Welcome back true believers! When last we left the Agents, Jeffrey Mace had been an unfortunate casualty of the Framework, attempting to save a number of children and his fellow Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. members. By sacrificing himself however, he acted as a means to wake Agent May up from her Hydra-induced nightmare, and in doing so, gave Skye the method for becoming the Inhuman Quake once again. Now on the run from Hydra in the form of its agents (and their TV networks), the pair must figure out a way back to their friends and decipher a method for getting out of the Framework entirely. While this episode continued bringing the interesting world of Hydra to the forefront, it does stumble a tad along the way in benefit of the overall plot.
Some TV episodes are clearly structured to advance the plot from point A to point B, bringing their characters into the limelight in order to deliver story beats that would not otherwise be unearthed. In “All the Madame’s Men,” the writers take the approach of not necessarily diving deeper into each of their characters, but simply diving further into the world of the Framework. Luckily for the show, the world is still interesting, though this episode tends to grind a little in trying to figure out what direction it’s going in with the loss of Director Mace, and with most of the characters now being “woke.” To be fair though, the reversal of origins for Coulson and Ward within the Framework was an amazing play here, with Coulson having refused Nick Fury’s original call to join S.H.I.E.L.D. while Grant decided to take it from the now-deceased leader of the organization in Victoria Hand. An added bonus for those who have stuck with the show for these four seasons was, of course, that Ward was in fact the one to kill Hand originally, after revealing himself to be an agent of Hydra.
Ok, with that being said, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. One of the prevalent themes of this latter half of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s fourth season has been its jabs at the current Trump administration. Fitz vows to “make society great again,” Bakshi informs one of his co-workers that he’s willing to take her on a trip to a furniture store, and Coulson, once given the ability to broadcast the truth about the events at the Re-Education Center, mentions alternative facts. When all’s said and done, whether you support or disavow the current administration and what it’s done with its time in office, does this commentary work here? Sure it does, because listen, taking jabs at a presidential administration are within our rights as Americans, and to demonstrate that through our media is a force that gives us strength. It allows us to air our grievances thanks to the First Amendment in the constitution. If you don’t like whatever is being written on a series, simply stop watching it, and make your voice heard that way. We need to be able to laugh at what’s going on in the world, regardless of whether we agree or disagree, but S.H.I.E.L.D. has managed to throw in some biting commentary this season. This doesn’t need to sway your opinion that anyone is evil or that you are a bad person for feeling the way that you do, however, you need to be able to take a step back, respect creativity, and keep an open mind on things.
With that out of the way, “All the Madame’s Men” manages to give us some nice action beats with Agent May doing some nice gun choreography in a Hydra office, and Daisy using her Quake powers to lob a grenade launcher round back at some unfortunate Hydra agents. Through their adventures of trying to have the truth revealed about Hydra to the general public, the revelation of Aida’s true goal within the framework comes to light. Aida is using Fitz to make herself a Darkhold-fueled machine under the name “Project Looking Glass.” The purpose of this? To allow Aida to beat her own prime directives and become human, and more specifically, kill the Agents if necessary. Also with her is Anton, the villain from earlier this season looking specifically to kill Agent Coulson, but in his new LMD form, unable to do so in a similar way as Aida. Bringing back the Darkhold in this manner is a nice touch on connecting the beginning and ending of this season, though I’m still crossing my fingers that we somehow get one last appearance of Ghost Rider from it as well.
Of course, we once again must shift to Fitz who, in a convincing revelation, has actually turned evil simply because of his reliance on romance. So in love with Madame Hydra is Fitz that he has become a ruthless head of the organization, rallying against his own father at one point in order to kill his enemies. This once again leads us to Fitz attempting to, as the new leader of Hydra, use television networks and billboards in order to find Daisy and May on the run. Fitz’s father also gets a little spotlight here, interrogating Radcliffe as to their whereabouts and more information is given regarding the real “Fitz Sr.” In the real world, Fitz’s father is a drunk who rarely gives Fitz the time of day so it’s understandable that the now Hydra director’s dream is to be more connected with him, though in a monkey’s paw sort of way. Ultimately, Fitz works so well as a villain that I truly hope it continues past this season, if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is renewed.
Ultimately, this episode didn’t have the high-octane action and character development we had seen from previous episodes, but it still manages to be a good entry into this season. It moves things along in the plot, if not outstandingly so.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Agents of M.I.S.C.E.L.L.A.N.E.A.
– Poor Ward. All he wants is his version of Skye. I really dug the interactions between him and Daisy here. This could act as a nice sendoff to Ward in general if we decided to go that route.
– Considering how many callbacks to the series there have been, this certainly does feel like it’s leading up to a series finale isn’t it?
– Ward: “Sure you’re a good school teacher, but you’re a school teacher.”
– Tripp: “That’s way too crazy a story to make up.”
– Fitz: “They snapped our spine!” (Not funny but just great delivery from Fitz here)
– Bashir: “If you need to shop for furniture, I know just the place.”
– Coulson: “Heard you were looking for some enemies of the state!”
– Ward: “Every relationship has it’s ups and downs.”
– Coulson: “My name is Phil Coulson and I’m an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”