Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recap: 'Self Control'
The remaining agents' battle against their LMD teammates has major 'Dragon Ball Z' vibes
Last week’s cliffhanger promised a coming stand-off between Fitz, Simmons, and a group of LMDs that replaced their team. Before we check back in on that, though, this episode begins with a look at those S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in their suspended animation, and then at the Superior himself. Anton Ivanov survived his battle with Daisy, but just barely. He’s now laid out on an operating table, where AIDA is getting ready to fix him. Ever the Darwinian eugenicist, he makes her promise not to mess with his mind or upload him to the Framework like the others. She agrees, but the changes she has in mind sound even more extreme than that. She soon picks up a chainsaw and fires it up.
Now we get a look at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, where Fitz and Simmons are figuring out how to interact with their newly replaced teammates (including the repaired Director Mace). Mack LMD wants to bring all Inhuman S.H.I.E.L.D. assets to base, presumably to kill them. He also suggests splitting up, but Fitz and Simmons insist on sticking together.
In Coulson’s office, he and the resuscitated May LMD are talking about snow, leading May to realize that even though they’re both LMDs, they’re substantively different. Whereas the May LMD was ignorant about her true nature and only realized it gradually, Coulson knows he’s a robot, and he’s fine with it. Proselytizing for the Framework, he tells May it’s a place where you can wipe away your big regrets. His, for instance, was committing to the spy game in the first place, instead of pursuing a more “normal” civilian life. May LMD seems to consider picking Andrew over Phil one of her big regrets, and Coulson LMD tells her that in the Framework, they can be together.
As they go to the lab together, Fitz and Simmons realize that Radcliffe must have used the Deathlok eyes in the May LMD to study everyone’s biological data, enabling him to prepare their LMD bodies ahead of time and then switch them out during last week’s operation. Unfortunately, as they talk, FitzSimmons head through another LMD detector, and it goes off. Each naturally suspects the other of being the robot, but Simmons is the one who draws a gun. She insists that Fitz cut his wrist (non-lethally) to prove he’s not a robot. He does so, but he starts tearing up and worrying that he accidentally severed a key artery. This gets Simmons to lower her guard, and Fitz attacks, revealing himself as the LMD. So much for that “you and me against the world” vibe they had going.
Fitz’s LMD transformation is confirmed in the next sequence, which finds Radcliffe waking up from the Framework and glimpsing the real Fitz strapped in beside him. He’s mad at AIDA for waiting more than 24 hours to wake him up, but she says she didn’t. Seems the Framework has a bit of time distortion going on. Combined with the fact that it’s hard to separate from the real world, Framework trips pose a real danger of losing oneself – doubly so because AIDA has specifically rejiggered the Framework to take its inhabitants through their greatest regret. Radcliffe is opposed, but he spends most of his time these days in the Framework anyway. In his absence, AIDA is slowly asserting more authority and vision. Their conversation ends with AIDA off-handedly revealing the other S.H.I.E.L.D. member not yet in their possession, and it’s Daisy, not Fitz.
When Simmons comes to, Fitz LMD explains he’s getting ready to scan her brain data (which will allow her to connect to the Framework). He says that he’s doing it so that they can be together forever inside the Framework. Simmons notes that this is the first time Fitz (robot or otherwise) has mentioned a potential marriage to her, but she’ll save her answer for when she sees her real boyfriend again. In the meantime, she breaks free of her restraints and takes down the fake Fitz. She ends up brutally stabbing him in the heart until he finally shuts down — surely a traumatic experience for any girlfriend.
As for the other remaining non-robotic S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Daisy is currently paired with the Mack LMD to welcome the returning Inhumans. Before their arrival, however, Daisy goes downstairs to check their accommodations — and finds herself face to face with an entire squadron of duplicates. Unlike her other teammates, Daisy has been reproduced several times over. This revelation obviously freaks her out, but when she realizes Mack LMD is coming after her, she thinks fast.
By the time Mack LMD arrives downstairs, Daisy has successfully hidden herself among the decoys, like the training scene with ninjas in Batman Begins. When Mack goes to check one of them up close, she reveals herself and blasts him into submission. She scurries off into hiding and checks the base’s security feeds, where she witnesses the discovery of Fitz LMD’s body. When human S.H.I.E.L.D. agents find Fitz’s wiring, they are promptly executed by the LMD versions of Coulson and Mace. Mack LMD then goes to work repairing Fitz LMD and cuts the security feeds, leaving Daisy in the dark.
Luckily, she’s not the only one there. She quickly finds Simmons, and though they’re both clearly shaken from their recent scuffles, they have a great friendship hug when they finally figure it out. They soon split up to handle different aspects of this problem.
