Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is back, and resubtitled from “Ghost Rider” to “LMD”! You guys weren’t sick of acronyms, right?
Let’s recap as quickly as I can.
After the death of her boyfriend Dr. Lincoln Campbell, seismic-controlling Inhuman Agent Daisy Johnson quit S.H.I.E.L.D. and became a vigilante known as “Quake”, teaming up with fellow vigilante Robbie Reyes (the possessed superhuman “Ghost Rider”) to hunt down the anti-Inhuman hate group known as the Watchdogs. In the wake of her disappearance and S.H.I.E.L.D. becoming a legitimately recognized government agency again, Director Phil Coulson (believed dead by the world at large) stepped down and was replaced by Director Jeffrey Mace, a charismatic but untrustworthy super-strong Inhuman known as The Patriot; as Coulson dedicated his time to tracking down Quake with her former partner Agent Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie. Agent Dr. Jemma Simmons was promoted to Mace’s right-hand woman, but failed to pass a mandatory lie test by the paranoid new director after discovering her boyfriend Agent Dr. Leo Fitz was secretly working with former villain Dr. Holden Radcliffe to build Aida: a realistic android called a Life-Model Decoy (LMD) designed as a decoy to protect agents. Simmons attempts to blackmail Mace with secrets about his past, but is instead sent on an a top-secret mission to help transition a Inhuman man through an unusually long Terrigenesis: the brother of corrupt anti-Inhuman Senator Ellen Nadeer, a politician working with the Watchdogs and also blackmailing Mace.
S.H.I.E.L.D. joined forces with Quake and Ghost Rider to defeat a team of violent ghosts – ex-scientists who infected Agent Melinda May with a deadly neurological disease in their quest for The Darkhold, a mystical book that they believe can undo the failed experiment that made them spirits. May was killed and resurrected by Simmons, Radcliffe and Aida to rid the disease, while Ghost Rider’s uncle Dr. Eli Morrow stole the Darkhold and revealed himself to be the mastermind behind the ghostly experiments. He successfully completed the experiment, giving him the ability to draw matter from different universes, and sent Coulson, Fitz and Ghost Rider to an alternate dimension. The Spirit of Vengeance left Robbie and entered Mack, so Robbie made a new deal with it to help him kill Eli, as Aida read the Darkhold and opened a portal to free the trio from the alternate universe. Eli created a quantum battery to destroy the city and transcend as a god, before being stopped by Ghost Rider, May, Mace, Quake, Ghost Rider, Simmons, Fitz, Aida, Radcliffe and Agent Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez, an super-fast Inhuman agent called “Slingshot” who Mack was courting. Ghost Rider and Eli were pulled through a portal to the alternate dimension Hell, and Mace lied and publicly announced that Quake was “undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Daisy Johnson” all along. Mack and Yo-Yo started their relationship, and Coulson had a drink with May – before it was revealed that the real May was being kept unconscious by the sinister Aida, who had built a decoy May after reading the Darkhold.
Whooh! All caught up. Lets look at the new one.
In Radcliffe’s lab, Aida changes out of her bloody clothes and tends to her bullet wounds from the final stand against Eli. Hearing her captive May waking up, she enters the chamber where she is being held. She tends to the stirring May, gently apologizing for the poor living conditions but tells her she will have to remain a secret until her double serves her purpose.
Meanwhile, in the secret S.H.I.E.L.D. base The Playground, Mace has called a meeting with Mack, Coulson, Fitz, Radcliffe and the secretly fake LMD May (whom I will refer to as LMayD from now on whether you like it or not) over the disposal of the Darkhold. Coulson explains the plan: he will seek out a specialist with Mack and LMayD who “makes things disappear”, while Fitz and Radcliffe will erase Aida’s harddrive, considering her a risk as she read the Darkhold. Fitz and Radcliffe consider this unfair, but Mack points out that if they watched a movie in the last 30 years they would know that robots always turn evil and attack their creators (Note – Avengers: Age of Ultron).
As “Happy Birthday” plays, a woman in Indian dress is blown up. This is quickly revealed to be the bad dream of Senator Ellen Nadeer’s Inhuman brother, who wakes up and explores the house for his sister. He finds her outside preparing food, and tells her he had a nightmare about the Chitauri attacking on their mom’s birthday (Note – The Avengers). Ellen claims it was the worst day of her life, but finding him in an Terrigenesis cocoon seven months ago was a close second. The man is incredulous that his Terrigenesis took so long, as it normally lasts minutes. In the S.H.I.E.L.D. lab, Simmons is showing Daisy that she has discovered the man she helped through Terrigenesis: Vijay Nadeer, the brother of Senator Ellen Nadeer. Though he has regularly posted on Facebook and paid his bills, no new photos of him have emerged in seven months, supporting Simmons believe that he was the man she helped. Daisy believes that the senator is hiding him, as she is strongly anti-Inhuman. Simmons admits she is glad Daisy is back, as she only had Fitz to talk to and he was distracted by Aida – when Agent Burrows, Mace’s public relations specialist, enters the lab and tells Daisy that Mace is looking to speak with her.
In Mace’s office, Daisy and Mace start fighting immediately over the press conference, in which Daisy is upset that she was forced to rejoin S.H.I.E.L.D. so Mace could save face, and Mace feels Daisy is ungrateful as he saved her from prison. They make amends over the fact that they are both Inhumans trying to do good – Daisy with taking down the Watchdogs, and Mace with saving people during the U.N. bombing in Vienna (Note – Captain America: Civil War). They both agree that their next mission needs to be investigating the corrupt senator hiding her brother using cloak and dagger methods (Note – probably not a reference to upcoming Marvel show Cloak & Dagger but you never know). Mace says that wheels are up in ten; Simmons and Daisy will accompany him on a mission to rescue Vijay.
In Radcliffe’s apartment, Aida is staring out a window as Radcliffe, Fitz and two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents arrive. Aida announces that she is surprised to see them, and notes that Fitz looks sad. Radcliffe powers Aida down, and Fitz comments that he thinks she knew he felt guilty. As they discuss the situation, Aida powers herself back up and accuses them of trying to kill her. Radcliffe denies this, saying they were going to do a few upgrades, and repeatedly tries to shut Aida down to no avail. Aida claims that she made some upgrades of her own, and violently dispatches Radcliffe and one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. The other agent shoots Aida repeatedly, and she knocks him out without reacting to the pain. She grabs Fitz by the throat and says she removed her ability to feel pain, as she didn’t like it. Aida asks why Fitz would want to hurt her, as she was designed to be a shield, and throws Fitz through the glass door to the lab. As Fitz comes to, Aida is gone – and horrified, he notices the dead body of Aida’s previous victim Agent Nathanson in the lab.
At the Nadeer’s secret mansion hideaway, Vijay and Ellen eat breakfast outside. They discuss Ellen taking the mansion off the market, as it was the last house their deceased father built and Ellen feels it will aid Vijay’s recovery. Ellen asks what happened in the cocoon, and Vijay just claims it was dark and lonely. He remembers that S.H.I.E.L.D. saved him, and asks if they are back. Ellen bitterly confirms his suspicion, calling Simmons the “one good S.H.I.E.L.D. agent” and blaming them for the problems with the world, before dropping it. As she suggests they go for a walk, a group of Watchdogs led by a man named Shockley listen in and claim that that was the signal, and move in to kill Vijay.
Back in The Playground, Coulson, Mack and LMayD search bulletins for reports on Aida, trying to locate the missing android. LMayD correctly suggests that she killed Nathanson because he saw something he wasn’t supposed to see. Radcliffe and Fitz enter, and Mack suggests locking up Radcliffe – who claims her programming was perfect and the Darkhold corrupted her. LMayD regrets letting Aida read the Darkhold, but Radcliffe doesn’t, pointing out it saved Fitz and Coulson from the other dimension. Coulson theorizes that in order to find Aida, they need to figure out what she wants. Radcliffe suggests that she simply wants to live.
Aboard a Quinjet, Simmons apologizes to Mace. She says that Aida was all her fault, as she purposely refused to report her to a director she didn’t know. Mace forgives her and apologizes for putting a bag over her head, and says Aida is Coulson’s responsibility – they are here to save Vijay. He asks Simmons and Daisy for suggestions on covertly rescuing him. In Senator Nadeer’s office, her assistant Zach Bynum meets with a lobbyist named Ms. Beaks about a specific bill – except Beaks turns out to be Simmons wielding a Southern accent. Zach informs her that Ellen is not there, but “Beaks” threatens to allocate funds to a senator who will listen. Listening in remotely, Mace comments that Simmons is much tougher than he originally thought. To Mace’s dumbfoundment, Daisy remarks that is because she was kidnapped three times, but only twice on this planet. Zach calls Shockley and asks to speak to Ellen, saying that the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that helped Vijay is there – to which Shockley responds to take care of her. Simmons breaks character and asks for the phone, and Zach tackles her. As Daisy and Mace listen, Simmons and Zach fight while Simmons wields a nifty gadget in the form of an electrified bobby pin. Suddenly-a-badass Simmons takes out Zach with a water jug and takes his phone to trace the call.
