Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S04E12 “Hot Potato Soup” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Nadeer’s Russian boot boys are after Agent Keonig… not realising there are multiple identical Agent Keonigs. They kidnap Billy, while Sam reports the abduction to SHIELD.
- Turns out Coulson gave the Darkhold to Billy for safe keeping because the Keonigs’ ability to keep things hidden is legendary (by the end of this episode you’ll be wondering why).
- The Keonigs were playing pass-the-parcel with the Darkhold to keep its whereabouts a mystery. So who had it last?
- Billy has been taken to a vintage submarine owned by the Superior, the guy behind the international Watchdogs, Nadeer and the Russian spies. He’s an industrialist and war-hardware enthusiast who has trained hard to hone his body to peak condition, so he doesn’t like Inhumans and their quick-fix method to superhuman-ness.
- Radcliffe and Aida are in the submarine too. The Superior intends to interrogate Billy for the whereabouts of the Darkhold, but Radcliffe convinces him there’s another way – downloading Billy’s brain then poking around inside the data.
- So Radcliffe discovers that there are more Keonigs (and ponders they may be LMDs – a notion they dismiss later in the episode).
- Sam tells Coulson that Billy can’t give up the whereabouts of the Darkhold to Radcliffe because Billy wasn’t the last Keonig to have it; LT was.
- Who’s LT? The Keonigs’ big sister that’s who. So Coulson brings her in (along with a SHIELD-hating performance poet Keonig brother called Thurston).
- Only LT says she gave the Darkhold back to Billy, so…
- Radcliffe does get the information he needs.
- But the other Keonigs correctly guess he must have placed it in their secret vault, the Labyrinth.
- So SHIELD, Radcliffe and the Russians all descend on the vault.
- While waiting for Sam to get the Darkhold, Maybot and Coulson kiss…
- While all that’s going on, back at SHIELD base Fitz, Simmons and Mack are trying – with a complete lack of success – to access the Radcliffe-bot’s programming. The Radbot uses various mindgames to try to stop Fitz from realising the truth, but a pep talk from Simmons gives the Scot the inspiration he needs.
- Fitz realises that the Rad-bot is not simply “programmed” – it has its own brain. He opens up its head to reveal the quantum brain.
- The Radbot lets slip about there being another quantum brain; Simmons realises he must mean May!
- Just after the Coulson/Maybot kiss, Sam exits the Labyrinth and gives Maybot the Darkhold. She immediately outs herself as an LMD and Coulson seems mildly pissed off.
- Quake then blasts Maybot and there follows a big, boring gunfight during which the Darkhold swaps hands a number of times like something out of silent movie slapstick routine, ending up back with Maybot!
- Maybot’s been fatally damaged, but after she hands Radcliffe the Darkhold, he simply leaves her behind to “die” (or shutdown, or whatever…) because he never built her to last.
- So now the villains have the Darkhold, and SHIELD burns the Maybot and the Radbot in a big furnace. Because there’s not a lot else they can do at the moment.
- Back on the submarine, the Superior tells Radcliffe that he wants to eliminate the man he thinks is behind the Inhumans – which turns out to be Coulson. Radcliffe says he’ll be happy to help.
It’s great to have the Keonigs back. They are always a lot of fun and Patton Oswalt clearly has a whale of a time bringing them all to life. Well, all the male ones. We assume Artemis Pebdani isn’t just a pseudonym for Patton Oswalt under the most impressive latex make-up ever,
But you know that old saying about too much of a good thing…?
While all Keonig shtick is very entertaining, it dominates the episode to such an extent that the plot ends up like a clunky farce, with the Darkhold being tossed from one character to another like a bomb with a lit fuse in a Road Runner cartoon. There’s also some spurious logic going on that perhaps the producers thought they’d be able to sell as “all part of the fun” but which actually just comes across as plain dumb. Such as the Keonigs playing pass-the-parcel with the Darkhold to keep enemies confused (a good plan) but Billy then putting in a vault they ALL know about (very, very bad plan).
And let’s not get into how long it takes Coulson to get the information he needs about which Keonig had the Darkhold last – Billy’s quip about “not talking in front of the red shirts” is not an excuse; it’s just a weak gag!
