Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S04 E09: “Broken Promises”

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The next phase of this season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is now underway, as noted in the subtitle LMD. Aida plots to once again possess the Darkhold, while keeping May captive and an LMD of her active with the team. Meanwhile a new Inhuman, Senator Nadeer’s brother Vijay, has emerged, and that’s only the start of this new beginning. Meet me after the jump for my review of “Broken Promises.”

What Is an LMD?

We’ve talked about this before, but this might be a good point to reiterate. The LMD – Life Model Decoy – is a long time tool in the comics history of S.H.I.E.L.D., life-like android replicas of Agents who retain the memories of those Agents, designed to go out into the field and act as almost-literal human targets. In some cases in the comics, these LMDs have proven far too real, with LMDs standing in for some Agents for years, even after the real person’s death.

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Here in the television continuity, we have Aida, the artificial intelligence created by S.H.I.E.L.D. ally Dr. Holden Radcliffe. Infected by the supernatural Darkhold, she may have revolted against her programming, as we’ve seen her kill Agent Nathanson, and replace Agent May with an LMD. It should be noted that machines turning on their masters is not a foreign idea in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as exampled by Ultron, and it should be further noted that an underground network of such creatures does exist as seen here. Unless you’re the Vision, who signed the Sokovia Accords, this is not a good time to be a sentient machine in the Marvel Universe.

Dark Loose Ends

The mission at hand when we open on the team is one of importance. Director Mace needs to have the Darkhold destroyed. It’s just too powerful, and considering that Aida was able to read it, and use that knowledge to open portals just like Doctor Strange, she needs to have her hard drive wiped. One might suppose it’s a good thing Aida has a spy in the house – LMD May – who can have her back. And it does not help that some folks like Mack have not-so-friendly things to say about androids. He also wasn’t happy about Inhumans, but he came around, so he can change… unlike certain politicians.

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Speaking of evil folks who might mean well, Senator Nadeer’s brother Vijay, who Simmons help come out of his Inhuman cocoon, is recovering. Awoken from a nightmare about the death of their mother, we get a sense of where both Vijay and Ellen are coming from. Their mother was killed in the Chitauri invasion, making powered individuals not such family favorites. For a moment there, when seeing the dream, I thought Vijay might be the television parallel to Ulysses from Civil War II. I’m kinda glad things aren’t going in that direction.

Daisy Chain

I mentioned in my review of the Slingshot digital series that I was looking forward to Daisy connecting with the team. Other than the relationships like Coulson and Mack and especially Yo-Yo as mentioned in that review, Daisy is the heart of this team, and here we see her connecting once again (and better than in Singshot) with Simmons, and surprisingly, with Director Mace.

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There was an offhand joke a couple episodes ago when Coulson suggested Daisy should be Director, and she laughed and meta-answered, “Maybe in the comic book version,” but maybe she should be Director. Other than reinstalling Coulson, the three things that have been repeated throughout this season are that the leader needs to be in the field, needs to be trusted, and needs to be Inhuman. That’s Daisy. Why not?

Racism vs. Humanism?

Our teams converge on the Watchdogs holding Vijay. We see a bit into the brother/sister relationship – a promise was made to each other if either of them were ‘cursed’ with powers, the other would kill them. It’s the kind of promise made in passion and desperation, like after your mother is killed in an alien invasion, and a promise that causes irreparable harm. The Watchdogs turn their peer pressure on the Senator (or maybe she’s just an evil bitch), and she kills her brother. It’s heart-rending, and hateful.

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Speaking of hate, there’s something I noticed about the Watchdogs this time out. They are a diverse group, with men and women of color among them. Previously the Watchdogs have been portrayed as rednecks, the type of fellows one might find at a Klan rally, and now this hate group seems to have embraced diversity. Perhaps it is the political climate in this country, or perhaps hatred for the Inhumans has finally unified humanity? Maybe Ozymandias was right, and all that’s needed to erase war over race and religion is a common enemy.

Ghosts of Ultron

Meanwhile Aida has upgraded and invaded S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. She is quite ruthless and incisive, proving to be a dangerous opponent. Aida even at one point, turns a hovering quinjet on the team, great piece of special effects there. In a intriguing but disturbing bit, Aida places a camera inside the May LMD’s eye and traps her with Coulson to learn the hiding place of the Darkhold. Sure, she’s just a machine, but she wears a human’s face. It does not stop Mack from beheading her, just as she reveals what the Darkhold really did to her – give her feelings like regret and desire.

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I became increasingly annoyed at characters (particularly Mack) referencing 1980s sci-fi movies of machines revolting against humans, rather than Ultron, one of the biggest things to ever happen for reals in their world. I mean, why reference pop culture, when the real thing did happen and almost won? Ultron is the very reason everyone is so skittish about Aida after all, right? And of course, like Ultron, Aida ain’t down yet, but more on that later.

Conclusions

There were bits I really loved in this episode, like Jemma’s tough disguise and the “boys and their robots” saying. I’d like to see more of Simmons in the field. She is tough. People forget she was a double agent with Hydra and survived on another planet. Jemma Simmons is more than capable, use her more this way please.

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We are also left with many questions. When Vijay’s body is dropped into the ocean, he develops another Inhuman cocoon, indicating he might not be dead. Perhaps he’s like Croyd Crenson the Sleeper from George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards, and develops new powers each time he awakes? Who is the mysterious ‘Superior’ the Watchdogs answer to? And as we see at the end nothing is as it seems, with beheaded Aida being an LMD of herself. That’s not all, transhumanist and former Hydra ally Radcliffe isn’t as reformed as we’ve thought, and is going ahead with his previous plans. This will be trouble…

Next: “The Patriot!”

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About Glenn Walker

Glenn Walker is a professional writer, and editor-in-chief and contributing writer at Biff Bam Pop!. A blogger, podcaster, and reviewer of pop culture in all its forms, he's done stints in radio, journalism and video retail. Ask him anything about movies, television, music, or especially comics or French fries, and you’ll be hard pressed to stump him or shut him up.

Posted on January 17, 2017, in agents of shield, Glenn Walker, Marvel, television and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Finally getting caught up on this season. I LOVE kick ass Simmons. Also, I think I’d side Mack, but that’s probably because I read too many robots going rogue stories.

  2. Mack was starting to get on my nerves … but I’m thinking Fitz is identifying a little too much with the Ghosts of Aida Past … which probably isn’t going to end well.

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