Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S04E10 “The Patriot” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- At a public presentation honouring Quake Mace is attacked.
- Following SHIELD protocol, Mack and Coulson bundle Mace and his PR guy, Burrows, on a quninjet and head for a safe house.
- But the attackers – who turn out to be Hydra-backed Watchdogs – have expected this and blast the quinjet from the sky.
- Before it crash lands, Burrows is sucked from the plane taking Mace’s precious briefcase – the one he’s never seen far away from – with him.
- Clambering from the wreckage into a forest, Mace tells Mack and Coulson that their priority is to find Burrows’ body; Coulson correctly guesses that Mace is really after the briefcase.
- Back at base, Fitz still harbours thoughts of getting Aida’s head working again, but Simmons tells him to forget about about the murderous AI and concentrate on the problem in the hand – locating Coulson, Mack and Mace.
- General Talbot arrives the run the show, and puts no end of obstacles in Simmons’ way – he’s clearly covering for something.
- They try interrogating one of Mace’s attackers who was caught during the attempted shooting. He remains tight-lipped until Simmons uses Aida’s head to make it look like she decapitates the heads of people she interrogates. He actually falls for it and reveals where the quinjet was shot down.
- Back in the forest, Mace and co discover the Watchdogs have the briefcase.
- Coulson isn’t too worried. After all, Mace has super strength, right? He can just wade in, slap the Watchdogs around a bit and take back his briefcase. Right?
- Turns out (and Talbot admits this to the team at base as well, while Mace reveals it to Mack and Coulson) that Mace isn’t an Inhuman after all. His powers come from a drug – kept in the briefcase – based on the formula developed by Daisy’s dad (but with the bad stuff taken out… well, most of it.
- And at the moment, Mace is without his drugs so he’s about “as strong as a paper bag in a rainstorm,” as Talbot puts it.
- Talbot came up with the idea when it was decided that an Inhuman should front SHIELD, but no suitable Inhuman candidate presented themselves.
- And Mace really wanted to help! Because despite lying, he’s actually a nice guy who genuinely believes in human/Inhuman integration.
- And Mace redeems himself by pretending he still has his powers and bluffing the Watchdogs long enough for Daisy and May-bot to come to the rescue.
- During the ensuing fight (which, of course, team SHIELD wins) May injures herself but no one pays that much attention.
- Back at base Mace offers his resignation but Coulson asks him to stay on as the “official” director, still dealing with PR and politics, while Coulson takes back control of actual operations.
- Fitz secretly downloads Aida’s electronic brain onto his cellphone.
- Radcliffe is warned to stay away from SHIELD for the time being and worries what May-bot may get up to without his guidance… especially as May-bot doesn’t know she’s a May-bot.
- The real May becomes agitated by the relaxing health spa VR experience Radcliffe has provided for her and goes postal. Radcliffe’s increasingly kill-happy other Aida nearly strangles May to stop her, but Radcliffe sedates May instead.
- He then realises that May is only ever calm when she has conflict to deal with and so starts dreaming up a new VR experience for her.
- Back at SHIELD, May-bot checks out her injury and discovers metal and electronics under a flap of skin.
Ah, Mace, for a minute there we thought you were going to be outed as a big, lying doofus and sent packing with your tail between your legs, which would have made our faith in you so far this season look a little bit misplaced. But Coulson, who’s finally been getting his act together in the last couple of episodes after half a season of making some godawful decisions, makes his best call in ages and asks Mace to stay. After all, he may be a liar but he’s no doofus. Talbot, amazingly (and probably inadvertently) made the right choice in enhancing Mace and making him the boss, because the guy does actually have a conscience and some political acumen; a rare combination. Suddenly, the future of SHIELD looks rosier under the dual leadership of two men who actually understand and each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
On the other hand, how is SHIELD going to PR its way out of the shitstorm that’ll hit if the fact that Mace isn’t an Inhuman gets leaked? Let’s hope Senator Nadeer doesn’t get wind of that story.
The revelation about Mace’s powers is hardly a jawdropper as the hints have been there in previous episodes, and, dramatically speaking, he had to have some skeleton in the closet. But that doesn’t detract from some strong character work in the episode. Okay, Talbot borders on caricature, but at least he’s an entertaining caricature; you just know he voted Trump from his phone’s ringtone. But even he’s allowed the dignity of having acted for the greater good; sure, his choice may not have been Coulson’s choice, but there is a logic to it that isn’t purely self-interest.
