This Agents of SHIELD review contains spoilers.
Agents of SHIELD: Season 4, Episode 9
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is back after a mid-winter break with a new subtitle and a new focus. This time out, Marvel has dubbed this half of the season “LMD” and has established a new robotocalypse tech focus for the back part of the season. The results are pretty enjoyable, yet Agents of SHIELD remains the old comfy slipper of the current slate of superhero shows. I mean, Agents of SHIELD doesn’t have the buzz or love surrounding most of DC’s CW shows and certainly doesn’t have the genre breaking appeal of Marvel’s Netflix shows. Instead, Agents of SHIELD remains consistently fun and steady without ever sparking tons of interest or buzz. Agents of SHIELD is just kind of pleasantly…there.
And that trend continues this week with SHIELD’s return. For those of you hoping for a little catharsis on the Ghost Rider arc, well, no, that doesn’t happen. There is nary a mention of Robbie Reyes or Ghost Rider at all. In fact, it seems like the series is trying to distance itself from the first half of the season by just not mentioning the character at all. I mean, you’d think someone would have mentioned a dude with a flaming head and a hell car, but nope, Ghost Rider is now a thing of the past, and to be honest, making Robbie Reyes demona non grata makes the first half of this season same rather — I guess disposable is the right word? I mean, all the Ghost Rider hype, the super-fun almost-romance with Daisy, it’s all just gone? That leaves me feeling a bit empty to be honest.
The one part of the Ghost Rider arc that continues into this part of the season was the Darkhold. You see AIDA still needs the Darkhold and she sends an LMD version of May to retrieve the book from SHIELD HQ. So we are treated to yet another infiltration of SHIELD as AIDA busts in to get her demon book back. I really love the idea of a dark magic fueled aggressive AI. If not for the supernatural element of this season, the AIDA story could be really derivative of Westworld and Humans, two shows that have done the robot thing to perfection.
As a big bad, AIDA is pretty effective. She is a paradox of a villain. She appears to be soft and harmless, yet there is this powerful tinge of otherness to her vacant stare. And when she unleashes her robot might, there is a fury and coiled potential for atrocity that makes it believable. The AIDA arc takes a surprising turn this week as the dark magic fueled LMD is decapitated by Mack in her bid to win the Darkhold.
Speaking of Mack, his and Yo Yo’s anti-robot 1980s-films-fueled fear of AI is one of the highlights of the episode. He takes down AIDA and it looks like we are down one big bad, until it is revealed that AIDA was really controlled by Doctor Radcliffe. Yup, the doctor and Fitz’s new BFF seem to be the season’s new threat. The groundwork has been laid to make this heel turn pretty darn personal to Fitz, so this could be fun to watch. And oh yeah, Radcliffe still has a second model of AIDA and is still in control of LMD May, so we have tons of moving parts for this new and surprising story direction.
While the AIDA story breaks some new ground, it also feels like we took a step backwards this week as the Inhumans storyline is shunted front and center once again. Before the winter break, Simmons was brought in to oversee the opening of a terrigen cocoon. This week, it is revealed that the Inhuman that emerged from that cocoon is the brother of none other than Ellen Nadeer, the anti-Inhuman US senator that has made life difficult for Daisy and our agents. What follows is your typical X-Men stand-in stock plot as Ellen betrays and murders her Inhuman brother. It does establish Ellen as a villain and a natural foe for both Daisy and Jeff Mace, but after the freshness of the Ghost Rider half of the season, this just feels like a step back.
So the AIDA and LMD stuff is pretty shocking and original while the tired Inhumans stuff pulls us back a season or two as Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD returns with a mixed bag.
A few episodes back, a commenter asked us to provide a history of LMDs, and we here at Den of Geek live to serve. The first LMD appeared in Strange Tales #135 (1965) and were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. This also happens to be the first Strange Tales SHIELD strip to appear in that classic anthology. So essentially, LMDs have been around just about as long as the concept of SHIELD has. The first LMDs to appear were clones of Nick Fury and served as the SHIELD head honcho’s bodyguards. Over the years, LMDs have gained sentience, turned evil, were sacrificed for the greater good, and have basically been part of the SHIELD narrative during every era of the organization. All the major SHIELD agents from Fury, to Dum Dum Dugan, to even Tony Stark have had LMDs.
In the comics, there was never an AIDA, and as far as I know, no LMD ever became proficient in sorcery so props to the brain trust of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD for that cool little wrinkle. For the sake of completion here’s a list of some major characters that have or had LMD doubles: Black Widow, Bucky, Deadpool, Glenn Talbot, Maria Hill, Nightshade, Sharon Carter, Steve Rogers, Thor, Thunderbolt Ross, and Valentina Rychenko. LMD Thor? That’s all sorts of badassery! It’s really cool to see an element of the classic Lee and Kirby SHIELD strips make it onto to TV after so many years of stuff like Inhumans and Ghost Rider. Where’s my dang Scorpio Key saga?
You’d think that with all the AI stuff going on, someone would mention Vision or Ultron.
We found out this week that Ellen Nadeer’s mother was killed during the Chitauri invasion of New York. Man, Marvel TV gets tons of story miles out of that event, doesn’t it?