Before we get into this week’s episode let’s touch quickly on the past weeks we missed. “Boom” and “The Man Behind the Shield” were both very good episodes. Not quite as fantastic as “Hot Potato Soup” but still damn good television.
In “Boom,” dealing with a suicide bomber who can reconstitute himself is the kind of ‘what if’ scenario I love to see explored on a genre show like this. I hope this Bomberman character returns someday. The Tucker character was fun to watch as a bigoted Watchdog member and making him Inhuman, yet still hating his own kind, adds a lot of layers to peel back. We also found out who inspired Aida’s creation and kudos to the makeup team to give the exact same actress a distinctive look apart from her robotic counterpart. I couldn’t say for sure but it almost appeared like they used prosthetics or some other method to make her face look just a bit imperfect compared to Aida.
“The Man Behind the Shield” did something else I always enjoy, dealing with ridiculous circumstances with appropriately ridiculous responses. The confrontation with “The Superior” Coulson perfectly points out just how koo-koo bananas this guy is. Of course it turns out his whole vendetta is just a personal grudge candy-coated in a conspiratorial shell. Also having Daisy tag into the fight and just whoop The Superior’s ass was incredibly cathartic. This Euro-trash has been torturing and taunting people since minute one. Seeing Daisy take him down while barely breaking a sweat was great.
Then there is this week’s episode, “Self Control”. Well god diddly damn. This may have been one of thee best this series has ever produced. An almost flawless episode, fun, action, drama, and mystery. This one had it all.
The idea of four of our team members being LMD’s could have been a fairly predictable outing. Instead from moment one it flipped things upside down, surprising at every turn. Before I get into all the good, let me take a quick moment to address what I felt was pretty much the only misstep in this otherwise fantastic episode. The fact that the LMD’s were still programmed to destroy the Inhumans working for SHIELD felt very out of Radcliffe’s priorities. I know the Superior had it as a top priority but Radcliffe didn’t want anyone to die. Wouldn’t he have programmed some sneaky way around exterminating a whole race of people? Or just out right lie to the Superior?
Okay, the bitch fest is over, back to the good. If the Fitz-Simmons scene from the start of this week was all we got, that would have been good enough to rank this as a winner. Wow what a twisted and tense scene. Finding out that one of them is also an LMD, those first moments where we as an audience have no idea which one is the fake, while both actors portray vastly different reactions to the news. Both could easily have been believed to be an LMD or real. All the way up to Fitz slitting his own wrists I completely got fooled into believing him. Having him then take out Simmons so violently and swiftly was a real kick in the pants. The drama between the two is just so heavy. Both actors should be quite proud of their work on this one.
In fact many of the cast had some of their best scenes here. Aida and Radcliffe got to really do a lot in the brief time they get in this episode. Their discussion on the concept of consciousness and what really makes a person was both fascinating and tragic. As Aida takes Radcliffe’s words as permission to kill his physical self (another gruesome wrist slitting, might I add) and upload his mind to the framework. As we are looking to be in that virtual world for a while here on out I’m betting he will become incredibly important to defeating Aida and escaping the framework.
I feel like the writers of SHIELD are big fans of Batman Begins. The scene where Daisy finds an entire room of her LMD’s definitely took inspiration from that film. By the way, why do they need so many Daisy bots? No one else has had that many duplicates. Anyway, when Daisy is trying to hide among her doppelgangers from Mack, just like Bruce Wayne giving one of the ninjas a small cut on the arm to “give away” his position, Daisy makes sure one of the LMD’s has its bra strap out of place to trick Mack into attacking. Sure it could be a coincidence, but I doubt it.
Then another great character scene is when Daisy and Simmons find each other. As brief as the scene is, Elizabeth Henstridge really goes for it. Her manic reaction to having murdered a duplicate of her love and paranoia about Daisy being an LMD was intense. Then that build up to her embrace with Daisy was both incredibly tense and emotionally satisfying. Just an amazing scene that relied on nothing but the two actors’ talents.
So like I said, an episode with evil duplicates you kind of think you know what to expect. The LMD’s will turn the rest of SHIELD against our heroes, check. But most shows would do the whole tired “we have to fight our comrades before we convince them we are good” schtick. These are the moments where Agents of SHIELD does so well in turning things sideways. Instead of forcing their way through, they knock everyone out with sleeping gas. This way they avoid fighting friends plus it tells them who the LMD’s are. Then by waking them and setting up the destruction of Mack for them to witness, they win them over and bypass all the clichés.
That fight with Mack was, while not as flashy as other action sequences, brutal and fun to watch. This whole episode seemed to crank up the brutality, really taking advantage of that 10 p.m. time slot. Daisy knocking his head off alone would have been badass, but literally vibrating the skin off his metal skull? That was some gruesome imagery and perfectly pulled off.
To top off the great character moments we also see May’s LMD has carried over many of the real May’s morals. Her discussion with Coulson about what makes one human was an eloquent speech. The nerd in me did find some striking similarities to the whole “pain is what makes us” part of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Yes I actually guiltily enjoy the one where they search for God, so sue me. Faux May then blowing up Coulson, and possibly the whole base(?), was a big gesture that could be setting up for a change of scenery for the series going forward.
We’ll have to wait quite a while to find out whether the base is destroyed, or if all those Daisy LMD’s got released beforehand, as the show isn’t returning until April. April!? After that huge cliffhanger of Daisy and Simmons jumping into the framework to find their friends, finding it to be one giant alternate take on history, genius that the next episode’s title has been revealed to be “What If?” … that being the title of an old comic series that explored roads not taken and alternate timelines.
We see Hydra fully functional and in control with May in. Fitz rich and possibly in politics (DC License plates) with a mystery woman. Simmons apparently dead and buried which will make her jumping into the framework a living hell, and cleverly they blocked the year of death on her grave marker so we can’t figure out where in this alternate world she died. Mack in a suburban paradise which struck me as reminiscent of the suburban hell from the last season of Angel. Coulson teaching anti Inhuman lessons, all really cool twisted alternate versions of our heroes, but Daisy’s? Wow. I had been worried that Ward would make an appearance as an LMD, that would have frustrated me to no end. But somehow having him be with Daisy in this digital world makes perfect sense and I actually look forward to Brett Dalton’s return, assuming it stays contained to this world.
Just an amazing episode with so many great moments and setting up one of the most promising storylines so far. Even though tagging out with the Superior’s head in a jar controlling his new body remotely was a touch too over the top, this was a practically perfect episode. Now we just have to wait a month for any pay off.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Tell us in the comments section below!