Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. "S4E14: The Man Behind the Shield " - Review: One hell of an ending!
The Man Behind the Shield – Following Mace’s capture, Coulson and the team track him down for a rescue mission. Along the way, they learn of the personal connection between Coulson to Invanov, going back to his early days in Shield.
For the most part, this episode was slow-burning and covering of lot of exposition before delivering a good action climax and one of the best final minutes the show has ever produced. After seamlessly luring us in, it delivers an Arlington Road level penny drop and twist so make sure you stick with it to the end. The preceding action based final act also has a lot to enjoy as the team assaults Invanov’s compound. Many of the team get moments to shine from Mace’s gritty defiance in the absence of his powers to Mack rocking an RPG. Though the clear MVP award goes to the man himself, Phil “his first name is Agent” Coulson. One thing I’ve really grown to love about the show is the way they’re able to use Phil as classic do-right god guy when required but quite often flip convention as the writers use him to Hulk smash the crap out of genre clichés. Phil’s reaction to Invanov’s big villainous monologue could not be more perfect, “Cool origin story bro”. Daisy and the aforementioned Russian also get a good one on one throw down with Ivanov looking fantatsic as he smarmily accuses Daisy’s powers as cheating, “I’m not a cheater, you’re just playing by the old rules”. One many wonderfully geeky references including Red Shirts, sharks with laser beams and even an opening Matrix style sparring session.
The flashback elements to early days Phil & Melinda add a nice fun element to the story while still tying into present day relevance. Clark Gregg is utterly hilariously as shows Coulson believing he’s the cool spy we all know but not actually having the skills to back it up yet. It also serves a refresher and furthers the present day romantic plot between the pair as we see them on the verge of giving it a go right before May meets her will be husband, Andrew. Similarly, the “mad scientist sub-plot” between Mack, Fitz and Simmons contributed well to the episode by adding some morality without overdoing the drama. The idea of Fitz questioning his own guilt after helping Radcliffe develop his AI and Framework tech is a logical play out. His scene with Mack is particularly good (yes, I’m still Mack’s no. 1 fan) because of the way the big man manages to push the idea of Fitz’s culpability while still ultimately coming across as a concerning friend. It’s like he understands that Fitz needs to ask himself the question before he can truly forgive himself and Simmons later embodies that perspective well with her own rousing speech.
A small note concerning Radcliff: it’s observed that he’s now spending a lot of his time inside his Framework world. Although it’s not mentioned, it’s safe to assume that he’s using it to spent time with Agnes following her connection last episode. That should contribute further to the idea of AIDA making a jealousy-fuelled intervention in their relationship. AIDA’s final moments also point further towards her becoming the season’s principle villain, master plan and all. Especially now that she’s speaking on behalf of Radcliffe while he’s in The Framework, she can easily manipulate his plans towards her own design.
The episode’s ending cranks the drama and tension up to 11 going forwards and it’s within completely unique story territory for the show. Yes, the first two thirds of the episode are not spectacular but the rest more than makes up for it. Even knowing the Flash is doing Gorilla City next week, right now I’m more excited to see how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. picks up next week. I think that says it all really.