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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - All the Madame's Men - Review

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “All the Madame’s Men” was written by the team of James C Oliver & Sharla Oliver and was directed by Billy Gierhart. If you’re like me, you are still reeling over the loss of the Patriot (Jason O’Mara) last week. I did like that they let him go out being the hero he’d always wanted to be – and after having been the leader and Inhuman he wanted to be. I also really appreciated the irony of having May (Ming-Na Wen) being the one to set the events in motion that lead to his death while on the very serum that Mace had used in the “real world.” I’m just really loving this storyline!

The episode begins with the return of another character – this time it’s Sunil Bakshi (Simon Kassianides)! In this reality, he’s the host of a Hydra news show – The Bakshi Report – he has the world’s ear – not that the world has any choice in the matter. He’s spreading all the propaganda that Hydra needs.

Meanwhile, Daisy (Chloe Bennet) breaks out of her terragen stasis, and we get treated to one of the best action sequences we’ve seen in a while. May has clearly decided Hydra is not what she thought and the two fight their way out. Daisy emerges weak, but healed from her torture. I loved watching the two work together as a team. We don’t get to see Wen run across the cubicles, but I did love her somersaulting accurate shooting!

The two are brought up short by Ophelia (Mallory Jansen)/Aida/Madame Hydra. She muses that they really can’t escape their true natures – she lists them – May the Warrior, Mack (Henry Simmons) the Protector, and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) the romantic. She tried to substitute Hydra for S.H.I.E.L.D. for May, and Hope for SHIELD for Mack, which has to give us hope that substituting herself for Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) isn’t going to work for Fitz.

Daisy remarks, “What? I didn’t make the list?” right before quaking Ophelia out the glass elevator to plunge to what should have been her death – but she’s only broken her back…Still. It was super satisfying!

Back in the real world, Aida seems somewhat shaken. Ivanov (Zach McGowan) notices that she’s on edge, and she tells him that May has begun to question the narrative that she was “programmed” with. Ivanov remarks that that’s very human of her! Ivanov tries to uncomplicated things for her by shooting May – but he can’t! She built him with the same prime directive as she has – he can’t hurt them. However, if they are a direct threat to the framework, they can kill them, and Simmons and Daisy are direct threats. Aida wants him to find them and kill them.

Back at the S.H.I.E.L.D. base, Mack, Ward (Brett Dalton), and Trip (BJ Britt) are watching the Bakshi Report. And let me just pause her to say how much I was thrilled to have Britt back!! I really want them to find a way to jump this Ward and Trip back to the “real” world! FYI, the showrunners have indicated that while they probably could find a way to do that… they haven’t – so don’t get your hopes up too high!

Mack is sick of this “propaganda crap” tainting the name of a good man, and Ward points out how insidious it is, creeping in a little bit every day… like alternative facts. Ward wants to think about retaliation. Ward also promises to look after the people who Mace had promised to protect – not surprisingly at Mack’s (the protector) reminder. Trip wants to look at the plans for the doomsday machine that he almost died to get – and it’s another lovely layer on Ward that that word makes him so uncomfortable – this Ward is so different from the one we knew!

Meanwhile, and also completely in character, Coulson (Clark Gregg) worries that the movement will fall apart without a steady hand to guide them. Steady hand? A nod to Coulson’s own special hand perhaps? But also laying the groundwork for Coulson to step up, which he does in a big way in this episode – fulfilling his own nature as leader. Simmons is distraught at losing Mace and urges that they have to get out before they lose anyone else.

May and Daisy try to make contact with the resistance. Back at the base, they’ve all surmised that the Inhuman who made an attempt on Madame Hydra’s life is Daisy. Daisy wonders why May has suddenly changed sides and May explains that when an enemy sacrifices their life for yours, you have to question whether you’re fighting for the wrong side. Daisy is also distraught to learn that Mace is dead. May wonders why Daisy was able to control her powers so quickly, and Daisy says because she had practice – but Daisy stops short of explaining it. Daisy is wiser in not freaking May out with information about an “alternate” reality than Simmons has been.

We really start to see the forces at work on Fitz. Ophelia is unconscious and has a broken back, but will live. De Caestecker is terrific in this episode as we get little hints at his struggle to maintain his steely, cold demeanor. He stands by Ophelia’s bed with both fists clenched – and his father, Alastair (David O’Hara) pouring poison in his ears, telling him to step up – Fitz is in charge now. And he must rule with an iron fist.

Bakshi comes to see Fitz – and he’s just a obsequious a boot-licker as he always was! Bakshi wants Madame Hydra to appear on the show, but Fitz says no. Bakshi backtracks and says that’s fine, they can use archival footage to placate the public, but that’s not what Fitz wants either. He wants the public afraid. Bakshi returns to the air and sets the public after Skye and May – “to bring these killers to justice.”

