Friday, January 27, 2017

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 11: Wake Up

Sorry, guys, but reviews are all gonna be late this week. Sometimes these things happen.

This week Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to barrel through its storylines at a breakneck pace. As I've said before, I appreciate that they're not dragging things out interminably like shows such as LOST did, but I think they may be moving a little too fast. 

Just last week we all began to suspect there might be another Life Model Decoy roaming the halls of S,H,I.E.L.D. This week it was confirmed, and by the end of the episode we found out who it was! Jesus! Give those storylines a little time to breathe, wouldja?

On the other hand, if I had to choose between moving too fast and moving too slow, I'll pick fast any day.

There were a lot of great interactions between the various characters this week. The heart to heart talk between Daisy and Mace was especially well done, as he praised her for her forthrightness, while admitting he's constantly putting on an act for the public. Kudos to both Chloe Bennet and Jason O'Mara for adding some much needed depth to their characters. 

The exchanges between Coulson and General Talbot were also top notch, as always. It was especially touching when Talbot seemed genuinely hurt after Coulson accused him of being the leak at S.H.I.E.L.D.

It was nice to see Mack and Yo-yo finally reach an understanding, and to also uncover the mystery of Hope, first brought up in Deals With Our Devils.

Ever since the back half of the season started, I've been saying the S.H.I.E.L.D. writers seem influenced and inspired by HBO's Westworld. Nowhere is that more evident than in the scene in which the confused and distraught LMD May tries to figure out if she's real or not. Ming Na-Wen does an amazing job playing a version of May who's pondering her own existence. Unfortunately it's nothing that hasn't already been examined to death over on Westworld


The Plot:
We begin with a flashback to five days ago, when May goes on her "milk run" to Radcliffe's place, to deactivate AIDA and bring her in to S.H.I.E.L.D. (as seen in The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics). She tells Radcliffe she's going to destroy the Darkhold once AIDA's in custody, and leaves. Radcliffe calls AIDA and tells her to activate the "Sunset Protocol."

May arrives at Radcliffe's and tells AIDA to come with her. AIDA says sure, then knocks her out and opens the closet, revealing a perfect LMD copy of May. She then puts May in the closet, hooks her up to some kind of brainwave device and uploads her memories into LMD May (!). She activates LMD May, who picks up exactly where the real thing left off.

We then see that Real May's experiencing some sort of virtual reality simulation to keep her mind occupied while she's sedated. She's in a relaxing spa, but keeps trying to leave. She eventually wakes up and tries to escape, but AIDA captures her and almost kills her, as we saw last week in The Patriot. Radcliffe says he realizes his mistake, saying "Agent May doesn't do relaxation." He then says they'll have to design a better sim to keep her occupied. Or they could, I don't know, maybe increase the dosage of her sedative. But no, spending time programming an elaborate virtual world is fine too.

AIDA asks Radcliffe why it matters if Real May is alive or not, since they have a perfect LMD recreation of her. He tries to explain to AIDA that they're not killers, plus they need the original May alive for "calibrations." He says they also have their safety net in a second LMD at S.H.I.E.L.D. I knew it! I knew there had to be another one!

Cut to the present. Coulson, Mace want Daisy to publicly sign the Sokovia Accords (Captain America: Civil War shoutout!), to help generate trust in S.H.I.E.L.D. While, there, they plan to bug Senator Nadeer's office to find out what she's up to. General Talbot doesn't like this plan, but is outvoted. Talbot accuses Mace of being Coulson's puppet now, which isn't completely wrong.

Back at Radcliffe's house, he checks on Real May's condition and leaves. AIDA accidentally breaks a glass jar and leaves to get a broom. Real May reveals she was just faking being unconscious, and grabs a shard of broken glass. She begins cutting her wrist straps. 

Meanwhile Mack & Yo-yo enjoy a PG-13 romp in bed. Mack gets a text and immediately leaves, which isn't the least bit suspicious. Could he be the other LMD?

Real May manages to free herself and tries to escape Radcliffe's house. AIDA finds her and the two fight. Real May picks up a fireplace poker and runs it through AIDA's belly, causing her to malfunction. Real May goes through the front door of Radcliffe's house, and oddly enough finds herself at the bottom of a stairwell. That's weird! It's like something you'd find in an elaborate virtual reality sim. She begins climbing the stairs. 

In the Capitol, Mace, Daisy and Talbot enter the hearing room. Senator Nadeer greets them, and says something snarky. The hearing begins, and Nadeer implies that Daisy cares more about Inhumans than normal people. She also asks what happened to all the money she robbed from various banks when she was "undercover" as Quake. Daisy fumbles a reply. 

Meanwhile, Coulson and Yo-yo sneak into the Captiol. Yo-yo says she's noticed Coulson and May becoming more chummy lately. Coulson says he doesn't know what she's talking about. She uses her superspeed to swipe a key card, and they sneak into Nadeer's office. The begin planting listening devices in the office, but Yo-yo sets off some sort of alarm, and the two are captured. 

Nadeer then plays her trump card, saying tsince Daisy was working undercover for S.H.I.E.L.D. before signing the Accords, she was operating illegally, and she and S.H.I.E.L.D. both are guilty of violating the United Nations agreement. Just then she has Coulson and Yo-yo brought in, accusing them of breaking and entering or something. Admittedly none of this looks good for our heroes.

Coulson, Daisy and Yo-yo sit outside the hearing room, while Mace and Talbot try to smooth things over with Nadeer. Coulson says Nadeer knowing they'd be in her office means there's a leak inside S.H.I.E.L.D. Talbot enters and says they're free to go, but there'll be another hearing to discuss possible charges. Coulson accuses him of being the leak, which genuinely hurts Talbot. He says he's always supported Coulson, and S.H.I.E.L.D. only exists because of him.

Cut to Real May, who's still running up those steps. She exits into an empty penthouse apartment, but sees it's a dead end. AIDA appears and they fight again. Real May throws AIDA off the roof, but she shimmers and disappears. She reappears in the penthouse and tells Real May that she's in a simulation. AIDA notes that Real May gets a little farther through the sim every time, so they're going to have to rethink it. The simulation then starts over with AIDA breaking the glass and Real May trying to cut her straps.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., Simmons tries to talk with Fitz about his obsession with AIDA, but he reacts oddly. Almost like he was an LMD himself! She grabs his datapad and sees he's been studying AIDA's program. She accuses him of reactivating AIDA 1.0's severed head, and says Nadeer was probably using her receptors to gather intel. I guess this means AIDA's head was the leak?

LMD May (who discovered she was a robot in last week's episode) realizes she's the leak, as Nadeer is using her receptors to spy on S.H.I.E.L.D. She goes to Radcliffe's house and asks him what he's done to her. He's fascinated that she's become aware of what she really is. She threatens to tell Coulson what Radcliffe's doing, but he says she can't because she's programmed not to. She tries to bean Radcliffe in the head with a heavy knickknack, but can't, as her program won't allow that either. 

Suddenly Fitz and a squad of S.H.I.E.L.D. grunts enters and arrests Radcliffe. Fitz tells LMD May he figured out that AIDA wasn't altered by the Darkhold, but by Radcliffe himself. LMD May tries to tell him she's a robot, but can't.  

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., Fitz visits Radcliffe in his holding cell. Radcliffe tries to explain his motives, saying he sees Fitz almost as a son. Fitz isn't having it. He suddenly realizes something's off, grabs a gun and shoots Radcliffe in the head at point blank range. Radcliffe looks stunned as his wound sparks, and then collapses. Looks like Radcliffe was the second LMD.

Mack returns from his mysterious errand, and a furious Yo-yo says she's leaving, as she doesn't want someone who keeps secrets from her. He says he had a daughter named Hope, who died eleven years ago. He said tomorrow is Hope's birthday, and Nicole, his ex, needed him to get through the day. Yo-yo's mortified and apologizes as they embrace.

Nadeer and Radcliffe monitor S.H.I.E.L.D. through LMD May's optical sensors. He says he built an LMD of himself after he failed to retrieve the Darkhold, as he knew he'd be in danger. Nadeer tells him it's time he met The Superior, whoever that is.

Meanwhile, Real May wakes in a new simulation. In it, she's back in Bahrain, on the night she got the nickname "The Calvary." This time though she finally manages to save Katya, giving the event some much needed closure in her mind.

• I'd like to give a shoutout to actress Mallory Jansen, who plays AIDA. Somehow she gives AIDA a stiff and unreal quality, and her large, wide set eyes seem somehow... artificial. She plays a very convincing android.

• Last week I suspected that Fitz had most likely been replaced by an LMD, which would explain his obsession with AIDA 1.0. Welp, it looks like that's just what the writers wanted me to think, and it was wrong. Ah well. Can't guess 'em all!

For the record, I did NOT guess that Radcliffe himself was really the second LMD.