It doesn’t help that the vault – the impressive-sounding Labyrinth – turns out to be about as exciting to get into as the rare books section at a library.
You could level a similar accusation at Anton Ivanov. After a big build-up and an intriguing sounding name, the Superior turns out to be a Russia bloke in a vest who sniffs onions and collects old military vehicles. Sure, his introduction scene – with what looks like a phial of acid turning out to be vodka – is chillingly brilliant, and Zach McGowan plays him with a powerful, simmering menace throughout. But he just doesn’t come across as very, well… superior. He tells us he is, but he doesn’t do much to prove it. Not even take his vest off to show off his pecs.
But Agents Of SHIELD has a good track record in turning initially humdrum villains into interesting ones (Evil Uncle Eli being an exception) so there’s hope for Ivanov yet.
There is one other really good thread in this episode, though, and that’s the Radbot’s existential crisis. Granted, he may just be trying to needle Fitz, to stop him realising the truth about his quantum brain, but he nevertheless does make some very good points about the line between human life and robot “life”. So much so that when Fitz throws him in the furnace at the end, it seems almost callous… not to mention a waste of good research material. But kudos to John Hannah for making the Radbot so believable and almost symathetic
So, there were things to enjoy here, but you can’t help feeling that when it all boils down, this was actually just an episode about how stunningly inept SHIELD can be sometimes. Perhaps it was because Mace had the week off…
- Sam going all fanboyish over Quake is so cute.
- John Hannah’s “malfunctioning” acting is downright creepy.
- As is the moment he literally starts singing like a canary.
- In fact, John Hannah as existential Radbot is brilliant throughout: “If you don’t think I’m alive and don’t have a soul, the why did you feel the need to switch me on before killing me?”
- The brief red herring that the Keonigs could all be replicas.
- Thurtson Keonig’s performance poetry is brilliantly awful.
- “Did you know that online there’s a library of fan fiction about Quake?”
“I did not need to know that.”
“Oh, well, you should Google it because it’s… it’s… Actually, no. You shouldn’t. You shouldn’t. Forget I said that. Some of it a little on the steamier side. Not that I’ve read it. You hear things. Wow, they’ve got you ’shipping with Black Widow. Some of the drawings are… ahem. They call you Quack!”
- “You’re not going to get anything out of me, because my mind is a steel trap inside of a steel box, surrounded by quicksand and… oh, is that a puppy?”
- All the action sequences are really dull – just lots of bangs and aimless running about. In a superhero show the action really shouldn’t rely so heavily on generic gunfights so much.
- Take the Keonigs out and there’s not much else that’s distinctive about the episode.
- Coulson could have acted at least a little bit shocked about May. His way-too-cool reaction smacked of being a big fib, because he was so embarrassed he’d just snogged a robot.
- The Superior is an okay villain, but disappointingly prosaic after the build-up: a Russian industrialist with his own vintage submarine – wow. Entertaining as his introductory scene in he still felt more like a henchman than a criminal mastermind.
- The stinger scene was especially weak. So, someone wants Coulson dead? Get in the queue.
- The Labyrinth sounds impressive, but basically it’s just a series of keypads…!
And The Random:
- Just for the record (though we’d be shocked if you didn’t know these already) those Keonig quotes in the opening sequence coms from:
• Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” “Curse my metal body! I wasn’t fast enough.” “Help me Obi-Wan.”)
• Every Star Wars film ever (“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”)
• Back To The Future (“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”)
- Sam Keonig later mention Red Dawn (1984) a film about US teenagers defending their town against Russian invaders when World War III breaks out. It co-starred Clark Gregg’s wife Jennifer Grey. (Or he might have had the 2012 remake in mind – in which the Russians have been replaced by the North Koreans, and which co-starred Agents Of SHIELD’s Bobbi Morse, Adrianne Palicki.)
- Sam is cultural referencing again with, “I couldn’t say anything with all the red shirts hanging around.” You do know what a red shirt means in Star Trek, right?
- Nina Lopez-Corrado was a producer on The Mentalist for three years but has spent the last couple of years concentrating on directing. She helmed the recent “Abra Kadabra” episode of The Flash in which the action sequences were one of the best things about it – the exact opposite to here.