Simmons is a lot tougher that I originally gave her credit for.” Don’t worry, we’ll get to all the LMD shenanigans, but I want to spend a minute talking about how amazing Simmons is. She’s always been a charming, witty, genius, but her time at S.H.I.E.L.D. has added her to the show’s deep bench of ass-kicking women. This was evident during her all-to-short time undercover at HYDRA, but her standout moment has always been her clever takedown of Mockingbird (MOCKINGBIRD!) in the Season 2 episode “One Door Closes” (consequently, my all-time favorite episode of the show, which features 5 female characters all being badass). Since then, she’s been through the hell of Maveth and trained with May, but this episode was the first time we really saw the upgraded Simmons in action. It’s fitting, as Fitz got to prove his skills earlier this season against the Watchdogs. Watching Simmons hold her own was super enjoyable, and I think that hairpin taser needs to go into production immediately. Comic book movies are still struggling to properly highlight strong female characters with agency beyond sexual appeal, so I’m always pleased that the TV side of things, and this is especially true of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., does such a good job in that regard.

Sadly, the show has been blowing it all season in that department with Aida. The very concept of her invites problems, as Radcliffe designed himself a secret model-esque robot, but the show beats us over the head with that idea this episode. Worse, the writers have been roping Fitz into the creepiness all season, determined as they are to create an artificial wedge in his relationship with Simmons. Mack even blatantly calls it out, during his left-field robot-hating tangent. It doesn’t help that the episode opens with some lecherous shots (though the director probably thought they were arty) of Aida undressing (plus two scenes of May lying with her chest exposed for absolutely no reason). All of these are things that likely won’t bother a lot of viewers, but I find them highly problematic and distracting, especially on a show that I regularly praise for being adept at writing and shooting its female characters and actors.

evil aida from broken promises

Luckily, there’s a lot of good stuff involving the LMD plot. I generally despise body snatching stories as it’s nearly impossible to make them fresh or unique, so I appreciated the timetable on the robot revolt at least accelerating faster than I imagined it would. Though it’s slightly undercut by the reveal that this was all a ploy by Radcliffe, I was deeply into the conversation Fitz and he were having about personhood. Despite spending a whole season on the subject, I think Westworld didn’t do half as well as S.H.I.E.L.D. did in one episode discussing the ethics of what makes someone alive. I especially appreciated the exploration of an artificial lifeform suddenly being flooded with emotions we’ve spent our whole life growing accustomed to, and how that would affect them. Again, it’s a bummer to sweep it all under the rug with Radcliffe’s reveal, but hopefully, Fitz will continue with this line of reasoning. It’s also intriguing to make Radcliffe the villain, as he’s not entirely nefarious and thinks he’s doing this all for the good of humanity.

It’s that same shading that makes Senator Nadeer, or Ellen, finally become an interesting antagonist this episode. Her and her brother’s backstory gives us context for her hatred of aliens, and it’s a fairly fitting one. The MCU touched on the fallout of the Chitauri invasion a bit with a small plot on Jessica Jones, but this is the deepest we’ve ever gone into the idea that people were killed during the Battle of New York. That’s some weighty stuff, and “Broken Promises” wisely spends time showing us that both Ellen and Vijay were deeply affected by what happened to their mother and the rest of New York. Though Ellen’s final action is pretty cold, I appreciate her change of heart when she first attempted to kill Vijay. It also made the reveal of his powers, which I want immediately, a great moment and a joyfully unexpected action sequence. I’m glad he’s not dead, as there’s a lot of solid drama that can be mined from their relationship. The only question is, what’s going on with that second cocoon?

FINAL SCORE

4 Robot Insurance Policies out of 5. Mack’s out-of-nowhere bigotry about artificial life was super forced (though it follows his similarly upsetting hatred of Inhumans that he seems to finally be over since he’s kind of dating one), but it got better once it settled into comical anger and movie references. The fact that Mack has had a lifelong fear of robots, enough so that he has insurance against them (which, of course, exists in the MCU) makes me love him even more.

ONE-SHOTS

  • This episode was packed full of great lines, and after a while I couldn’t keep up with every amazing exchange between Yo-Yo and Mack, but I did my best to grab a lot of them. Fair warning for a lengthy One-Shots.

  • So that definitely wasn’t a Cloak and Dagger reference, but I have to mention it cus I’m sure people will bring it up.

  • Simmons: “You know how boys are with their robots.” Daisy: starts nodding “Actually, no, I don’t.”

  • Anybody else think it was strange that Ultron wasn’t mentioned once? The idea was brought up in the season premiere, but here it was all movie references as if the world hadn’t already been attacked by rogue A.I.

  • Daisy: “I think Simmons has been kidnapped like three times since I’ve known her.” Mace: “Really?” Daisy: “Yeah, well only twice on this planet.”

  • I appreciate generic Watchdog guy bringing up the idea that Nadeer could be an Inhuman. This is something that’s always confused me about the comics as well. I get that genetic traits can lie dormant in siblings and family members, but the Inhuman marker seems like it would make you susceptible to Terrigen regardless.

  • “This right here, this is exactly how The Lawnmower Man ends.”

  • “Smart people are stupid.” This needs to be a t-shirt.

  • Yo-Yo: “Someone needs to make Radcliffe watch all the Terminators.” Mack: “Even Salvation?” Yo-Yo: “He brought this on himself.” I thought Genysis was the new most-hated Terminator movie. Of course, Rise of the Machines is pretty terrible too.

  • “Oh she did not just go Maximum Overdrive on us!”

  • I know that window has always been there, but isn’t their base underground? I assumed it was some TV window, like on LOST. We need a map of that place.

  • That is one sharp axe.

aida with her head chopped off in broken promises

  • Theories on the cocoon Vijay goes into at the end? Was that a second Terrigenesis? I know mutants can go through secondary mutations, but I’ve never heard of that with Inhumans. I was thinking maybe it’s another power of his, which might explain his unusually long gestation the first time. Or perhaps that part of the water still had a pocket of Terrigen in it, but that seems like a stretch and again, I don’t know that I’ve heard of Inhumans being able to go through Terrigenesis twice.