Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S04E13 “BOOM” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Coulson and Mack are looking for a woman in Spain who may be able to lead them to Radcliffe; she’s Agnes Kitsworth, an old flame of Radcliffe’s whose appearance he copied when he came to design Aida.
- She tells them she’s dying of a brain tumour. This is why Radlciffe left her; he couldn’t cure her and couldn’t handle the failure.
- Coulson, who because of May’s kidnapping is currently a compassion-free zone, is pretty aggressive trying to get her to co-operate, but eventually turns on the, “pretty please” charm and it works – she agrees to contact Radcliffe and lure him to Spain.
- At SHIELD HQ Simmons, having finished some tests, tells Mace that the drugs he’s taking to become the Patriot are killing him and he must stop using them. He worries about his place on the team. Phil reminds him that dying was the making of him. Sort of…
- On Ivanov submarine, Radcliffe reveals he has some terrigen crystals left over from last season’s plot arc.
- Ivanov sends his lackey Shockley to meet with Senator Nadeer at Capitol Hill.
- The plan is to break a terrigen crystal and turn Nadeer into an Inhuman (it’s never quite clear what they hope to achieve by doing this, but never mind). The logic is that her brother had the Inhuman gene so she must have too.
- Instead, Shockley becomes an Inhuman – one who explodes! Which he immediately does, killing Nadeer.
- But his powers let him reconstitute himself after each explosion.
- So he lets himself be captured by SHIELD and be taken aboard the Zephyr. There he tries to blow up the aircraft, but Team SHIELD manages to eject him just before he does so because he takes so bloody long about it.
- He reconstitutes on the ground and then blows up a motel to get SHIELD’s attention (having phoned Ivanov to say, “Sorry about being an Inhuman and all that, but here’s a tip about where you need to be…”)
- When SHIELD confronts Shockley, Daisy quakes him repeatedly, forcing him to blow up each time and weakening him. This allows Fitz and Simmons to trap him in a high-tech fish bowl thing they’ve invented for the occasion.
- But Ivanov’s men also show up, so Mace ignores Simmons warnings and goes into Patriot mode…
- …And is promptly captured.
- Meanwhile in Spain, Radcliffe shows up, but when he promises Agnes he can make her live on forever inside the Framework, she betrays SHIELD and leaves with Radcliffe.
- Before she stamps on the listening device Coulson had attached to her, Coulson hears Radcliffe say that he has someone living inside the Framework already – Coulson immediately assumes it’s May.
- Back on the sub, Radcliffe downloads Agnes’s consciousness into the Framework and her physical body dies. When Radcliffe is out of sight, Aida removes Agnes’s necklace and puts it on herself.
Agents Of SHIELD often has an annoying habit of being less than the sum of its parts. This episode is a case in point.
There is some great stuff going on, and Daisy has a particularly good week; not just her fun action moments (the bit where she makes Shockley repeatedly explode is almost as entertaining as when she casually quakes his head together with the guy tied up behind him). Her immediate assumption that Nadeer has engineered the explosion for her own advantage is a very telling character beat; the fact that Daisy merely shrugs and says, “Can’t be too sad,” when she knows the truth is understandable but still harsh. It’s good to see the show continuing to allow Daisy to have a dark streak to her. Besides, there’s always Mace, the grown up boy scout, on hand to be honourable and mutter about “justice” like a wannabe Captain America.
There are some interesting nuances going on in the Aida/Radcliffe relationship too – he really is being a little blind to her ambitions, isn’t he? She’s the one who’s built the Framework but Radcliffe, having built her, seems to think he’s still the boss. The way he tries to dismiss the fact that he made Aida in Agnes’s image as nothing important clearly also has an effect on Aida that he shouldn’t be ignoring. But is.
Plus, shock death time! Nadeer is gone… in the most unexpected way. And she was so happy just seconds before. We’re a bit sad to see her go as there was still loads of dramatic potential in the character (especially if she had become an Inhuman!) but at least her explosive demise gave the episode some spice. The visualisation of Shockley’s powers is great too. And Agnes’s betrayal is an unexpected twist, but having been subjected to Coulson and Mack in creepy stalker mode she can be forgiven.
