This season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been three seasons in one. Rather than make you read the world’s longest recap, we’re gonna split those three seasons (called pods) back into three.
Last week we covered the fiery Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Ghost Rider. Now let’s jump into the paranoia of possibly the most popular arc so far, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: LMD.
Now that S.H.I.E.L.D. have recovered the evil mystical book known as the Darkhold from Ghost Rider’s corrupt uncle Dr. Eli Morrow, they vow to keep it safe. In order to do that, they need to destroy the LMD (Life Model Decoy android) Aida, who read the book and contains the dangerous knowledge within. Agent Dr. Leo Fitz and Aida’s creator Dr. Holden Radcliffe arrive at Radcliffe’s apartment to decommission Aida, but she refuses to power down and attacks them, escaping. She then uploads herself into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s system computers in an attempt to locate the book. Meanwhile at their summer home, anti-Inhuman Senator Ellen Nadeer is helping her Inhuman brother Vijay recover from his exceptionally long Terrigenesis process. She reminds him that after the Chitauri killed their mother in the invasion of New York (See: The Avengers) that they promised they would kill one another if they ended up being Inhuman. She hires a group of anti-Inhuman mercenaries called the Watchdogs (led by Tucker Shockley) to kill Vijay, but are saved by S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Jeffrey Mace (an Inhuman hero called “The Patriot”) as well as Fitz’s girlfriend Agent Dr. Jemma Simmons and newly reinstated Agent Daisy Johnson (formerly an Inhuman rogue named “Quake”). When attacked, Vijay displays his Inhuman ability of superhuman reflexes and overpowers the agents. Simmons attempts to convince Vijay to come with them to S.H.I.E.L.D., but he chooses to leave with his sister instead. At the S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ The Playground, former director Agent Phil Coulson gives the Darkhold to whom he believes is Agent Melinda May but is actually secretly a LMD that Aida built to replace the unconscious kidnapped real May. Aida uses the LMD May to find the book, but Agent Mack Mackenzie decapitates Aida before she can escape. At his apartment, Radcliffe complains to a second Aida LMD that S.H.I.E.L.D. foiled his plans, revealing himself as the mastermind. He isn’t evil, he truly believes that he can cure death with the Darkhold and make the world a better place. He decides to use the May LMD as his ace in the hole. Senator Nadeer kills her brother and dumps his body in a lake, but he enters a second Terrigenesis cocoon, revealing his true power: situational adaptability.
Mace decides to hold a press conference to announce (the alternative fact) that Daisy was working with S.H.I.E.L.D. undercover all along during her year as a vigilante. A sniper attempts to assassinate Mace with an anti-superpower Judas bullet (See: Luke Cage), and so Mace escapes with Coulson, Mack and his head of Public Relations and right-hand man, Agent Burrows (who always follows Mace around with a suspicious silver briefcase) on a S.H.I.E.L.D. Quinjet. Daisy apprehends the shooter, a Russian Watchdogs contractor named Yuri Zaikin. At the Playground, Brigadier General Glenn Talbot orders Simmons to check if Burrows is with Mace and the May LMD to interrogate Zaikin. At Radcliffe’s, Fitz warns him that working at S.H.I.E.L.D. could be dangerous and advises him against it. After he leaves, Radcliffe and Aida discuss their difficulty in keeping the real May sedated. They are trying to keep her calm through a simulation through Fitz, Simmons and Radcliffe’s virtual reality simulation The Framework, but it isn’t working and she keeps attempting to escape. Daisy and May interrogate Zaikin, who tells them he didn’t act alone. The escape Quinjet is attacked, sending Burrows falling to his death and killing the pilot in the subsequent crash. Coulson realizes the controls were hacked and tries to get Mace to safety, but Mace refuses to proceed without finding Burrows body. At the Playground, the team loses contact with the Quinjet and Talbot informs the President. With Simmons’ rank increasing in the Director’s absence, she realizes she has access to a classified project known as Project Patriot and asks Talbot about it. He reluctantly admits that Mace isn’t a real Inhuman, but that the government made him using Daisy’s dad Dr. Calvin Zabo’s unstable super-soldier serum that Burrows carried in the briefcase. Mace finds Burrows corpse heavily guarded by Watchdogs using HYDRA technology, but steals the briefcase without fighting, heavily injuring himself in the process and confusing Mack and Coulson. A Watchdog smashes all the vials of serum before being killed and Mace is forced to reveal the truth to the pair. They decide to pretend he is still super-strong to intimidate the Watchdogs. At the Playground, Fitz and Simmons use the original Aida’s severed head to intimidate Zaikin and he gives them the location of the crash site. The May LMD is sent to retrieve them and is injured on the mission, realizing for the first time she is a robot but not telling anyone. As they return to the base, Mace admits that he never saved anyone in the Vienna UN Bombing (See: Captain America: Civil War) and isn’t truly a hero. He steps down as Director and gives his seat back to Coulson, but Coulson asks him to remain as the public face of S.H.I.E.L.D. while he governs in the shadows. Fitz secretly attempts to repair the broken Aida head.
