Laugh it up while you can, gang. It’s about to get real. With the (not so) shocking twist at the end of the midseason finale “The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics,” Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is doubling down on the LMD storyline. In fact, the Life Model Decoys will serve as the new subtitle for the series when it returns January 10th. With Ghost Rider, sadly, gone (hopefully not for good), the show is continuing its dedication to putting elements from the comics front and center in an effort to win back viewers. While I’m personally not a fan of body snatching storylines, I can’t complain too much as pulling more from the comics is never a bad thing. On top of that, we only have to wait a month for the show to return. That break will seem even shorter as we mull over the many developments from this episode. Though AIDA going evil, what with her newfound Darkhold knowledge, isn’t a huge surprise, I was never sure the series would put so much focus on the LMDs when they were first teased at the end of last season. The presence of Ghost Rider this season, however, has proven how strong the series can be when it isn’t afraid to go to the source material. Case in point, Quake, Yo-Yo, and Robbie all teaming up was pure gold. That’s exactly what I want from this show (also, everyone flat out using the former two agent’s codenames like it’s the most natural thing in the world). Daisy fully owning her Quake persona, Ghost Rider dominating the story of this first part of the season, and the continued prominence of Yo-Yo all help this show feel like what it was supposed to be: a mini Avengers movie every week. In fact, the producers are so happy with Yo-Yo, she’ll be getting her own digital series! And it launches next Friday. This is the sort of content Marvel should be focusing on. Don’t give us an entire Huntingbird series, just spin the characters off on a short, 6-episode side mission and then bring them back into the fold. Hopefully, it’ll be a success, and we can see this method used for more heroes to get small spotlights outside of the TV shows and movies.
We also saw most of the season’s arcs so far get wrapped up and the concept of alternate dimensions brought more to the fore. I was pleased with how Eli’s powers were explained, as it clears up some of the mysteries of the season, while still leaving us with plenty of questions as to the nature of this other place that Robbie and his uncle were transported to. With AIDA being the primary focus as we head into the rest of the season, her knowledge of how to access this separate plane of existence is likely to come heavily into play. Perhaps Robbie will return just in time to burn her alive.
One of my first notes for the episode was “Is it just me, or is Coulson still running SHIELD?” That’s why I was glad the show flat-out addressed it when Mace confronted Coulson about his lack of trust. As I’ve stated before, the writers have toyed all season with the idea that the new director can’t be trusted, but it was pretty clear from our perspective that the guy was on the up and up, even if he was a bit of a tool. Still, “All cards on the table” would make for a great subtitle for this episode as everyone seems mostly up to speed (save a fake May and a dead Nathanson or two). AIDA’s true nature is revealed to Mace, always the last to know, Quake’s heroic status is revealed to the press, and Mack finally does what Elena and the rest of us have been waiting for him to do. To be fair, he still deserves a good talking to by Yo-Yo for how he’s been treating her, but I’m always in favor of relationship harmony rather than drama.
Speaking of Mace, he’s a superhero now! I give you: Citizen SHIELD. Okay, it’s really just an MCU update of his comic book persona of the Patriot, but thank god they didn’t include his helmet cus he’d be one color scheme change away from joining the Legends of Tomorrow. The suit actually looks great, even if his dramatic introduction in the field wasn’t all that necessary. Again, this show is fully embracing agents with powers, and that can only improve things moving forward. But I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I painted the picture that this episode was all sunshine and rainbows and the threat of nuclear apocalypse narrowly avoided by demon-spewed hellfire. There was one new development (or rather an ongoing issue) that I wasn’t so keen on.
May: “You don’t have to twist my arm.”
Coulson: “I wouldn’t dare. You might whip my ass.”
