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. yet again pulled the rug out from under viewers in spectacular fashion this week, putting all sorts of unexpected twists on story developments that appeared to be going a certain way, but ended up going somewhere drastically different in the end. “Wake Up” was all about the defeat of expectations, on the part of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the viewer, and it resulted in another superb episode for the increasingly fantastic ‘LMD’ arc of the show.
The episode begins with the real May making another escape attempt from Aida’s and Radcliffe’s custody. May’s combat skills and ingenuity are nonetheless thwarted by Aida however, despite May constantly making attempts to escape. Eventually, May does gain the upper hand, though upon nearly escaping the compound, she learns from Aida that she’s actually been in a simulation the whole time, and is being given opponents to fight as a means of keeping her in a stable coma. This was just one of many superb twists in the episode, and one that made a lot of sense, especially after Radcliffe directly told Aida in the previous episode that May would need a more hostile environment to keep her under, after her first real-life escape attempt went badly.
Things don’t go much better for the fake LMD May either, as she starts becoming anxious about having to hide the discovery that she’s an android after the previous episode. LMD May is continuing to fool everyone pretty effortlessly, but eventually, she crashes Radcliffe’s compound and demands answers. When she’s not satisfied, she even tries to kill Radcliffe, but finds that she’s unable to. Turns out, her programming prevents her from harming Radcliffe, and this leaves her without a means of doing anything about her sub-conscious mission to reclaim the Darkhold. Radcliffe even mentions that May’s memories and Radcliffe’s mission have bled together in her mind and become impossible to differentiate. Has the LMD May simply been pushing Radcliffe’s agenda the whole time?
While this is going on, Daisy is taken to the Capitol Building to sign the Sokovia Accords, even if it also means facing Senator Nadeer in deliberation, albeit with Mace and Talbot nearby. Nonetheless, Daisy is called out for her criminal activities, and struggles to look good to the public when Nadeer draws attention to her vigilante career as Quake. While this is going on, Coulson and Yo-Yo have broken into Nadeer’s office as well, in an effort to plant surveillance and learn her next move. Unfortunately though, they fail to anticipate Nadeer planting a trap, which leads to both Coulson and Yo-Yo being arrested by Nadeer’s men and dragged before the hearing, exposed as still perpetrating illegal operations. That’s definitely not good.
As much as that’s very bad news for S.H.I.E.L.D. though, Coulson rightfully points out that there’s an upside; They now know that there is a leak. At first, considering that he salvaged the former Aida’s head and processing capabilities, Fitz looks like the guilty party, which even Simmons mistakenly believes at first. Cue another really great twist though, as it turns out that Fitz was actually using Aida to beat Radcliffe at his own game, exposing him as the traitor, even if he didn’t manage to identify the LMD May in his midst at the same time. Fitz really did look like he was obsessed and unable to let go of his creation, so it was very cool to see him actually be the one to save the day in this episode. Granted, Radcliffe being the traitor that was feeding intel to Nadeer feels a bit too obvious, since we already know that Radcliffe is up to no good, but perhaps the series didn’t want to become overstuffed by making a second S.H.I.E.L.D. affiliate turn out to be a mole.
We also learn an astonishing fact about Mack in this episode, after Yo-Yo finally becomes fed up with Mack yet again leaving for a, “Secret errand.” Believing that Mack is fooling around with other women, Yo-Yo threatens to walk out on Mack forever by the end of the episode, only to have Mack finally admit the truth; He has an ex-wife, and not only that, they had a daughter together, who died four days after being born. Turns out, the errand was acknowledging the anniversary of the infant’s death, which has Yo-Yo realizing that Mack really had an important reason to be away, and that he cares for Yo-Yo after all. This feels fitting, especially as a way to hopefully put the Mack/Yo-Yo tension to bed, because it really feels like it’s gone as far as it can go at this point.
As the episode winds down, Radcliffe submits fully to Nadeer, even getting a meeting with Nadeer’s mysterious boss, who seems to be the real figure pulling most of the strings in Season Four at this point. We also see that Radcliffe has even re-tooled May’s simulation again, after noticing that she’s getting gradually better with her escape attempts in fighting the virtual Aida, even with her memory constantly erased. This brought things home on a nicely strong, dramatic note, as we see May placed into the scenario where she had to murder the young Inhuman girl, a great nod to a key part of May’s backstory from Season Two, only this time, she saves the girl, in an altered scenario that makes the mother the villain. This really is a harrowing and legitimate way to keep May out of commission for the foreseeable future, since, as strong as May is, not even she is strong enough to completely break away from her own past. Is there any hope of her breaking free anymore?
It’s really too bad that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is suffering from such a ratings dip lately, especially when the show’s latest season is on track to becoming its best season to date. Despite that, “Wake Up” executed a sublime upheaval of viewer expectation, capitalizing on expected story turnouts to make wholly unexpected victories and defeats for the show’s leads. S.H.I.E.L.D. is definitely going to see some big struggles over the next few episodes, but Fitz’s big save managed to prove that this team is as clever and resourceful as ever, even when they’re down. The Radcliffe they captured turning out to be a second LMD made for more bad news, but here’s hoping that Coulson can find another way to turn Nadeer’s investigation into an unlikely win.
- Mack's emotional confession to Yo-Yo
- Fitz's intelligence saving the day more than once
- May's clever victories and eventual submission
- Radcliffe being Nadeer's mole feels pretty obvious