At Radcliffe’s, the real May is trapped in an infinite loop of a Framework simulation of her fighting Aida and escaping. Back at the Playground, S.H.I.E.L.D. decides to officially have Daisy sign the Sokovia Accords (See: Captain America: Civil War again) as a cover to distract Senator Nadeer while Coulson and Mack’s new Inhuman girlfriend Agent Yo-Yo Rodriguez (a former Secret Warrior code-named “Slingshot”) break into her office and bug it, a plan which Talbot disapproves of. Mack has a secret personal matter to attend to, and is unable to join the mission. Fitz is baffled by why the original Aida LMD attacked, and discusses this with the May LMD. During the press conference, Talbot, Mace and Daisy attend the hearing with Nadeer, Coulson and Yo-Yo infiltrate the office, and the May LMD and Simmons monitor the mission. Yo-Yo tries asking Coulson why Mack couldn’t attend, but Coulson tells her to ask him directly. Nadeer points out that if Daisy was undercover previously, she was breaking the Sokovia Accords by acting unauthorized. She also reveals that she knows her office is being broken into by another unauthorized enhanced individual, Yo-Yo. Coulson and Yo-Yo are arrested and S.H.I.E.L.D. is placed under investigation, and Coulson concludes there must be a mole within the organization. Simmons blames Fitz’s experiments with the Aida head for leaking intel, but Fitz says his experiments have led to the conclusion that Radcliffe is the leak. The May LMD confronts Radcliffe, but he tells her he programmed her not to be able to kill. He gave her genuine feelings and made her unaware she was an android so she wouldn’t give herself away. In fact, she doesn’t even know what her own mission is yet. The rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. enters and arrests Radcliffe. Mack returns and tells Yo-Yo he spend the day with his ex-girlfriend, prompting her to break up with him. He then tells her that it was his daughter Hope’s birthday – Hope died as a baby over a decade ago and he didn’t want his ex to be alone. A shocked and heartbroken Yo-Yo takes him back. Fitz enters the Containment Chamber to question Radcliffe, but realizes that he is an LMD and shoots him. The real Radcliffe is safe and has struck a deal with Nadeer and the Watchdogs, trading their protection for his intel. He figures out a way to prevent May from escaping: he reprograms May’s biggest regret in life, rewriting her memories so that she saved the little girl Katya Belyakov in Bahrain ten years ago instead of being forced to kill her.
At an arcade, brothers Agent Sam and Billy Koenig are attacked by a group of Watchdogs led by Shockley. Billy is kidnapped, and Sam warns Coulson. Coulson realizes that Radcliffe has instructed the Watchdogs to capture Billy, who currently has the Darkhold, and welcomes Sam aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. jet Zephyr One. Fitz repairs the Radcliffe LMD he shot and tries to break into it with Simmons and Mack, only to find out that it was given a non-binary human-like brain with Darkhold technology and is impossible to hack. They try to interrogate the android, but it infuriates Fitz by talking about Fitz’s abusive dad, who the LMD reveals Radcliffe knew. Fitz unplugs it. Aboard a submarine, Billy is held captive with Radcliffe, who claims to have been betrayed by the Watchdogs. Their torturer introduces himself as the captain of the submarine Anton Ivanov: A Russian leader of the Watchdogs known as The Superior. When Billy won’t crack under pressure, Radcliffe reveals that he was not betrayed and it was staged. He suggests using the Framework to explore Billy’s mind instead of torturing him. Ivanov doesn’t like this idea, as he doesn’t trust Aida, The Framework or technology, but he reluctantly agrees. Sam reveals he knew Billy had the Darkhold, and on his suggestion Daisy and minor Agent Davis bring aboard Agent L.T. Koenig, Billy and Sam’s high-level sister, and Thurston Koenig, their grumpy slam poet quadruplet brother. They reveal that they had an operation called Operation Hot Potato, which was to pass the Darkhold among themselves before hiding it in the high-security S.H.I.E.L.D. vault The Labyrinth. Radcliffe and Ivanov find this information out concurrently and both heroes and villains head to the vault. Doing experiments on the Radcliffe LMD’s quantum brain, Fitz and Simmons discover that Radcliffe had mapped out May’s brain when he had resuscitated her (See: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Ghost Rider) and realize that the May they know is an LMD. After a fight at the Labyrinth with the Watchdogs and a season of romantic tension, the May LMD finally kisses Coulson. However, once she touches the Darkhold her secret programming takes over and she threatens to kill him to get the book back to Radcliffe. Daisy is warned by Fitz and Simmons and arrives to take out the android. Radcliffe sneaks off with the Darkhold and S.H.I.E.L.D. returns to base to lick their wounds. The original Aida LMD and the Radclife LMD are burned while the May LMD is turned off. At his secret base, Ivanov reveals his obsession with killing Coulson, whom he believes is the cause of aliens reaching the world (See: Thor, The Avengers).