And with that line, we need to talk about May. Now, before I get into this, let me just say that it’s my job as a writer and reviewer (and it’s my prerogative) to look at culture through a critical lens. Perhaps I haven’t always made myself as clear as I’d like and some of my frustration has come off as trash talk. That couldn’t be further from the truth, however. I’ve regularly argued that SHIELD is the best-written superhero show on TV. I might even put it over the Netflix shows if you factor in how they’re not beholden to a major network and commercial breaks. Sure, they’ve all contained some amazing storytelling and acting, but every one of them has been overall incoherent as a season. SHIELD has not only grown each season since it started, but it’s mastered serialized storytelling. I’d be hard-pressed to condense the plot of Luke Cage or a season of Arrow into one cohesive narrative. SHIELD, on the other hand, has a clear arc every season, and usually every half-season. All of that is to say, that my criticisms aside, I still trust the writers and know that they’ll almost always deliver. Still, they need to be reprimanded for their handling of May over the past two seasons.
Last season started out strong, as May dealt with Andrew and his changes. Then, as the show removed him and Lash, the writers seemed not to know what to do with her. After two seasons that featured a May-centric backstory episode and tons of character growth, she was relegated to the sidelines while the Inhumans increasingly became the focus. This was of course even more upsetting since her story is so deeply tied to the genetic offshoots of humanity. It got so bad, that she was my top vote for who would die in the finale because the people behind the show genuinely seemed to have given up on her. The season premiere a few months ago looked to be course correcting with May taking a position training new recruits and debating Simmons on the role of the new director. Then, we wasted a handful of episodes with her infected. I’ve gone on at length about this plot, but my main issue is that it did nothing for the character. We didn’t learn anything about her, and she didn’t discover anything about herself. The writers just needed it to happen to someone and May had the least going on in the ongoing plot. The result was a complete disservice to one of the show’s original characters. Don’t get me wrong, I love the focus on Mack and new characters like Robbie and Eli, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of one of the show’s and the team’s best assets. Ming-Na Wen is an incredible performer, and not just when it comes to fighting. May deserves a top-tier story arc. I’m not about to start sending angry tweets to the writer’s room, as there’s still time for the show to shift focus to her in the back half (if it’s an 8/14 split, is it still half?) of the season. Still, I had to get that out there as this episode seemed to almost explicitly tell the audience “Hey, May won’t be doing anything important tonight!” when Coulson made her Radcliffe and AIDA’s chauffeur. I had no idea that things could get worse, though. I know some people will take umbrage with this, but May being replaced by an LMD reminds me of the Man In Black posing as Locke after his death on LOST. Sure, it lets the actor continue working, but it means any emotional beat from the character is given to a copy-cat. It’s one of my biggest problems with that show whenever I rewatch it, as there’s tragedy wrapped up in Locke, which is only intensified by the fact that he’s dead and no one knows some other guy is walking around with his face. Of course, this show won’t kill off May like they did with Nathanson (poor Nathanson), but it still makes me nervous. There’s still plenty of time for the real May to return, and if it gives us all another May vs. May fight, most of this will be forgiven. That said, I was so ready for Philinda, which makes it a shame that it’s moving forward with an imposter.
4.5 Balaclavas out of 5 Don’t feel bad Robbie, the balaclava/baklava thing used to confuse me too.
So when Fitz mangled ‘Morrow’ to sound like ‘Mordo’ and then said “Strange,” those were our Doctor Strange references, right?
Does the song “Ghost Riders In The Sky” exist in this universe? Cus everyone is really dancing around it.
Looks like Mack is the one who got burned.
“Yeah, but you’re drunk on power. Or drinking your own Kool-Aid. Or drunk on Powerade. I don’t know.” Never change, Coulson.
Speaking of, at first I thought Yo-Yo giving Coulson the gun made no sense as he wouldn’t know he had it, but then I realized they’d planned that and my god this show is genius.
Yeah, Daisy’s comic book line was cheesy, but I’m not mad.
If Yo-Yo turns around and runs back to where she started, does that negate her bouncing back?
Cannot reiterate how glad I am AIDA is finally relevant.
That was a cool jacket, Yo-Yo
Was gonna make a “blood diamonds” joke at the beginning, but given their nature, that’d be pretty uncouth.
“The Last Ghost Rider”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So what did y’all think of the finale? Overall, I thought it was another amazing entry for this show. They’ve really been knocking it out of the park (minus my few issues). I can’t wait for the Yo-Yo miniseries and the LMD arc when the show comes back. Anything you’re hoping to see in January? Let me know below.