Spoilers ahead for "Wake Up," the latest episode of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The short version: Coulson and Yoyo try to plant cameras in Senator Nadeer's office, but she knows all about it. Meaning? There's a mole. Real May is spending her days trying to escape from Radcliffe's simulations; Fitz arrests Radcliffe, but (twist!) he's really a LMD.
The good: Radcliffe's cleverness, Mack/Yoyo, Faux May, and Real May's video game life
Dr. Radcliffe is playing the long game by planting Faux May inside S.H.I.E.L.D., but Fitz finally figured out that he was behind Aida's rampage and brought him in. But, in a twist everyone saw coming but was still a lot of fun, that Radcliffe turns out to be an LMD. What, you didn't think he'd actually let himself get arrested, did you? We've been told that Radcliffe is clever, and he's turning into an excellent, nuanced villain for the back half of the season. He's well-rounded, and despite everything, he really thinks he's helping the world by doing this — and he kind of is. One of the best developed baddies the show has had yet. Plus, c'mon, it was jaw-dropping to see Fitz shoot him point blank, execution-style.
We got to see the aftermath of Faux May’s revelation that she's really an android as she has to grapple with the fact that her life is not her own. Even worse? Her programming doesn't allow her to come clean to Coulson and the team about her true intentions. Ming-Na Wen does a great job playing the nuance in those scenes, as she tries (and fails) to battle the programming and figure out her real motivations. Here's hoping she eventually gets a chance to break free. Speaking of breaking free, Real May spent the entire episode trying to bust out of video game-style simulations designed to keep her distracted. Sure, it was all virtual, but it was still a whole lot of butt-kicking.
We also got some steamy momentum in the relationship between Mack and Yoyo, and we learn Mack had a daughter 11 years ago who passed away. The past few seasons have taken a slow-burn approach to Mack’s backstory, and this was a critical reveal for why the man with the shotgun-axe remains so guarded.
The bad: Senator Nadeer, the political yawn-fest, The Superior mystery
Seriously, the Senator Nadeer storyline is really starting to drag. We saw it come to a head a few episodes back but she's still kicking around Washington and causing trouble. Does S.H.I.E.L.D. not already have enough evidence to just shut her down? Worse, they have to walk into a subcommittee where's she's in charge? Political storylines are hard to get right, and this one really fell flat in that department.
Also, S.H.I.E.L.D. really needs to figure out its mandate. Are they a sneaky spy organization protecting the world from aliens and ghosts, or a new-look FBI? It's hard to have it both ways, especially if you're going to the trouble of manufacturing some political drama and connecting it to the Sokovia Accords. If you're going to try and tell this story, at least lean in and try to make it compelling.
Plus: It's not often we see Coulson get busted ... but Nadeer takes him down. Like, easily. Also, how many more episodes can we end with the mysterious tag about 'The Superior' who Nadeer reports to? It's time. Show this mystery person, or just stop already. After all this build-up, it better be one heck of a reveal.
Lingering questions: Radcliffe + Nadeer = ???
By maneuvering Radcliffe onto Nadeer's side by the end of the episode and revealing that Faux May is the leak inside S.H.I.E.L.D, it at least combines two of the season’s semi-baddies into a slightly more menacing Big Bad. Now that Radcliffe is working with the senator, how does that affect his endgame?
As for Faux May, will the knowledge that she is an LMD affect the way she acts? Will she accidentally give herself away now? Radcliffe made a point to note he programmed her to not know her true purpose — so what happens now that she does?
Putting Real May into her 'Calvary' mission and letting it go down differently was an interesting moment, but you have to wonder how all this digging around in her brain might affect her once she eventually breaks free.
Up next: Hot Potato Soup! Patton Oswalt is back!