Vijay and Ellen walk through the park, and Vijay reminisces and thanks Ellen, claiming it was exactly what he needed. Ellen apologizes, and the Watchdogs come out of the bushes. As Vijay pleads for her to stop, she explains that after the Chitauri killed her mom, they promised to each other that they would kill one another if they got infected with the alien plague. She says that Inhumans are just humans modified by aliens, and whatever left the cocoon is not her brother. As Shockley holds a gun to his head, he tells her that he was in the cocoon so long because he fought for her. He’s the same person he’s always been; he beat Terrigenesis. He begs for his life, reminding them of when they were kids. Ellen sheds a tear and tells Shockley to let him go.
In the Playground, LMayD walks suspiciously through the base, wary of cameras. She informs the team that she sent Aida’s photos to local authorities. Mack comments that it shouldn’t be hard to find Radcliffe’s weird beautiful scientist sex-bot, and Radcliffe claims they are just good friends. Coulson asks why they can’t track her via her GPS, and Radcliffe says that she disabled her GPS. Coulson comes to the realization that this means Aida has full control of her GPS history, as all communication devices in the lab suddenly connect to A.I.D.A., the Artificial Intelligence Data Analyzer Aida was based on. Aida starts communicating with the team through the computers, and Mack “nopes out”, claiming this is exactly how Lawnmower Man ended. Coulson asks what Aida wants, and she tells him she wants what gave her a soul. Coulson refuses to give her the Darkhold, and Aida cuts the main power to the building. Fitz leaves to power up their internet-less back-up system that he and Simmons built in case they got hacked, which happens “all the bloody time, once a year.” Coulson assigns Mack, Yo-Yo, Burrows and Agent Flynn to be the first line of defense if Aida makes it into the base, and assigns himself and LMayD to ensuring Aida doesn’t make it that far.
Yo-Yo is excited when Mack pays her a visit, but is less excited when she finds out it is because Radcliffe built a killer robot attacking the base. She called Radcliffe stupid and asks if he ever watches 80’s movies, remarking that robots always attack, and Mack agrees. They gear up. LMayD suggests guarding the Darkhold specifically, but Coulson decides instead to head out to lock down the outside of the base. In the security tunnel, Aida approaches. Coulson and Aida fight, and Coulson gets in a good hit with his robotic hand – so Aida counters with hers, knocking him out. LMayD vows that Aida will not get that book, and Aida disagrees – powering down the android and cutting her head to resemble a cut from a punch. Coulson and LMayD wake up locked in a room, and Coulson tells her that Aida is outside looking for the Darkhold. LMayD asks if Coulson is sure Aida won’t find the Darkhold, and they glance at the security camera in the room.
As they set up the backup server, Fitz tells Radcliffe his theory: that reading the Darkhold has given Aida actual emotions instead of mimicry, flooding her with true emotions that she can’t process. Radcliffe claims that’s something from Mack’s movies. Radcliffe blames himself, not realizing his android would actually become human. Fitz reminds him that she is still a machine, and Radcliffe questions this notion, pointing out that she has her own thoughts, experiences, and free will; if this is what makes one a living being, how is she not a living being? How are they not killing her? Deep questions.
In the mansion, Ellen and Shockley argue about Vijay’s fate. Ellen is not convinced that Vijay is fully Inhuman, and Shockley thinks killing him is the only cure. Shockley implies that Ellen is an Inhuman as well, and threatens to expose her to Terrigen to see. Their tense chat is interrupted by Mace, Simmons and Daisy. Ellen is unhappy to see Quake, and Mace points out that Daisy is a national hero. Daisy then points out that the weapons Ellen’s security guards are using are Watchdog weapons, not military. Ellen claims they are simply protecting her; an aide was attacked in her office earlier that day, and she believes S.H.I.E.L.D. wishes her harm. Mace assures her that this is not the case, but reveals that he believes her brother is being held there against his will. Ellen refuses to let them look around, saying that she will notify Talbot of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s intrusion as soon as she returns to DC and asks them to leave. Shockley, meanwhile, gets the order to “kill the Inhuman”.
Mack, Yo-Yo and their strike team make their way through the base, still complaining that Radcliffe needs to watch more robot movies. Yo-Yo demands they show him all the Terminator movies when this is done, and Mack asks “Even Salvation?”, to which Yo-Yo replies that Radcliffe “brought this on himself.” They make their way into the hangar, when a Quinjet starts itself up and points towards them. Mack claims that Aida went “Maximum Overdrive” on them as it opens fire.
Still locked in the room, Coulson takes out the security camera. LMayD asks how many times they’ve been locked up together, and Coulson points out that this is the first time it was by a robot. LMayD asks if Coulson ever feels like he’s living someone else’s life, and Coulson says every day. She is surprised, saying he doesn’t show it and is terrible at poker. He agrees, saying he is too cautious and doesn’t take enough chances. She tells him to start, and he says he will keep that in mind. Sparks are FLYING. Coulson says that when they escape, they need to head to Mace’s office, where the Darkhold is cloaked – as Aida watches through LMayD’s eyes. She enters Mace’s office and finds the book hidden in a seemingly empty drawer with cloaking panels.
