Review: ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Jokes Away ‘LMD’ Reboot With ‘Broken Promises’

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Marvel / ABC

Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Broken Promises”:

Perhaps the only benefit to Agent Carter having no new episodes in 2017 would be Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 not suffering yet another extended momentum break, to say nothing of its return not falling into competition with another dominating TV superhero event. That said, the concept of an “LMD” pivot is obviously less of an immediate hook than “Ghost Rider,” even if the first half of Season 4 elegantly managed to thread AIDA’s development into the background.

And to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s credit, “Broken Promises” really got off to the best possible start with the concept; to immediately establish its self-awareness of the robot uprising trope, and thread Mack and Yo-Yo’s escalating pop-culture references throughout some otherwise cliché set pieces of AIDA’s attack. Even then, it’s probably best that “LMD” not have dragged out AIDA’s subterfuge into something unsustainable; instead using the return hour to have as much fun with a killer robot* showdown as possible, and then reveal a more sensibly long-term threat like Radcliffe having planned her sentience from the start.

*Obviously, Mallory Jensen will still be sticking around as a darker-dressed AIDA, while May’s Life Model Decoy remains implanted among the team. It’s an appreciable wrinkle at least, that the May-bot seems not to know of its actual nature, which does well to distinguish from the last time May underwent an evil doppelganger storyline.

Historically speaking, John Hannah has a poor track record of quelling servant uprisings.

On the opposing end, the introduction of Senator Nadeer and her family wasn’t threaded well at all through the first half of the season, nor were we given anything beyond a basic outline of her brother’s significance. It’s too soon to tell if the payoff of Veejay’s shooting and second Inhuman cocoon will lead anywhere, but it dragged “Broken Promises” down significantly to spendrepeat scenes of the two siblings hashing out a skeletal family history. Worse yet, the gunpoint conflict of Nadeer wrestling with the decision to kill her Inhuman brother fell completely flat without any familiar characters around to anchor it.

Obviously, Season 4 needed to reintroduce the Watchdogs and set up this “Superior” figure, but it’s a troubling sign that “Broken Promises” couldn’t find a way to weave into that early conflict some characters we actually empathize with. The flipside of that B-story did well to have Simmons and Daisy both redefining their relationship with a more team-spirited Mace; the difference being that we’ve actually witnessed the three-sided history there, as opposed to being told Nadeer and her brother made some death pact over the Inhumans and Chitauri.

Renewal prospects for Season 5 are looking reasonably solid, and I’d like to believe ABC boss Channing Dungey is genuine about the show’s move to 10:00 P.M. and branded arcs refreshing things creatively. S.H.I.E.L.D. tends to sag around the middle of certain storylines as much as any other show, and “Broken Promises” is a reasonably promising start to the “LMD” era, but boy if writers don’t need to find a direction for the Nadeer stuff quickly.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • Really not sure if I know the difference between “Nathanson,” and the “Smithers” figure that Simmons derisively referenced.
  • Putting Simmons into physical combat is an interesting idea I’d like to see continued. That, and taser bobby pins.
  • “This is how Lawnmower Man ends.”
  • Reallllly still not sure about the Coulson-May stuff, LMD or otherwise.
  • How is Genisys not the worse Terminator to force Radcliffe to watch?
  • So, what exactly was Veejay’s power? Just more super-speed, like Yo-Yo, or was there some kind of intuitive movement with the Watchdog fight?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 will continue Tuesday, January 17 with “The Patriot,” airing at 10:00 P.M. on ABC.

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