Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Patriot

I don't know that I was needing an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to fill in Director Mace's back story and reveal a secret he's been hiding, but that's just what we got this week. Fortunately, it turned out to be a decent installment that gave some of the main cast opportunities for interesting scenes.

First, that big reveal: Mace isn't actually an Inhuman, but a photogenic tool of Talbot's, given super-strength in small bursts thanks to a drug. In particular, Mace doesn't even seem to have a particularly distinguished military career aside from being lucky in one place at one time. All this explains his ineffectual and convoluted "motivational poster" style leadership throughout the season, and gives new context to his keeping everyone at a professional distance (lest they get close enough to learn his secret).

We also learned, though, that Mace is well meaning at the bottom of it all -- actually a team player, and with one honed skill: smiling wide and lying through his teeth. Coulson plans to make use of this, while taking back control of S.H.I.E.L.D. operations for himself. This concludes the mini-arc of "Coulson out of power," but I doubt it puts an end to this season's trend of "Coulson in the field." After all, there doesn't really seem to have been a resolution of that mini-arc for Coulson, no particular lesson he learned during his time out of the director's chair. So I assume they'll keep going with what has worked so far, showing us a Coulson that's more of a man of action.

The LMD May remained in play this week, parallel with the story line of May as Radcliffe's prisoner. Here, the writers fleshed out the details of what's going on a bit more, revealing that LMD May had no knowledge of her real identity, thinking herself the genuine article and acting accordingly. At least, until the episode's tag. This seems to tee up a great episode for actress Ming-Na Wen. Thus far, she's had no reason to play the LMD any differently than she usually plays May, but now the decoy is in on her own secret. It will be interesting to see how this shades the performance.

Fitz and Simmons were the other major subjects of the episode, both individually and as a couple. Simmons-with-a-backbone is just the norm now, so much so that it's almost hard to remember how less self-assured a character she was back in season one. Her scenes standing up to Talbot and conning the Watchdog prisoner were both fun.

Fitz was a bit harder to appreciate this week, or at least to understand. I look forward to future episodes that hopefully reveal his thinking more. Yes, he's always been an "egghead" enticed by cool new science things, but it's hard to imagine what he's thinking in pursuing research on beheaded Aida. He's previously lied to Simmons about Aida, gotten in a bit of hot water, but then been forgiven. To then repeat the pattern undermines the sort of devotion to Simmons that we've seen before -- say, in rescuing her from an alien planet during season three, to name but one example. This feels like a plot convenience more than legit character behavior; I'm hoping that the writers reveal a greater justification down the road, beyond just "he likes tech." (Or "he is also an LMD.")

At this point, the pace of the overall LMD story line seems to be faster than the Ghost Rider arc earlier in the season. And while I think it hasn't yet produced an outstanding episode, it has kept up a compelling level of interest. I give "The Patriot" a B.

No comments: