Thursday, January 19, 2017

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 10: The Patriot

This week on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. we finally learn the shocking secret behind Director Mace and his ever-present metal briefcase. I didn't know he had a shocking secret, but there you go.

We also get more creepiness from AIDA 2.0 as she starts questioning her creator, Daisy returns to the S.H.I.E.L.D. fold full time, and Coulson FINALLY takes his rightful place as Director again. Well, secret Director, I guess.

Oh, and LMD May also discovers she's not what she seems. I have a feeling the rest of the season is going to be filled with Westworld-type "who's real and who's a robot?" shenanigans. 

Let's get to it!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Director Mace holds a sparsely-attended press conference (it's a TV budget) in Pennsylvania to officially acknowledge Quake, aka Daisy Johnson, as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. According to Mace, all that stuff about her being a public menace and criminal was just a cover, as she was battling the Watchdogs. Coulson and Mack are there as well, providing security. General Talbot is also at the press conference, and passes a metal briefcase to Agent Burrows, Mace's right hand man. Coulson notices this and finds it suspicious.

Just then Daisy sees a sniper on the roof, and tells everyone to get down. Mace picks up the podium and uses it as a shield (heh). The sniper shoots at Mace with a special bullet that drills into the podium and explodes. Coulson and Mack follow protocol for the situation, which means whisking Mace into a waiting Quinjet and taking him to a safe house until the situation's resolved. Daisy goes after the sniper and easily catches him.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters, Simmons is upset when she finds Fitz studying AIDA's severed head (hmmm...). Talbot arrives and takes command in Mace's absence, ordering May (who's still secretly a Life Model Decoy) to interrogate the captured sniper. He turns out to be Yuri Zaikin, an ex-HYDRA agent that S.H.I.E.L.D. thought died during their attack on the Fridge a couple seasons ago (callback time!). He tells LMD May that he was only Phase 1 of the plan.

Meanwhile at Radcliffe's spacious and tastefully decorated home (how is he affording that?), he begs Fitz to let him study AIDA's head so he can figure out what went wrong. Fitz tells him "yeah no," that's not going to happen, and says he should lay low for a few weeks until things blow over. After Fitz leaves, he brags to AIDA that LMD May doesn't even know she's a robot, or that her secret mission is to steal the Darkhold. He says he needs a way to keep an eye on her (um... didn't AIDA already figure that out last week?).

Radcliffe then opens the closet and we see Real May hooked up to some sort of contraption that's keeping her in a coma-like state, while occupying her mind with virtual reality scenarios. He scolds AIDA for breaking Agent Nathonson's neck, and tells her not to kill anyone else. AIDA seems genuinely upset at this, or as upset as a supposedly emotionless android can get.

Mace, Coulson,Mack and Burrows are on their way to the safe house in the Quinjet. Suddenly the side of the jet explodes, and Burrows-- and the metal briefcase-- are sucked out. The damaged Quinjet then crashes in a forested area, killing the pilot. Coulson says someone knew Mace would be on the Quinjet, and that they're definitely gunning for him. He says then need to get away from the crash site, but Mace insists on finding Burrows' body.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., Simmons says they can't track the Quinjet due to some sort of interference. Talbot orders her to figure out a way to find Mace and the others. Fitz arrives, and tries to convince Simmons that the two of them could make the LMD program work (hmmm...), but she shuts him down.

At Radcliffe's house, Real May wakes up from her sedation. She breaks out of the closet and tries to escape, but AIDA catches her and lifts her up by the throat (ouch). Radcliffe walks in just in time to prevent AIDA from killing Real May, and sedates her again.

On Zephyr One, a brooding LMD May tells Daisy that she feels... off somehow. An agent tells them they've found the crash site, but that the Quinjet's not there (?).

