This episode began with Coulson and Mack in Spain searching for the woman that Aida was modeled after. We find out her name is Agnes and it turns out she was a former colleague of Holden Radcliffe’s. The statuesque, artistic, and quite content looking (or she is before Coulson comes into her life) Australian woman once aided Radcliffe with his android research, and when she finds out he succeeded in created an actual functioning LMD, she is shocked. It turns out she has a malignant and inoperable brain tumor and chose to live the quiet life in Europe. Now, even once Phil and Mack find this out, they still ask her to help catch Radcliffe, because May is in danger...and clearly Coulson now is realizing he is in love with her. He is willing to do ANYTHING, even bother this dying woman, to save Melinda.
The episode poses a compelling question. What would YOU do? Would you use a dying woman to save the person you love most in the world? I’m not sure what I would do, to be honest. Mack certaintly thinks Agnes should be left alone, but follows orders from his “lovesick” leader nonetheless.
Meanwhile, Jemma Simmons has been researching the serum Director Mace has been taking to give him his Patriot powers, and she figures out that it’s slowly killing him. He could essentially die of cardiac arrest with any injection, and if he doesn’t, it’s more likely to happen with the next injection. Tough break. He may be a bit of an obnoxious boy scout that makes Captain America look like a rebel, but I actually think he wants to be a useful member of the team. Leo Fitz then shows up all excited that he added a serum injector right into Mace’s suit...then feels awkward when he finds out that Mace probably shouldn’t use the serum anymore.
On the Watchdogs submarine HQ, Ivanov (or The Superior) claims he read the Darkhold to Radcliffe, but the book didn’t seem to put him under any “Gollum” spell. Which is particularly interesting. Does it only work on people with advanced intelligence like scientists like Radcliffe and Eli Morrow? At any rate, Radcliffe says he has some terrigen crystals left over from when he ran with Hive last season, and it could be useful to the Watchdogs in identifying potential Inhumans. Ivanov decides to test it out on Ellen Nadeer (since her brother has the Inhuman genes, it only makes sense she likely does as well). They send the “cattle-prod” guy and main Watchdog lackey, Terrence “Tucker” Shockley to Nadeer’s office and expose her to the crystal.
Then something interesting happens. Once Shockley shows up and breaks the crystal in front of Nadeer (who swears she is not “alien filth”...she doesn’t know how genetics works apparently. Makes me wonder why politicians can’t take intelligence tests these days), instead of her being cocooned, it is Shockley who is the Inhuman! Then suddenly her entire office explodes! Did Shockley also bring a bomb with him? Did they learn how to make some kind of mystical bomb with the Darkhold? All of these questions are brought up as Fitz-Simmons and Daisy Johnson are brought in afterwards to investigate. Turns out Nadeer and her staff died in the blast, but Shockley’s remains were never found.
When you look at Shockley’s scraggly long hair and what happened here, it’s easy to realize what’s going on. He is the MCU’s version of Nitro, The Living Bomb! In case you don’t know about this character, in the comics Nitro is a pretty important villain...for a B-lister. He is responsible for two of the most impactful events in Marvel lore. First, he is the villain that killed Mar-Vell, the original Captain Marvel. Issue #34 of Captain Marvel (also Nitro’s first appearance) was a landmark in comics, because before then, we pretty much never came to realize that superheroes, even the ones with their names on the cover of the comic...could actually die! Our heroes forever after never were really truly “safe”. It was a shock to the system.
Then decades later, Nitro did something even more despicable. In a fight with the New Warriors, Nitro exploded half of Stamford, Conneticut...including a school bus filled with children. This tragic event sparked the first Civil War between the Marvel heroes. So yeah, Nitro is impactful in more ways than one. Now, to be clear, they never call Shockley “Nitro” in the episode and the comic version’s name was originally Robert Hunter. But the similarities are undeniable. While not an Inhuman directly, Nitro was created by genetic experiments done on him by The Kree. Also, the powers Shockley displays in the episode are not just similar to Nitro’s, they are identical! When Shockley blows up he becomes a gaseous element that later reconstructs him at a cellular level. They actually show how it happens in a scene and it is pretty darn cool! I am so happy they actually did that, the CGI was super cool and it was a real treat to us comic geeks.
