Episode 14 – The Man Behind the Shield
While components to Agents of SHIELD’s 14th episode were good (Philinda backstory, and the crazy twist at the end), as a whole the overacrhing plot ended up being a letdown. Lots of things worked well for the episode, the dialogue, the visual effects and the stunt choreography, however, there was a glaring problem that just left us feeling a little less excited. We’ll get right to it.
Anton Ivanov, The Superior, leads the team on a nonsense trail, and the payout was a blemished motivation. Even Coulson and his witty one-liners called out this weak plotline. Having Senator Nadeer killed just to be uprooted by a character whose menace is purely rooted in his stereotype cheapens the experience. While Ivanov is grounded at the moment, we hope AoS can refocus on what has been working for them this season, and with that plot twist at the end they may deliver on it next week.
Ivanov’s motivation would have held on stronger ground, if it was just him hating the Inhumans for their genetic advantages. However, the show decided to throw in sub-par retcon where Ivanov feels the need for punishing Coulson for having his fellow Russian intelligence service comrades killed because they failed at a mission to protect an 084 that Coulson had captured from them.
Now on to the good. The dynamics at play in the relationships really stood out. The show has been amping Mack’s moral high ground for awhile now, back to when he and Yo-Yo had a discussion last season about faith, so when he lashed out on Fitz because his contributions to science have recently been used against them, it didn’t come out of left field. In fact, it resulted in a very good conversation about sciencific advantages and the responsibility everyone has on using them. Jemma cheering up Fitz, reminding him of why what he does is so important was also a fantastic, heart-warming approach. The, ‘there he is’ line was a fantastic way to nail down this point.
The lightness of this episode largely came from a peek into the early days of Coulson and May going on missions. The flirtations, the clumsiness, oh my! It cemented that Philinda could have been a thing years and years ago, pre-Bahrain and even pre-Andrew. It brought us into a time where May was bubbly and hadn’t caved due to the nature of the job. Coulson was inexperienced, and even made a joke about not being good with his hands (one of which he would eventually lose). Even though the mission they were on wasn’t clear, the dynamic between this pair was enough to make us forgive its cloudiness. It was great to see Ming-Na Wen bring out yet another side of May.
As mentioned, some of the great work in this episode comes from the stunt choreography. The opening spar between Daisy and Coulson in the training framework was well-coordinated, and it’s unlikely that we will ever see those two fight each other so it was a treat. The fight between Daisy and Ivanov was also well done. The camera work and setting was reminiscent to the third act of Civil War, and it makes considering that Ivanov was playing with puppet strings much the same way Baron Zemo did. Adding in the knives was a good way to test Daisy’s skill, even if the physics of one bouncing into a wall and then stabbing her really didn’t make too much sense.
Let’s talk about Aida, the LMDs and that crazy plot twist. Aida, who has vastly ascended in the creepiness factor, continued to be terrifying without doing much. She has been observing Ivanov, emulating Agnes and acting as proxy for Radcliffe. If these aren’t things to be concerned about, well, there’s not much to say. She even turns Ivanov’s words on him, projecting him as filth yet having a purpose.
Now, when Jemma points out the discrepancy of time spent at Ivanov’s base, we soon learn that Coulson, Mace, Daisy and Mack have most likely been replaced with LMDs, which sets up a world of trouble for Fitzsimmons next episode. When Jemma and Fitz talk about the events, the reality is absolutely chilling and Elizabeth Hendstridge and Iain de Caestecker really deliver on nailing in the fear factor. For a moment, when Fitz hovered behind Simmons, I was convinced that he was an LMD. That’s not entirely out of the ballpark either, since we don’t know what happened during the botched time table. The ending to this episode felt more like a mid-season finale than your ordinary cliffhanger.
This episode left us disheartened with the weak payout of the head of the Watchdogs. It’s a weak link in what has otherwise been a really strong and entertaining season.
Check out the promo for next weeks episode Self Control.
Plotline payout feels cheapened with Ivanov's senseless motivations