Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review: Returning with a Sense of Purpose

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 4, Episode 9, “Broken Promises”

Returning from its midseason break, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is sticking to recent history by introducing a new main storyline for the back half of the season and discarding all notions of a slow burn by diving right in.

SHIELD finds itself fighting on two fronts: First, with the rogue LMD Aida, and second, with Senator Nadeer. These two plot threads are woven together well with Mack’s (and later YoYo’s) fear of the robot apocalypse — and cinematic knowledge thereof –acting as the glue that holds it all together.

Aida is seeking the Darkhold, the mystical book of evil knowledge that she read to rescue Fitz, Coulson and Robbie Reyes from interdimensional purgatory. It appears that Aida has reached a level of sentience after reading the book, and in this new state of emotional awareness will stop at nothing to recover the tome for her own unspecified ends.

The presence and existence of Aida causes much conflict within the group, as Fitz is struggling with what went wrong, Radcliffe is defending his creation and Mack, who has seen every killer robot movie ever made, is upset that Radcliffe has not learned the lessons taught by the Terminator franchise. But, as YoYo so eloquently put it, smart people can be stupid.

May is neutral in this whole situation, as May is actually an LMD herself. The real May is being kept in a medically induced coma in a closet in Radcliffe’s lab.

Aida breaks into the SHIELD base and takes over the systems, but Fitz enacts some Oregon Trail inspired countermeasures to regain control of the base. Just as it seems Aida is going to walk out of the base with Darkhold in hand, Mack gets the drop on the android and lops off her head with his trusty shotgun-axe — and a quick quip.

The twist in this story is that Aida isn’t the one who went rogue; it was Radcliffe who caught a brief glimpse of the pages of the Darkhold, and who is now obsessed with tapping the knowledge inside. He used a version of Aida in a clumsy attempt at a smash and grab on the Darkhold. Now, he plans to use Robo-May to obtain the book.

The secondary story teams Mace, Daisy and Jemma in a battle with Senator Nadeer and the Watchdogs under her control. We’re given some backstory on what happened to the senator and her brother, Vijay. They lost their mother during the Chitauri attack on New York and in their grief, made a pact to not let the alien influence take them over.

That grief has been the force behind the senator’s entire agenda and the reason why she was ready to give her brother a favorite last meal before having the Watchdogs kill him. Vijay’s pleas stay his execution long enough for the SHIELD team to reap the benefits of some nifty field craft from Jemma, whose toughness impresses Mace.

The SHIELD team arrives on scene just after Vijay discovers his powers, which are hyper reflexes for the most part. Vijay is left with a decision of leaving with the devil he knows (his sister who has been actively trying to kill him all day long) or the devil he doesn’t (SHIELD). He chooses Option A and gets gutshot by his own sister, and his body dumped in a lake. Of course this wouldn’t be Agents of SHIELD if the story ended there. As he sinks to the bottom of the lake, Vijay is covered in a Terragenesis cocoon again. Whether this is an extension of his new power or another trip through the superpowers wringer remains to be seen.

At its core this was a setup episode, but it sure didn’t feel like one. The pace was quick, and there was just the right mix of action, character development and plot momentum. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t broken stride while shifting from one story to the next, which means good things are ahead for fans of the show.

Craig Wack

For a weekly discussion of comic book TV shows please join Craig Wack and Tatiana Torres for the Agents of GEEK podcast updated every Friday and now on iTunes

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