After a whole season griping about LMDs and body snatching, I was pleasantly surprised that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was able to tie everything together to create a tense, action-packed pseudo-finale. It’s interesting that, despite having a ‘proper’ midseason finale, “Self Control” essentially plays like a an actual finale. This is aided by the fact that the show will be off the air for six weeks, and is benefitted by the separate arcs that have been established. The success of these plotlines has been due to the fact that they’re not cut and dry, with the Ghost Rider arc informing the LMD one, and the LMD story actually dating back to the tag at the end of last season. And as much as the producers have been hyping the end of the LMD arc and the beginning of a new pod of episodes when the show returns, virtually every aspect of the LMD plot is still in play by the end of this episode.

We’ve still got Aida, there are still evil robots, May is still strapped to a gurney, and the ideas about what makes us real are still driving the philosophy of the show. The reality is, the LMD story is the entire Season 4 story, despite what’s been said to the contrary. And that’s fine. Though it’s fallen into some tropes, SHIELD has mostly delivered their own unique version of a paranoid thriller. Aside from a beautifully acted and written scene between FitzSimmons and a shorter but no less powerful one with Daisy and Jemma, the idea of impostors wasn’t really in the foreground. It was mined for some nail-biting tension, but we as an audience mostly knew what was real (at least once Blitz went all commando).

That doesn’t diminish the story at all. It was full of shocking reveals, explorations of humanity, and packed full of some of the show’s best fight scenes. Kudos to showrunner Jed Whedon, as this was his first time behind the camera. He also wrote the episode alone, something he hasn’t done since the aforementioned finale. Like Kevin Tancharoen, Whedon has a natural gift for using the camera to accentuate the script. The moments in the beginning with FitzSimmons nervously discussing what to do where shot up close to ad to the paranoia. And the scene where Daisy unloads a Quake bomb on Flack and Moleson was exquisitely done.

The focus on the LMDs also lets the script explore the innner workings of our characters’ mind as they lose the walls we normally put up. Moleson discussing his regrets with Nay was another great exploration of a character we know little about. It looks like the next arc will delve deep into what the grass is like on the other side for all of these characters, and it’s a wise move. Though it’s wrapped in plenty of sci-fi nuttiness, getting into our protagonists’ head and discovering what makes them who they are is where this show excels. While there’s no inidication how long we’ll be in the Framework, even a few episodes will do a lot to help us study these people we’ve slowly gotten to know over the years. Mix in a few more riveting fights scenes, and that’s all I could ask from SHIELD.

FINAL SCORE

5 Daisy-Bots out of 5. Seriously, that was a creepy scene. But why did they make so many of Daisy?

ONE-SHOTS

  • Speaking of, does Daisy just wear bike shorts under her clothes all the time?

  • That standoff between Blitz and Simmons worked so much better than the scene with Agent Piper and random DEO guy on Supergirl a few weeks back.

  • Couldn’t Fitz and Simmons just go back out and walk into the room separately and check the sensor again?

  • I’m assuming when the readout last week said all four agents were LMDs, Blitz had messed with it so it seemed like Daisy was one. Not sure why he didn’t pull that trick to disguise himself. Then again, wouldn’t they disable those detectors immediately upon infiltrating the base?

  • Jemma is once again the most badass agent.

  • The whole Framework thing is a nice extension of Radcliffe’s original transhumanism beliefs, which ended up painting him into his own philosophical coffin.

  • Agent Piper! That climax was really the culmination of slowly fleshing out so many background agents. Those scenes would have had much less impact if we didn’t get to know some of those agents throughout the course of the season.

  • So, they’ve completely given up on the idea that the base is underground.

  • Chloe Bennet’s boots completely change once she starts fighting Mace. It’s almost like putting female action stars in heels constantly is utterly ridiculous and impractical.

  • Okay, now we’ve got to speculate on all the Framework business. Daisy is back with Ward for some reason. Coulson is a regular guy, which means teacher. Fitz is rich, which is equally as baffling as Daisy regretting not being with Ward. Mack’s daughter is alive! And Jemma is dead? Here’s where it gets confusing. They hacked into the Framework, but is Daisy just entering the simulation that was prepared for her, or did it generate upon her entering? If the former, was Jemma’s just not prepared? And if the latter, is she dead in her perfect world? Better yet, why is she dead in Fitz’s? Most intriguing thing is of course that May works for Hydra, which seems to be in charge. More importantly, they’ve finally got some green in their logo!

  • See you in April!