They Always Fight Back
When will scientists learn that making our lifelike robots smarter is only asking for them to buck against the life of subservience we’ve subjected them to. The Winter Finale for Agents of SHIELD , “Broken Promises” is running full force into the LMD(Life Model Decoy) Apocalypse they teased earlier in the season, and they’re not only aware of how well tread this material is, but of how they could put their own spin on it.
When we’d left the agents, Aida had confined May to a corner room, and used an LMD to infiltrate the group. At the time, we were left to wonder just what her motivations were for such an act. Chalking it up to the effects of the Darkhold. By the end of “Broken Promises”, we still didn’t have a concrete answer, but other things were made abundantly clear; androids are never to be trusted. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true, or fair, but it’s a question that many of the agents are considering in the face of a seemingly sentient machine with destruction on the circuits.
It’s hard not to immediately compare this storyline to the current “do robots dream of electric sheep” show, Westworld, but SHIELD was fully aware of that, having several characters, specifically Mack and Yo-Yo actually name drop a bunch of robot revolt movie references throughout the episode. No Ultron nods though….
What made this story compelling, at least from a stand alone perspective, was the knowledge of what came beforehand. SHIELD had always presented Aida as a peaceful presence that clearly wasn’t quite human, but was slowly working her way toward some facsimile of it. Watching the descent into robo madness, or even a defensive stance in the name of freedom is one that we could all see coming, and in some regards, sympathize with. Fitz and Dr. Radcliffe were treating her as equal parts plaything and girlfriend (which says all sorts of messed up things about that relationship dynamic), forcing her to come to terms with her station in life. A bad idea in any sci-fi setting.
The B-Story with Senator Nadir and her brother, Vijay looped in the inhuman element. Further showing just how dedicated the Senator is to ridding the world of this perceived evil. Having mercs on standby just in case she felt her brother had been transformed, then finally putting a bullet in him herself. It was a tense section of the show, and I genuinely thought Vijay was going to walk away under SHIELD protection in the end, which wasn’t the case. He got the Mr. Orange treatment, and Senator Nadir let us in on the fact that there may be a more powerful puppet master behind the scenes.
“Broken Promises” was a strong start to the back half of the season. A robot revolt may not be the most original storyline, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be presented in a new and interesting way. Agents of SHIELD is at its best when playing on familiar tropes with their own brand of wit, and tossing our favorite characters into the mix. Case in point, The LMD of May having to act just different enough for us to know that she’s off, while not knowing that she is the decoy herself. If the LMD’s are becoming sentient in some way, will that somehow bring Fake May around to the Agent’s aide, or will she be able to break the team? The paths available are numerous for this story, and, like many SHIELD stories, has great potential for heartbreak.