‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 4.12 Recap: “We’re More Than Our Programming”

‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ stirred a bit this week from the season’s torpor with the return appearance of Patton Oswalt as the ever-resourceful Agent Koenig… and as Agent Koenig… and as yet another Koenig. We still haven’t gotten a clear answer for why there are so many of these guys, but they’re fun to have around.

Episode ‘Hot Potato Soup’ drops a lot of conflicting hints about the Koenigs. They could be robots; they could be clones; or maybe they’re really just brothers. We’ll probably never find out.

While wasting time in an arcade, Sam and Billy Koenig are attacked by Watchdog thugs. Shockley (John Pyper-Ferguson) grabs Billy and hauls him away. Sam reports this incident to S.H.I.E.L.D. and we soon learn that, following the Aida incident, Coulson gave Billy the ‘Darkhold’ book to make it disappear, a service he’s particularly gifted at. Coulson himself didn’t want to know what happened to the book. The fewer people who do, the better. The Koenigs then played a game of Hot Potato with the book, passing it from one to the next to keep its location confusing. Nonetheless, the Watchdogs clued in that Billy had it.

Shockley brings Billy onboard an old submarine to meet “The Superior,” the leader of all the Watchdogs. Dr. Radcliffe is already there, claiming that he was betrayed and that they’ll both be tortured if Billy doesn’t give up the location of the ‘Darkhold’. This Superior guy is a strapping Russian sea captain named Anton Ivanov (Zach McGowan from ‘Black Sails’). Of course, when Billy refuses to talk, Radcliffe soon reveals that he’s not a prisoner at all, but has been working with Ivanov the whole time. Ivanov threatens to torture Billy, but Radcliffe wants to scan his brain first and use a bunch of fancy tech to enter his memories.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, Fitz reactivates the Robo-Radcliffe to question it. The Radcliffe bot has been programmed with the real Radcliffe’s personality and memories, and tries to get into Fitz’s head by claiming to have known his father. (Naturally, Fitz has some serious daddy issues.) Fitz attempts to hack the bot’s brain and reprogram it, but the programming is beyond anything he’s ever seen before.

Sam Koenig claims that Billy passed him the book, and that he in turn gave it to “L.T.” – the first Koenig. Sam brings Coulson and team to a comedy club where another Koenig is delivering a really terrible monologue on stage. Contrary to assumptions, this isn’t L.T.; rather, it’s Thurston, the only Koenig boy who didn’t join S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s kind of a douchebag. L.T. is actually their older sister (Artemis Pebdani). She says that she gave the ‘Darkhold’ back to Billy.

This wild goose chase leads to a top secret S.H.I.E.L.D. facility called “The Labyrinth,” where Billy locked up the book. While Coulson sends Sam in to retrieve it, Fitz and Jemma continue to poke into Robo-Radcliffe’s brain and come to the realization that May is also an LMD. They try to contact Coulson, but are too late. May has pulled a gun on Coulson. Fortunately, Daisy saves him by using her powers to toss May across the room.

Ivanov arrives and has a hostage standoff over Billy. This leads to a shoot-out. Billy is rescued, but Robo-May gets the ‘Darkhold’ from Sam, only for Radcliffe to take it from her and leave her behind, noting “You weren’t built to last.”

With the ‘Darkhold’ lost, Fitz destroys both the Aida and Radcliffe heads in an incinerator. Coulson can’t bring himself to destroy Robo-May, because she may be his only connection to the real one. For now, she’s been deactivated.

Back on the sub, Ivanov is obsessed by a theory about Coulson being a nexus point of all Inhuman activity. Radcliffe offers to use the ‘Darkhold’ to help him destroy Coulson.

Episode Verdict

With its caper plot and the presence(s) of Patton Oswalt, this episode has a decidedly lighter and breezier tone than any others this season, and some pretty effective humor. I also enjoy Artemis Pebdani anywhere she pops up on TV. I doubt that the episode will ultimately be regarded as a classic, but it’s much less of a slog to get through than the rest of this season has been. That ain’t nothin’.

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