Holy moly with pesto aioli… THAT was a damn fine hour of television.
“Self Control,” is without question the strongest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season and, quite possibly, the best of the series as a whole. A perfect combination of action and plot, the fifteenth episode of the year brought with it stunning reveals, insane callbacks, and an ending even more jaw-dropping than Simmons being eaten by an alien rock.
While I know there are still 7 episodes to go in Season 4, I can’t imagine how this episode will be topped moving down the line. Though, if my hunch is correct and, “Self Control,” is merely the tip of the iceberg, I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be in for a wild ride when the show returns April 4th.
We start off where last week’s cliffhanger left off: with FitzSimmons realizing that four of their closest friends have been swapped out by four dangerous LMD’s programmed by Radcliffe, Aida, and Ivanov to do who-knows-what. The purpose of the LMD’s becomes a bit more clear when ‘Mack’ and ‘Coulson’ question the missile capabilities of the Russian submarine and reveal that all of the logged Inhumans are being called to the Playground. Fitz and Simmons realize that the Superior is likely planning to attack the base… and wipe out a massive amount of his hated Inhumans in the process.
A theory that’s proven correct when (away from the duo) Daisy is tasked with greeting all of the Inhumans personally and bringing them to the base where… Mack and Mace will be waiting to execute them on sight.
Even more yikes?
FitzSimmons break away from the rest and enter the garage where the LMD detector once again goes off. Realizing that one of them isn’t human, Jemma turns her gun on Fitz and they both begin arguing about who’s the fake. Eventually, a teary Fitz agrees to do whatever Jemma wants since, android or not he’s the bad guy for perfecting the LMD tech, and slices his wrist when Simmons tells him to. He’s bleeding just badly enough to make Jemma think that he’s genuinely hurt but, just as she moves to help him, he whacks her over the head and knocks her out.
FITZ IS THE LMD!
Which means that…he’s actually the fourth LMD detected from before and Daisy is very much real.
Something that’s further confirmed first by Aida informing Radcliffe that she and Jemma are the last two whose brains need to be mapped, and then when Daisy walks into a pod that is filled with twenty replicas of her.
What follows is a scene very much reminiscent of iRobot where Daisy hides amongst herself when LMackD comes looking for her. She manages to blend in just long enough to quake him away and escape, finding safety in a seemingly unoccupied room. Understandably a bit traumatized by what she’d just witnessed, Daisy hacks into the security feed and is met with the sight of Fitz’s body lying in a pool of blood. Which is gruesome in and of itself but gets even worse when some nameless S.H.I.E.L.D. agents realize he’s an LMD and are promptly murdered by Coulson and Mace.
The only thing that can be heard over Daisy’s gasp is an odd noise coming from the darkest corner of the room… which she of course proceeds to investigate. Wielding Mack’s shotgun axe, Daisy is prepared to fight when Jemma is revealed to be the other person hiding out.
While we know that Daisy and Jemma are both human, neither of them do, meaning that we once again witness a showdown where they don’t believe one another. Jemma points out that they can’t know for sure until they die, but Daisy realizes that she can prove to both of them what they are thanks to her handy dandy Inhuman powers. Quaking Jemma will allow Daisy to feel the vibrations of her bones while proving to Jemma that she’s Inhuman and not a robot- because robots don’t have superpowers. While Jemma’s not down with this plan, Daisy makes a rash move and pulls her friend into a hug when she’s distracted, using her powers and becoming an (In)human LMD detector.
Both realize that the other is human and the two women collapse in a relieved hug before then collapsing to the floor to concoct a plan. The two realize that the only possible way to save their friends is by hacking into the Framework and knowingly implanting themselves into the avatars that are ready and waiting for them.
…Which is easier said than done because they first have to escape the base and all of the murderous LMD’s that are gunning for them.
While Daisy takes on LMaceD in a truly spectacular fight, Jemma rounds up the few trustworthy agents who are still human and sends them to collect all of the other agents that have yet to be compromised. Daisy manages to permanently take out LMaceD and LMackD and temporarily evade Coulson long enough to escape alive but injured with two bullet wounds. She and Jemma head for the exit with the Framework equipment in tow but come to a screeching halt when LMayD is waiting for them with a few barrels of explosives and a finger on the detonator.
But fear not!
May’s programming, being different from the newest models, makes her want to protect her team, not the androids that merely look like them. She lets Daisy and Jemma escape in the Zephyr with their fellow agents and Framework tech, staying behind to blow up herself and all of the other LMD’s still in the Playground.
We end with Jemma and Daisy running through all of the dangers of the Framework (if you die in there, you die in the real world; if you’re in there too long, you die in the real world; etc. etc.) before they willingly lay down for what will no doubt be the trippiest nap of their lives if what follow is indication.
Because we get a glimpse of each of our favorite characters and… wow is this world different.
- Coulson is a teacher and the world hates Inhumans
- Mack’s daughter is still alive and he’s happily living in the ‘burbs
- May is an Agent of… Hydra?!
