An episode about everyone’s third-favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. director? Bring it!
Inhuman Agent Daisy Johnson’s boyfriend Dr. Lincoln Campbell died. Daisy left S.H.I.E.L.D. and became “Quake”, teaming up with fellow vigilante “Ghost Rider” to hunt down the anti-Inhuman hate group The Watchdogs. Director Phil Coulson stepped down and was replaced by Director Jeffrey Mace, a charismatic but untrustworthy super-strong Inhuman known as “The Patriot”. Coulson and Agent Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie searched for Daisy while Mack continued to go on dates with Inhuman Agent Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez, known as “Slingshot.” Dr. Holden Radcliffe and Agent Dr. Leo Fitz built a protection android named Aida called a Life Model Decoy (LMD). Fitz’ girlfriend Agent Dr. Jemma Simmons was promoted to the director’s advisor, but failed to pass a lie detector test about Aida. Simmons escaped the situation by blackmailing Mace, but Mace instead forced Simmons on a secret mission to help the Inhuman Vijay Nadeer, the brother of his other blackmailer, anti-Inhuman Senator Ellen Nadeer.
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 Radcliffe 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 his 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 the team. 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.
S.H.I.E.L.D. went on a a mission to save Vijay, who had situational adaptation powers before he was killed by his sister and dropped in the ocean (and entered another cocoon, adapting to the situation). Aida turned and broke into the S.H.I.E.L.D. base in search of the Darkhold, but was decapitated by Mack. We discover that Aida is not evil and Radcliffe is secretly her mastermind, and has built a second Aida and a fake May to retrieve the book.
On to the new episode!
At a press conference in Pennsylvania, Mace formally announces Daisy’s involvement with S.H.I.E.L.D. and declares her a hero to a cheering crowd, as Daisy is visibly uncomfortable. Mace calls up a citizen named Michelle Caldwell to tell the story in her own words, as Coulson and Mack do security detail and observe Brigadier General Glenn Talbot (remember him?) and S.H.I.E.L.D. P.R. Agent Burrows exchange a handcuffed briefcase, wondering what is inside. Coulson notices that one of their agents is missing from a nearby rooftop vantage point, and Daisy sees a glimmer of a gun as Michelle hugs her. She yells that there is a sniper, and Mace blocks himself with the podium. The bullet drills into the wood, and Mace throws it into the air as it explodes. It’s a Judas Bullet from Luke Cage! Glad Hammer Industries is making so much money long after Justin Hammer ended up in prison. Daisy runs to get the shooter, bumping into a mysterious man with a scaly face, while Burrows holds Mace back, reminding him that he’s on the clock. Talbot intructs Coulson and Mack to get Mace and Burrows to a safe house, so they take them to a Quinjet. As the shooter tries to escape on the roof, Daisy uses her seismic powers to blast her way up, and she watches the Quinjet fly away.
In the lab at the Playground, Simmons enters and asks why Aida’s decapitated android head is on the table. Agent Crawford explains that Fitz asked her to leave it out for testing. Simmons reminds Crawford that Aida killed Agent Nathanson, and resolves to tell Fitz to rid of the head. In the meantime, Crawford is not to go near it. Simmons leaves and Crawford covers the head with a cloth. In the hallway, the secret LMD of May (I call her LMayD) is discussing the assassination attempt on Mace with Talbot. Simmons catches up and is briefed on what has happened. LMayD continues to ask Talbot questions, and he tells her to get in the interrogation room and ask the shooter herself. LMayD affirms that she takes orders from Mace and not Talbot, and Simmons backs her up. Talbot tells them that while Mace is not there, he is in charge – he orders LMayD to interrogate the shooter, orders Simmons to investigate whether or not Burrows was on the Quinjet and orders a random S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to get him a coffee. He tells LMayD that she is the most intimidating woman he’s met next to his mother, and tells her that only she can get answers. She leaves to interrogate the prisoner.
