mace's office, finds the book and takes it.

Fitz restores the power, and he and Radcliffe confront AIDA in a corridor. AIDA tries to hack into the main door to open it, but Fitz says he locked her out of the system. Just then Mack appears and cuts off AIDA's head with his axe gun. Well, that was anticlimactic.

Nadeer and Vijay get into a waiting chopper and take off. Once in the air, she kills her brother, and tells one of the Watchdogs to dispose of his body.

At Radcliffe's home, we see him talking to a second AIDA model. He's disappointed that AIDA 1.0 failed to steal the Darkhold, but praises her "Crazy Robot Becoming Human" act. He tells AIDA 2.0 that the brief glimpse he got of the book filled his head with all sorts of knowledge and ideas, and he believes he could use it to live forever. He says his only chance is for LMD May to steal the book for him. He checks on real May, and adjusts her sedatives.

Vijay's body is thrown from the helicopter into the ocean. It sinks to the bottom, where his body forms another Terrigenesis cocoon around itself.

Thoughts:

• During the briefing at the beginning of the episode, Coulson says, "We'll transfer the Darkhold to an agent who specializes in making items like this disappear."

At first I assumed he was namedropping Doctor Strange, but surely he's not a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. So I'm not sure who Coulson's talking about here. At the end of the episode we see the Darkhold's hidden by a hologram inside Mace's office. I doubt this is what Coulson was talking about when he said "make it disappear." They were probably just storing it in the office temporarily, until they could take it to the mystery person.


• Although Life Model Decoys are new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they've been around in the comics forever. They first appeared in the first ever S.H.I.E.L.D. story in Strange Tales #135, in 1965. In that issue, S.H.I.E.L.D. made several LMDS of Nick Fury (who was white back then) to act as decoys, to protect him from HYDRA.

• Back in 2012's The Avengers, Iron Man dismisses a call from Agent Coulson by saying, "You have reached the Life Model Decoy of Tony Stark, please leave a message." But this season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. strongly implies that LMDs are a recent creation. How could Tony Stark joke about LMDs five years ago if Dr. Radcliffe just invented them?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki practically bends over backwards as it struggles valiantly to explain this. According to it, S.H.I.E.L.D. dabbled with LMDs some time ago, but abandoned the technology. Apparently five years or so ago Tony Stark must have hacked into the S.H.I.E.L.D. computers and read about LMDs. Then Dr. Radcliffe became an honorary  member of S.H.I.E.L.D., discovered the rejected project and revived it, genuinely intending to use it to protect field agents.

Eh, not a bad save, I guess. I'm willing to give 'em this one.

• Simmons has a really good eye for faces. In Deals With Our Devils she was taken to a secret location and told to remove a mysterious subject from his Terrigenesis cocoon. After running some tests on the cocoon, she peeled a bit of it away with her hands, revealing a very small portion of the face of the man inside. 

Somehow from that brief glimpse she was able to provide such a detailed description of the man's face to Daisy that she positively I.D.ed him as Vijay Nadeer. Amazing!

• I expected LMD May to be a spy for AIDA, and sneak around the base knocking out other agents and replacing them with androids. But from what we saw 
in this episode, LMD May is apparently unaware that she's an android, and thinks she's the real thing. Interesting.

LMD May was getting all flirty with Coulson I guess that means Real May feels the same?

• In this episode, I naturally assumed that AIDA had been corrupted by reading the Darkhold, and had become an evil, sentient robot. Apparently that wasn't the case, and it doesn't look like the book affected her at all. 

Radcliffe mentions AIDA's "Oscar™ winning performance," which implies that she was just acting like a crazy evil robot, in order to steal the Darkhold for him.

• When the base is locked down, LMD May asks Coulson, "Where we headed?" Coulson replies, "Emergency staircase to the base's Bar Entrance. We need to lock that down manually."

So there's a secret entrance to S.H.I.E.L.D. in a bar somewhere? Since when? Unless I'm completely forgetting something, I'm pretty sure this is the first time that's ever been mentioned.

• Simmons can do a pretty good southern accent when she has to.

• Looks like Senator Nadeer's mom was killed during the Chitauri invasion of New York back in The Avengers. Man, they're still milking that event, aren't they?

• Senator Nadeer mentioned someone called "The Superior" several times in the episode. I have no idea who she could be talking about.

• Did Yo-yo forget she's a speedster? At one point AIDA hacks into the Quinjet and causes it to fire on her and Mack. Yo-yo just hides behind some conveniently placed cargo containers and occasionally fires a gun at the attacking plane.

Yes, I heard Mace mention that Yo-yo's still recovering from her injuries, but she looked pretty spry in the episode to me. Surely she could have zipped Mack and the other agents out of harm's way in between bullet hits.

• Apparently the producers must have told Henry Simmons, aka Mack, that he was getting paid by the robot movie reference in this episode. Literally every line Mack uttered in this episode was a shoutout to a 1980s sci-fi action film involving killer robots. It was kind of funny the first eighty seven times he did it, but after that it got a bit old.


For the record, here are all his robot references:

Mack: "This isn't some Johnny 5 we're talking about. This is a bloodthirsty murder-bot on the loose. This thing really killed Nathanson?"
Coulson: "Yeah. Question is why."
Mack: "If we catch her, I'm sure we'll get some crazy-ass Roy Batty explanation."

(We get a twofer here, as he calls out both Short Circuit and Blade Runner)

Mack: (to Radcliffe) "Looks like your creepiness finally works in our favor. Shouldn't be too hard to find your beautiful Weird Science sex-bot."

Mack: (when AIDA causes everyone's cell phones to ring at the same time) "This right here... it's exactly how The Lawnmower Man ends."

Mack: "Someone needs to make Radcliffe watch all the Terminator movies."
Yo-yo: "Even Salvation?"
Mack: "He brought this onto himself."

(OK, that was kind of funny, but there's no way in hell Salvation is worse than the cinematic turd that is Terminator: Genisys!)

Mack: (as AIDA causes the Quinjet to attack) "She did not just go all Maximum Overdrive on us!"

(Maximum Overdrive featured a comet whose weird radiation causes mechanical objects to come to life and kill humans)

Yo-yo: (quizzing Mack on 1980s robot movies) "Okay, here's another one. Have you ever watched Chopping Mall?"

Mack: "Eight teenagers trapped in a shopping mall while three deadly security robots hunt them down. Of course I've seen Chopping Mall. Come on, now, you got to do better than that."
(As annoying as all these references are, kudos to them for bringing up Chopping Mall, a fairly obscure little 80s film and one of my favorites)

Mack: "How's Radcliffe holding up?"

Fitz: "He's taking it pretty hard, actually. AIDA was his life's work. She was kind of like a child."
Mack: Small wonder.
(Arrgh! He did it again, managing to reference the awful 1980s sitcom about a robotic little girl)

• At the end of the episode we learn that Radcliffe is really the one who wanted the Darkhold, as the tiny glimpse he got of it a few episodes ago have already corrupted him, fueling unhealthy ideas in his head. So he concocted the entire elaborate plan to send AIDA to S.H.I.E.L.D. to retrieve it.

But was any of this really necessary? Does he really need the book? AIDA already read the entire thing, right? Surely the contents of the book is still there in her memory. Couldn't she just plug herself into a printer and print out a copy for him? Or is there some dark magic that prevents the book from being copied?

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