Ward is terrified for Skye. Hope (Jordan Rivera) is also worried about Skye – because she seemed nice. It’s heartbreaking that Mack is going to lose his daughter. Will he cherish the memories he has when he returns to our world, or will it tear him apart to have seen even more of what he lost? He is a terrific father and doesn’t lie to his daughter, telling her that she can’t believe the news.

Ward asks Coulson to join a team to look for Skye. Coulson urges Ward not to run off half-cocked. Skye could be anywhere – he’s already stepping into that leadership role, organizing a better way, taking all the factors into account. Coulson tells Ward that he’s pretty sure that Skye can take care of herself. Ward wants to discount Coulson’s opinion, telling him that he’s just a school teacher. And I loved this scene. Coulson tells Ward that someone once thought that he could be more. He had a chance to join S.H.I.E.L.D. A man came to him to ask him to join – Fury, right? Gregg is terrific in this scene – and I’m betting it was his choice to take off his school teacher glasses as he tells Ward that he didn’t join because he was afraid – the same way Ward is now. He urges Ward not to let emotion cloud his judgment. Ward says that’s not what’s going on.

Coulson goes on to say that joining S.H.I.E.L.D. seemed like too much responsibility and he didn’t want to shoulder it. And now that’s the decision he regrets. Ward tells Coulson he was serving time for arson – and this part of the story we know. Victoria Hand was the first person to tell him he could be a good man – and Skye was the one to make him believe it. Here’s the Ward we would have had if he’d never been kidnapped and tortured and brainwashed. Coulson gets why Ward can’t just sit and wait. He tells him to try not to get killed – switching the roles of who is looking out for whom.

Simmons goes over the plans that Trip stole with his grandfather’s camera. Simmons mentions the Howling Commandos (yeah Agent Carter/Captain America reference!!!) and how she’d always meant to ask him about that. Trip questions “always?” And for once, Simmons doesn’t try to explain the other reality – where Trip is still dead. Simmons makes excuses about how she’d heard about it – Trip is quite popular among the resistance. I thought this was a terrific way of referencing how popular Britt is among the fans who resisted his death on the show!

Simmons recognizes Darkhold tech in the plans. Simmons realizes that the device would need a substantial amount of power. Simmons realizes that Aida’s using Ivanov’s resources in that reality too. She asks if they can take a quinjet to check the Baltic sea and Ivanov’s drilling platforms.

May and Daisy make it to the rendez vous point, but not before seeing their names on billboards and getting the stink-eye from random people on the street. A gunfight ensues as Hydra shows up, but Daisy quakes their own grenade back at them.

Burrows (Patrick Cavanaugh) rushes in, looking for Ward. Their agent managed to get a message that someone had made contact, but not who. Naturally, Ward is gone and so is Trip. Leaving Coulson and Mack to step up! Let me pause to say how much fun it’s been to have Burrows back and being an actual, useful agent!

Mack tells Hope that he’s got to go for a little while to help S.H.I.E.L.D., and Hope immediately wants to help too – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Mack tells her she can help by teaching the other kids how to fix some radios. It’s another sweet scene between these two.

May and Daisy are trapped, and May goes through the SOP (standard operating procedure) for dealing with a hostile Inhuman – which will likely end with an airstrike. This opens the door for May to admit that she was the one to order the airstrike on the Patriot. May doesn’t back away from owning what she did. Daisy tells her that she didn’t know and she can’t blame herself for Hydra’s lies. The important thing is that once she knew the truth, she fought back. Daisy points out that is what they need – if more people see what she saw, maybe they’ll fight back too. But here’s another regret for May going forward. She will have to realize that killing the girl in Behrain was the right move – but not doing it here, lead directly to Mace’s death. I hope she’ll be able to move past that more easily given that Mace really did get his regrets cleared in this reality – he lived the hero’s dream he wanted to, and it was looking like he was living on borrowed time due to his use of the serum too.

Ophelia wakes and tells Fitz to finish it. He thinks that she means get May and Skye, but she means finish the machine because then her broken body won’t matter. Alastair tells Fitz to focus on what Ophelia wants, and he’ll take care of the traitors.

Daisy and May are about to be captured when Mack appears to save them. He turns his gun on May, not wanting to trust the woman who held his daughter hostage. Coulson jumps in front of May and tells Mack it’s not a good time to hold a gun on their allies. Coulson knows instinctively to trust May! Once again, it’s their true nature pushing through! Burrows gets them all out.

