On ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ this week, Director Mace tries to hide a big, shocking secret. Not answered: Why are we supposed to care about this guy?
Mace opens the episode by giving an outdoor press conference to praise Daisy for her undercover work and officially welcome her back to the S.H.I.E.L.D. fold. Would this really merit TV coverage? It seems like a press release and a puff-piece profile in ‘Us Weekly’ ought to be enough to cover it. In any case, Coulson and Mack work security in the crowd, because apparently they have nothing better to do. They make note that Mace’s aide, an agent named Burrows, never leaves his side and keeps a metal briefcase handcuffed to his wrist.
When a sniper makes a failed attempt to take out Mace, Daisy leaps into action and subdues the bad guy. Coulson and Mack rush Mace and Burrows to a waiting quinjet and fly away. Unfortunately, halfway to their undisclosed destination, an explosion blows a hole in the side of the plane, sucking Agent Burrows out through it and causing the jet to crash.
Mace, Mack and Coulson all survive the crash. The pilot isn’t so lucky. Mack tries to contact HQ but all comms are jammed. Mace insists that they search for Burrows, even after Coulson argues that there’s no way he could have survived the fall, and that they’d be much smarter to get themselves to safety first. When Mace won’t be swayed, Coulson correctly surmises that he’s less interested in Burrows than in the briefcase still attached to his wrist. Mace won’t divulge what’s in it except to say that it’s classified.
Back at headquarters, Gen. Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) assumes command. He grants May (who’s actually Robo-May) a higher security clearance, not realizing that it will give her access to Mace’s personal files, which include information on something secretive called “Project Patriot.” May demands that Talbot explain what that is to her and Jemma.
As they’re trekking through the woods, Coulson, Mace and Mack spot a platoon of mercenaries, presumably hired by Sen. Nadeer, searching for them. One of their trucks has a big satellite dish that must be jamming their comms. The baddies have already found Burrows’ body and are trying to get the locked briefcase open. Coulson formulates a plan, which relies heavily on the super-strong and indestructible Mace taking out most of the mercs. Mace hesitates a bit but agrees. However, as soon as he gets his hands on the briefcase, he runs off into the woods with it. A merc chases after him. Mace is unsuccessful at fighting him off. During their struggle, the case pops open, revealing injector guns and two big vials filled with liquid. Both vials get smashed and the baddie shoots Mace in the leg before Coulson and Mack come to the rescue.
Gen. Talbot grudgingly tells May and Jemma about Project Patriot. Mace is not actually Inhuman. He’s just juiced up with “steroids on steroids,” from a cocktail similar to the serum that made Captain America. He has to inject regularly or he’s completely powerless.
In the woods, Coulson and Mack piece all this together as well. Mace is barely mobile due to his leg injury. They manage to get him to an empty ranger station before the rest of the mercenaries find them and surround the building. Coulson asks Mace to bluff still having powers in order to buy them some time. He steps outside, pretending to be invincible, and talks to the mercs. He says that the briefcase holds a cure for Inhumanism that’s worth much more than the Senator is paying them. The mercs are distracted enough that Mack is able to blow up their comm truck. He barely has time to run back to the cabin before the mercs start shooting up the place.
Luckily, just as Mack, Coulson and Mace are about to run out of ammo, a S.H.I.E.L.D. team led by Daisy and May find them and swoop in to clean up all the bad guys. May gets cut in the shoulder during a fight but shrugs it off.
After everyone returns to headquarters, Coulson yells at Talbot for lying to him about Mace being Inhuman. Mace also confesses that his heroic backstory about saving a group of people during a disaster was all a sham. Mace is prepared to resign and put Coulson back in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D., but Coulson has a better plan. Mace will stay on as a figurehead and public face of the organization, and will handle all the politicking that Coulson dislikes, but Coulson will actually call the shots behind the scenes.
Fitz wants to revive and run tests on Aida’s decapitated head to determine what caused her to turn evil, but Jemma convinces him instead to leave it alone and lock it in storage. He does so for her benefit, but then secretly brings Aida back online anyway.
Fitz also warns Radcliffe to stay away from HQ for a while, at least until the Aida situation blows over. After Fitz leaves, Radcliffe worries about whether Robo-May will be able to maintain her cover without his assistance.
Radcliffe and Aida 2 are keeping the real May sedated, plugged into a Matrix-like simulation of a day at the spa that’s supposed to keep her calm and relaxed. What they don’t realize is that a day at the spa is about the last thing May would ever want. She fights her way back to consciousness and tries to escape. Aida 2 very nearly strangles her to death until Radcliffe calls her off and sedates May again. What he learns from this is that May’s personality always seeks out conflict. With that in mind, he works on a new simulation to keep her occupied.
Meanwhile, in the S.H.I.E.L.D. locker room, Robo-May takes a look at her shoulder injury and discovers that she’s a robot. When Daisy enters the room, she hides this and keeps it a secret.
I’m having trouble suspending my disbelief for the Robo-May storyline. Even if Radcliffe were capable of building a robot that can pass for human and imitate May’s personality, why does it also seem to have all of her memories? How’s that possible? For that matter, are we really supposed to believe that none of May’s close friends can tell the difference or notice something odd about her? Surely, the fact that she’s been flirting with Coulson should be enough to raise red flags for him. The real May doesn’t flirt. She takes what she wants. If she really wanted a relationship with Coulson, they’d already be boning.
The revelation of Mace being a fraud is interesting, but I don’t know what the point of it is. Coulson resuming his duties as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. just half a season after being demoted begs the question of why the show’s writers bothered with this storyline in the first place. In general, I feel like the show is suffering from a great deal of padding this season in order to fill the episode count.