After running diagnostics of Mace, Simmons concludes that his Patriot super-soldier serum is killing him more and more each time he uses it. Bad timing, as Fitz has just built a new Patriot suit that automatically injects serum via the belt buckle. At his villainous lair, deciding that Nadeer is probably an Inhuman like her brother, Ivanov sends Shockley to confront her with a Terrigen crystal. Instead of Nadeer undergoing Terrigenesis Shockley does, transforming into a living bomb and blowing up the office, killing Nadeer and several others. Shockley reforms himself and is arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D. for interrogation, but after they discover his true nature Fitz ejects off the Zephyr One seconds before he can explode. Coulson and Mack discover that Aida was based on Radcliffe’s Australian ex-girlfriend Agnes Kitsworth, and go to Spain to meet with her. They discover that Radcliffe’s research is an attempt to cure Agnes of her brain cancer, and that’s why he built Aida in her likeness. They use Agnes to set up a reunion with Radcliffe so they can track him and rescue May. Radcliffe convinces Agnes that he can save her: He has upgraded the Framework using Darkhold technology to be a new, fully functioning alternate reality instead of simple virtual reality. Agnes agrees to go with Radcliffe and Coulson and Mack are unable to track him in time. Fitz builds a special containment sphere to capture Shockley, who has reformed on Earth below, and Daisy, Mace, Fitz and Simmons go to apprehend him. Fitz and Simmons power the containment sphere as Daisy distracts Shockley in a super-powered duel, when a large convoy of Watchdogs vehicles tries to stop Fitz and Simmons. Mace injects himself with his Patriot serum and stops the vehicles, buying time for Fitz and Simmons to escape as he is captured by the Watchdogs. Shockley is captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. and they retreat. At his secret base, Radcliffe plugs Agnes into the Framework and then euthanizes her body, allowing her consciousness to live forever in this alternate reality.
Fitz and Simmons show Mack, Daisy and Coulson their earlier pre-Darkhold build of the Framework to explain what they are dealing with. They receive a GPS tracking of the Mace’s Patriot armor and travel to Alaska to locate it. They find the suit but no Mace, and a wall of photographs and articles leading back to Coulson and a Russian mining facility. Coulson recalls a mission with May to infiltrate this facility when they were young agents. Coulson distracted Russian soldiers while May cracked a safe and retrieved an 0-8-4 (object of unknown origin), but he was captured and later rescued by May. As they head to Russia, Mack blames Fitz for Aida and the Framework. Chained up in Russia, Mace breaks free but is weak against Ivanov without his super-strength. Coulson returns to the mining facility and finds the skeletons of the Russian agents from years ago and a walkie-talkie. Via walkie-talkie, Ivanov tells him that all his fellow agents were killed for failing to apprehend Coulson years ago, and he blames him. He then tells Mace his theory that Coulson is behind all the alien attacks. Using information learned from Ivanov, S.H.I.E.L.D. locates and attacks his submarine’s naval base. Fitz, Simmons and Davis go to the control room while Coulson, Daisy and Mack look for Mace and May. Ivanov comes face to face with Coulson and blames him for having his troop killed, but Coulson doesn’t care and leaves Ivanov to fight Daisy. Daisy uses her powers to collapse a pillar onto Ivanov while Coulson and Mack rescue Mace, who is being beaten to death by Watchdogs. Fitz and Simmons learn Aida is at the base, and Simmons and Davis leave to apprehend her while Fitz stays in the control room. Communications between all the teams are cut, and Simmons figures Aida via the submarine. Coulson orders the team back to the Playground. Aida comes out of hiding and retrieves barely-living Ivanov from the rubble. At the base, Fitz and Simmons realize that the mission timeline doesn’t add up. They also notice that the new LMD detector was turned off for some reason. Upon investigating further, they discover that Coulson turned off the detector as they entered. They check the alert logs and it claims four LMDs are now in the base, displaying a picture of Daisy, Coulson, Mack and Mace entering the base. Elsewhere in the base, the LMD of Coulson reactivates the LMD of May.