In the forest, Coulson realizes that Mace is more concerned with finding the metal briefcase than Biurrows' body. They hear a truck approach, and see it's full of Watchdogs. They have Burrows' body, and chop off his hand to recover the metal case. Coulson, Mack and Mace move in to recover the case. Coulson and Mack take out a bunch of Watchdogs with their Icer pistols. Mace grabs the case and runs into the woods with it. He opens the case, which contains two syringes labeled "Project Patriot." He grabs one of the syringes, but before he can use it a Watchdog appears. He shoots the case, shattering both syringes. The Watchdog shoots Mace in the leg, and is about to kill him, when he's taken out by Coulson.

Simmons stumbles onto a classified file called "Project Patriot," and demands Talbot tell her what it means. He gives in and says that in an effort to build the public trust, the government wanted an enhanced person as the dnew irector of S.H.I.E.L.D. When they couldn't find one, they decided to create one. They used a version of the formula that turned Daisy's father into Mr. Hyde (another callback!) to create a super-soldier serum, and administered it to Mace. He's not really an Inhuman after all, and gets his powers from a drug.

Coulson and Mack realize that Mace has been a big phony all along. They help him to a ranger station, just as another truck full of Watchdogs arrives. They surround the station, trapping Coulson, Mack and Mace inside. Coulson tells Mace to suit up, figuring the Watchdogs probably don't know that he doesn't really have powers. Mace does so, and faces the Watchdogs unarmed. He tells him he'll trade the case for their lives, which distracts them long enough for Mack to sneak out and blow up their signal jamming truck. Mace dives back into the cabin with Coulson, and the surviving Watchdogs begin firing on them. Suddenly the Zephyr One arrives, and LMD May and Daisy take out the remaining Watchdogs. LMD May's slightly injured, but shakes it off.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., Fitz downloads AIDA's hard drive onto his phone (hmmm...).

Coulson's angry with Talbot for coming up with Project Patriot and lying to the public about Mace being an Inhuman. Talbot says he was just following orders, as he was told to find the next Captain America, and delivered a Patriot. Mace says he'll call a press conference and resign, and reinstate Coulson as Director. Coulson declines, saying Mace is good at what he does. He says Mace should remain the public face of S.H.I.E.L.D., while Coulson runs the organization behind the scenes.

In the locker room, LMD May examines the injury she received during her battle with the Watchdogs. Horrified, she sees a metal endosketon and wires below her skin. Daisy enters and asks if she's OK, and LMD May lies and says she's fine.

Thoughts:

• Welp, I did not see Mace's big revelation coming. I knew there was something off about him, as I never quite trusted his smarmy attitude. But I always accepted his claim that he was an Inhuman. It never occurred to me he was a normal human who got his powers out of a syringe.

There's even a further twist later, when he confronts the Watchdogs without any weapons or superpowers, proving he's really a hero after all.

• From what I've read around the interwebs, the drilling/exploding bullet fired at Mace during the press conference is very similar to Hammer Industries' "Judas Bullet," which was seen in Season 1 of Luke Cage. Apparently such a bullet was used by Diamondback to penetrate Cage's invulnerable skin.

I haven't seen Luke Cage yet (just not enough hours in the day), so I'll have to take everyone's word for it. I'm assuming this is an attempt to tie Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. in with the various Marvel Netflix shows. Could an actual crossover be far behind?

• Radcliffe's plan confuses me. He somehow captured Real May and then replaced her with an LMD, which he hopes will steal the Darkhold from S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ. He's then keeping Real May in a closet in his house, hooked up to some kind of Matrix-like virtual reality simulation, in which she's at a relaxing spa. So far, so good, I guess.

Here's the part that I don't understand: What's he going to do with Real May once he has the Darkhold? Is he planning on releasing Real May back into the wild, hoping she'll think she just had a really weird dream? Surely she'll know she didn't really spend a month in a spa.

• Speaking of Radcliffe, in this episode he tells AIDA that he wishes he had some way to keep an eye on LMD May, because "the slightest miscalculation could reveal her true nature."

Um... doesn't he already have a way to keep tabs on her? Last week in Broken Promises, AIDA 1.0 sliced open the side of LMD May's face and patched into her eyes and ears, so she could monitor everything that happened to her. I guess neither Radcliffe or AIDA 2.0 knows how to do that?

