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TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Episode 4.14 "The Man Behind the Shield"

02.15.2017

EPISODE 14: "The Man Behind The Shield"

SYNOPSIS: Mace fights for his life while Coulson and team find themselves in a deadly cat-and-mouse game as they attempt his rescue.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., TV Review, Marvel Studios, ABC, Superhero, Comic Book

REVIEW: If there was a storyline that was perfectly suited for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it is LMDs. Since their introduction in the pages of Marvel Comics, LMDs have been everything from a core element to the crime-fighting institution to a joke of themselves. Still, the robotic replacement were the first theory as to how the ABC series would resurrect Phil Coulson. After three and a half seasons, we are now knee-deep in a true LMD narrative and tonight's episode drives home the danger of these androids to their fullest extent. In an episode packed with backstory and character development, the entire power of this hour came down to the final minutes which unveiled a twist that many probably sensed was coming but does so in such a way that has me excited to see what is going to happen next week.

Much like the team's hunt for Melinda May last week, tonight's hour focused on the hunt for May as well as the recently abducted Jeffrey Mace. With the trail leading them to Nome, Alaska and a creepy Pinterest wall of Coulson photos, the team finds their true destination to be Russia where the connection between Ivanov/The Superior and Couson is revealed. With flashbacks set in an indeterminate time in the past where Coulson was a Level 4 agent and May was a Level 3 operative, we find that the duo had some serious sexual tension that even resulted in an undercover fling. The younger agents are much more brash than their contemporary selves and their S.H.I.E.L.D. mission to retrieve an 0-8-4 (how long it has been since we have heard that code?). Coulson's burgeoning skills as an agent led to the team taking down a trio of Russian soldiers who turned out to be brothers-in-arms to Ivanov. Holding Coulson responsible for their deaths led to his current motivation to take down all Inhumans in what could be the weakest origin story ever and Coulson even agrees in the episode itself.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., TV Review, Marvel Studios, ABC, Superhero, Comic Book

But before Coulson and Ivanov finally showdown, we have to discuss The Framework. With Radcliffe and Fitz now on separate sides with their beliefs in science and the power of the Darkhold, The Framework is beginning to take on a much deeper purpose. While Radcliffe is using the massive virtual reality to deepen his own knowledge and abilities, Fitz has adapted it to serve as a training tool for S.H.I.E.L.D.. As the voice of reason, Mack cautions against the dangers the Framework represents which Fitz takes offense to. But, Mack is right that it is a thin line between scientist and mad scientist as evidenced by multiple characters on this show. Radcliffe continues to vascillate back and forth over that line. More so than before, this episode begs the question as to why Radcliffe even bothers listening to Ivanov as he has much bigger ideas that include pushing the powers of the Darkhold beyond anything we have already seen.

This is also a nice showcase for Jeffrey Mace who proves that even without the abilities granted by the super soldier serum that he is not a snivelling figurehead as he has been made out to be in recent weeks. Fighting to break out of Ivanov's grasp, Mace deals with the torture at the hands of The Superior as he is forced be bait for Coulson's imminent arrival. When the team does infiltrate Ivanov's base in China, the face-off between Ivanov and Coulson feels a bit anti-climactic. If anything, it is the protracted "fight" between Daisy and Ivanov where the Inhuman agent shows her strength easily takes down the all too human bad guy that is the biggest highlight of the episode. The team manages to rescue Mace and make their way out relatively easily but the shell game has already been played and we didn't even realize it. As the team make their way back to the quinjet, we see Fitz's LMD alarm sound as Daisy, Mace, Coulson, and Mack make their way back on board.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., TV Review, Marvel Studios, ABC, Superhero, Comic Book

In the closing moments of the episode, we see Coulson resurrect the LMD May, revealing that he himself is now an LMD as well. All four of the agents who left Ivanov's base are now LMDs and there is virtually no way to tell. This presents a lot of possibilities for the series as every character can now have a doppelganger and their is almost no way to tell them apart. How the series will utilize this big twist remains to be seen but I just hope that they don't opt to have characters perform actions they would not do otherwise as fan service only to kill of the LMD and have the human character back to business as usual. Will an LMD of Daisy have her same Inhuman abilities? What has become of the human characters while the LMDs run free at S.H.I.E.L.D.?

All of these are valid questions and it goes to show how perfectly a stride Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has hit this season that asking these questions keeps us engaged as viewers going into each successive week. This was by far one of the best episodes of the season (and the series) and that is thanks to the combination of a compelling chapter in the LMD storyline as well as a great flashback to the prior lives of two of the main series stars. Seeing a younger Coulson and May helped inform their backstories while also giving us a nice break from the main arc this season but one that worked to help progress the season long narrative. S.H.I.E.L.D. has not used flashbacks too often on the show and they never really stick with the same format but I could easily find myself watching a Coulson/May spin-off about their younger years. Seeing as their flashback was not too far in the past, I would think a Better Call Saul style prequel could be done once this series runs it's course. Here's hoping Marvel decides to keep up with this series after this season as the show has never been better.

MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES: Tony Stark and Nick Fury are name-checked by Ivanov.

NEXT ON MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.: "Self Control" airs February 21st - Suspicion turns to paranoia when the team doesn’t know who can be trusted as more LMDs infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D.

Source: JoBlo.com

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9:24AM on 02/16/2017

Some bad writing

"The Man Behind the Shield" was fun, but the episode could have been better. For example, the surprise twist seems implausible, and many FB commentators say as much. Radcliffe would not likely take-down four SHIELD agents, especially the elite, just like that. And, viewers now need to wait an entire week before the show's script explains how Radcliffe accomplished what he seemingly accomplished. Thus, viewers encounter some weak writing among some writing of the usual good
"The Man Behind the Shield" was fun, but the episode could have been better. For example, the surprise twist seems implausible, and many FB commentators say as much. Radcliffe would not likely take-down four SHIELD agents, especially the elite, just like that. And, viewers now need to wait an entire week before the show's script explains how Radcliffe accomplished what he seemingly accomplished. Thus, viewers encounter some weak writing among some writing of the usual good quality.

Furthermore, other implausible events occur throughout the episode. For example, the Coulson-May relationship still seems forced. The flashback is more of a ret-con than an explanation about sexual tension that the audience thought was already there. Most viewers always thought that May and Phil have simply been good friends and allies throughout the years. Besides May and Phil, the Fitz-Simmons relationship is sometimes too maudlin. The two are consistently more emotional and soft than experienced professional spies likely would be.

The fights made for good drama in "The Man Behind the Shield"; however, they are also not very believable. And, belief is a big factor in a viewer's engagement with a teleplay. Coulson would not leave Daisy to fight the Superior alone. The hostile's termination is too important, and Ivanov is too dangerous of an individual to risk your Inhuman asset any more than you have to. However, any viewer understands that a Quake-Superior showdown makes "good" television. In other fight scenes, we have the Patriot showing little fighting or strategic ability at all. Previous episodes have explained his deficiencies a bit. However, the Patriot's characterization is still wrong, at least to a picky longtime comic fan. Jeffrey Mace is supposed to be an inferior version of Captain America. In the last two episodes, he has been inferior to a fault (on the writers' part), IMO (and perhaps others').
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