• I loved the scene at the beginning in which AIDA uploaded all of May's memories into her LMD doppelganger, like she was transferring a file to a flash drive. Amazingly it only takes about five seconds to transfer the contents of May's head. It's just that easy!

• By the way, where's Radcliffe getting the money and materials to build all these incredibly sophisticated and realistic androids? When he first appeared back in The Singularity, he was a scientist working in the field of transhumanism, who'd been captured by HIVE and forced to work for them.

Doesn't sound like there's much money in transhumanism. Is he just independently wealthy, like Tony Stark?He'd have to be, as I can't imagine these androids are cheap.

• The second Real May ran out the door of Radcliffe's house and into a stairwell, I knew she was in a simulation. There's no way that layout would make any sense in the real world.

• When we check in on Mack and Yo-yo, they're basking in the glow of their lovemaking. Mack then gets a text and immediately gets dressed and rushes out the door.

Um... did Mack really just get up and put his pants on a minutes after he was done having sex? Ew.

• Callback time! When Simmons finds out that Fitz activated AIDA 1.0's head, she thinks that's the leak inside S.H.I.E.L.D. She says, "We personally gave Radcliffe Deathlok's eye technology. Aida has it inside her head, doesn't she?... A camera, watching us this whole time. Aida hacked our base! Hell, it could've been broadcasting. Nadeer knew the details of our mission!"

It was nice to hear Deathlok's name again. Is he ever coming back to the show?

• As it turns out, Simmons was wrong about AIDA being the leak. This was a silly idea to begin with, as Fitz has had AIDA 1.0's head stored in a drawer for the past couple of episodes. Even if Nadeer had been using AIDA's eyes to monitor shield, all she'd have seen would have been a video feed of the inside of a pitch black drawer.

• After Radcliffe's arrested and thrown in a S.H.I.E.L.D. cell, Fitz pays him a visit. He detects something's not quit right, and shoots Radcliffe in the head, revealing he's really an LMD.

Lucky for Fitz his theory was right, else he'd be guilty of first degree murder!

•  Back in Deals With Our Devils, Mack sat brooding as he stared at a photo with "Hope. 4/18/06" written on the back.

At the time I didn't even have a guess as to what that meant. Now we finally know. Eleven years ago Mack and his ex Nicole had a daughter, who they named Hope. She only lived for four days, and now as Hope's birthday approaches, Nicole reached out to Mack to help her get through the emotional time. Mystery solved.

Well, almost. Mack just says that Nicole was his "ex." Was she his wife, or just a girlfriend?

• At the end of the episode Real May finds herself inside yet another simulation. This one's a perfect recreation of her tragic mission in Bahrain. How the hell would Radcliffe know enough about that particular detail of her life to recreate it in such precise detail? Can he somehow read her memories after uploading them into LMD May?

Anyway, it's been so long I'd completely forgotten what happened in Bahrain, and had to refresh my memory. I'll bet you did too, so let's recap. In the Season 2 episode Melinda, May and her husband Andrew discuss starting a family. Coulson calls May and tells her to meet him in Bahrain.

In Bahrain, Coulson's searching for a superpowered woman named Eva Belyakov. He finds her, but she flees into a nearby building that's filled with thugs. Coulson sends in a squad of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, but loses contact with them. He sends May in to find out what happened to them all.

Inside she finds Eva's with a little girl, who she assumes is being held hostage. Turns out the little girl is actually the superpowered one. Eva stole Terrigen crystals and used them to transform her daughter Katya, giving her some kind of mind control/pain vampire powers or something.

Katya sends her mind controlled thugs after May, who's able to dispatch most of them. Katya then "absorbs the pain" of the rest of her thugs, killing them and making her stronger or something. She then starts to kill the captive S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, forcing May to shoot her in the head. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents come to, see May in the middle of all the carnage and assume it was her doing. They nickname her "The Calvary." 

May's so shaken by the whole event that she transfers to a desk job in the S.H.I.E.L.D. office, and gives up her dream of starting a family, which presumably led to her divorce from Andrew.

And that's one to grow on!

• This week's best lines:

Talbot: "This is politics, Phil. That means politicians. They are a festering cesspool of toxic waste fires."
Oh, General Talbot. If only you knew how right you are about that.

Talbot: (to Coulson) "Half the time, I’m dealing with the steaming pile of fart pebbles you give me!"
I have no idea what "fart pebbles" means, but it made me laugh

LMD May: "Today wasn't great."
Coulson: "Cauliflower isn't great. Today was a kick in the balls."

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