Marvel / ABC

Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “The Patriot”:

I thought Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. did well last week, to lightheartedly burn through some of the more generic action beats of a robot uprising, even if “LMD” still feels like a less fruitful concept than “Ghost Rider” to build the back half of Season 4. It still isn’t immediately clear how Radcliffe’s designs on immortality will build to something worthy of a season (possibly even series) finale, but where “Broken Promises” notably lagged with a weak Nadeer story, “The Patriot” does much better to flesh out the truth behind Jeffrey Mace.

That isn’t to say that the reveal of Mace’s non-Inhuman powers was hidden particularly well; given the character’s comic history, synopses teasing one of only a few possible reveals, or a “Previously On” that blatantly called back to Mace referencing himself as Inhuman, but the reveal does give us a better sense of his place in the story going forward. S.H.I.E.L.D. occasionally manages to layer in a few surprisingly topical issues, and there’s a poignant ring to the government faking connections with a minority group to keep their own voice in power, even if Mace ultimately did seek to advance Inhuman rights.

Not only that, but “The Patriot”s A-story is a strong reminder of how far S.H.I.E.L.D. has come, that the once-reclusive Skye now garners her own hero’s public reception as Daisy Johnson. Odd, perhaps, that a story about presumption of Inhuman culture ends up leaving Daisy mostly back at base, but the trio of Mack, Couslon and Mace would need at least some sense of vulnerability* out in the woods. It’s mainly one big vehicle to put Coulson back in charge, even if only behind the scenes, but I’m glad we didn’t necessarily need to get rid of Mace to do it.

*I presume the drilling/exploding bullet at the reception is intended as the same Hammer tech “Judas” that pierced Luke Cage’s skin, but it’s especially odd that they wouldn’t mention that aloud.

"They don't have Netflix in Vienna. Where I was. For 'Captain America: Civil War.' Black Panther was there. Coming 2018."

As far as the actual “LMD” side this week, “The Patriot” didn’t get us much further than Radcliffe straining to keep both the real Agent May and the newer, more malevolent AIDA in check; the reticence to kill shading a bit of his own moral threshold along the way. That vacuum seems to be pulling in Fitz* as well, though I’m a bit more intrigued by where Season 4 seems to be headed with the LMD May. Obviously there’s another wrinkle added this week, to clue an oblivious robot in on the metal beneath her skin, but I do wonder if our knowledge of her true nature can’t help undercutting scenes like that of May and Daisy needling out her true feelings for Coulson.

*Season 4 will invariably need another surprise LMD, so I’m putting my money on Radcliffe and AIDA having replaced Fitz during the trip to Radcliffe’s home. It’s more interesting if the real Fitz betrays Simmons to work on AIDA’s head, but more sensible that a Fitz LMD would be compelled to do it.

Perhaps not so much fun to be had as last week’s reference-happy base attack, but definitely a more even hour overall, and my only hope beyond “The Patriot” is that the back half of Season 4 uses the time to sharpen out whatever Senator Nadeer return awaits.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • I’m fascinated by these sparsely-attended press conferences on network TV. Did they invite locals to a big presentation at the courthouse? Did they just happen to be walking by at the time? Did S.H.I.E.L.D. not spring for chairs?
  • If Mace’s serum was even partially derived from Cal Johnson’s formula, I presume we’re in for a Mace Hulk-out later on this year.
  • There’s no way Coulson can ever actually be the public Director, without unraveling the whole “Hey, isn’t he supposed to be dead” thing, right?
  • Incidentally, we have to be building toward Simmons as a more permanent Director, right?
  • A serious, necessary question: Does the May-bot poop? Does Radcliffe program the LMDs not to notice that they never use the bathroom? Do they maybe just sit in a stall for a bit?
  • I have questions about the ex-Hydra spy who legitimately thought Simmons cut someone’s head off.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 will continue Tuesday, January 24 with “Wake Up,” airing at 10:00 P.M. on ABC.

Check Out 100 TV Facts You May Not Know!