In Radcliffe’s lab, Radcliffe reminds Fitz that Aida was designed to save S.H.I.E.L.D. agents’ lives; Fitz points out that they just had a funeral for one that she killed. Radcliffe begs to let him try again and find out what went wrong, but Fitz refuses and tells him to stay away from the base for a few days as tensions are running high – an order from everyone. He promises to still visit, and leaves. Radcliffe calls for Aida to get him aspirin, and explains that if he isn’t allowed at The Playground, he can’t monitor the fake May’s vitals and ensure she doesn’t glitch, potentially foiling their plan.
In the interrogation room, Daisy goes over the shooter Yuri Zaikin’s dossier: He is a Watchdog who is ex-KGB and ex-HYDRA, and was believed to have been killed in the Battle at the Fridge (when HYDRA ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Grant Ward and John Garrett freed all the prisoners at the secret S.H.I.E.L.D. prison in the first season). She asks who his supplier of Judas Bullets are, and Yuri refuses to talk. Daisy asks LMayD what her strategy is, and she says that he’s a dumb lackey who is hiding a secret, and that’s why he failed. Yuri protests that they didn’t fail; Phase One only ever had a 13% of success.
Aboard the Quinjet, Mack questions who would send a sniper to such a heavily guarded event, doomed to fail. Mace points out that Ellen Nadeer had his event schedule, ties to the Watchdogs, and motive. Coulson disagrees, saying it was sloppy and Ellen wouldn’t be linked to the death of a hero. Burrows points out that Mace throwing the desk was good P.R., and Mack shuts him up. Mace asks the pilot Agent McCafferty to contact HQ, and he claims their signal has interference. Burrows confirms this, wishing his phone had signal so they could see if they are trending – when the door of the Quinjet blows open and Burrows is sucked out. Rest in peace, Burrows, we hardly knew ye; a cruel fate for someone who just wanted to check his Twitter feed. McCafferty claims they’ve lost the support engine, and they all hold on for dear life as they head towards the ground.
In the wreckage of the Quinjet, Mack and Coulson come to and find Mace already awake. McCafferty is dead, having been impaled by a large broken branch from nearby tree. R.I.P. McCafferty – you were a leaf on the wind. Mace points out that the assassination attempt and the crash were not coincidences – whoever is doing this knew the protocols and that they would attempt to fly to safety. Mack notes that the communications are still down, and Mace says that S.H.I.E.L.D. can still track the Quinjet remotely through transponder signals and probably has a search and rescue team on the way. Coulson tries his robotic arm, and it also has no signal. (That thing needs Wi-Fi?) Coulson suggests they get to higher ground, but Mace demands they find Burrows – he may not be alive, but S.H.I.E.L.D. leaves no man behind. Coulson remarks that if a jet crashes in the woods and no one is around to hear it, stick to the guy with super-strength.
In Radcliffe’s lab, he opens the secret door leading to Aida’s charging chamber, where May is being held hostage, tied up to several medical devices. He notices that she is restless though unconscious, and confirms with Aida that the machinery was supposed to calm her down. Aida ensures him that May is safe, and Radcliffe tells her he doesn’t want another incident like Nathanson. Aida defends herself, saying that she puts Radcliffe’s security above all else, and Nathanson would have exposed their secret. She promises that next time she will dispose of the body, and Radcliffe demands that she does not kill anyone else. Aida apologizes and says that she is only following her orders. Radcliffe explains that the LMayD is more advanced (which seems to make Aida jealous), and doesn’t know she’s an android – if she doesn’t know her mission, she can’t reveal it. Aida suggests attacking the base again, and Radcliffe refuses, saying they are playing the long game with no violence. Aida is confused, as May is usually violent.
At the Playground, Simmons tells Daisy and LMayD that they lost contact with Mack, Coulson, Mace, McCafferty and Burrows and they don’t know if they’re alive. LMayD realizes that this is Phase Two. LMayD asks for command of Zephyr One, and Talbot promotes her rank. Simmons reminds Talbot that she is the highest ranking agent, and her clearance increases when the Director is comprised. She asks to go through Mace’s files to find enemies, but Talbot refuses and assigns her to regain contact with Coulson, Mace and Mack. Simmons protests, when President Ellis calls Talbot and he excuses them. Talbot briefs Ellis and says that Burrows had the package, but they don’t know if he was on board. He prays for everyone’s sake that Mace retrieved it.