Daisy and the crew eventually capture Shockley, and once Fitz-Simmons figure out that HE is the bomb, the trap him in one of the containment cubes and drop him off the Zephyr. He explodes in mid-air, but reforms again and walks around like a naked maniac. Clearly the powers go to his head and he realizes that being “alien filth” isn’t so bad if you get powers that make you better at your job. The worst thing a terrorist can become is someone who can be a literal ticking time bomb, right?
The egg-heads Fitz and Simmons eventually save the day in this episode. When they realize that he turns into gas when he blows up, he is invulnerable in that time before he rematerializes. They come up with a machine that will suck him up in his gaseous form and imprison him. Yup, one of the most dangerous villains ever is essentially stopped with a glorified vacuum cleaner. Too bad Captain Marvel didn’t figure that out all those years ago.
The mission would have been a roaring success, if the Watchdogs hadn’t just used Shockley as a way to get what they really wanted, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Mace. Thinking he is an Inhuman, they taser him while he is holding them back in order for the agents to capture Shockley. Ivanov now has the “leader” of S.H.I.E.L.D. while Mace took the risk to use his serum and sacrificed himself. Now he is captured and likely can’t risk taking the serum to escape! I never liked the guy, but he showed he is willing to be a hero, at least. Not sure if he’s going to survive the season, though. All signs point to Mace finally becoming the self-sacrificing hero everyone thinks he is.
In Spain, Agnes is convinced to help Coulson and Mack in capturing Radcliffe, but all that goes to hell when she actually comes face-to-face with Holden again. I’m still not certain as to the nature of their relationship...if Agnes felt the same way about him as he clearly did for her. I mean, the guy literally built a robot in her image and she isn’t as creeped out as most women would be. That’s gotta mean something! Anyway, when Radcliffe tells her that her consciousness can live on in Aida’s virtual reality/Matrix program, free of her dying body, she takes the deal. Agnes takes the transmitter Coulson gave her out of her ear and goes with Radcliffe. Back at his lab on the sub, he sets her up right next to where he has May and connects her up to the VR machine. Her body dies, but her mind lives on, where she can spend eternity painting and being happy. Can you blame her? Is dreaming the best kind of dream forever better than enduring the pain of real life, especially if all that’s ahead of you is the horrors of cancer? Interesting questions.
In the meantime, Aida is all creepy and seems to envy the love that Agnes held in Radcliffe’s heart. She takes the “snake eating its own tail” necklace that Agnes has on and puts it on. This is an amazing bit of irony, when you think about it.
It was a good episode this week, especially with the cool surprise of adapting yet another comic book character from Marvel lore. Nitro could have been brought to life a bit better in my opinion (why not use the name Robert Hunter?), but I’ve learned to take what I can get with this show over the years. I didn’t think they could use Nitro in the MCU since they essentially let Fox use his powers for Negasonic Teenage Warhead in Deadpool, and Crossbones took his place as the villain that causes the tragedy in Captain America: Civil War...but I suppose TV and movies are different.
Not sure if I’m too happy with where they are going with the “Philenda” storyline. It feels forced, and I don’t see with Fitz-Simmons and Mack and Yo-Yo going on why we need to have Coulson and May pushed together so aggressively. I don’t know, I would think their relationship wouldn’t need to be explored in this obvious manner, if that makes any sense. If Philenda is to ever happen, it doesn’t need to be a big deal like this. Both characters are too mature for that.
At the end of it all, Mace is captured and Aida is becoming an even more of a sexy kill-bot. Good times ahead, I’m sure. Interested to see where all this leads next week.
That’s a wrap for now, children. Speaking of children...”of the atom” variety, I will also be reviewing the new X-Men related show, Legion. Being a HUGE X-Men fan, I couldn’t pass that up. So look out for that. Bleed out.