- Daisy has long hair and a live-in boyfriend who is… Grant Ward
- Fitz is a super loaded individual with a significant other that is not Jemma because…
- Jemma Anne Simmons is dead.
WHAT THE FARQUAD?!?!?!?
Penned and directed by co-creator Jed Whedon, “Self Control,” played out very much like a very suped-up version of last season’s, “The Team.” The mistrust was elevated to an entirely new level and once again served to bring some characters closer while tearing others apart. Feeling more like a horror-thriller than a show about (let’s be honest) a ragtag group of adopted spies looking to save the day, “Self Control,” quite literally flipped everything upside down.
The action was intense, the suspicion was constant, and the reveals were gasp-inducing enough to warrant more than a few rewinds.
More importantly, the performances this week were as good as they’ve ever been. Particularly where the Bus Kids are concerned. That is to say… Elizabeth Henstridge, Chloe Bennet, and Iain de Caestecker absolutely eviscerated this episode. The trio is responsible for some of the most beloved relationships, both platonic and romantic, on the show and the depth they brought this week led to more than one emotional sucker-punch.
FitzSimmons are pivotal to this show, once the quirky comic-relief and now the emotional trauma, which is a testament to the manner in which their portrayers have handled themselves and their characters over the seasons. While de Caestecker and Henstridge are the definition of consistent when it comes to delivering performances that are frequently superior to more notable actors, they are equally two of the most dynamic performers on television.
The things that FitzSimmons have been put through would be neither believable nor quite as gut-wrenching were it not for the fact that de Caestecker and Henstridge so effortlessly adapt to a world of chaos by rooting their respective characters in reality. In the midst of Inhumans and LMD’s, FitzSimmons are simply two best friends, now decidedly more than that, who are just doing their damndest to make it out the other side together. Which made it that much more painful to realize that only one of them was human. Watching de Caestecker shift from a sobbing Fitz to a cold-LMD was jarring to witness because of how effortless it seemed to be. The transition was instantaneous and utterly believable, which is a feat in and of itself.
It is the relationships that make this show worth watching and FitzSimmons in particular continue to be the heart.
Having said that, this week was about more than just the romantic pairs, which brings us to Bennet and Henstridge.
While their colleagues got to play around with being androids, the women (Ming-Na Wen included) brought the humanity this week. The scenes between Daisy and Jemma were some of the most emotional exchanges of the entire series, showcasing how much the women mean to each other and how far they’re willing to go for their friends. The relief at discovering they were both human was palpable and the raw emotion that the two brought added a layer that made a great episode superb. I’m not sure any hug in the history of ever carried as much simultaneous relief and pain as Daisy and Jemma’s, and each following scene that they were in was a beautiful depiction of one of the few things that has survived these four seasons of chaos: their friendship.
The teasers leading up to this 2nd midseason finale were wholly accurate in suggesting that long-time fans of the show would find themselves particularly pumped for the final arc of the season. While this episode was a game changer in every sense of the phrase, the fact that it was delivered as a coda to the earlier events of the series makes it that much more significant in the eyes of viewers who have been avidly following Coulson and Co’s shenanigans since Season 1.
The characters and plot devices that have rotated in and out of the series since its inception are being brought back in an entirely new way that will simultaneously bring familiarity and freshness to the show. “Self Control,” served as an exceptional midseason finale as well as the beginning of what will be an insane final arc.
Episode Grade: A
- Already mentioned but the performances of Chloe Bennet, Elizabeth Henstridge, and Iain de Caestecker were phenomenal.
- Kolpack and Co. did it again with some stunning visual effects. The deterioration of LMackD in a literal blaze of glory was a visually awesome sequence and the fiery departure of the Zephyr One from the base was a marvel to look at. Also awesome this week was the make-up. The amount of injuries sustained by humans and LMD’s alike are, frankly too high to count, but each and every one (whether it be a bruise or a bullet hole) looked real.
- The fight sequence between Chloe Bennet’s Daisy and Jason O’Mara’s LMaceD was insane.
- The Ivanov/Aida sequences, though I guess important, were so not what I was interested in cutting to between the epicness that was occurring on the Playground.
- I’m a bit torn about Daisy’s, “You and Fitz belong together scene,” because on the one hand, I agree and was happy to have her on team FitzSimmons, but on the other hand it felt slightly off in the moment. After so many poignant scenes of friendship, to have Daisy then tell Jemma the one thing she’s certain of is that FitzSimmons are meant to be just felt like weird timing/an odd change of topic. Like… I was waiting for something more along the lines of, “I love you/you’re my best friend/we’re family,” so it threw me a bit.
- SIX WEEKS?!?!? WE HAVE TO LIVE WITH THAT CLIFFHANGER FOR SIX STINKIN’ WEEKS?!
- What past characters would you most like to see make an appearance in the Framework? I could use some Antoine Triplett sunshine right about now…
What did you think about the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below!