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MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Recap: Who is “The Man Behind the Shield”?

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Recap: Who is “The Man Behind the Shield”?

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Proceed with caution, agents. If you haven’t yet watched this week’s episode, “The Man Behind the Shield,” we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Then let’s go.

Oh come on now, you didn’t actually think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was gonna let you enjoy Valentine’s Day, did you? Though to be fair, “The Man Behind the Shield” does give us the most Philinda we’ve had so far this season. Even as it yanks the rug out from under us in what has become S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s signature style of storytelling.

There’s a big risk taken when any show tries to retroactively create a backstory, especially for a relationship between two characters we think we know inside and out. But this week’s episode somehow mounts the landing, by filling in some heretofore unseen details of Coulson and May’s history together. It turns out there were definite sparks flying between the two field agents some years back, before she met Andrew, when they took on an assignment that inadvertently resulted in the deaths of Anton Ivanov’s comrades. The details of that mission pale in significance to the opportunities Clark Gregg and Min-Na Wen get to show us new sides to their characters in an extended flashback sequence. He’s still somewhat clumsy in the field, she’s a flirt with a terrific laugh. It’s all kinds of adorable. Which makes knowing what follows all the more heartbreaking. Suffice it to say that each was each others’ one that got away.

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Meanwhile, back in the present, the team mounts another mission — to rescue Mace and May from the clutches of Ivanov, as the latter has fully intended. Recent remarks made by the “Superior” about Coulson had me worried the show would attempt to make S.H.I.E.L.D.’s main man the nexus of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. But Ivanov knows less than he thinks he does, and his revenge plan is a straightforward one; even if it’s a little reminiscent of Zemo’s in Captain America: Civil War.

The big surprise is Aida’s role in all this. At the end of last week’s “BOOM” it appeared she’d absorbed Agnes’ memories, and that they’d wind up causing her to join the side of the angels. I’m not sure we won’t still see that scenario play out before this season is over, but here she not only lacks regret, she winds up pulling the masterstroke of replacing Coulson, Quake, and Mack with android duplicates, even as their real-life counterparts take down Ivanov. With Radcliffe content to spend his days in whatever next-level porn chamber he’s turned the Framework into, she’s effectively top dog now. And since she’s far too intelligent to share the hate-fueled agenda of “filth” (a.k.a. the Watchdogs), all bets are off as far as the scheme she’s secretly hatching.

Whatever it is, I remain steadfast in my belief that Aida should be redeemed by season’s end, and join S.H.I.E.L.D. in season 5. Mallory Jansen, TV’s best AI since Data, is just too good for this show to let go. In the meantime, however, we’ve the latest wrinkle in Coulson and May’s will-they-or-won’t-they courtship to contend with, with May unknowingly wooed by an android Coulson. And some of us thought this show was too cruel to Fitzsimmons!

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Declassified Deliberations

— Agnes’ memories, and the affection she once held for Radcliffe, appear to surface when Aida refers to him as possessing “the most advanced human mind in this or any other century.” It’s not much, but it’s the only sign we get of the Aussie artist’s presence in the robot this week.

— “This is why I don’t have Facebook.”

— It took Coulson a full two minutes to unstrap May’s bra when they went undercover as husband and wife? Too damn cute.

—  Fitz and Simmons continue to demonstrate why they’re perfect for each other, when she pulls him out of his guilt complex over the technology he’s developed falling into the wrong hands. These two don’t just share a brain anymore — they share a heart.

— “I believe in Agent Coulson.” Executive producer Jeph Loeb paid homage to the opening line of his favorite film The Godfather in his comic book Batman: The Long Halloween. (“I believe in Gotham City.”) I can’t help but wonder if writer Matt Owens is trying to do the same with Mace’s words to Ivanov.

—  It remains damn near impossible not to see S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s real-word parallels when it comes to Russians aligning themselves with American hate groups.

— “Pray we don’t run into the Goblin King.” Davis, you’re such a nerd.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).

Images: Marvel/Disney/ABC

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