*SPOILERY SPOILS AHEAD!*
Here we are with Coulson and the team looking to strike at the Watchdogs head on this week and rescue both Mace and May. The show opens with Phil and Daisy getting in a hardcore sparring sesh, but wait, Coulson stops in mid-air Matrix style! Why? They are in a Matrix-style VR program that Fitz himself designed! Turns out he had a big hand in helping create the VR world that Aida (the beautiful yet deadly LMD) has since perfected. It seems all the work Leo’s been doing with Holden Radcliffe is blowing up in his thoughtless science nerd face! I’m sure Tony Stark can relate after the whole Ultron fiasco. They somehow refrain from making that comparison in this episode, even when Mack (who hates robots, because he’s seen EVERY ROBOT MOVIE) gets in Fitz’s face about it.
So, when they realize that May is stuck in one of these world’s they realize that she could be getting beaten up and hurt over and over...the mental stress could potentially kill her for real if they don’t find her soon. That’s not saying what they are doing to Mace, who, without his serum is just an average joe.
Ivanov soon discovers this as he goes head-to-head with a Mace who breaks free of his shackles (I’m thinking he still has some Hyde juice left in his system). Do you know in pro wrestling when the jobber wrestler hits the bigger, superstar wrestlers with no effect? Well, that’s what happens when Mace punches Ivanov. Hmmm. This is interesting. After being easily beaten, Mace is sent back to his cell, where Ivanov brings in some goons to rough him over.
Meanwhile, as Coulson and the team raid a Watchdogs bunker, they discover Mace’s suit that they left behind. They also discover Ivanov’s collection of paper clippings and files on Coulson. He’s been obsessed with Phil for years, following his exploits with Iron Man and Thor and the Avengers. The Superior is convinced that Coulson is the common thread behind a secret alien invasion and all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories. I think it’s pretty cool to have a villain that thinks like that, since it’s true that Coulson HAS been around ever since the beginning.
Coulson finally remembers just who Ivanov is, because one particular photo on the wall is of an old Russian facility that he and May raided “some time ago” (seems to be before Iron Man emerged and before May married Andrew Garner, so I’m thinking early-mid 2000’s maybe?). They were assigned together to obtain some sort of object. We never find out what that object is, however. We get a cool flashback throughout the episode explaining that mission, and at the same time, we get a peek into the relationship between May and Coulson. There’s flirting and innuendos and clearly they liked each other, possibly even having to hook up on an undercover mission while under surveillance! Spicy! We even eventually find out that May requested going on this mission with Phil. Hmmmm. Did ‘ol Coulson drop the ball in landing her? She seemed to have met Garner right after this. I’ve sure been there before. More than I’d like to admit!
Anyway, turns out that whatever they were looking for, the Russian government was not happy about, and a unit of troops was sent to arrest the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Of course, that didn’t happen, and the guys got their asses killed, likely because they failed their mission. We discover that these were Ivanov’s men and he blames Coulson for their deaths. Back in the present, the agents go to the Russian facility and find the bodies of the dead soldiers from the flashback. One of them even has a phone ringing in his skull! After answering it, Coulson finally hears his enemy....and they are coming to get him!
Back at the base, it seems Aida is left as the go-between with Ivanov and Radcliffe, even though Ivanov holds much disdain for the robot. Aida senses his fear for all things different...and you can see she is learning all about the worst parts of mankind from the Watchdogs. Good going, guys! Leave it to bigot terrorists to make everything worse.
The Agents eventually arrive and Coulson and Ivanov face off. After Ivanov ends with his whiny villain “origin story”, he simply laughs him off (see this review’s title). Truth is, he’s faced a million Ivanov’s before. Been on a million missions, and he can’t even remember what he and May were after (I doubt he’s telling the truth there, but it’s worth it just to make Anton feel less “superior”). He can’t even be bothered to fight Ivanov and he invites the Daisy into the room just so she can finally have the joy of beating the crap out of the lead Watchdog. And yeah, Chloe Bennett once again proves that “fighting like a girl” means being a hardcore badass!! She uses her powers and even though Ivanov gets one throwing knife to graze her in the shoulder, she manages to bury the Superior under rubble.
Meanwhile, Coulson and Mack rescue Mace (who is still getting beaten up by the goons....all that time...I don’t know how he survived or how those dudes didn’t get tired). Mace is badly hurt, but for uncharacteristically, Coulson calls off the search for May and orders everyone to head home. All this time Fitz and Simmons were in the tech lab looking for clues. They confiscate a bunch of equipment to study it. This is actually super important for something that happens after. I can’t spoil it, but it is pretty confusing! I hope next week’s episode explains more. I seriously do not understand how it happened!
Well, I liked the episode, as we got a lot more insight into how and why Coulson and May have developed over the years. I still feel like “Philinda” came out of nowhere to a degree. I mean, did they really flirt all that much the past 3 seasons?! I really only saw them as respectful teammates and friends with not much sexual tension. Why wasn’t Coulson more angry when he found out Melinda was sleeping with Ward there for awhile in S1? And why wasn’t there more tension between him and Garner? I dunno, guys. It’s not like it felt like it was always meant to happen like Fitz-Simmons or even Daisy/Skye and Ward.
But hey, at least that flashback helped. I also was expecting Ivanov to put up more of a fight, but it looks like he’s dead. Aida even had the chance to get to gloat over his dead body. Wow, she’s getting creepier by the week. And I like that! Mallory Jansen is going to be a pretty big star, I think. Much like Ruth Negga (who played Raina in seasons 1 & 2 and currently Tulip on Preacher, she also received a Golden Globe nomination for her role in the film, Loving), I think this AoS alumn is destined for great things.
Here’s a geeky Marvel lore fun fact: there is a villain called The Superior in the comics. He happens to be The Leader’s son and battled Spider-Girl and the Young Allies. No way is this connected to Ivanov or even if the show writers took the name from character...I just think it’s fun to point that stuff out.
Well, the coming weeks are looking to be pretty wild for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. if the ending of this episode is any indication! Be sure to catch up by watching this episode! That’s all for now, kiddies! Bleed out!