• I just noticed in this episode what an impossibly tiny waist AIDA has. Jesus, how does she not snap in half?

• This episode proves that Radcliffe isn't a total mustache-twirling villain, as he's horrified by AIDA's murderous actions, and orders her to stop with the killing.

This doesn't mean he's completely on the side of the angels though, as he's got Real May drugged and restrained inside his closet, and is using a robot double of her to steal an evil magic book so he can live forever. I guess he's a complicated villain.

• First Nathonson and now Burrows. Mace's aides are fast becoming the redshirts of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

• In one scene LMD May sits in Coulson's car Lola, brooding because she feels something's "off" about her. 


According to Radcliffe, LMD May is more advanced and convincing that AIDA, and isn't aware she's a robot. Fair enough. But what about normal human bodily functions? Does LMD May need to eat? Can she eat? We saw her share a bottle of booze with Coulson in the mid season finale, so I guess she can at least do that. 

What other bodily processes? Does she poop and pee? Is she programmed to ignore the fact that she never has to go to the bathroom?

Maybe that's why she feels "off!"

• At one point General Talbot gets a call from the President. Ever since Iron Man 3 (I think), Matthew Ellis has been the President in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I wonder... is the MCU getting a new Prez as well? Hopefully the citizens of the MCU elected someone more suitable for the job than we did.

• When Talbot tells Simmons the truth about Mace, she accuses him of restarting the Erskine Program.

This is a reference to Captain America: The First Avenger, in which Dr. Abraham Erskine created the Super Soldier Serum for the U.S. Army. It's the serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America.

Talbot then says they actually adapted the serum created by Calvin Zabo (aka Mr. Hyde), back in Season 2. FitzSimmons are aghast by this news, but Talbot reassures them, saying, "We're not idiots. We took the bad stuff out. Most of it anyway."

Hmm. Could we end up seeing Mace "Hulk out," the way Mr. Hyde did?


• Product Placement Alert! Gosh, I wonder who provides the computers for this show...? You'd think a top secret, high-tech government agency like S.H.I.E.L.D. would use their own proprietary computer systems, but I guess not.

• It's always good to see Coulson's holographic shield.

• I think I mentioned it when Mace first appeared, but there's actually a version of him in the comics. Jeffrey Mace started out as a reporter in WWII, and became a superhero called the Patriot after seeing Captain America in action. 

After the Steve Rogers disappeared, the government recruited William Naslund to be the second Captain America. When he was killed (saving the life of JFK!), Mace became the third Captain America. He served as Cap from WWII well into the Cold War era.

Comic book Mace had no actual superpowers though, and didn't take any sort of Super Soldier serum.

• All through the episode, Fitz keeps obsessing with AIDA. Even after Simmons tells him to stop, he just can't seem to leave AIDA's severed head alone. In fact he goes so far as to download her program into his phone. He must have a hell of a big SD card in that thing!

I'm calling it now I think Fitz is secretly a Life Model Decoy, just like LMD May! Ever since Fitz found out about AIDA, he's been visiting Radcliffe at his house to chat and watch "football matches." Radcliffe's had plenty of opportunities to knock him out and replace him with a duplicate.

This would help explain Fitz's sudden fascination with AIDA, although I don't think we've seen him try and find the Darkhold yet.

• Any time General Talbot appears, you know there's gonna be some fun lines:
Talbot: "Agent May, with the possible exception of my mother, you are the single most intimidating woman I have ever met."

Talbot: (talking about his ex-HYDRA prisoner) "I'm going to squeeze our prisoner like a lime wedge on dollar beer night."

Talbot: (referring to the suggestion that Daisy) "I don't trust Little Miss Richter Scale to handle it herself."

Simmons: (referring to Coulson, Mack & Mace) "So even if they survived the crash, they could be stranded in the wilderness, on the run from a band of ex-Hydra thugs, unaware that their enhanced asset is a charlatan."
Talbot: "No need to be melodramatic, Poppins, but yeah, that's it." 
(I almost did a spit take when Talbot called Simmons "Poppins")

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