Mace, Coulson and Mack make their way through the woods, as Mace guides them to approximately where Burrows would have landed. Coulson reminds Mace that Burrows would not have survived, and Mace reiterates that it is the right thing to do. Coulson retorts that Mace just wants the briefcase, and Mace says it is classified. Mack hears engines, and they make their way to the roadside to find a signal-scrambling ex-HYDRA vehicle drive past, manned by Watchdogs. Coulson explains that priority one is to destroy the vehicle, and Mace says priority one is to find Burrows. Coulson concedes, admitting that Mace is in charge.
Fitz arrives back at the Playground and asks Simmons if there have been any updates on Coulson. She reports with the negative, but states that Talbot is there “helping”. Fitz tells her that he got his stuff from Radcliffe’s and told him to lay low for a while, but laments that the project had promise. Simmons claims that Aida was dangerous, and Fitz retorts that the program wasn’t dangerous, keeping it from Simmons was. He asks to work on the decapitated Aida head together with her, and she asks him to drop it, pointing out their friends may be dead. Fitz explains that he only wanted to protect Simmons, and reassures her that they will find Coulson, Mace and Mack; Daisy is back on the team and May (or LMayD) is too stubborn to give up.
Speak of the devil, May is restless tied up in Radcliffe’s lab. She snaps awake and looks around horrified, before ripping off all the machinery. Aida enters the lab and finds a weak May trying to escape, and chokes her against the wall. Radcliffe arrives and sees the scene play out, demanding Aida stop. Radcliffe orders that Aida doesn’t kill her, and readies a syringe to put May under again. She kicks him and he drops it. Radcliffe tells Aida to get the syringe to sedate May, and she drops her to get it. An angry May readies herself to kick Radcliffe, before Aida grabs her and sticks her with the needle. Radcliffe asks what the hell is going on, as May was supposed to be in a simulation of a day spa getting a hot stone massage. Radcliffe sarcastically remarks that at least Aida didn’t snap her neck, and asks her to get some restraints. Aida leaves, with a possible hint of anger.
LMayD sits in Coulson’s car Lola aboard the company plane Zephyr One. Daisy asks if she’s allowed to touch Lola, and she doesn’t respond. Daisy tells her they’re a few minutes away, and she doesn’t respond. Daisy sits in the passenger seat next to LMayD and asks if Coulson ever let her drive Lola. LMayD recalls an early mission (when Coulson had a mustache), where he let her drive Lola on the condition that she didn’t tell anyone. Daisy reassures her that they will find him, and LMayD agrees – but can’t shake the feeling that something is off. Daisy asks if she means between the mission or between her and Coulson, and LMayD plays dumb about their budding relationship. Agent Davis approaches and tells them they they reached the supposed crash site, but there is no plane – someone hijacked the transponder signal.
Coulson, Mack and Mace find the body of Burrows and the briefcase – being loaded on a military vehicle by a group of Watchdogs. Mace says that the case is safe as only he can open it, but Mack points out they could use explosives, which worries Mace. As the soldiers cut off Burrows’ hand chained to the briefcase, Coulson forms a battle plan.
Interrogating Yuri, Talbot asks how they knew Mace would board the Quinjet. Yuri admits it was probability, and that they considered every possible scenario to plan their target’s death. Talbot tries to get him to elaborate further, revealing that he took out HYDRA. Yuri refuses to say any more. Talbot leaves and complains to Fitz and Simmons that he isn’t allowed to torture prisoners any more. They don’t empathize. He asks how locating the real transponder is coming along, and they have turned up nothing. Simmons again states that she believes it is Ellen, and asks for clearance to look through Mace’s files. Talbot refuses. Simmons claims he is impeding progress and endangering their friends, and opens Mace’s files – finding one on Project Patriot, a classified file only previously accessible to Talbot, Mace and Burrows before she gained access in Mace’s absence. She asks if Talbot mentioning Burrows earlier had anything to do with the project, and he claims it is irrelevant. Fitz points out that Burrows always has the briefcase and follows Mace, and Simmons asks what Talbot isn’t telling them. He hesitates, and she says that if he doesn’t tell them she will read the file out loud. Talbot asks them to clear the other agents out of the room. Talbot begins, saying there is a very good reason Mace is never far from the briefcase.
