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REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×09 “Broken Promises”


Well, after a winter hiatus that felt as though it lasted 4,722 hours, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned in top form, effortlessly dropping the, “Ghost Rider,” tag in favor of, “LMD.”

Where Ghost Rider pulled the team apart and focused predominantly on Robbie and his demons, LMD has brought the gang back together (kind of… lookin’ at you Life May Decoy!) in favor of an arc showcasing more personal dilemmas that quite literally hit close to home.

Spoilers ahead!

Picking up right where the midseason finale left off, the current and former Directors of S.H.I.E.L.D. are gung-ho about finding and destroying the Darkhold before it gets into the wrong hands, rather, minds. Unfortunately, Mace also makes orders Fitz and Radcliffe to wipe Aida’s hard-drive to ensure that whatever she learned from the book is erased for good.

Unsurprisingly, Aida is not okay with this, promptly taking out the Scots and their accompanying S.H.I.E.L.D. babysitters when they go to follow the Director’s orders.

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Despite making it back to the base in one piece and informing the rest of the gang about Aida now being sentient, Fitz and Radcliffe aren’t able to spread the word quite fast enough because Aida is hot on their trail and breaks into the S.H.I.E.L.D. mainframe just as easily as she breaks into the Playground itself.

But why is she so intent on making her way into the S.H.I.E.L.D. base?

She wants to retrieve the Darkhold of course!

And thanks to the FauxMay that she has on the inside, Aida is entirely successful in her mission. While distracting Mack, Elena, and a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D. randos by remotely controlling a QuinJet, Aida is able to infiltrate the Director’s office and find the Darkhold exactly where Coulson told FauxMay it was hidden.

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Aida manages to snipe it with ease but ends up running into a bit of a problem when she gets beheaded by Mack as she tries to make her escape off the base.

Elsewhere, Simmons, Mace, and the reinstated Agent Johnson are on the hunt for Vijay Nadeer. The newest Inhuman, and Senator Nadeer’s little brother, has officially emerged after 7 months in his terrigenesis cocoon and S.H.I.E.L.D. is making it their mission to bring him in before his sister’s anti-Inhuman tendencies are pointed in his direction.

A good move considering Ellen’s pets, more specifically the Watchdogs, are ready and waiting at the family compound to put a bullet in Vijay’s head at their boss’ signal.

This operation leads to one of the most simultaneously hysterical and badass Simmons sequences to date, where she whips out her best Southern accent before kicking the ass of one of Nadeer’s lackeys. The move pays off though because the trio manages to catch the call made by the lackey to Nadeer and figure out where Vijay and the Senator are located: an old family compound whose picturesqueness naturally means that sh!t hits the fan almost immediately.

After a tense standoff in which Nadeer claims that she has no idea where her brother is, Mace, Jemma, and Daisy hear a gunshot that sends them running into the Senator’s home. There, they find Vijay and a group of Watchdogs. The rebel group hightails it out of there before S.H.I.E.L.D. can take them in and, in a surprise turn of events, so do both Nadeers.

Despite the presence of Jemma (seriously, how could anyone not just allow themselves to be blissfully whisked to safety by Jemma Simmons?!) and her assurance that he could make a choice about how to live his life, evidently the Nadeer’s are firmly in the, “family first,” camp… even if said family literally just tried to have you murdered in cold-blood.

Vijay turns his back on Jemma and S.H.I.E.L.D., instead choosing to hop into his sister’s fancy helicopter where is promptly shot by her as the Watchdog’s happily look on.

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A seemingly sad end for poor Vijay, who gets tied to a bag of rocks and thrown into the nearest body of water… where he promptly re-cocoons.

Terrigenesis Part Deux?!

Cut to the other big twist of the episode…

Radcliffe was controlling Aida the entire time.

As it turns out the mad scientist’s brief taste of the Darkhold earlier in the season was enough to make him want to get his hands on the book for good. He was the one responsible for May’s kidnapping and Aida’s brief reign of terror, planning both as a means of acquiring the ancient tome from S.H.I.E.L.D.

Radcliffe evidently has a fleet of Aida’s, a new one immediately stepping into her predecessor’s place looking nearly identical save for a marginally darker grey ensemble, and prepared to help her creator with his scheme.

Uhoh.

There’s no way this can end well because we all know that the only thing more dangerous than robots are white men who can control them.

I mentioned after the midseason finale that I was especially excited for the LMD storyline, something that holds true after this first episode.

As an ensemble show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. always excels when its characters are working together to solve whatever problem they’re facing. While the Ghost Rider storyline allowed for new dynamics to emerge, it’s fun to see these beloved characters banding together again and working cohesively to achieve a common goal. I hate to be that person but a team that trusts is a team that triumphs and S.H.I.E.L.D. is a show that knows how to work a team.

Both the A and B plots of the episode felt equally important, due largely in part to the fact that both had an equal number of key players involved. The issue (for me) with the Ghost Rider stuff was the fact that it forced the show to fracture into even more plots per episode. Additionally, Robbie, fun as he was, wasn’t a main enough character for the earlier Ghost Rider/Daisy stuff to be as evenly matched with the plots focused on literally everybody else. Already we’re seeing a more even divide of characters between storylines, which makes an enormous difference when viewers actually watch the episode.

An equally large upgrade in this back half of Season 4 is the fact that I already care about/am interested in the subsidiary characters approximately 100x more than I was Eli Morrow and all of those ghosts.

Basically what I’m saying is that I’m glad the central storyline is once again focused on the central characters of the show, because Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is never as fun as when the actual agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are front and center.

Episode Grade: B

Episode Highs:

  • Mallory Jansen didn’t have a ton to play with during the Ghost Rider arc but now that Aida is taking center stage, we’re able to better see how well she’s bringing this android to life. The nuanced performance that Jansen has given since first being introduced as the OG LMD has only grown over time and, now that she has ample screen time to showcase her talent, there’s no doubt that this android will continue to steal the show.
  • I’ve said it before but I would gladly watch a spin-off with Jemma and Daisy running around committing bad-girl shenanigans as Mace looks on in complete awe/befuddlement. ALSO, now that Daisy’s back in the S.H.I.E.L.D. fold, I’m glad we’re seeing some of her humor resurface. Chloe Bennet’s comedic timing is wholly underappreciated, generally overlooked in favor of praising her badassery, and I’d love to see more of it going forward. Her interactions with Jason O’Mara’s Director Mace were particularly delightful.
  • Loving the opening LMD tag.

Episode Lows:

  • The premiere episode, whether it be season or midseason, is very often utilized as a precursor for the following episodes. This means that much of the time is strictly set-up for what’s to come. While there were definitely some great moments this week, it was still very much a premiere in the sense that it was focused more on showing rather than moving the pieces.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Was anyone else inordinately excited to see Fitz and Simmons actually in the same room during the promo for next week’s episode? Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge are powerhouses on this show and, though they crush it no matter who they’re sharing a scene with, many of their strongest moments come when playing off of one another. Here’s hoping that these two will have a bit more to work with together moving forward.
  • I feel like one of the biggest showdowns of the season will be between Fitz and Radcliffe… and I’m psyched to see what that potential confrontation might look like.
  • It’s already been confirmed that the LMD arc won’t last as long as Ghost Rider’s so I’m wondering what this mysterious, “third act,” will be come spring. The best bet seems to be the mysterious, “Superior,” mentioned by Nadeer and the Watchdogs; however, with Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 debuting in May, and Marvel’s famed, “It’s all connected,” motto… one can also assume that there may be some linkage between the two. OR… with Inhumans slated for a fall premiere on ABC (following its IMAX debut) and Daisy Johnson being the first of her kind to ever be introduced to the MCU… the third arc could very well have some sort of connection to that.

What did you think about the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below!

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Silje Falck-Pedersen

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