We start the episode with AIDA lovingly caring for human May, making sure she’s getting what she needs, even though AIDA needs to keep her held hostage for now. Cut to LMD May at a mission briefing about disposing of the Darkhold, and wiping AIDA’s hard drive. Radcliffe and Fitz give in to the order to wipe AIDA after a perfunctory bit of protest. Mack brings up the first of his many references to movies that feature evil robots.
Vijay, Senator Nadeer’s now inhuman brother, has a nightmare about the day of the Chitauri attack from the first Avengers movie, when their mother died in one of the explosions. When he wakes up, his sister tells him he’s missed the last 7 months in his terrigenesis cocoon.
Daisy and Jemma chat about boys and their toys while they identify the inhuman that Mace and Senator Nadeer forced Jemma to examine. It turns out to be Vijay, of course. Ellen Nadeer kept his disappearance a secret by having his social media posts continue uninterrupted. They agree that it’s nice to have each other to talk to again. I agree. It’s nice to see the cast milling around the SHIELD home base, having casual conversations with each other. This is part of what’s been missing.
Jeffrey Mace’s assistant leads Daisy off to meet with her new boss. He has the nerve to start out by claiming that he rescued her in LA, and to imply that he could still have her arrested, both for previous crimes and for being a dangerous inhuman weapon. The guy just can’t keep his foot out of his mouth. Will your cell be right next to hers, buddy? Should we start with aiding and abetting charges, then continue with the run down of how many ways you’re a dangerous weapon, as well?
Mace remembers he’s an inhuman, and perhaps a giant hypocrite, too, but he throws in a sarcastic little joke in his attempt to save the conversation, which goes over like a lead balloon. He softens a bit after Daisy strokes his ego. I literally want to throw up. Why, show, why are we forced to have this rigid alpha male ego to coddle? He doesn’t even have Nick Fury’s level of charm and badassery to make the humorless arrogance worth it. Daisy and Mace finally come to a topic they can agree on: rescuing the inhuman Senator Nadeer is holding. They grab Jemma, suit up, and set off to find him.
Fitz and Radcliffe show arrive at Radcliffe’s house to wipe AIDA. Radcliffe uses a remote control to shut her down, but she wakes herself up again, then attacks. She says she’s performed a few upgrades on herself, including removing the ability to feel pain. She does still bleed, copiously, which should’ve been a clue to the fact that it was Radcliffe who actually made the upgrades. All of that liquid pouring out is nonsensical, would be annoying, make the floor slippery, and ruin her outfit. No way would she leave that in but remove the pain. She knocks everyone out and escapes, after guilting Fitz a bit about betraying her.
Senator Nadeer makes her brother his
last meal favorite breakfast. They discuss what he felt in the cocoon and the return of SHIELD. He defends SHIELD, and she refers to him making a case for “the one good SHIELD agent.” I’m not getting the reference here. Should I be, or does he have a link to someone who hasn’t been revealed yet? Ellen ends the argument by suggesting they take a walk, which is code for leading him to his execution. Now that he’s gone through terrigenesis, she doesn’t consider him human, or her brother anymore, just a thing wearing her brother’s face. She has members of the Watchdogs standing by to shoot him in the woods like a hunted animal. Vijay talks her out of allowing the execution when it comes down to it, convincing her that he was able to resist the transformation. The Watchdogs aren’t so easily swayed, and go above her head to The Superior to get permission to put Vijay down anyway. Shockley, the Watchdog leader at the house, threatens to expose Nadeer’s connection to the inhumans if she doesn’t finish the execution.
Jemma goes undercover briefly to try to find Vijay’s location, but she’s recognized. She fights off Nadeer’s aid, and gets the address of the house Nadeer is staying at. Mace is surprised that Jemma can handle herself so well. Guess he didn’t read her file? I’m trying not to comment on the fact that they have Jemma knock the assistant out by smashing a glass pitcher over his head, despite all of her professional training and undercover experience.
AIDA takes over the SHIELD base’s power and computer systems. Mack goes to pick up Yo-Yo. They agree that scientists need to watch more scince fiction movies. Fitz and Radcliffe work to regain control of the base. Coulson and May meet AIDA as she’s entering the base. AIDA easily knocks out Coulson, then LMD May. She makes a cut near LMD May’s eye, and inserts a surveillance camera into her eyeball. Now everything May sees and hears can be surveilled.
May has been curious about the Darkhold for the entire episode. She and Coulson wake up locked in a room together. Coulson destroys the room’s camera and finally tells her where the book is. AIDA hears him, and finds it in Mace’s office. It seems like a rookie mistake for Coulson. Was that a set up to let AIDA find it?
Fitz wonders if the Darkhold may have given AIDA real emotions. Radcliffe decides this must be true, and that killing her would be tantamount to murder. He knows how to play on Fitz’s heartstrings to distract Fitz when Fitz is getting too close to the truth.