As the Watchdogs secure the briefcase, Coulson and Mack use I.C.E.R. tranquilizer pistols to take out their targets. Instead of following his side of the plan and taking out the remaining guards with super-strength, Mace sneaks in and steals the briefcase, getting spotted. Coulson and Mack save his hide, wondering what the hell he is doing. Mace runs to the woods and hides, opening the briefcase to reveal syringes filled with a fluid. He tries to use it, but a Watchdog shoots it and breaks it. He tries to grab another one, and the Watchdogs attacks him, getting in a fight. Mace fights back with decidedly un-super-strength.
Does Mace not actually have superpowers?
Mace reaches for the other syringe, and the Watchdog breaks it and shoots him. He goes for a lethal shot, and Coulson takes him out. Mack is confused, saying that Mace could have crushed him. Coulson notices the syringes and Mace writhing on the ground, and realizes that Mace isn’t Inhuman – he doesn’t have powers at all. As Mack binds Mace’s wound, Coulson asks what the serum is. Mace says its a drug cocktail, but he never questioned it – all he knows is that it was specifically calibrated for his DNA to make him strong. Coulson realizes Talbot is behind this.
Talbot tells Fitz and Simmons the truth, saying he still stands behind his decision to do it and lie about it. He reveals that no directorial candidates fit the criteria of being enhanced, so they made one. Project Patriot is an updated Super-Soldier Project, originally used by Abraham Erskine to create Captain America – only Patriot was created using a modified formula created to transform Daisy’s dad, Dr. Calvin Zabo – the villain Mr. Hyde from season 2. He claims they took “most of the bad stuff” out of the formula, and only used it when Mace needed to “put on a show” (hence Burrows telling him he is on the clock). He reveals that his dose was wearing off when Yuri took the shot – he doesn’t know if Mace got a second dose, claiming he’s about as strong as a “paper bag in a windstorm”.
Mace regrets bringing Burrows into the situation, and regrets leaving Coulson and Mack outside with no protection. Mack scoffs that he thinks they need him for protection. Mace defends himself, saying he only lied because those were his orders; when your country calls, you answer. They decide to carry the injured Mace to a nearby ranger station to find a first aid kit. A Watchdog vehicle drives up, and Mack grabs a dead Watchdog’s gun before entering the station.
In the lab, Simmons realizes that Coulson and Mack are stranded in the woods and probably don’t know Mace is a fraud, and asks Fitz to work double-time on finding the transponder signal. Fitz says that it will take about a day, and Simmons says they need to “break” Yuri instead. Simmons looks at Aida 1.0’s decapitated head and has an idea. Simmons and Talbot enter the room with a large case, and Yuri questions whether they are doing the “good cop, bad cop” routine. Simmons unwraps several surgical tools, and reveals that she worked undercover with HYDRA, and picked up some “persuasive” interrogation methods. Yuri calls Talbot weak for bringing in a woman to interrogate him, and Talbot says that the last person who questions Simmon’s abilities didn’t end up so well. Simmons references HYDRA’s old mantra of “Cut off one head, and two more shall take it’s place” and she opens the case, revealing Aida’s bloody decapitated head on ice. In communication with Daisy and LMayD, Fitz and Simmons explain the entire Watchdogs plan, as told to them by Yuri. LMayD is pissed off that they weren’t even searching in the right state. Daisy says that Mace can hold them off until they arrive, and Fitz tells her that he isn’t so sure about that.
