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REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×11 “Wake Up”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a show that I still can’t believe I have to try and convince people to watch. It’s one of few that doesn’t settle for remaining stagnant once comfortable, instead opting to push its characters and storylines in every possible direction. Even when it repeats classic arcs, like the, “who’s the mole,” storyline featured this week and in seasons past, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. adds enough twists and adjustments to amp up what would otherwise be an incredibly stale core plot line.

Spoilers ahead!

The episode starts off with a helpful flashback that shows us the moment Agent May was kidnapped by Aida and Radcliffe (IT’S ONLY BEEN FIVE DAYS?!?!?). This is immediately followed by another flashback, this time to the show’s YESTERDAY, and viewers are shown the spa dream that May awoke from last week, along with the following battle that once again left her in Radcliffe’s clutches.

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Cut to the present where Radcliffe is having to explain to Aida why she is not allowed to kill May. The android can’t quite grasp why the real May needs to be alive when a superior duplicate exists, and the mad scientist once again points out that they’re not killers. Besides, even if the real May does cause them issues… their second active LMD currently infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. will be helpful with their plan.

Dun dun dun.

While that snippet of information is mighty interesting, the ensuing battle royale between May and Aida is infinitely more exciting to watch. May being May means that she’s once again able to break free from her induced coma, and physical restraints, and take another shot at Aida.

But, like the May wandering around the S.H.I.E.L.D. base, this showdown is entirely fake. Remember last week when Radcliffe realized that May needs conflict to remain calm? Well, this week he gave it to her. As it turns out, all of the sequences with May trying to escape and fight Aida were merely implants given to her by Radcliffe and the real LMD. Dubbed, “The Framework,” the entire fight is a simulation programmed to keep May at bay.

Meanwhile, the S.H.I.E.L.D. gang is coming up with a trap for Senator Nadeer to figure out how she’s really tied to the Watchdogs. The plan is simple enough but it’s also one that S.H.I.E.L.D. has had a pretty even split of success and failures enacting before. Daisy, now known to the public as an Inhuman and once again listed as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, will head to council with Mace and Talbot to sign the Sokovia Accords. While she’s being grilled by Nadeer and the other members, Coulson and YoYo will break into the Senator’s office and plant surveillance bugs in order to figure out what shady things the Inhuman-hater is up to.

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While at first it seems like a win for S.H.I.E.L.D, it turns out that Nadeer was expecting something and had her own trap ready and waiting for Coulson and Elena. The two are caught in her office, brought before the Sokovia Committee, and declared by Nadeer as being traitors. While our favorite agents manage to walk out with minimal damage, S.H.I.E.L.D. itself is in for some rough times. The organization will now be investigated by every government committee and subcommittee in existence to determine whether or not it can be trusted as its own entity.

And while Talbot is pissed about this recent turn of events, Coulson is surprisingly pleased. Why? Because he realizes that Nadeer knew that he and YoYo specifically were coming.

Meaning there’s a leak in S.H.I.E.L.D.

And Fitz knows who it is.

Apparently, his interest in Aida was less of a guilty obsession than it was an investigation. Fitz had become suspicious of her behavior pre-beheading, and came to realize that the oddity was due to programming and not the Darkhold.

S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrates Radcliffe’s abode, taking him into custody after putting together the fact that he was the person responsible for tipping of Nadeer and spying on the base (thanks to the ocular implants in Life May Decoy’s head). But it wouldn’t be S.H.I.E.L.D. if there weren’t an added twist.

This one being that the Radcliffe Coulson and Co. bring back to the Playground is the third LMD teased earlier. Fitz puts it together pretty quickly, and just as quickly puts a bullet in the LMD’s head to stop the ocular transmission that’s being fed directly to Senator Nadeer’s tablet.

Uhh.

The two are most definitely working together and Nadeer seems to be well aware of the Darkhold. Radcliffe apparently thinks S.H.I.E.L.D. is a bigger danger to him than a woman who murdered her own brother and is trying to eradicate an entire line of people, and goes so far as to request protection from the Senator… who once again brings up the mysterious, “Superior,” and leaves us wondering who this big bad will be.

It seems that any arc that involves Adrian Pasdar reprising his role as General Talbot means that there will be an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. focused on discovering some sort of agency mole. “Wake Up,” felt very much like last season’s, “The Inside Man,” with both episodes dealing with our central characters trying to find a potential leak within S.H.I.E.L.D.

Whether it’s because of the ‘stache or the military title is something that only the writers know, but it’s clear that Talbot’s presence will bring some sort of internal conflict no matter when or how he pops up. I found it interesting to hear how large a role he played in reinstating S.H.I.E.L.D. as a legitimate organization because, while it’s been teased previously, it’s something that I wouldn’t have expected considering his attitude in Season 1.

That’s called character growth my friends!

Speaking of welcome surprises… I have to admit that I’m extremely pleased with how the Aida 1.0 and Fitz stuff was dealt with this week. While Fitz has a heart that makes him an innate softie, it’s hard to imagine that a pragmatic engineer who has previously and repeatedly scoffed at the notion of magic would genuinely believe that an android could be Pinocchioed in some capacity. His promise to Aida last week, though totally in character in terms of Fitz dealing with people, felt just off enough to make me a bit wary of what to expect moving forward. To discover that Fitz’s continued interest, or in Jemma’s word obsession, with Aida was because he was suspicious of her sudden shift was a moment that I didn’t honestly think S.H.I.E.L.D. would deliver.

It would have been so easy to send Fitz down the route of believing the LMD’s had the capacity for humanity and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he was actually conducting an under-the-radar investigation to catch Radcliffe red-handed.

Overall this was a solid episode and, while some of the themes have been used in the past, for one reason or another I enjoyed it far more than last week’s. It felt like the first bit of forward momentum for the show in this back from of the season and, now that the Superior has again been mentioned, I think that the action and final arc will definitely be picking up sooner rather than later.

Episode Grade: B

Episode Highs:

  • There was a surprising amount of heart this week considering how fractured the gang was in terms of plotlines. Mack and YoYo shared a touching scene (when Henry Simmons tears up we all tear up) in which we finally learned that the mysterious Hope teased in the Ghost Rider arc is in fact Mack’s deceased daughter. Mace and Daisy had a heart-to-heart that showed us the Director might have some more understanding of Daisy’s hardships of a child than anyone else, and that Coulson is a champion for each of them. Lastly, we were delivered a gut-punch through May’s final simulation in which she relives the infamous events of Bahrain but manages to save the girl in the end. Her relieved smile was soul-crushing.
  • I loved the balance between real stunts and VFX in all of the May sequences. The seamlessness between Ming-Na Wen throwing punches and then throwing AIDA into a Matrix-esque grid was fun to see and speaks to the quality of both the stunt team and effects crew.
  • YoYo’s self-confidence is alarmingly refreshing where television is concerned. Though a bummer that I’m actually excited about seeing a woman who is utterly sure of herself and willing to take action in her life (a bummer because why don’t we see more to the point where it isn’t pleasantly surprising) watching Natalia Cordova-Buckley nail both comedic and emotional scenes alike is always fun.

Episode Lows:

  • While I’m usually in the, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” camp, I do feel as though a large portion of this episode was merely a recycled plot that S.H.I.E.L.D. has utilized at least once per season. We had the Ward reveal of S1, the “Real S.H.I.E.L.D.” drama of S2, and the aforementioned, “Inside Man,” last year. I did mention that the added twists heightened it enough to make it another entertaining episode, but I wonder what other plots could have been used to reach the same final result.
  • This isn’t an episode low per say but the focus on the team seems to be dwindling each week, and will likely continue considering next week’s episode looks as though it will be predominantly centered around the Koenigs. I’ve said numerous times that the best thing about this show is its ensemble cast when they’re working together and I hope to see more of the group than the divided pairs we’ve gotten in 4B thus far.
  • If Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker are a part of your cast… TAKE. ADVANTAGE. AND. USE. THEM. FOR. MORE. THAN. FIVE. MINUTES. How many times do I have to sing these two praises before we get a full forty-two minutes of them crushing me with their acting skills? If the overwhelming consensus with viewers and critics alike is that, “4,722 Hours,” (carried by Henstridge and brought home by De Caestecker) has been one of the best, if not the best, episodes of the show thus far, perhaps allow the two another opportunity to showcase the skills that are currently being woefully underutilized.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Now that we know who Hope is, do we think that Ghost Rider will make a return to help Mack with whatever he wanted to do in regards to his daughter?
  • Who’s ready for the inevitable comic relief that will come with next week’s Koenig-centric episode?
  • Do we think the Superior is someone we’ve already met or a new face entirely?

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!

About the author

Silje Falck-Pedersen

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