Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S04E10 Recap: 'The Patriot'; Also, That Reference To 'Luke Cage'

The wheels are constantly in motion on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Not only is this a show that always has to major storylines going, it's a show that's always thinking about the next step. We've seen it - and have been talking about it - ever since the now legendary twist from the first season. For AoS, the best current thing is never enough, and that leads us to a situation where the show is always topping itself, and always making us forget about what came before.

At the moment, those two big storylines are the continuing trials and tribulations of the Inhumans in the public eye, as well as Dr. Radcliffe's experiments with Life Model Decoys and his nefarious plans to get his hands on the Darkhold. The money shots in this episode, "The Patriot", mostly relate to the former, as that's just solid storytelling, but it's actually the slow burn of the LMD story that intrigues me the most. The show pretty expertly pivoted to that, and quickly, after dark magic and the Ghost Rider dominated the first half of the season. Radcliffe was there the entire way but it wasn't until the midseason finale that the story really started gaining steam. Now we're at a point where Radcliffe is openly evil, where he's trying to keep Aida from murdering people, and where Agent May has been replaced by an LMD who, as of the end of this episode, is starting to discover her true nature.

While this all has a bit of a grip on what happened in the first half of the season, I have to give the show credit for transitioning so seamlessly to a completely new story. But I have to say that the one thing that made me groan in this episode was Radcliffe explaining how the May LMD is a long-term project, framing it as potentially lasting years. While I don't think that'll actually be the case, especially with May discovering her true nature, it is the kind of thing that worries you about shows like this. As good as a decoy as May's may be, as close as the real May keeps things to the chest, how does she really hide her secret that well from her closest friends for very long?

In other words, while the LMD story fascinates me, I kind of want this to move along even quicker than the show normally plows through plots. And with rumours that the current season will close out with a third arc, it just might.

And that's probably why the episode's main plot works so well, and why the Inhuman stuff has always worked well since it was revealed back in season 2. Even as the main plot of an episode or even the lead arc of the season, it seems like the evolution of the Inhumans has always played second fiddle to something else, something seemingly bigger. Be it Hydra, Ward becoming an alien (albeit an Inhuman one), Ghost Rider or now the LMDs, there's always a distraction that allows this story to progress in a natural and entertaining fashion.

In "The Patriot", the story takes another seemingly natural evolution, as it's revealed that Director Mace is indeed not an Inhuman. He's just a normal guy taking regular doses of a serum that give him super strength, akin to the German super-soldier programs from Captain America or more directly, the serum Daisy's dad used to turn into Mr. Hyde. That's why he has that briefcase near him at all times. In "The Patriot", the Watch Dogs hatch a plan to attack him on several fronts in order to get access to this briefcase and find out what's inside, which leads to Mack, Coulson and Mace with no powers getting stuck out in the wilderness. That forces him to tell Coulson and Mack what's going on and who he truly is, while Talbot takes control back at base and Simmons forces him to tell the truth as well.

So the truth is out, and Coulson forces Mace to stay on board as the face of SHIELD, whilst transferring control of operations to him. Mace gets an added layer as his character changes, but, if anything, becomes more sympathetic since we find out that the reason he's doing this is because he believes in Inhuman rights. And all the while, we get to see some great action from the team as they fight for their lives against the Watch Dogs.

It's interesting, because while Mace has a real character breakthrough in this episode, while May discovers her robotic interiors, and while we get more context into what kind of villain Radcliffe is going to be, there isn't really that much that actually changes in this episode. SHIELD is still fighting Senator Nadeer, but unlike last week's episode, she's not even in the episode and we're no closer to finding out what her endgame as, and as mentioned with Radcliffe, he's playing the long game so we don't really have an idea of where that's going to go yet either. Yet I can't help but feel compelled to really like this episode based on everything else. It's not exactly filler, but it's AoS, as usual, making the most of what it's got.

"The Patriot" gets 9.5 conspicuous briefcases out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • The coolest thing about tonight's episode was an over reference to Luke Cage with the appearance of the Judas Bullets. While we'll probably never get a full-on crossover between AoS and the Netflix shows, these little references to one another remain really awesome. And between that and all the Captain America references, we were spoiled this week.
  • The title of the episode is a reference to Jeffrey Mace's superhero alias in the comics, which is appropriate, but I wonder if the show ever has any plans to have him truly suit up as The Patriot.
  • I want to hate on Fitz for continuing to work on Aida, but I have a feeling that this might lead to him accidentally figuring out what Radcliffe is up to, so I'll give it a pass until that's proven wrong.
  • In case you needed more proof that Mack is the best character on this show, he enters a shed and immediately starts looking for an ax. When he instead finds a hatcher, he comments on how it isn't an ax.
  • Close second for best character is Talbot, though. He's delightful in this episode and pretty much spewing lines that would work great in a comic book. he calls Daisy "little miss Richter scale", uses the phrase "lime wedge on dollar beer night,", asks FitzSimmons to science shit up and has a presidential ringtone for the president. More of this Talbot, please.
  • Also: "Agent May, with the possible exception of my mother, you are the most intimidating person I've ever met."
  • "If a jet crashes in the woods and no one is there to hear it, stay close to the guy with super strength."