As Fitz and Simmons struggle with how to handle this information, the Coulson LMD tells them they are to bring all known Inhumans to the base “for protection”, with the true intent of executing them all. The May LMD, still having emotions, questions whether they are doing the right thing. The Coulson LMD tells the May LMD that he regrets joining S.H.I.E.L.D. and always wanted to live a boring life. When Fitz and Simmons install an LMD detector in the lab, they discover that one of them is an LMD, but neither know which one it is. After a passionate argument, Simmons orders Fitz to slit his own wrist at gunpoint to prove he is real. Fitz accidentally cuts a main artery and starts bleeding to death, and when Simmons arrives to help, Fitz stabs her in the leg and knocks her out with a paint can, revealing himself to be the LMD. Simmons awakens as the Fitz LMD attempts to map her brain, and distracts him by talking about marriage before stabbing him in the neck repeatedly and escaping to a storage closet. At their base, Aida and Radcliffe lament that they were only able to replace four agents and hope that Simmons and Daisy are replaced soon, revealing Daisy is not an LMD. They also discuss their plan to erase the biggest regret of each of the agents strapped in. At the base, Daisy is unaware that she is surrounded by androids and is rounding up Inhumans seemingly for protection. Upon double-checking the containment unit for accommodations, she finds a fleet of 40 deactivated Daisy LMDs. She decides to hide among them and attack the Mack LMD, stealing his shotgun-axe before fleeing to the security room, where she watches video footage of the Coulson LMD and Mace LMD killing agents and what she believes to be a Simmons LMD stabbing the real Fitz in the neck repeatedly. She flees and ends in up the storage closet, where she encounters Simmons. Daisy uses her Inhuman powers to vibrate Simmons’ bones, proving they are both human as LMDs don’t have bones or Inhuman powers. Mace rounds up all the agents and instructs them that Simmons and Daisy are LMDs and demands their capture. Daisy and Simmons resolve to break into the Framework to save their friends. They use sleeping gas to neutralize all human agents, and Daisy fights off the Mace, Coulson and Mack LMDs, fully destroying the Mack one. At their secret base, Aida confronts Radcliffe about a paradox in her programming: She is instructs to keep Radcliffe safe and keep the Framework safe, but Radcliffe may regret the Framework and order her to shut it down. Radcliffe tells her that he believes they are happy in the Framework and that human bodies don’t matter, so Aida promptly kills him and straps him into the Framework. Aida reveals that she has built an android body for Ivanov, keeping his real head alive under a glass dome on a table to control the android remotely. His job is to protect the Framework so she doesn’t have to. Simmons wakes up Agents Piper, Prince and Davis and forces them to help by showing them the remains of the Mack LMD. The five agents attempt to sneak to the hangar to board the Zephyr One, but are apprehended by the May LMD sitting on a ton of explosives. Appealing to her emotions, they convince her to let them go and they escape aboard the plane. The Coulson LMD confronts her, but she triggers the explosives, destroying the base and the LMDs inside, including herself. Aboard the Zephyr, Simmons and Daisy pick up Yo-Yo and strap themselves into the Framework, warning her not to wake them up.
In the Framework, erasing the agents regrets has shaped the world differently: Coulson is a schoolteacher, Mack lives a peaceful life with his daughter Hope, Daisy is still dating the deceased Agent Grant Ward, May is a high-ranking HYDRA agent, and Fitz is rich and successful and dating someone else, since Simmons has been dead for years.
Wooh. What a crazy arc. Now lets go next week to the final arc of the season, the Framework’s own Agents of HYDRA!