Friday, February 24, 2017

Self Control

In the LMD story arc on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it seems they saved the best for last. The sustained plot had been engaging throughout, but things kicked up an extra notch for the finale.

There were several fantastic sequences built on pure paranoia. First came Fitz and Simmons, thinking the they were on their own and having to "act natural" around the rest of the team. Each line of dialogue ratcheted up the tension, a verbal game of cat and mouse with all the characters and the audience trying to figure out what everyone actually knew. Was that excuse too flimsy? Would it be seen through?

Then came the wrenching emotional one-on-one between Fitz and Simmons, in which one was revealed to be an LMD. Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge have never been better than they were here, portraying an acute concoction of anguish, fear, and doubt. It would have legitimately been an Emmy reel scene for any show respected enough by the Emmys to get nominated, capped off by the on-a-dime turn revealing that Fitz too had been replaced. And the moment where Simmons was forced to repeatedly stab someone who looked just like the man she loves, as he pleaded with her the entire time? Intense. Awful. Amazing.

Another great moment playing up the paranoia came when Daisy found a room full of her robotic doppelgangers. While I'm not sure what purpose an army of Daisys was really meant to serve in Radcliffe/Aida's master plan, it made for a great visual to instantly upend the real Daisy's world. And still another great moment built on paranoia came when Daisy and Simmons finally reunited, the latter so amped up that she not only couldn't trust Daisy, she couldn't even trust herself.

Betrayal was the other big theme of the hour. Aida turned on Radcliffe, as we all knew was inevitable. (Because Mack has been telling us all along that Evil Robots Gonna Evil.) Radcliffe is not a particularly sympathetic character at this point, but his look of shock at the moment of his betrayal was still a great moment.

The far more emotional betrayal came from the MayBot, who chose to carve out her own identity and defy her programmed one to save the day. The conversation between "May" and "Coulson" was a perfectly written scene, capturing all the strangeness of the sci-fi premise and all the emotion of two long time friends put at odds with one another.

Though Aida herself is still alive and well (and evil), the show is officially closing off the LMD arc here and returning in six weeks to finish off the season in the Framework. They certainly teed up that story with lots of tantalizing teases in the final minutes. May's working for Hydra? Coulson's a xenophobic teacher? Mack has his daughter back? Fitz is some sort of flashy millionaire with a different woman on his arm? Grant Ward is back? (Possibly to be killed for the third time?) Simmons is... buried alive in a coffin?!?!

Can't wait to see what comes next. But I'm also as satisfied by what I've just seen as by anything this season. I give this episode an A.

No comments: