Agents of SHIELD Season 4 Episode 14: The Man Behind the Shield Recap

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We open with Daisy and Coulson having a superfun sparring match, until Daisy kicks Phil too hard and he gets stuck in midair. I hate when that happens. They were in a mini Framework, designed for training exercises. When inside, agents can feel everything that’s happening as if it’s real. Phil notes that it was cold in the training room and Fitz tells him that Phil always leaves the base aircon set too low, so this is Fitz’s silent protest. I have a feeling that Fitz is quietly relentless with his silent protests, until the target is screaming for mercy.

The team discusses the larger version of the framework that May is in and possible ways to track its source code. Another agent comes in to tell them that they’ve found a GPS location for Mace’s suit in Nome, Alaska. The base is empty when SHIELD arrives, but Ivanov’s stalker wall on Coulson is still up. Coulson’s response: “This is why I don’t have Facebook.” Ivanov owns a mine that is pictured on the wall. It’s the location of one of Coulson and May’s early missions. The team sets off for the mine.

Meanwhile, back in Russia, Radcliffe is spending all of his time in the Framework, leaving day-to-day operations to Aida. Ivanov hates dealing with a machine as much as he hates inhumans, but Radcliffe convinces him to work with Aida.

Mace is being held prisoner, beaten and questioned by Ivanov and others, as one would expect. Aida watches the proceedings periodically, and Mace stares back at her. He never breaks, despite the torture.

Mack tries out the Framework and goes on his weekly rant against members of the team. Fitz is his target this week. It’s Mack’s opinion that Fitz is responsible for every bad thing that’s done with his inventions. Using that logic, we should still be living like animals, not even using stone age tools, since those can be used for killing just as easily as Mack’s shotgun-axe can. I do agree that inventors can go too far, but Mack is a complete hypocrite here, given how enthusiastically he uses so many of Fitz’s inventions to kill and disable people when it suits him.

May and Coulson went on an undercover mission together at the Russian mine many years ago, just before May started dating Andrew. It was a relatively standard mission, though it did serve to cement their working partnership further. They flirted during the mission, and considered dating if her next civilian date didn’t work out, but that next date was with Andrew. Their fliration was nipped in the bud.

May had to come back at the end of the mission to rescue Coulson, and several Russian soldiers died. Ivanov was part of that squad. His hatred for Coulson was born out of that mission, which seems like a mundane origin story for a guy who goes by a name as pretentious as The Superior and who has created a worldwide organization to take the man and his people down. Rich people can afford to indulge weird obsessions, I guess. You’d think with all of that money he could have paid for better information, though. Ivanov calls Coulson while the team is at the mine and throws out the usual threats and insults with some added misinformation and also accidentally on purpose mentions a Russian detention center/submarine base that will be our next stop.

Fitz and Simmons work to trace and understand the Framework. The code is being run on servers and devices all over the world, so it’s impossible to trace that way. Fitz worries about the long-term effects of the Framework on May. Simmons reassures Fitz that everything isn’t his fault, and he’ll be able to find fixes for the wrongs people have done with his inventions. He realizes that there may be hardware at the detention center that he could use to create a way to shut the Framework down.

CLARK GREGG, CHLOE BENNET, HENRY SIMMONS, IAIN DE CAESTECKER, ELIZABETH HENSTRIDGE

The team arrives at the detention center and blasts their way in, because it never makes sense for spies to slip in quietly if there’s money left in the effects budget. They immediately split up into small groups, the better to be captured, my dear. Ivanov and Coulson have their confrontation right away. Ivanov tells Coulson his origin story, then Coulson tells Ivanov that he has no idea who Ivanov even is, and could give a f*ck anyway, which is probably how most of the audience feels about Ivanov’s story, too. Coulson lets Daisy take over, since, oh yeah, Ivanov is also head of the inhuman hate group the Watchdogs, a thread the show has not really kept up with since they introduced The Superior. It’s been all about SHIELD and Coulson.

Animal Farm reference! Daisy beats Ivanov as easily as you’d expect, despite his intense Russian ego and posturing. What’s hard to understand is why he’s so confident that he can win against a powerful inhuman whose abilities are well known. Why fight with a knife against a woman who creates earthquakes? He didn’t even seem to have any particularly amazing hand-to-hand training.

MALLORY JANSEN

There’s an Aida sighting in the basement, so Simmons and Davis go in search of her, even though Fitz doesn’t have much confidence in Davis. Davis must be used to it, because he’s not even fazed.

Coulson meets up with Mack and rescues Mace. As Mace lies bleeding, broken, and barely breathing on the floor, Coulson badgers Mace about May’s location before doing anything to try to help Mace, which might be slightly insensitive.

Simmons and Davis can’t find Aida, and can’t raise anyone on the coms. They find the docks and see the submarine launching. Fitz arrives a moment later with the materials he’s salvaged from the communications room. His com has also been unreliable. Then Mack, Mace and Coulson appear from one hallway, just as Daisy comes from a different direction. Coulson orders everyone back to the Zephyr. He doesn’t want to chase the submarine, even though it’s likely that May is on it. That’s a huge attitude change from five minutes ago. He says they need to tend to the wounded and regroup.

Back on the ship, Simmons is puzzling out the mission timetable. It doesn’t make sense to her or Fitz. Then she gets a notice that the blast door LMD detector was disabled by Coulson. Her clearance allows Simmons to see the notice anyway. Coulson, Mack, Mace and Daisy have all been replaced by LMDs.

LMD Coulson wakes up LMD May and tells her that they’ve waited long enough.

Aida checks Ivanov for life signs. He’s alive, but barely. She tells him that he’s integral to her plan. Even filth has its purpose.


The whole Superior storyline has been a major disappointment. Zack McGowan is fantastic, so the problem is definitely in the conception and writing of the story, not his acting. It’s just a dumb story line. Zack is acting his heart out, but the character doesn’t make sense. How did he get from having three squad members killed to a worldwide organization meant to take down inhumans? Why is he after Coulson when it was MAY who KILLED his squad members??? Sure, Coulson shows up all over the place, but so does May, so does Fury, so does Steve Rogers, so does Tony Stark, not to mention the actual alien, Thor.

They haven’t made a reasonable case for why a Russian soldier would take the loss of other soldiers in the line of duty so hard, when that’s normally an accepted part of the job, and how that translates into a hatred of inhumans. They keep trying to use Coulson’s status as a prominent SHIELD agent as some kind of bridge, but they haven’t given me enough to convince me. It’s too disjointed, and requires too many leaps through misinformation to get from the truth to Ivanov’s beliefs, yet he’s supposed to be rich enough to fund a worldwide organization.

ZACH MCGOWAN

Surely he could afford some basic information. Like that Phil is a “he” instead of an “it” for example, and that SHIELD agents get sent to the sites of strange events, they don’t cause them. The whole thing would have worked much better if they had untangled the threads a bit. Having him be a Russian from an old SHIELD mission who’s obsessed with and hates Coulson, working with Radcliffe, has a vendetta against inhumans, funding the Watchdogs, has a vendetta against SHIELD, delusional about many things, super macho, super rich, and a military collector is just too many balls to keep in the air for one recurring character in one season. They should have had him be funding Radcliffe, OR funding the Watchdogs, OR hunting Coulson and SHIELD. Then he could be an egotistical Russian who’s super rich, delusional, super macho, and lives in a submarine and it would have been loads of fun. Maybe he could have done something other than brood and threaten people every once in a while. Maybe Aida’s going to turn him into an LMD with a sense of humor and a libido.

I have to wonder if Mack has been an LMD for a long time now, maybe since he disappeared after sleeping with Elena in Episode 11 Wake Up. He’s been undermining the team in a way that seems consistent with Radcliffe’s programming. He didn’t fight the team’s decisions, he just constantly tried to discourage and demoralize them to keep them from pursuing goals that opposed Radcliffe’s interests. He didn’t want Coulson to talk to Agnes or search for May. He didn’t want Fitz to work with the Framework. He didn’t want anyone to have anything to do with LMDs. Either his depression from the daughter that died years ago was triggered by his brief time as Ghostrider, he’s been an LMD for a while, or he’s a complete jerk. If it’s depression, he needs to get treatment. If he’s a jerk, he needs to STFU. He’s definitely an LMD now, so that one will solve itself eventually.

Watching a second time, and knowing that Mace is going to be replaced with an LMD at some point, I think he’s actually one for the entire episode, and that’s why Aida hovers around his cell so much. For her, the torture is a test to see if he can pass for human while bleeding, sweating and in pain. She’s continued to work on improving the LMD design, even though Radcliffe abandoned LMDs for the Framework.

I think the switch out order went: Mace was switched by the beginning of the episode, Mack was switched by the time they rescued Mace from his cell,  Coulson was switched out between rescuing Mace and meeting up with the team, and Daisy was switched between beating Ivanov and meeting up with the team.

It’s doubtful that Aida would have been able to replicate Quake’s powers exactly in an LMD, though she may have tried to come up with some kind of replacement powers thaat mimic Daisy’s well enough to keep LMD Daisy from being detected for as long as possible.

How does it make tactical sense to leave so many agents alone or in pairs in a maze when you know LMDs are in play, the Watchdogs shoot to kill, and may even have inhumans of their own? This one is completely on Coulson for not bringing more strike teams and keeping larger groups together. He rushed the op and lost more people.

What are the odds that we spend an entire episode in the framework with all of the agents who are currently LMDs? Pretty high, I think, if they’re still in the framework at the end of this arc. You know you all want to get into that virtual reality and run around, test the edges, see what it can handle. They’ve got Mack, May, Coulson, and Daisy in there. No way somebody doesn’t break something and realize what’s going on before Aida can fix it. Then we can play Matrix for a while. That actually sounds like two episodes worth of shenanigans. Maybe the next arc will be AoS: Matrix. 😉

Yikes, I’m scared for FitzSimmons. It’s going to be a rough episode for them, playing cat and mouse, probably being declared enemies of the state or mentally incompetent.

Just for fun, and because both metawitches are so freaking excited! You’ve all probably already seen it, but here’s an excuse to watch again.

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