Inside the ranger station, Coulson and Mack give Mace the good news and the bad news: The electronic jamming vehicle is nearby and easily disabled, but it is heavily guarded by many Watchdogs who will kick down the door shortly. Mack asks Coulson what the plan is, and Coulson gives Mace his Patriot suit and tells him to suit up. Mace reminds him he doesn’t have powers, and Coulson says that the Watchdogs don’t know that. As the Watchdogs (led by the scarred man Daisy bumped into earlier) scope the area, Mace flashes the briefcase around the corner and tells them that they were hired by the corrupt Senator Nadeer, and that the briefcase contains the cure for Inhumanity – that’s its worth much more than what Ellen payed them. Mace steps out of the shadows in his Patriot outfit, and says that they have two options: The first being that Mace could crush the case and no one wins. The soldier says they will kill him and take it, but Patriot says he could “do this all day”, and points out that only he can open the case. They move in, and Mack secretly takes out a soldier and steals his gun and grenade. Mace continues to try to make a deal, when the signal-jamming truck blows up behind them. The soldiers pull out their weapons and begin firing, but with the signal jammer down, Coulson’s robotic arm works again, and he pulls out his hologram shield. They hole themselves back inside, with Coulson firing at Watchdogs out a window from the inside and Mack running and shooting them outside. Mack runs to a nearby toolshed, and is pursued by the scarred lead Watchdog. Mack grabs a hatchet, claiming “its not an axe, but he’ll take it”, which the scarred man grabs garden shears. Coulson and Mace barricade behind a table and Mace confesses he isn’t very good at shooting, when the building is rattled by an earthquake. Bodies of Watchdogs blast in through the windows and Daisy steps in on the scene. In the toolshed, Mack is losing the fight against the general when LMayD runs in and hits the scarred man with a shovel. They double-team the man, taking him out, but LMayD is injured, damaging a circular saw with her android body.
Back at Radcliffe’s, May has calmed down and is unconscious after her fight with Aida. Radcliffe realizes that she was restless because that isn’t how May relaxes – in order for her to be happy, she needs an opponent to fight. He knows just the thing.
In The Playground, Fitz has hooked his cellphone up to the Aida 1.0 head, and begins to download the data, promising he will find out what was wrong with her. She thanks him, and Simmons shows up asking if he wants to eat. He quickly unplugs his phone and decides to go for food, telling her he was just locking away the head for good. He admits that he thought Simmons using the head for interrogation tactics was hot, and she calls him weird.
As Mace gazes out the window leaning on his new cane, Coulson is arguing with Talbot over lying about Project Patriot. Talbot said Inhumans needed to trust S.H.I.E.L.D., and Coulson says the best way to gain trust isn’t lying to them. Talbot retaliates, saying that Daisy went rogue and he was tasked with finding the next Captain America; he gave the world The Patriot. (This is interesting because Jeffrey Mace actually was Captain America in the comics after Steve Rogers died in WWII, an unpowered man called The Patriot.) Mace asks Talbot to leave, and Talbot is incredulous that he is taking Coulson’s side after all they did for him. He accuses him of being a bad spy for not being able to keep a secret, and storms out. Mace hands Coulson the photo of him saving a woman from the Civil War U.N. bombing in Vienna. He tells him the truth: He got smoke in his eyes and tripped. He didn’t even know she was there, but someone snapped a photo. Everyone called him a hero, and when he denied it, they thought he was being modest – but they were treating him like the man he always wanted to be, so he rolled with it. When Talbot offered him to be a part of Project Patriot, he took it – he was human, but all he ever wanted was for Inhumans to have the same rights as everyone else, and thought he could help. He promises to hold a press conference tomorrow and resign, reinstating Coulson as director. Coulson refuses to let him leave – he says that Mace will be the public face, playing the hero and lying to the public; that’s what he’s good at, and Coulson doesn’t like that part anyway. But behind the scenes, he’s calling the shots.
After the credits, LMayD returns to her locker and examines her wound from the circular saw. She peels aside some flesh, and is horrified to realize she’s an android. Daisy enters and asks if she needs help, but she refuses. She tells her that Coulson is holding a meeting in the directors office and asks again if LMayD is okay. She lies and says she has never been better, but contemplates what is happening as soon as Daisy leaves.
Another great episode in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. LMD! This arc really hits the ground running and rolls with it. I give this episode another 8.5/10. Keep it up S.H.I.E.L.D.!