Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Self Control

“I know I’m not real. I’m all phantom limbs.”

Wow. What a tremendous episode. I might run out of superlatives.

The LMD arc has provided a great exploration of identity. What does it mean to be real, to be your own, true self? Is the principle “I think therefore I am” enough? For LMayD, it isn’t. It could never be.

Her struggle contrasts with how other characters of genre TV dealt with their existence being turned upside down. Dawn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Saunders from Dollhouse at one point discovered that most of their lives and memories were a fabrication. But they overcame that and decided they had the right to live at their own terms. As someone that rationalizes exactly like May herself, though, LMayD would never accept being just a copy. She has memories of snow, but when she sees the snow falling outside, she realizes it’s the first time she has seen it. The other times, all phantom memories.

Because she can’t perceive herself as a person worthy of existing, the only option is to serve the greater good. It’s beautiful. I’d also say it’s sad, but I want to concentrate on the “beautiful”. She believes she isn’t real, that is, that only human May can be real. However, at her last phantom breath, she embodies May’s truest spirit: to accomplish the mission and protect her loved ones at any cost. In the end, there was enough May in her to do what was right.


Her final scene was a killer. LMD Coulson, whose programming turns him into a Framework servant version of Coulson, tries to convince her that she can live without the pain. He is living without it and, presumably, so is the real Coulson inside the Framework. But LMayD calmly explains, in a beautifully written and acted scene, that the pain and the regret are the things that forge Coulson as a person. Take that away, what is left is an adulterated copy. So she kills him, sacrificing herself in the process. Rest in peace, LMayD.

“I’m me. I hope. I’m not one of them.”

Last episode, Simmons and Fitz discovered that Coulson, Mack, Mace and Daisy had been replaced with LMDs. But, of course, there had to be a twist: the fourth LMD wasn’t Daisy, it was Fitz.

God, that led to a terrific scene. When the LMD detector alerts that either Fitz or Simmons is an LMD, tension explodes as they try to determine which one of them is the android. Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker knocked it out of the park. Seriously, go watch it.

I was pretty sure throughout the whole scene that Fitz was the LMD. His behavior was already off in the end of last episode and it kept becoming more suspicious. At the confrontation, while Simmons was trying to sort the situation out, he was clearly trying to manipulate her and mess with her head. But I have to admit that when he cut his wrist and only blood came out I thought for a moment, “Oh, shit, is it really Fitz?” It wasn’t.

So Simmons has to murder the android version of her boyfriend. You can see how much it takes from her, and, completely disoriented, she goes into hiding. Later, when Daisy finds her, she is showing PTSD symptoms and only has a knife to defend herself. Simmons and a Knife Versus the Machines. Poor Simmons. At the suggestion that she could be an android, she holds tight to her identity. “I’m me”, she says, but concedes that it’s only a hope, not a certainty. The whole scene is another showcase of Henstridge’s talents, and it ends with a beautiful hug between the two friends, with Daisy softly quaking Simmons to feel her bones. Simmons exhibits an expression of deep relief from realizing that Daisy is indeed Daisy, getting as a bonus the much-needed confirmation that she is also herself.


“This is not a sacrifice play. You know why? Because I will beat them.”

Hurrah for Daisy. What a hero. First she discovers that there is a truckload of Skyenets (twenty, to be more exact) and that Mack is on it. Through the surveillance system, she sees LeoMD’s blooded body and for a moment she looks in horror believing Fitz is dead. But what follows drives her over the edge – her boss and father figure Coulson shooting two agents and smashing another one’s head. It’s the perfect timing for her to find a distressed Simmons, but even when she doesn’t know who to trust anymore, Daisy takes command of the situation.

She has an ally in Simmons, but a reluctant one at first. Simmons doesn’t believe they can win, she can’t find her inner strength without Fitz. Daisy assures her that she will be the one taking down the robots, but Simmons thinks it’s a sacrifice play to atone for Lincoln’s death. That was a great exchange right there. Daisy could’ve been hurt by Simmons’ words, but instead she explains to her desperate friend that there is no sacrifice involved. She will beat the bad guys. She will win.

Promise made, promise delivered. Daisy goes all Sarah Connor on LMaceD. It’s a very good fight sequence. After she finishes him, iMack and LMD Coulson shoot her, but she doesn’t give in. She proceeds to deliver what is probably the coolest move using her Inhuman powers: a ball of quake that takes out LMD Coulson and destroys iMack. Daisy is a force of nature. Chloe Bennet has a strong screen presence that imbues Daisy with greatness, and she displays it in spades here.

“Wake up your boyfriend.”

Daisy and Simmons escape the base, along with three tertiary agents, and Elena joins them. The new plan? Since they can’t find the Superior’s submarine, Daisy and Simmons hack into the Framework to find their friends there. Closed is the LMD arc, now we enter the Framework.

And Ward is alive.

Ward. Is. Freaking. Alive.

I should hate it. Last year when the Maveth plot became a way to give Ward a third incarnation, I actually dropped the show. It was very disappointing. Now? I cannot wait for the moment Daisy realizes that her “boyfriend” is Ward, not Lincoln. It’s so twisted and evil. I like it.

The Framework is a very interesting alternate universe. There are so many changes, enough to drive us crazy during the long break until the next new episode. Coulson and Mack seem to be leading the simple life. Coulson is a teacher, Mack’s daughter is alive. Fitz is a billionaire, accompanied by a woman whose face we don’t see. Daisy is an agent and, as previously mentioned, Ward is her boyfriend. Simmons is dead. And Melinda May works for – wait for it – Hydra, who won the battle against S.H.I.E.L.D. and operates in the Triskelion.

Is Simmons really dead in the Framework? Simmons said she found her avatar there, so that has to be a fake death, right? Or will she need to Buffy her way out of the coffin? What about May and Hydra? We know that May saved the girl from Bahrein, but how that led to her working for Hydra?

The Framework is fascinating. It is computer programming but it’s also built with the Darkhold. During the Ghost Rider arc, we learned that with the Darkhold one can create matter out of nowhere. Actually, they take it from other dimensions, but you get the point. Also, Aida One did learn how to open portals to other dimensions, and I think it’s safe to say Aida Two has learnt it already.

What if the Framework does become reality? Combining a simulated universe with matter transference from other dimensions could produce an actual reality, right? What if we are headed to a battle of realities? Lord, I’m hyped.

So many questions and possibilities. What a nice break this will be.

Intel and Assets

- Aida faced a paradox: her programming set her to protect Radcliffe and the Framework, but she perceived the doctor as a threat to the Framework. When Radcliffe explains her that the body doesn’t matter, she kills his body and attaches him permanently to the Framework. Paradox solved. Radcliffe, you should’ve seen it coming.

- With Radcliffe gone, I worry about the fate of the May, Mack, Mace, Coulson and Fitz. I also worry that Aida will become a more generic robot villain.

- Aida built a mechanical body for the Superior that is commanded by his head. As in only his head, since all the other parts of his body are gone and the head is being kept alive artificially. It’s very creepy, but the Superior is still not that interesting. And I don’t understand the point of what Aida did. Is the Superior supposed to be a comic book character? Help me out, Marvelites.

- The LMDs’ plan was to either attract all Inhumans to kill them at the Base or send the fleet of LMD Daisies after them.

- Before his demise, LMD Coulson told a patched up LeoMD to program the Daisy fleet with basic seek-and-destroy programming, which means we are getting lots of evil Daisies on the next arc. That should be fun.

- The destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s base is an annual event.

- I just loved that Simmons had zero patience to convince the lower operatives that she was not an LMD.

- Speaking of them, I really like the tertiary agents Piper, Davis and Prince.

- May never laughs, so LMayD had the last grin.

- I expected May and LMayD to meet and team up, but it was not meant to be. I can’t say that is a bummer because, well, this episode.

- Poor May, she’s been kidnapped for life, forever.

- LeoMD admitted that Fitz thought of getting married to Simmons. Her response? She will talk about it with the real Fitz.

- Fitz being the fourth LMD meant that the Fitzsimmons show was cancelled and instead they gave us a women tour-de-force. It was awesome.

- Gorgeous, gorgeous shot of the hangar opening and the snow falling over the Zephyr.

- The visual effects were amazing, especially iMack’s destruction.

- An impressive moment of acting by De Caestecker: the way he changes from desperate Fitz to creepy Fitz while Simmons is stabbing him. It’s a flawless transition.

- I know it’s clear from all that is written above, but I just want to say once more that Henstridge, De Caestecker, Bennet and Ming Na Wen all brought their A game into this episode. Brava.

- Jed Whedon wrote and directed this episode. Stellar job, and what an incredible directing debut.

Simmons: “So, we fight our way through the trained military personnel, then the ultra-powerful android doubles of our friends, somehow make it to the Zephyr, which we can’t fly, to escape the base, and try to plug our minds into an alternate reality.”
Daisy: “Okay, well, don’t say it out loud, because that made it sound way worse.”

