The 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D' Mid-Season Premiere Brings An Unexpected Twist
In a world of aliens, androids, and Inhumans, sometimes it's easy to forget that humans are the most immediate danger to themselves. This theme is often revisited by the show and continues to be brilliantly executed in the mid-season premiere. In an unexpected twist, we learn that Radcliffe, not Aida, is the real threat. Unlike Ultron (thankfully), it turns out that the LMDs do have strings attached, and Dr. Radcliffe is the one pulling them.
Radcliffe has provided consistent comic relief and, more recently, has been good buddies with Fitz. Any friend of Fitz benefits from the Halo effect to some extent, so it helped the audience forget his past indiscretions. Now, Radcliffe is once again set up to be a morally shady sort of character, but whether you'd go as far as to call him a villain depends on how you feel about his motivations. Radcliffe is driven to learn the secrets of the Darkhold in his quest for immortality and, frankly, we probably should have seen that coming. When we first met him, he was dedicated to "improving" humans through the latest advances in biotech. Given that fascination, it isn't surprising that he created Aida in the first place, as he probably saw this as a way to advance humanity. Morality aside, good intentions don't necessarily lead to good ideas. If you need to convince yourself of his despicable self-serving nature, just remember that he has a heavily drugged Agent May locked away in a closet.
Speaking of antagonists with skewed morality, the secondary plot with Senator Nadeer continues the theme of humans being the real villains. We finally learn a bit about why the senator teamed up with the Watchdogs and *spoiler alert* attempted to kill her beloved little brother. Apart from learning the reason for her motivations, two major plot points cropped up here: the senator is apparently working with someone called "The Superior". Whether we've met this person or if they're a new villain remains to be seen, but it's clear that the senator isn't the one calling the shots. We also know now that Vijay is a speedster—and he isn't dead. After being shot by his own sister, will he join SHIELD and work with the LMDs to take down the Superior? I'd love to see the Inhumans and LMDs team up and help form a more powerful and cohesive SHIELD team by the end of the season. Another possibility is that SHIELD will need him to combat the LMD threat. Either way, he's currently re-cocooned in a terrigen shell at the bottom of a lake, so there's a chance he'll be out of commission for a while.
So far, the LMD plot is successfully executing the trope-y cliché of killer sentient robots by maintaining a sense of self-aware humor and pop culture references galore. There are also a few twists that keep things fresh and interesting. Most notably, android May isn't aware that she's not the real May. Taking into account Radcliffe's emotional-focused upgrades and the bond she's growing with Coulson, this could create some interesting opportunities. And after we learn that the LMDs weren't made fully sentient by the Darkhold, there were a few moments that hint at the possibility of them gaining some autonomy later on, maybe even turning on their creator.
Not to mention that in the promo for next week's episode, we see LMD May confess that she "can't shake the feeling that something's off". Next week also sees the return of Talbot, aka Coulson's favorite frenemy. It should be interesting to see how he interacts with the team now that Mace is the new Director, especially given that SHIELD has gone public since the last time we saw him.
Best Lines + Stray Comments:
- Mace: "I have this saying-" Daisy: "I read the motivational poster in the bathroom."
- "Has he watched no American movies from the 80s? Robots always attack."
- Elena: "Someone needs to make Radcliffe watch all the Terminator movies." Mack: "Even Salvation?" Elena: "He brought this on himself."
- "I've got a special provision in my life insurance for 'Death by Robot'."
- It's nice to see Mace being more of the team member I'd hoped he would be from the beginning. And his developing dynamic with Daisy is golden so far.
- Mack beheading Aida was oddly graphic and calls into question the morality of shutting down an LMD after it was taught to believe it was sentient.
- Is the bobby pin taser the new shot-gun axe?
The next episode of AoS, "The Patriot," will air on January 17th, 2017 on ABC.