Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S04E11 Recap: 'Wake Up'
In the span of just one episode, Marvel's Agent's of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s LMD arc got several layers more complicated. While this arc has so far been fantastic, I'll be the first to admit that maybe it was missing some depth. The crux of the two villains motivations and even their plans were, respectively, hating Inhumans and getting their hands on the Darkhold. It's simple, and it makes sense, but you knew that at some point they would have to tie these things together.
Lucky for us, that's exactly what "Wake Up" is all about. We start with those two singular and quite separate things, and wind up with the revelation that Senator Nadeer and Radcliffe have been working together this entire time. Radcliffe is the leak (which is an easy way to avoid any of the trite pitfalls of having someone else be the mole in SHIELD), feeding information to the Senator through him own eyes and those of his decoys, and now we know they're working together to take down SHIELD and achieve their goals. This is revealed to us as Fitz's investigation into Aida makes him realize that Radcliffe was controlling her actions. Radcliffe gets arrested but anticipates this and replaces himself with an LMD, which Fitz unceremoniously shoots in the head.
But that's not all we find out this week. Arguably the more interesting reveal is that Radcliffe has a second decoy in play at SHIELD. Everyone and their uncle's dog probably could have guessed that one after last week's episode, but confirming it sets up a classic AoS guessing game, just like last year with the flash forwards where sees a character die. The difference of course being that with May already known to be an LMD, the betrayal is only going to be worse. And the show wastes no time leading us down a guessing game, with Simmons telling two characters in an early-episode meeting that they don't seem like themselves (which only incriminates her as well). Mack is acting weird, going off for most of the episode, and Radcliffe even pushes a potential romance onto Fake May, which just made me wonder if he wants to hook her up with an LMD version of Coulson. And if that isn't enough, the scene where Fitz takes out Fake Radcliffe only makes me skeptical. We know that the LMDs can't kill Radcliffe, but technically Fitz killed a decoy and not the real thing, setting up a potential red herring.
I also really enjoyed the tension being hammed up among SHIELD's ranks. Coulson is back in charge of ops, as we found out last week, and he plans to bug Nadeer's office while Daisy is speaking to a senate committee about signing the Sokovia accords. That plan goes awry thanks to Radcliffe, which pisses Talbot off but confirms to Coulson that a leak is among them. Talbot and Coulson are therefore at each other's throats but they don't know the true nature of the threat they're facing.
I don't expect the gang to remain blind to what's happening for too long. After all, Fitz has been incredibly woke through all of this, having the foresight to investigate Aida's matrix and the wherewithal to realize Radcliffe was a double. His character is being really smart despite the appearance of doing dumb things like messing with Aida on the D/L. That could mean that, as mentioned, he's just another LMD in waiting, or he's being a genuinely well-written character, which would be another plus for this show. Either way, that suggests to me that he and the others will start figuring things out around here sooner rather than later.
It all feels like kind of a whirlwind as the show starts filling out the puzzle of this LMD plot. What I like about it is that it's actually pretty simple. The bad guys want something (be it hate-fueled vengeance or the desire for power) and they're putting peons into place to make that happen. The only real mysteries are what's being kept from the protagonists, and the show is handling all that really well.
With the LMD arc starting to take shape, "Wake Up" gets 9.5 fart pebbles out of 10.
Notes & Quotes:
- All of that without even mentioning May's arc, as we get to see what she's going through under Radcliffe and Aida's control. I don't know how much of the cold open was necessary, as it fills in a lot of the gaps of how May got replaced that we could have probably inferred ourselves. But everything with May in Radcliffe's version of The Matrix is pretty awesome. Her experience in the spa goes exactly how we all imagined it did when they mentioned it last week (Groundhog Day spa is May's personal Vietnam), and her next fight reveals itself to be a simulation at the perfect time, right before the reveal that Radcliffe has put her in a simulation of her time in Bahrain, which I'm sure won't do any psychological damage.
- The idea of putting May and Coulson together while at least one of them is a robot is a pretty good way to subvert any of those kinds of tropes.
- Daisy answers senate questions better than most of Donald trump's nominees.
- Maybe this has happened before, but Coulson gets his picture taken a bunch this episode. Shouldn't that expose him to at least one of the Avengers that think he's dead at this point?
- "We have to be above reproach." "You mean like juicing our director so he can pretend to be an Inhuman?"
- "I'm urging you to reconsider the second part of this mission." "Which part is the second part again?" "The stupid part."
- Pretty much describes every day since the Inauguration: "Cauliflower isn't great. Today was a kick in the balls."