Week of September 3, 2023:

Broken Promises (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. s4 e9) released January 10, 2017 (where to watch)
The Patriot (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. s4 e10) released January 17, 2017
Scott Hardie | February 1, 2024

Broken Promises: I'm having trouble getting over the wretched Slingshot from last week, which was like a concentrated dose of all of this show's problems at once, so I should acknowledge some bias. But at this point, I'm really struggling not to hate this show and everyone on it. The few little things that the show does right (good lines like "he brought this onto himself" about Terminator: Salvation, or redesigning the title card each time it transitions into a new storyline) barely improve what is basically just a series of nonsensical reversals of allegiance and other empty plot twists, reliably coming every few minutes because that's all that this show knows how to do. I'm reminded of a video that counts The Last Jedi's plot twists in memorable fashion (thanks, Matthew Preston), and it would be easy to produce a similar list of the bullshit served up by any random episode of this half-assed series. And by half-assed, I mean come on, it doesn't even bother to give its characters plausible names.

And then there's the problem of Alfonso Mackenzie. He used to be the one kind-of likable character on the series because he wasn't a morally vacant prick like the rest of them, but just as the writers forced Jerk-Ass Coulson on us last season, apparently it's Mack's turn. I do not understand his rage and hostility towards artificial life forms, nor his insistence that they must be exterminated at all costs, which just seems unfounded. As the second most tech-friendly character on the series (remember the old days when most of his scenes involved helping Leo Fitz in the lab?), you'd think he'd have at least some nuance in his opinion. Years ago when we binge-watched the series Lost, Kelly and I took to calling it "Asshole Island" because all of the characters on it were just so mean to each other all of the time, and they'd take turns being King of Asshole Island by out-jerking one another depending on the needs of the plot in each episode. Right now, Mack is this show's King of Asshole Island, and he's making what would merely be a boring series actively repellent. (2/10)

The Patriot: There we go, that's better. This episode dealt with questions of honesty, responsibility, and fitness for a public role. It drew connections between several men making the mistake of not listening to women. Without time yet to explore further, it delivered a nice moment of body horror for Melinda May at the end. It served up some fairly satisfying action when the time felt right. And hello there, Judas bullet! People say that the MCU movies and the shows on different platforms didn't have any points of connection between them, but they had plenty; here's a neat video drawing a line across five different titles to get us to this very moment. That sort of thing is why this whole viewing project even happened.

I didn't care for Coulson declaring himself S.H.I.E.L.D.'s boss again at the end, because it undermined the depiction of sexism in General Talbot falsely declaring himself Jemma Simmons's boss earlier in the hour, and also undermined Coulson's own character-repairing statements about how he deserved his demotion for his transgressions and abuses of power. I also bristled at Fitz claiming he's only been working on Aida to "protect" Simmons (who doesn't exactly face much risk of public assassination), because it recalled one of Fitz's worst episodes, when he said he'd end the world to save her, after ignoring her wise warnings to take a threat seriously; this little weasel really hasn't learned a damn thing and he continues to be garbage romantic material. Speaking of Simmons, didn't she already deduce a few episodes ago that Mace was a fraud with skeletons in his closet? Her newfound access to Talbot's classified file couldn't have had that much potential for revelation. Also, how is Senator Nadeer not under arrest for collaborating with terrorists?! But still, beyond those problems, I enjoyed much of this episode. Its willingness to be about something for once other than "robots bad" was much appreciated. (6/10)

I've been reluctant to bring this up for discussion because I wanted to know where the show was going with it, but now I have to ask: What do you make of Simmons being so anti-Aida, and anti-Fitz-spending-time-working-on-Aida? This show tends to use shortcuts to communicate things to the audience, which includes characters having allegiances that instruct us how to feel (ie. Mackenzie's unjustified anti-robot stance fast-tracks Aida as an antagonist), so I see the narrative purpose of Simmons being wary of Aida and of Fitz spending time with her. But this is also a deeply sexist TV series, and so it cannot help but cast Simmons's concerns in a misogynist light, as mere jealousy over Fitz spending time with an attractive woman. She's very cold towards Aida even before she knows that Aida is artificial. Now that time has passed and it's clear that this characterization of Simmons was deliberate foreshadowing, I have to say, Simmons feels like the wrong vehicle for this, because of the way that it comes across as "women be jealous." Does anyone else see it that way?

