Spoilers ahead for "The Patriot," the latest episode of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The short version: The Watchdogs try to take out Director Mace while Faux May continues to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. It's later revealed Mace isn’t really an Inhuman and acquired his power through a super serum. Twist!
The good: Mace's secret, Talbot, Faux May, all the Mack
We always knew Mace was pretty much just a figurehead, but they took that to an extreme here. The big reveal that Director Mace is actually a regular ol’ guy using doses of a super serum to masquerade as an Inhuman was a great reveal — and really brings some nuance to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s new gung-ho leader. It turns out Mace is pretty much a lie on every end of the spectrum, and even his iconic savior photo in Vienna was just a happy accident after he tripped and fell down.
Having Mace finally face his own less-than-magical origin story really made him feel more human (no pun intended), and Jason O’Mara played it perfectly. After seeing Coulson and Mack risk their lives without the benefit of super powers, it really seemed to strike a note. Then, when it's all falling apart around him, Mace takes his lumps and admits his mistakes. Now that's a figurehead we can get behind. Also, the idea that the government would just "make" their own Inhuman and lie about it is so deliciously shady. And believable.
Getting General Talbot back to help run things in Mace's absence was also an excellent move. His leadership style is so far beyond how Coulson and Mace run things that it's great to see him interacting with the team on his own. Sure, he's a walking cliche, but he's at least a really fun cliche. Also, he's scared of May — and not afraid to let Simmons look like the bad cop.
There's a really interesting story with Faux May, and I really hope they tell it. The May LMD was programmed to not know it's an LMD and act as Agent May would in every situation. But thanks to that gash on her back, she now knows she's been replaced — and not only that, she's the replacement. How will Faux May deal with this revelation? There are great questions about identity, programming, and the battle of ideals just waiting to be asked.
Boy, Mack should just keep a shotgun ax on him at all times, right? Henry Simmons has quietly become an all-star on this cast, and once again, he gets most of the good jokes and one-liners. Keep 'em coming.
The bad: The vague, evil Watchdogs
For the most part, this episode was a whole lot of fun. We got the gimmick of a plane crash, the character development with Mace, and Talbot in town. But all the chaos was caused by the mysteriously vague Watchdogs. They've now risen from the ashes of Hydra to cause all sorts of trouble. Yawn. If all you're going to do is introduce a Hydra knockoff after taking out Hydra, why bother taking out Hydra at all? We need some new, compelling villains. Stat.
Fitz just can't get over his borderline creepy fascination with Aida, can he? After lightly pushing to reopen the LMD project, Fitz instead opts to work on Aida's head in secret against Simmons' wishes. Yeah, that's not going to end well. Considering everyone seems to think Aida went rogue because of the Darkhold — as opposed to programming — it might just take Fitz's rogue investigation to realize Dr. Ratcliffe is really pulling the strings. When (or if) that ever does hit the fan, you know Simmons won't be happy about being left in the dark.
Coulson is now back to running operations at S.H.I.E.L.D. while Mace will remain the public face. Seems like a fair compromise, and it'll be nice to have Coulson back in the saddle. Also, Daisy is a national hero now, fresh off her return from the cold. If things implode with Mace, could she be the next head of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Go read a comic, it’s not that crazy an idea.
Speaking of Radcliffe, he was a bit on the nose tonight that he's playing the long game. But that still doesn't tell us his end goal. What does he hope to accomplish?
Lines of the night:
"No need to be so melodramatic, Poppins, but yeah. That's it." - Talbot
"It's not an axe, but I'll take it." - Mack
Up next: Coulson's under arrest, Real May tries to escape and more LMD shenanigans.