It’s good that there is some meaty character stuff going on, because the actual plot is as humdrum as ever. This show’s main problem at the moment is its conveyor belt of dreary, off-the-peg boot boy villains. Every two weeks the threat seems to come from yet more anonymous thugs who shop at Army’Surplus’R’Us. This is a superhero show, for heaven’s sake; what’s happened to the interesting villains? Okay, Evil Uncle Eli had powers but even he was dull.
So we get some ’80s cheapo action movie shtick down the woods, some hiking, a log cabin and a fight with gardening implements. It’s a long, long way from the Battle For New York.
Elsewhere, Fitz is acting like Radcliffe’s Mini-Me, and his dubious decision to continue working on Aida seems like a very dumb move indeed. It’s not like the writers are giving us much to empathise with here, either; Fitz’s motives are murky and apparently self-absorbed. Usually Fitz is one of those characters you root for no matter what because of his inherent charisma, but this time it’s difficult to stay on his side.
At chez Radcliffe, the dodgy scientist decides that the best way to keep May docile is to put her in a VR world where she’s the complete opposite of docile. She thrives on conflict, he reasons, so let’s give her conflict to keep her mind off other things – like kicking him in the nuts, for instance. This is TV logic through and through that probably wouldn’t be recommended by many psychotherapists; it also smacks of “major plot point developing… watch this go hideously wrong!”
But while clunky in places, the episode is also delightfully quirky in others. As we list below there are loads of amusing non-essential details that help elevate the action. And Coulson, for the first time in ages, is allowed to be genuinely witty rather than spouting slightly awkward cultural references that make him come across like embarrassing dad (actually, after Mack’s cultural reference minefield last week this episode thankfully dials them back).
So let’s take stock: Coulson is funny not embarrassing; an intelligent leader; insightful; and magnanimous. Can we have James C and Sharla Oliver drafted in to write Coulson’s scenes every week, please?
- Mace, despite being a liar, is once again fabulous throughout, especially his smacked puppy look when Coulson finds him out. We’re glad he’s still on board, though.
- The little moment with the SHIELD lab technician cautiously throwing a towel over Aida’s decapitated head was a fun little detail.
- We have no idea who “hair” guy was (it smacked of on in-joke) but we loved the look on his face when Talbot called him out.
- In fact, the whole episode was full of incidental details that had no bearing on the plot, but which were more entertaining than the plot, including Coulson’s exasperation at his broken glasses…
- …And Talbot’s patriotis cellphone ring tone, and his look of pride at being the President’s quick dial.
- Coulson gets to use his shield again; it’s a special effect that never gets tired.
- “I was, um… just locking away Aida’s head… for good.”
“Let’s never look at that awful thing again.”
“Yeah. Well, you never know. You might want to go all Godfather on somebody else… Is it weird that I found that attractive?”
- Proverb of the week: “You know the saying… If a jet crashes in the woods and there’s no one there to hear it, stay close to the guy with super-strength.”
- “Simmons, I need expanded clearance to do that.”
“I’ll take care of that.”
“I’ll make you… DayGlo pink, or whatever’s high enough.”
- We’re not idiots. We took the bad stuff out. Most of it, anyway.”
“Oh, oh, okay. So you’re just… you’re just mostly idiots.”
- Has anyone ever looked as elegant while strangling someone as Aida?
- The way Simmons learnt about Project Patriot was a bit convenient, and a major loophole in Talbot’s planning.
- The plot excuse to have Burrows unbuckled in the quinjet just as the door blew off was very clunky.
- Dull bad guys again. Memorable villains are few are far between on this show this season. Who was the last bad guy on this show who didn’t look like a bank clerk or a football thug?
- The idea that the Watchdog guy would fall for Simmons’s decapitated head routine is particularly difficult to believe. Surely he just assume it was a specially-made model or something?
- “The President tasked me with finding the next Captain America,” says Talbot of Mace’s transformation into the Patriot. In the comics, Jeffrey Mace/the Patriot did indeed become Captain America for a while, while Steve Rogers was on ice following World War II.
- Unexpected crossover time: we think the missile fired at Mace in the opening scene is supposed to be a Judas bullet, as seen in Marvel’s Luke Cage.
- Anybody else remember the Torchwood episode “Cyberwoman”? First off, our condolences. Secondly, do you think that Radcliffe is trying to transform May into his own Cyberwoman?
- And while we’re on the subject of images from this episode reminding us of other things, did anybody else think, “Wash!” when the pilot – Agent McCafferty – was skewered? (Apologies for spoilers if you’ve never seen Serenity but… you’ve never seen Serenity? What’s wrong with you?)
Review by Dave Golder