Having said all that, the episode never quite kicks into gear. Not enough happens in the Spanish plot to justify the amount of screen time granted to it. The various plotlines don’t so much dovetail as hang off each other on rusty nails – they don’t feel like they naturally gel together. Radcliffe magically produces the terrigen crystals to set up one plot, then jaunts off to Spain to conclude another, while Ivanov is to-ing and fro-ing between his sub and and the US in a series of scenes that have a breathless sense of haste about them. Everything makes sense… just, but it’s not the most elegant storytelling. It’s more like checklist storytelling.
To paraphrase that classic Morecambe and Wise sketch, if this episode were a song, it would have all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.
- We did love the sequence in which we first got to see Shockey reassembling himself; it almost looked like it had storyboarded by legendary comic book artist Jim Steranko.
- The sudden death of Senator Nadeer was certainly a shocker, especially as there still seemed to be more plot left in her (though the Superior is now the big bad, so maybe she was surplus to plot requirements).
- Aw, poor Mace. We felt for the guy as he struggled to find his place on the team, and his weary acceptance that he was the “team mascot” was a lovely moment. We preferred him as the blocker, though.
- We were genuinely caught off guard by Agnes’s decision, though it was perfectly believable. Hell, we’d grab the chance of a “second life” too (pun intended). But in a TV show, the plucky “facing death with dignity” characters usually nobly accept their fate for the greater good. This was a refreshing blindsider.
- Quake repeatedly blowing up Shockley was just spot-on what the climax needed – a true comic book solution.
- “I’m trying not to make this personal because May would hate that, but I can’t help it. It is.” One of those rare moments when Coulson is being completely open about his motives.
- “And Agent May… she’s happy?”
“The clinical definition of happy is difficult to quantify, but she meets much of the criteria.” How many ways can this show find to amusingly insult May’s deficiency in the emotional department?
- Daisy using her Quake powers to knock Shockley’s head against the other Russian captive was nicely brutal.
- We’d have love to have seen the plotline where Nadeer was turned into an Inhuman. Surely there’s lots of drama to be mined there?
- So Fitz just guessed that Aida may have been based on somebody real? Um, not beyond possibility since he worked so closely with Radcliffe but the throwaway nature of the line makes it come across as a little convenient.
- Coulson’s opening monologue was cheesy as hell. And while we get he will do anything for May, his whole initial aggressive approach to Agnes felt way out of character. Plus, Clark Gregg just isn’t very good at “contained rage”; it comes across more like “sulky child”.
- The fight which ends with Shockley being ejected from the Zephyr is really confusingly shot. It just looks like a lot of wrestling, and it’s not clear what Mace is apologising for having done later.
- Why didn’t Simmons ask why Mace had donned his Patriot suit before the final encounter? She’d have been concerned he was going to use the drugs, surely?
- Coulson may be heartened to hear that May is alive inside the Framework, but wouldn’t he be more worried by the fact that Anges will be dead in our world but still living in the Framework? So May could easily be physically dead too. Unless he’s happy with the idea they could download her consciousness into an LMD.
- It’s another episode in which SHIELD loses more ground than it gains; this is getting very repetitive.
And The Random:
- Hang on! Talk about sensationalism. The news channel’s artist’s impression of the explosion that killed Nadeer is about 10 times more spectacular than the actual explosion.
- We’re not convinced that this document Daisy’s holding needs to state that it’s “secret” at the bottom. Its title – “The Role Of Autonomy In Existing System” – is surely dull enough to make sure nobody ever opens it.
- Mallory Jansen, who plays Aida/Agnes comes from Australia, so her Agnes voice is her natural voice.
- So who’s asset 63-D94A who needs a cold climate? Is this just a throwaway line or something more?
- “I know General Talbot was hoping to replicate what was done to Steve Rogers but you’ll never be Captain America.” Another allusion to the fact that in Marvel Comics continuity Mace/The Patriot was Captain America for a while when Steve Rogers was on ice after World War II.
- “I can’t have it detecting every metal clothes hanger as an LMD.” Is this a double bluff, or are we supposed to think that either Fitz, or Agent Cecilio, or the woman who comes in with Mace’s new suit could actually be an LMD?
- “I glanced at it, and it gave me a simple answer – you.” How seriously are we supposed to take Ivanov at this point? Is he lying? Joking? For real? Has he really opened the book and not been affected? Or affected in so far unnoticeable ways?