Marvel's Agents of SHIELD 4.14: The Man Behind the Shield
It has long been clear that Agents Coulson and May have a history together, but until now, we’ve only heard a few hints as to the extent of it. Clearly there was also attraction, even before LMD-May made overt moves towards romance. For Coulson to have made his interest so plain is an interesting revelation; in essence, both of them have been working together with the knowledge (and no doubt consideration) of what might have been.
The flashbacks add to the sense of loyalty and commitment that Coulson has towards May, which makes this exploration of their history particularly timely. It also informs the action in this episode quite well. While the series has finally found its near-perfect formulaic balance (perhaps far too late in the game from a ratings perspective), it is always best when the plot and character elements inform the action rather than the other way around. Just about everyone has clear motivations in this episode.
The inevitable mass infiltration by LMDs finally takes place by the end of the episode, which is just about as perfect a way to do it as they were going to find. It was done fairly well, too, since the final act was intentionally disjointed and confusing to give FitzSimmons a chance to point out the gaps. Speaking of which, was anyone else unnerved by how Fitz was acting during that entire final scene? I kept waiting for him to attack Simmons or otherwise tip off that they might have been replaced as well!
But it makes sense for at least one of them to be the real deal, since it would be the scientists on Team Coulson that would have the best chance of formulating a response to the LMD threat. And meanwhile we have Aida’s slow but steady awakening to full sentience, which would have been too obviously derivative earlier in the story arc. As predictable as it was (and shallow compared to Westworld or even Humans), it works as a foil to The Superior’s uber-humanist stance. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting to see what Radcliffe’s true plan might be. The Superior is so anti-Inhuman that I can’t imagine Radcliffe would align with his value judgments.
A shoutout needs to go to Jeffrey Mace, who is particularly challenged in this episode. For someone who was chosen to be a figurehead of sorts for the New SHIELD, he’s actually going a long way towards demonstrating what the integrity and perseverance of the organization should be. If we can’t have Steve Rogers around to play to those ideals, Mace is going a great job of standing that ground.
- The LMD arc is playing out extremely well, especially the final reveal
- Mace continues to be a surprising standout character this season
- The Coulson/May flashbacks add layers to their relationship
- It’s too bad so few people are watching what is a strong television companion to the MCU