Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 episode 9 review: Broken Promises

The robots take over as Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD begins a tech-heavy new story arc...

This review contains spoilers.

4.9 Broken Promises

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 end of the run. The results are pretty enjoyable, yet Agents Of SHIELD remains the old comfy slipper of the current slate of superhero shows. It 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 tonnes 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. 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.

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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-fuelled 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 LMD is decapitated by Mack in her bid to win the Darkhold.

Speaking of Mack, his and Yo-Yo’s anti-robot 1980s-films-fuelled 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 seems 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 centre 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.