Daisy, for her part, focuses on containing LMD Mace, who appears to have all of his counterpart’s enhanced strength without the potentially damaging effects of his serum – speaking of which, where are we on that? Despite saying a few episodes ago that each dose carried the potential to kill Mace, he seems to be doing fine locked up in captivity after some recent uses. Anyway, Daisy is able to overcome LMD Mace by finally realizing her true potential as an anime fighter. Daisy is starting to find new ways to use her powers — here, she uses the vibrations to propel herself in the air and deliver a devastating blow to Mace LMD. That’s the kind of fight you’d see in Dragon Ball Z.
Meanwhile, Simmons regroups with a couple of other human S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and they prepare to escape on the Zephyr. When one of them tries to ask a question, Simmons makes it clear her patience with this LMD business is almost at an end. She doesn’t care if anyone believes her anymore.
After defeating Mace LMD, Daisy is shot by Coulson LMD and Mack LMD. This, however, is when she really ratchets up the levels of Dragon Ball Z. While the LMDs think they’ve cornered her, Daisy subtly uses her powers to form a concentrated ball of quake energy in her hands. When she unleashes it, the effect is devastating. The skin literally peels off Mack LMD’s face. For fear of driving this point too far home, it does look remarkably similar to the death of major DBZ villain Cell. Listen, I think it’s great. If anything, this show needs MORE DBZ influence, in my humble fanboy opinion.
NEXT: You’re not him
Simmons and Daisy make their way to the Zephyr, but they’re stopped by May LMD, who’s also sitting on a sizable stockpile of explosives. They didn’t account for her.
At the same time, Coulson LMD has managed to recover from his bout with Daisy. He instructs the recovered Fitz LMD to fire up the “Daisy fleet” downstairs and goes to corner Simmons and Daisy. When he arrives at May LMD’s post, however, he sees that she let them through.
Coulson LMD asks what she’s done, and May LMD responds that she finally did “what she wanted.” Coulson insists that everything’s under control, but May asks the right follow-up: Whose control is that? She doesn’t want to be a puppet of Radcliffe, especially when it goes against her own inclinations. For instance, May says that her mission to get the Darkhold was programmed in by Radcliffe, but her desire to keep Coulson close — that was all her. And unfortunately, though he’s got the looks down, this robot isn’t the Coulson she knows and loves. So May LMD, in a tragic finale to her arc, blows them both up to allow the Zephyr to escape.
On board the Zephyr, Simmons and Daisy explain the situation to Yo-Yo. Their plan is to break into the Framework and save their friends from the inside (not so different from the DBZ episode where Goku and Vegeta infiltrate Majin Buu’s insides to save their – okay, I’ll shut up now). And so, as they don their helmets, Daisy and Simmons enter the Framework, giving us our first extended look at Radcliffe’s beloved creation in a while.
We get a montage showing where each of our characters is at in the world of the Framework. AIDA said she only changed a few things from our world to this one, but it’s now clear that was some robotic underestimation. In this world, Daisy has a comfortable life with her boyfriend – and it’s not good ol’ Lincoln Campbell, but Grant Ward! Coulson is a civilian teacher, just like he apparently dreamed – but he’s instructing his students about why they should hate Inhumans. Mack’s daughter is alive (with a cute purple bike to match his motorcycle), Fitz is a wealthy guy who rides in limos, and Simmons, apparently, is dead. The icing on the cake comes when we see May riding an elevator at the Triskelion – now marked with a giant Hydra insignia.
Needless to say, there are major House of M vibes coming off this one. That was the 2005 Marvel event in which the Scarlet Witch temporarily trapped the Avengers and X-Men in an alternate reality where they were able to live out their best lives. In that story line, Professor Charles Xavier was supposedly the key to fixing everything, but he was dead in the world of that universe, which made finding him incredibly difficult. We’ll see if something similar happens with Simmons here, or if the consequences of beating the Framework are as dramatic as the House of M fallout that de-powered 90 percent of Marvel’s mutants.
In the bookend, Ivanov finally wakes up. When AIDA appears, she confirms that she did not mess with his mind in any way. In fact, his mind is perfectly safe – inside a glass container that allows him to control his new robot body remotely. AIDA has transformed him into her “perfect machine” (invulnerable robot body, emotional human mind) in order to protect the Framework. She even has her own ambition: to learn human emotion like him.
That Fitz twist was an interesting moment. I was expecting some FitzSimmons couple time while they took down a team of LMDs, but the pairing of Simmons and Daisy was just as good in its way. I’m also glad to be done with May LMD – although her arc wrapped up rather nicely there, I was getting slightly annoyed at how much plot mileage was being burned on a fake version of May instead of the real character herself. When the show returns, I’ll be interested in this parallel universe/dark future/world gone wrong – a genre trademark that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has somehow never tackled before.