NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” are present in this review
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is continuing to prove more than ever in Season Four that it really is one of the most strangely underrated shows on television right now. “The Patriot” was yet another superb episode for the show’s latest season this week, continuing the ‘LMD’ arc pretty excellently, and in particular bringing to light a terrible truth about Jeffrey Mace.
There’s always been something a little funny about Mace. He’s definitely the squeaky clean, smiling and super-approachable Inhuman that S.H.I.E.L.D. can easily re-brand itself in the public eye with, but as with many bright, shining paragons, something untrustworthy definitely bubbles from the image. Things properly get set into motion with the tragic truth about Mace when an assassination attempt is made against him at the start of the episode, which Daisy helps to avert, as Coulson and Mack, along with Mace’s lackey, Burroughs, rush Mace to safety on a Quinjet. By the way, it was extremely cool to have the sniper fire an exploding Judas bullet in the assassination attempt, which was a very clever reference to Marvel’s most recent Netflix series, Luke Cage, where the same bullets were turned against its titular hero. Could the mysterious supplier of this episode’s baddies be Mariah Dillard? That’s probably too much to hope for, but it would certainly be another neat link to Netflix’s corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In any case, a B-plan from the goons strands Coulson, Mack and Mace in the wilderness, and sees Burroughs sucked out of the Quinjet and killed when a bomb disables one of the engines. Mace being more concerned with finding the briefcase attached to Burroughs than contacting HQ is a definite red flag, though Coulson and Mack have no choice but to go along with Mace’s wishes. When they’re inevitably ambushed by enemies however, they’re shocked to see that Mace is helpless to fight them. Turns out, what was inside the briefcase was a replicated super soldier serum, loosely inspired by the Erskine formula that created Captain America during WWII, and modified from the Mister Hyde serum from Season Two. In short, Mace’s superpowers were a lie, and he’s not an Inhuman.
The truth about Mace being laid bare was very well-timed here, since it lent itself to plenty of exciting action sequences that forced Coulson and Mack to take the forefront of assault, while also leaving them in the worst possible situation; Having their super-strong Inhuman boss turn out to be a phony, right when they’re surrounded by former HYDRA soldiers. Yes, even when HYDRA is supposedly obliterated, their thugs still manage to cause trouble for S.H.I.E.L.D. Then again, Coulson finally pointed out that, even if he and Talbot disabled the organization’s network last season, it simply, “Sent the rats scurrying off of the sinking ship.” Essentially, this means exactly what I’ve indicated more than once in many of my Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. reviews, namely that it’s extremely unlikely that Marvel will ever completely scrub HYDRA from the MCU, since they’re too large and pivotal a villain organization to ever fully do away with.
While Coulson, Mack and Mace struggle to survive in the woods, Daisy and the fake May desperately try to track them down, while Radcliffe and Aida try to contain the real May. Interestingly, Radcliffe shows a lot of remorse regarding the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that Aida killed when the ‘Ghost Rider’ arc ended last year, suggesting that he really isn’t a bad guy, even if he seems to be thoroughly blinded by scientific obsession in seeking the Darkhold. Radcliffe does manage to save May when she inevitably breaks out of confinement too, talking Aida down from snapping May’s neck. Boy, Radcliffe really needs to work out that murderous streak that Aida seems to be developing! Even when she’s completely subservient to Radcliffe, she still seems far too eager to do people harm at this point. I guess Asimov doesn’t really have any jurisdiction in the MCU.
Speaking of doing harm, Fitz is also having a hard time letting go of the LMD program that he wanted to kickstart with Radcliffe, as S.H.I.E.L.D. prepares to dispose of the former Aida model’s severed head. This gets buried for most of the episode though, as Simmons has to come around to learning the truth about Mace just as Coulson and Mack do, which she forces General Talbot to confess after her extended clearance tips her off to her boss’s secret. Simmons actually had an especially fantastic episode this week, as she also has the clever idea of using Aida’s severed head to trick the captured ex-HYDRA thug from the intro into spilling about Coulson’s, Mack’s and Mace’s true whereabouts. This thankfully allows Daisy and ‘May’ to rescue the three right as they’re pinned down by enemy fire. This is a pretty big victory for Simmons, though on the negative side, it looks like she’s in danger of re-treading some former drama, as Fitz yet again hides Aida’s backed-up data from her, before leaving the head to be disposed of. Really? We’re going to have Fitz make the same obvious mistake again?
Nonetheless, the episode ended as smartly as it began and unfolded, as Mace tells Coulson that, in light of the truth about him coming out, he will resign as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson, however, has another idea, and suggests that Mace continue to be the face of the organization, handling the politics and the photo ops that Coulson hates anyway, though at the same time, Coulson is now fully in charge of operations and field work, with Mace forbidden from intervening. This was pretty much a win-win, since it allows Mace to continue with his desire for trying to assist with the development of Inhuman rights, while Coulson finally gets to fully re-assume control of his agents, without Mace’s red tape getting in his way. S.H.I.E.L.D. will need the extra efficiency too, since the LMD May sustains an injury while saving Mack, and in the episode’s epilogue sequence, she discovers her mechanical innards, and presumably learns the truth about herself being an LMD. Looks like Radcliffe’s worries about miscalculating the implementation of the fake May are coming true sooner rather than later. He and Aida are bound to have a pretty big problem on their hands in next week’s episode now!
It’s awesome to see Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continuing on stronger than ever in 2017, despite its ratings still tipping onto the low side of the scale for ABC. “The Patriot” was a brilliant way to finally expose the dark secret of Jeffrey Mace, in a way that honoured the character’s Marvel Comics history as a stand-in Captain America while Steve Rogers was frozen (or in the case of the MCU, made a fugitive), without exactly copying it. Talbot and the President conspiring to design, “The next Captain America” makes a lot of sense, in a very Machiavellian way, and even if they did succeed at getting S.H.I.E.L.D. re-legitimized, they may have left the organization more vulnerable than ever as a result. Mace can probably get another hit of that serum now that he’s back at HQ at least, but with his secret now known among the agents, can they ever look at their director the same way again?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivered another superb episode for the 'LMD' arc this week, providing a smart twist that effectively exposed the horrible secret of Jeffrey Mace.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Mace's secrets laid bare in a tragic and dangerous way
Coulson's and Mace's smart compromise at the end
The LMD May discovering the truth about herself
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Fitz is seriously going to lie to Simmons about Aida again?