Mace, Daisy, and Jemma arrive at the Nadeer’s. The traditional threats veiled as greetings are exchanged, then they ask about Vijay. Nadeer points out that Mace didn’t get the permission that’s required by the Sokovia Accords for this mission. Damn you Tony Stark! This has been my argument against them all along. No one invoked the Accords against an emergency mission until someone wanted to protect an enhanced individual. Suddenly, you need permission from the UN to act. Steve Rogers and I saw this coming from a mile away. Meanwhile, Shockley gets permission from The Superior to kill Vijay. It’s not murder if it’s not technically a human, whether it’s an android or an inhuman.
Fitz and Radcliffe get the base’s systems back online. Mack and Yo-Yo have been bonding over Terminator references and fighting machines. Coulson and May are released from the room they were locked in when the power is restored. AIDA is on her way out the door. Everyone converges in the main hallway. Fitz tries to talk AIDA down. The others accuse her of murder. She makes a speech about the Darkhold having given her real emotions and desires.
Mack slices off AIDA’s head from behind with the shotgun-axe, then says, “Roll credits.”
He and Yo-Yo fist bump. But he just killed a victim, the puppet rather than the puppet master. He’s been watching the wrong movie. Radcliffe tells us later that he’s orchestrated every move AIDA made, all along. He’s in charge of holding May hostage, and wants the Darkhold for himself, so that he can secure immortality. He’s already created AIDA 2.0, who listens to his plan and the story of AIDA 1.0 very carefully. Radcliffe says it’s up to LMD May to help him get the Darkhold, now.
Shockley and the Watchdogs try to kill Vijay, but his powers manifest so that he can save himself. He’s a speedster, and may have other powers as well. Jemma wants Vijay to come with them back to SHIELD, but Ellen asks him to trust her. He does, and gets into her helicopter. She shoots him in the stomach. He appears to die, but I can’t help but notice that a stomach shot isn’t a head shot, and he’s an inhuman. In fact, in the tag at the end of the credits, his body is dumped in deep water and he grows another terrigenesis husk. Ellen Nadeer tells Shockley never to question her again, and to have The Superior send some of his own men to strike back at SHIELD. Someone’s got to slip some fish oil into her morning smoothie sooner or later, right?
Who will The Superior be? The head of the Watchdogs we met last year, or someone even higher? Has Radcliffe been behind every secret thing we’ve seen AIDA do, including building the brain? When was May taken and replaced? It had to be sometime during episode 8, after AIDA built the second brain. Who else will we see as an LMD? Can I have Brett Dalton back for a while? There are several dead characters who could be credibly resurrected based on the extensive psychological profiles and brain scans SHIELD keeps on practically everyone it encounters. Not to mention the wonders inhuman DNA might make possible when combined with an android body. Does Radcliffe have a particular buyer for this technology already, with someone in particular they want to bring back or keep alive? Or are we going to do that one as a kidnapping story? He has contacts who’ve supported his work in the past, given the human upgrades he was working on when we met him.
Mack and Yo-Yo name just about every “rise of the machine” reference from the 80s and 90s that the writers could come up with, no matter how obscure, but the movie they probably should have been referring to is Alex Darland’s 2015 film Ex Machina. The film is about two programmers who are testing a female android’s intelligence and ability to appear life-like (the Turing test). Nathan, the man who created the android, and several previous models, is manipulative and uses people and his androids according to his own purposes, without regard to their own feelings or desires. Caleb, who is directly testing Ava, the android, sees himself as a good, decent person who wants to help Ava. Both men see Ava according to their own purposes, in the end, rather than for what she really is. Ava passes the test, but it’s up to the viewer to decide whether her actions are justified or not. Personally, as a woman, I could see where she was coming from.
I won’t spoil the ending completely, but the important part is that the movie also had a female android, named Ava instead of AIDA, who seemed to be acting on her own, then seemed to be controlled by her programming and creator. There were layers upon layers to the issues of programming, control, identity, and self-determination, particularly as they apply to interactions between men and women. I think the Terminator movies and their ilk were red herrings. After all, Ultron already did that storyline. We haven’t nearly reached the peak of the complexity of this storyline. We already have Radcliffe allowing the original LMD AIDA to be killed to further his own interests, human May being held hostage, and LMD May not realizing how she’s being used. These machines may rise up against everyone in order to take care of themselves, seeking only to be treated as equals, rather than Radcliffe’s disposable tools. This is an episode where we also have Daisy pointing out how often Jemma gets kidnapped, and Mace telling Daisy that she should be grateful that her saved her in the previous episode, when in reality all he was saving was himself from a PR nightmare. There’s a reason
Ava AIDA is a woman.
Next week, General Talbot pays a visit. I’m sure it’s just a friendly social call.