Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S04E09 Recap: 'Broken Promises' [Midseason Premiere]

If Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were a normal network show, the path over the course of the next 10 or 12 episodes would be clear and boring. Radcliffe and Fitz would mostly be working with an Aida, trying to hide her true, new nefarious nature from her creators after having her programming was corrupted from reading the Darkhold, as would the LMD version of Agent May. We would probably also still be unsure whether or not Director Mace could be trusted. Hell, Daisy might still even be on the run. But as I've said countless times over the years, AoS isn't your typical network show. Sure I'm risking sounding like a broken record, but it's been a while since I've written about the show so you get to hear it again.

Instead, "Broken Promises", the show's midseason premiere, not only moves things along so quickly that the person who seemed to be the villain gets her motherfucking robot head chopped off with a shotgun-axe, but it all proves to be somewhat of a red herring as it turns out that Radcliffe was really behind Aida's turn to the dark side all along.

Speeding up the new LMD storyline feels kind of necessary. Based on what I know of Life Model Decoys from the comics, I don't want half a season of Radcliffe trying to figure out the technology or Aida slowly becoming evil or whatever. I want to have to question the nature of pretty much any and every character on the show at all times. While the show has made a concerted effort to convince us that only Agent May has been replaced, and I appreciate that, the episode makes it clear that Radcliffe's work is further than we might have thought. He can build replacements and new androids quickly, he can program them to do all sorts of things and he has a sinister plan to get his hands on the Darkhold, to unlock the universe's secrets. It works, and it's a realistic use of this character, despite painting him as a good guy for a large part of the season's first half.

Plus the action around the base as Aida attempts to infiltrate it to find the Darkhold is pretty great. She uses May, who doesn't seem to know she's an LMD yet. She fights Coulson and his robot hand. And she winds up getting Mack's aforementioned shotgun-axe to the face in an utterly cool moment.

Elsewhere, there were some significant steps forward taken with the Inhumans storyline, as Director Mace wastes no time putting his new agent Quake to use after vouching for her in front of the press last episode. He takes her and Simmons on a mission to track down Senator Nadeer and her newly Inhuman brother, who recently emerged from his Terrigen cocoon after seven months and help from Simmons. Nadeer, as you'll remember, is an anti-Inhuman extremist and calls for her brother's death. Mace arrives and attempts to stop it and the brother fights back when he discovers his power is, seemingly, some sort of super speed, but he winds up dead despite everyone's troubles when Nadeer herself shoots him in the gut, proving she does indeed mean business. They bury his body at sea, where he re-cocoons, indicating a teaser for the future.

I liked this subplot, not only because it put Mace in the middle of the action and ingratiated him with some members of his team after being somewhat of a distant and cold figure throughout the first half of the season, but also because it doubled down on Nadeer being an inscrutable villain. There's no painting her with a shade of gray, like they maybe have done with Radcliffe before revealing his true nature. But that doesn't mean she isn't three-dimensional. She's still sad about killing her brother, she's just clear about having bigger fish to fry.

Next up is finding out who this "Superior" of hers is and what his plans are. At the pace we're moving, we should find out what's up sooner rather than later.

"Broken Promises" is a great return for Agents of SHIELD that not only subverts tropes, as we've come to expect from it, but treats the ones it's guilty of with class. Not only with its villains, Nadeer and Radcliffe, but also other things, like haphazardly mentioning how Simmons keeps getting kidnapped, or May and Coulson trapped together. Agents of SHIELD is very self-aware, but not to the point where it's annoying. It also has great action, fast-moving plots and everything else we want out of it, with this episode being a perfect example of most of these things. Therefore it gets 9 times Simmons has been kidnapped (on this planet) out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • The showrunners recently indicated that there will be a third arc this season, after Ghost Rider and the current LMD plot. With the Inhumans show coming next year, I'm going to bet it might have something to do with introducing the Royal Family (the Inhuman characters that show will likely deal with). The through-line this entire time has been side-plots involving Daisy and this evil Senator so that seems like a logical jump. I don't know if they'll go as far as to introduce a Black Bolt or a Medusa or whoever else, but I would really like that.
  • In other show news, the network sounds bullish on a fifth season renewal, which is especially promising to hear considering they'll have Inhumans to fit into the schedule as well.
  • That evil henchman of Nadeer's is Tex from The Last Ship
  • , another great action sci fi show.

  • Someone questions whether what's happening to Aida is possible (which, funny enough, is true, thanks to the Radcliffe reveail): "Technically no, but we are dealing with a book that could read people's minds and change the fabric of the universe, so..."
  • "That's unfair, Mack. I've never had sex with Aida. We were just good friends." "Good to know."
  • "Someone needs to make Radcliffe watch all the Terminator movies." "Even 'Salvation'?" "He brought this on himself."
  • Mack gets the line of the season after he decapitates Aida V1: "Roll credits."