Also, how did this scheme to get the briefcase work, anyway? I buy the assassination attempt as a way to get it on the plane, but how did the Watchdogs (or Hydra or whoever they are) manage to plant a bomb on the side of the plane? Wouldn't S.H.I.E.L.D. have guards protecting it? Wouldn't it be invisible while parked? Shouldn't they worry about an insider collaborating with the enemy since that's the likeliest way to pull this off? That fact that no character mentioned this huge mystery has me baffled. Did I miss something?

Erik Bates | May 17, 2024

Broken Promises
I'm still trying to figure out Mace. I can't get a read on him, but I find him to be a pretty bland character.

Shotgun axe is that running gag that is probably only funny to like two guys in the writers room who give a Beavis and Butthead chuckle every time they can get it into a scene. All I'm saying is, it's isn't just a dumb joke -- it's also just a horribly impractical weapon choice. It's big, unwieldy, and just looks fucking stupid as hell.

And here come the plot twists. At first, I couldn't figure out why, if Senator Nadir was so concerned about her brother becoming an Inhuman, why she didn't just destroy the cocoon with him in it when it was in her living room. Yes, it would have made it much more difficult for her to have a last-minute change of heart, and it wouldn't push the plot forward, but if you're just going to kill him by your own hand 10 minutes later... what the fuck?

Let me see if I get this right -- Ava built an android May, but also an android Ava? How many androids are there at this point?

Random thoughts:

Random question about the Darkhold. We know that the pages can make themselves appear in whatever language the reader understands, but does that apply to the cover, as well? Or does everyone just see DARKHOLD?

Mack is turning into a walking cliche, and I hate everything about it.

Erik Bates | May 18, 2024

The Patriot
One thing that this show does really well, is demonstrate how cheesy a superhero would look if they existed in our "real world" wearing these ridiculous costumes. Mace's weird top-half body armor, and Daisy's clearly plastic gauntlets all just look low-rent.

This is an interesting twist in the Mace saga. While I was right about something shady going on with him, he (hopefully) turned out to be a decent guy in the end, doing what he did for what he thought was the right reasons. Talbot, on the other hand, is still a self-serving smarmy jerk. Am I correct in thinking that Mace and Coulson are the only two aware of this new arrangement? That's the vibe I got -- Mace can keep his "job" as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., but Coulson will be running things behind the scenes?

This episode was definitely more watchable than the ones before. I'm still not sold on the series as a whole, but this one didn't piss me off as much as they have been recently.

With one exception: Mack needs to SHUT THE FUCK UP about axes.

Fitz's obsession with Ava is getting to be a little ... disturbing. I think he's falling in love with her.

Scott Hardie | May 21, 2024

I love that you spelled Nadeer "Nadir." Was that on purpose as a criticism, or the kind of Freudian typo that reveals your opinion of the show at this point? :-)

Yeah, Nadeer went to a ton of trouble just to look her brother in the eyes while killing him, which as a viewer is just hard to accept on so many levels. This show is so bad.

Mace and Talbot are both way too bland and generic. At first Mace stood out simply for being kind and decent, which was such an aberration on this show about mean-spirited spies, but it didn't take long for the show to reveal that he was corrupt too. But at least Mace is still pleasant most of the time that he's on screen, unlike Talbot, whose obstinance is highly irritating even when he's right. Has Talbot made any episode better for being in it? I have no quibble with the actor Adrian Pasdar, who is fine; he's playing the character of Talbot obnoxiously because that's his job.

Yeah, your interpretation of the arrangement is the same as mine: Mace remains the public face of S.H.I.E.L.D. with the job title of director, but Coulson is the actual boss. I don't know how Coulson gets to declare such a thing unilaterally, except as naked narrative convenience.

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