Week of September 10, 2023:

Wake Up (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. s4 e11) released January 24, 2017 (where to watch)
Hot Potato Soup (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. s4 e12) released January 31, 2017
Scott Hardie | February 6, 2024

Wake Up: When this episode began with a reveal to the audience that Holden Radcliffe and Aida had a second android hidden in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s headquarters, I wondered why this show was determined to spoil its own surprises. Wouldn't it be better to have a human character suddenly injured with a reveal of machinery underneath, one that we didn't suspect? But of course, telling us that one of them is an LMD, but not which one, keeps us guessing throughout the episode. I've said numerous times that this show is best when paranoia sets in among its main characters, and for once the only ones being paranoid are us the viewers, as the agents all trust one another even though they shouldn't. It's a clever use of information and I give the show a lot of credit for it. I also appreciated the selection of a "happy" memory for Melinda May at the end; that's a gut punch for longtime viewers.

The rest of the episode doesn't fare as well. I still don't understand why Senator Snotty Pants, who perpetually has a look on her face like she just smelled a nasty fart, gets to throw out public accusations against S.H.I.E.L.D. and generally go about her business when the agents have documentation of her collaboration with terrorists to commit murder. Shouldn't she be in federal prison awaiting trial? The hearing scenes are bullshit. General Talbot is depicted as his usual officious idiot even though everything he says is correct (though at least Phil Coulson acknowledges it). Jemma Simmons and Elena Rodriguez both get depicted as jealous girlfriends even though their reactions are appropriate given the secrecy and untrustworthiness demonstrated by their male partners. The spa scenes are supposed to be creepy but it's laughable (I hope intentionally) that May would ever believe them, and it's clear that May is still trapped in the simulation well before Aida's reveal. I don't know why Leo Fitz would shoot Robo-Radcliffe in the head instead of an arm or leg if he has any doubt at all, but, oh, right, I'm overthinking this. (5/10)

Hot Potato Soup: When I first saw the less-than-thrilling title for this episode, I hoped that it was a callback to Lance Hunter & Bobbi Morse's mushroom soup. And when it began, I expected that the revelation of Holden Radcliffe's LMD at the end of the previous episode would have meant screenings of all S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to detect any other LMDs in their ranks, even just using a simple metal detector if necessary. And when Coulson tossed the messenger bag with the Darkhold inside it to the Watchdogs in exchange for Agent Koenig's life, I thought for sure that he had swapped the book for Ulysses or something else, especially after the bag became the titular "hot potato" and everyone chased it until eventually it was seized by (the real?) Radcliffe. But I don't write for this show, which is lucky for me, because I couldn't do the assignment if it meant writing things like Simmons describing Fitz this way, an unintentionally hilarious line that exposes just how much self-awareness this show is lacking; I had to pause it because I had busted out laughing too hard to pay attention.

The episode does have its moments: The "quantum brain" inside Robo-Radcliffe is a really clever idea, well established earlier in the season with Aida's use of gestures and light to draw a brain. And the conversation between Robo-Radcliffe and Alphonso Mackenzie about whether the former has a soul is its highlight, partly because it's thought-provoking and partly because it begins to redeem the asshole that Mackenzie so recently became about the subject of "killer robots." I also liked the Labyrinth, an appealing representation of the idea of a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. library, albeit one too tastefully decorated for the Koenig boys to be in charge. So far at least, the Superior is not a distinctive villain for this series, but his talk about how "the old ways are best" makes that lack of originality go down easy and I thought it was a nice subtle bit of lampshading. (6/10)

Erik Bates | May 19, 2024

Wake Up
I was a little surprised by the reveal that May was still inside the simulation.

My first thought was that Aida wants so badly to kill May that she manufactured a reason to be able to do it. I thought that Aida had knocked over the glass beaker on purpose and had allowed May to wake up, so that when she came back in, a fight could ensue and she'd have no choice but to kill her. That being said, the reveal that it was all part of the simulation did make sense when it was revealed.

I welcomed the general absence of Mack throughout this episode. It kept my blood pressure down as I wasn't waiting for an axe reference for 45 minutes.

Erik Bates | May 19, 2024

Hot Potato Soup

God bless Patton Oswalt.

The scheme to trick Billy is obvious to the audience at this point, such that I sincerely hope that was the intent, considering how we closed last episode knowing that Radcliffe is conspiring with Nadeer.

I hope this "Radcliffe knows Fitz's dad" thing goes somewhere other than being fodder for angsty Fitz. I don't care much for Fitz as a character, and even less so about any daddy issues he wants to hash out.

And what is the deal with Mack's hatred of robots? Did I miss something?

Why did nobody think to remove the Darkhold from the bag before giving it directly to the bad guys? They gave up Billy without even looking in the bag. So much of this could have been avoided.

Am I correct in my understanding that the Russians think that Coulson is responsible for the creation of Inhumans? Ok, that's weird...

Side note: Has the CGI backdrops of S.H.I.E.L.D HQ been more obvious in the past few episodes?

And, in conclusion, God bless Patton Oswalt.

Scott Hardie | May 22, 2024

That rationale makes sense about Aida keeping May inside the simulation. That's probably something I'd have thought myself while in a different mood.

And yes, hooray for Patton Oswalt. :-)

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