This Agents of SHIELD review contains spoilers.
Agents of SHIELD Season 4 Episode 13
It’s been awhile since we’ve seen an old school freak-of-the-week type Agents of SHIELD episode. I mean, the first two seasons of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s inaugural TV series was fueled by freaks of the week, but lately we’ve been distracted by the Inhumans, Ghost Rider, and the LMDs.
Inhuman hater Tucker Shockley brought us that super villainy this week, and doesn’t the name Tucker Shockley just sound like a classic super villain moniker? I did try out my nerd Google fu to find out if Shockley was an established Marvel villain, but I came up empty. Can anyone prove me wrong in the comments? While you’re contemplating that bit of nerd trivia, let’s talk about Shockley. He was a member of the Superior’s anti-Inhuman squad last week. You remember that group of badass Russians that are dedicated to wiping and the Inhumans and Phil Coulson. Well this week, the Superior and Shockley set a trap for fellow Inhuman hater Senator Nadeer.
A few episodes back we found out that Nadeer’s brother was an Inhuman. Nadeer killed her sibling to prove her hatred of all things Inhuman, but the Superior feels that Nadeer could carry the Inhuman gene, so she too must be destroyed. The Superior sends Shockley to expose Nadeer to some Doctor Radcliffe-manufactured terrigen crystals to expose her as an Inhuman. Shockingly, Shockley (I wanted to write that all night) turned out to be the Inhuman and is transformed into a walking bomb. He explodes and kills Nadeer, so we’re down one recurring villain. One has to wonder why we spent a few episodes getting to know Nadeer if she was just going to get blown up real good. I guess all that Nadeer character development was supposed to set up the shock of her death? That’s been a pretty big problem with Agents of SHIELD this season. The series spends time with a character only to shuffle the character off the stage to make room for new plots and threats (I like to call this the Gotham effect). So Nadeer is dead and Shockley becomes a threat that SHIELD must deal with.
Sadly, SHIELD is understaffed, with Coulson and Mack looking for May and Jeffrey Mace deprived of his powers. It seems that the days of Mace as a super powered asset may be over as Simmons discovers that the drug used to give Mace his powers is killing him. So it looks like SHIELD will have to go after Shockley without super Mace, until the director of SHIELD injects himself with the drug, risking it all to take down the Superior’s troops. Quake, Fitz, and Simmons take out the explosive Shockley by sucking him into a giant Pokeball, but Mace is captured by the Superior. We all know that the Superior wants Coulson dead, and now he has his bait in Mace.
So where is Coulson this week? Coulson and Mack were off to find a lead on the whereabouts of Doctor Radcliffe. Coulson is obsessed with finding the captured Agent May and he may have found his lead in a very surprising place. Coulson discovers a woman named Agnus, the very woman that Radcliffe modeled the AIDA LMDs after. It turns out that Agnus is dying of a rare form of brain cancer. She is a former lover of Radcliffe and Radcliffe began his work on LMDs to find a cure for his dying beloved. The story of Agnus is pretty tragic as we discover her past with Radcliffe. She agrees to help the team after Coulson makes a heartfelt plea asking her to help him find May, but when she runs across her former love, she is seduced by the idea of becoming a singularity. Indeed, Agnus escapes with Radcliffe who downloads Agnus into his Matrix-like program called The Foundation. May is also locked in the Foundation, but Agnus was the best lead Coulson had in finding Radcliffe. The story of Agnus also added some much needed layers to Radcliffe, who continues to develop into a very fascinating and effective antagonist. He is becoming one of those classic Marvel shades of grey villains and it will be interesting to see where his story goes. He might have some obstacles to face soon as, at the same moment Agnus is downloaded into the Foundation, May seems to be waking up. So there could be an ass-kicking in Radcliffe’s future. And what’s that, is AIDA 2.0 getting jealous over Radcliffe’s feelings for her human lookalike Agnus. Ruh-Roh.
So we get some good stuff with Mace and Radcliffe this week along with a classic super villain versus super hero super powered throw down. I’d call that a win.
– I just thought I’d give you a little more info in case you want to read up on this season’s McGuffin. As I mentioned a few months back, the Darkhold first appeared in Marvel Spotlight #4 (1972) and was created by Gerry Conway and Bronze Age horror master Mike Ploog. Marvel Spotlight #4 was a Werewolf by Night story and the Darkhold played a huge role in that particular feature. The evil magical tome appeared again and again throughout Gerry Conway’s run on Werewolf by Night both in Marvel Spotlight and in the Werewolf’s solo title and really became one of the central plot ideas of that classic horror series. The Darkhold was one of the few Marvel artifacts that actually played a role in the Marvel Universe proper and in the Marvel published Robert E. Howard books (Conan the Barbarian #244-245 to be exact). So as you’re watching Agents of SHIELD, know that the Darkhold also could have been encountered by both Phil Coulson and Conan the Barbarian. Pretty awesome, right?
– Recently, the writer who birthed the Darkhold into the Marvel Universe from his fevered imagination Gerry Conway utilized the book in the surprisingly affecting and recently concluded Carnage series. Like this season of Agents of SHIELD, the Carnage series featured a special forces team hunting for the book, but this team had to face none other than Carnage. The Darkhold hunters included Eddie Brock (Venom), John Jameson (Man-Wolf), and a few other lesser known weirdos and mystical freaks. Carnage was a throwback to books like Werewolf by Night and Tomb of Dracula and makes for an excellent companion piece for the Darkhold connoisseurs enjoying this season of Agents of SHIELD. The Darkhold can also be found in many issues of Doctor Strange and in one of the Marvel Zombies series (the fifth one to be exact #overkill). The Darkhold once even had its own comic entitled (Duh) Darkhold, making the evil volume of darkness the only book to star in its own book. How meta!
– Shockley had similar powers to the Marvel villain known as Nitro. Nitro has the power to ‘splode and reform, but he is mostly known for exposing the original Kree Captain Marvel to a radioactive element that caused the space hero’s cancer. Marvel eventually died from that cancer which made Nitro one of the most hated villains in the Marvel Universe. Shockley could have very easily been Nitro instead of random thug guy, so perhaps Marvel is planning to use Nitro somewhere in the upcoming Captain Marvel film?