This is a two-series race for best comic show on TV right now. Arrow and Agents of SHIELD have excelled all season. Each week the two are exchanging haymakers to gain the advantage. The Man Behind the Shield was another outstanding episode that ended with the best twist since the big HYDRA reveal back in Season 1.
Taking a cue from Arrow, we get a flashback from an earlier mission with a younger Coulson and May. This was a strong flashback as Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen played subtle nuances of their characters perfectly. Flashback Coulson more closely resembled the nerdier character we first saw in Iron Man and May was still playful.
Keep in mind this was pre-traumatic ‘Calvary’ mission so her cheery, jokey demeanor was perfectly in character. There was some cute flirtation with the two as they joked they’d try dating if May’s newest civilian boyfriend didn’t work out. They were referring to Andrew naturally so in a nice way this is all coming full circle.
In the present day, Coulson and company frantically traced every lead trying to find May and Mace. Fitz and Simmons gave the team a glimpse of life in the ultra realistic Framework VR world. Fitz is also taking to heart Mack’s scolding that he shares some blame for the team’s current problems with Radcliffe. I liked that Simmons didn’t rush to his defense here as Fitz did deserve that moment of tough love.
Radcliffe was plugged in to his matrix and didn’t want to be bothered, leaving Aida to speak on his behalf. Ivanov has little use for Aida, but it just doesn’t seem smart to get on the bad side of a killer robot.
With no more super serum, the captive Mace was largely defenseless for Ivanov’s torture. He wasn’t interested in Mace beyond using him as bait to ensnare Coulson. That made Ivanov’s end game somewhat disappointing. He didn’t really think he could just beat SHIELD in a fist fight, did he? Not that Quake played especially fair in using her powers. I kinda like a hero who doesn’t play fair in a fight, but I grew up watching Indiana Jones so…
But in keeping with the theme of this season, Radcliffe and Aida are a step ahead of everyone else. In the momentary delay from the field team rescuing Mace, the bad guys pulled a fast one. And to Fitz and Simmons’ horror, Mack, Coulson, Quake and Mace have been replaced by LMDs.
In a lot of instances, longtime comic book readers can have a more creative spin on a storyline than show runners. That hasn’t been the case with the LMD arc. This is a storyline where all the clever twists and scenarios are being explored on the show, not fanboy message boards.
The Man Behind the Shield was another killer episode for SHIELD, but it’s the numerous amazing possibilities of what’s to come that’s most exciting. There’s just something really awesome about the premise of Fitz and Simmons alone against robot versions of their pals.