Daisy: “So I’m gonna beat the screws out of those junkers, and the two of us are gonna get the hell out of Dodge.”

Simmons: “Daisy and I aren’t the LMDs.”
Piper: “I don’t buy it.”
Simmons: “I don’t care.”

Simmons: “I would say I told you so, but I don’t have to now.”

Daisy: “Anyone here know how to fly the Zephyr?”
Davis: “I just started training.”
Daisy: “Okay. Well, you’re gonna try real hard.”

LMD Coulson: “Everything is under control. Let’s just…”
LMayD: “Whose control?”
LMD Coulson: “Why don’t you and I have a glass of Scotch, or many, and talk this out, like we always do?”
LMayD: “We? We’ve never done that before.”

LMayD: “My impulse to keep Coulson safe and close, that desire, that came from me.”
LMD Coulson: “That’s good.”
LMayD: “And I’m sorry to say, you’re not him.”

This was the best episode of the series and serialized fiction at its finest. Five out of four phantom limbs. I hope there is enough buzz around this episode to bring the audience up, because this series deserves it. Now, see you guys in six weeks.
--
LaMounieD. Hey, that’s close enough.

7 comments:

JBA said...

I've loved this show from day one, and I watch it every week with my daughter. Although we both loved this episode, she is decidedly happier to see Ward back than I am. Though, to be fair, I would have been less pleased if Lincoln had returned. But when I saw him, the first thing that came to my mind was a quote from Billie, reviewing the Smallville season 8 episode "Bride". She said, concerning Lana coming back, "She's left the series and it still never ends." My God, Brett Dalton has turned into Lana! He's left the series and it still never ends!

migmit said...

Well, that answers 90% of my concerns from the previous episode. I wondered how was it possible to capture Daisy without destroying the whole base, and I've got confirmation: it's not possible.

I still think Mack wouldn't go down quietly either, but that I can live with.

I wonder if we would meet Radcliffe in the Framework.

Was the beginning of Daisy/RoboMace fight intentionally modelled after Terminator, or it happened accidentally?

Billie Doux said...

JBA, that's so funny!

Actually, I've been thinking about Smallville a lot lately, mostly because of parallels in Supergirl. Although, to be fair, Supergirl doesn't have anything like a Lana character.

Lamounier said...

JBA, I get it. Even though I am excited to see how Daisy reacts, I do have my worries about Ward’s return. I mean, if my theory about the simulated reality becoming a real one is correct, Ward could be back permanently, and I don’t see how they could pull that off in a way that doesn’t ruin the story.

migmit, I think it was intentional.

Marianna said...

I'm so happy about the Fitz-not Daisy twist... and also sad, but of coarse that's a sign of excellent writing. I don't really understand how the whole hacking the Framework thing works. Is the Framework on the internet? It reminds me of on Buffy when Willow used to hack things that were unlikely to even be on a computer. :)

My guess is the Hydra winning was a result of Coulson having never joined SHIELD as that would have caused the Avengers to not be inspired. I'm also not sure how Daisy is an agent since Coulson is the one that recruited her, but we'll have to see. I'm wondering whether or not she's an inhuman in this alternate reality. As far as regrets go, I thought Coulson's was a weird one considering all the good he's done in SHIELD. I could see wondering how his life would be so maybe the Framework is loose with the term "regret." I think an interesting way of doing it would have been rather than him never joining SHIELD, leaving SHIELD to be with the cellist, which would give us some good Amy Acker time, but that would disrupt the Philinda narrative the writers are trying to create.

Patryk said...

Great great episode with great acting especailly the 3 scens: Simmons with LMD Fitz, Simmons with Sky and LMD May and LMD Coulson. Just wow.

Also the shows seems to want to spend the netire end of the saeson in the Framework reality especially that the only characters not inside it are the villians and Yo-yo so I can't see more then 5 minutes in the real world per episode.

The return of Ward is a welcome sight especially if he will play the good guy from the beginning since he's a construct for Sky not the real Ward. I guess they could also handwave that Radcliffe scanned Hive in season 3 and could program the real thing. At least it's not Lincoln who was never interesting.

Iago said...

Are you afraid to die? Cause I am

That killed me. Sensational acting by Ming-Na Wen, proving in her final moments that the May LMD was the most human of all the LMDs.

The music in this episode was breathtaking too. It's Bear McCreary so that normally goes without saying but it was even better than usual in this episode.