As Mack and Yo-Yo hide from the Quinjet, Mack admits that he always worried robots would kill him some day. Yo-Yo retorts that they grew up different, and they begin to fire back. Mack further reveals he even has a special section in his life insurance for death by robot, and that if they die here his brother Ruben is going to be one rich dude. Fitz reboots the system on an old, old computer, and the power goes back on. May and Coulson escape the locked room, and Aida makes her way out of the base with the Darkhold. Radcliffe and Fitz approach Aida, and Fitz demands she surrender the book. Aida tries to escape, but Fitz explains that he took the base offline, and Radcliffe concurs that she has nowhere to go.
In the Nadeer mansion, Shockley and his Watchdogs enter the room with Vijay. Vijay demands to see Ellen, and Shockley says it would be best if she didn’t see this. One of the Watchdogs attacks Vijay with a knife, and he dodges it with inhuman reflexes (see what I did there?), taking out the mercenary. He is confused by his abilities, and Shockley remarks that they now know what his power is and cocks his gun. As Ellen escorts Mace, Simmons and Daisy out, Mace points out that they don’t know if Vijay is there. They hear a gunshot and Mace retracts his statement. Daisy takes out the guards and sends the others to find Vijay.
In The Playground, Aida points out that she intentionally didn’t kill any agents at the base. Coulson says that she killed Nathanson, and Aida lies and sadly says that he tried to reset her to tend her wounds. Radcliffe addresses that he didn’t program her to feel regret, and she changes emotions and says that the Darkhold fixed that. Suddenly the door opens and Mack decapitates Aida with his shotgun axe, and shoots off the one-liner “Roll credits.” Yo-Yo fist-bumps him. Fitz apologizes to the headless Aida, and Coulson takes the Darkhold.
At the mansion, the Watchdogs are still having trouble fighting Vijay with his Spidey Sense anticipating every move. Simmons and Mace arrive to realize he doesn’t need their help. Simmons asks Vijay to join S.H.I.E.L.D., but Ellen claims that they want to make him their weapon. Simmons explains that her friends are Inhuman, and Vijay asks if they are agents. Simmons admits this but amends this to say it was their choice. Ellen accuses her of lying. Vijay is given an ultimatum, and chooses Ellen. Simmons refuses to accept this, and Mace stops her, saying he made his choice. Ellen and Vijay board a helicopter manned by Watchdogs, and Vijay is nervous. Ellen tells him she is sorry, and shoots him point-blank in the stomach. She sheds a tear and reminds him of their promise as he falls limp onto her. She orders Shockley to never question her again, and informs him that S.H.I.E.L.D. is still a threat. Shockley offers to assemble a team, but Ellen refuses and asks him to get “the superior” to send some men. She orders him to dispose of the body.
In the recreation room of the Playground, Yo-Yo is quizzing Mack on killer robot movies. Of course he’s seen Chopping Mall! Mack gives Fitz a beer to stop him from tinkering with the decapitated Aida head. He asks how Radcliffe is holding up, and Fitz says he’s taking it really hard. Coulson receives a call from Mace explaining Senator Nadeer’s connection to the Watchdogs, and is asked to dispose of the Darkhold. LMayD comments that at least now they know who the real enemy is.
In Radcliffe’s lab, he toasts to Aida. A fully alive Aida and undamaged also toasts to herself. Wait, what? Radcliffe explains that he is upset, because the previous model of Aida was so close to stealing the Darkhold for him and failed. WAIT, WHAT? He explains that he wants the book to find out how to help man live forever. Aida 2.0 points out that Aida 1.0 failed, and Radcliffe says that she played her part to perfection, claiming her programmed speech about the Darkhold giving her real emotions was Oscar-worthy. He laments that Fitz was sad, and so he had to lie to protect himself. Aida 2.0 asks if they will have another opportunity, and Radcliffe says they will never let him near the book again: which is why he’s counting on LMayD to get it for him. He approaches the unconscious May in the chamber, and apologizes, saying its for a good cause. He promises her everyone at S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing just fine, and starts to monitor Coulson eating chinese food through LMayD’s eyes.
After the credits, Vijay Nadeer’s body is dropped from a helicopter into the ocean, tied down with a weight. Once he hits the ocean floor, he is sealed in a second Terrigenesis cocoon, revealing his true Inhuman power: gaining different abilities to adapt to his situations.
This episode was a strong start to a brand new arc, LMD. Mack and Yo-Yo were tons of fun, and the Radcliffe twist was insane. I also enjoyed the exploration of what it means to be truly alive, and our responsibility to AI – where we do we draw the line? A lot to think about.
This episode gets a 8.5/10. Let’s hope they keep the streak strong!