On the quinjet, Simmons finds an oil rig that is much deeper than the others. She and Trip infiltrate the rig – and the scenes are nicely cut with Ivanov overseeing the building of the machine. However, when the door opens, Simmons and Trip find an empty room. Simmons realizes immediately that it is where Aida’s building the machine – just not in this reality! She also knows now what it will do. Aida has found a way to create living tissue – Aida is going to Pinocchio herself!!! She’s going to make herself a real girl!

Trip says he might not get it, but he believes her. He tells her, “C’mon girl! That’s way too crazy a story to make up!” Oh, how I’ve missed your easy trust, Trip! He also urges that they have to hurry up whatever they do because they were about a week away from finishing the project when he took the pictures… about a week ago!

Alastair reports to Fitz that they lost seven agents and the traitors got away. Fitz loses his temper and screams at his father that he wants them dead for breaking Ophelia’s spine, even if it costs them 100 agents! Our Fitz would never be so careless with human lives! De Caestecker is brilliant in this scene, and we get a real understanding of why this isn’t our Fitz.

As soon as he gets in Alastair’s face, Alastair gets right back in his and Fitz immediately flinches back and lowers his eyes – classic abuse body language. It’s immediately clear how Fitz was raised. Alastair tells him if he’d wanted him hysterical at every set back, he would have left him with his mother. This is the Fitz raised by his father – not his mother, who clearly instilled an entirely different set of values and coping mechanisms. Alastair insisted on repression – hence the clenching fists to tamp down all emotions. It’s also a nice contrast to the Ward of this reality who wants to let his emotions for Skye send him off without a clear plan.

Alastair insists that he will find the traitors. Fitz should focus on the machine. Fitz turns back to the machine and tells Alastair that he was right. He can’t show any weakness – he can’t tolerate failure – even from his own father. You reap what you sow – Alastair has created an unfeeling monster who won’t let emotion get in his way.

Ward arrives back at the base just as Daisy and the others do. He’s clearly thrilled to see her, and she’s not displeased to see him. He tells her he’s been combing the streets looking for her, and she tells him she can look after herself. She’s about to go look for Simmons, and he tells her that Simmons and Trip are on a recon mission. Daisy is thrilled to hear that Trip is alive in this reality.

Ward tells her that Simmons told him about the other world. He asks her if she believes it too, and she says yes – and that she needs him to trust her. She has a way for them to get back home – and Ward immediately knows that the “us” doesn’t include him. Dalton is so good in this scene! He does trust Skye – and by extrapolation he trusts Daisy. Ward believes in the other world because Skye does. He tells her he was holding out hope that she’d be the girl he knew, but he’s glad she’s safe – and he calls her Daisy for the first time. It’s also interesting that she really is Daisy now that she has her powers back. Nice writing.

Alastair goes to Radcliffe (John Hannah) for information. Alastair knows who Radcliffe is – he comes from the other world. Radcliffe tells Alastair that he doesn’t want to talk about the real world. Alastair is just a snippet of code that Aida changed slightly. Radcliffe tells him that in the real world, Alastair Fitz is too stupid to recognize his own son’s brilliance and is a pathetic drunk! Alastair beats on Radcliffe.

Coulson, Ward, May, and Daisy look at her bodycam footage. They want to get the footage out to change people’s hearts and minds about Hydra. Daisy says the footage is all well and good, but if they can get to the trapdoor, all their problems go away. May and Ward are determined that there is no magic bullet to stop Hydra – the footage is as close as it comes. Daisy tells them none of this will matter in the long run. She turns to Coulson to insist there’s only one way “to wake people up” – and I loved the double meaning here! Ward and company want to wake the population up to the evil of Hydra, but Daisy wants to physically wake her people up out of stasis.

Coulson points out that maybe solving the problem in this world is the way to solve the problem in the other world. To save themselves, they need to save the world! It’s a way to divide Hydra’s forces to let them get to the coordinates.

We cut to Bakshi onset, sexually harassing one of his female co-workers – by a ripped from the headlines offer to take her shopping for furniture! Love this show! The preparations for broadcast are interrupted by the arrival of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team. I loved Coulson walking in and saying, “Heard you were looking for some enemies of the state.” – and Daisy’s smile at seeing the Coulson she knows peeking out!

Bakshi insists that he’s the most trusted voice in journalism and he won’t go on air and slander Hydra! He immediately gives up when Daisy quakes him. But he’s not the plan anyway – they don’t need him. The facts will speak for themselves. Much as they do in the real world – the not television world.

Fitz completes the machine and goes to tell Ophelia. This is actually a touching scene. Fitz admits that he had doubts about the project – his own true nature shining through? He tells her that he has only one request – he wants her to take him with her. She says she was hoping he’d say that. What happens to the real Fitz if this Fitz comes back? Does she imprint this consciousness on the real Fitz or is this an indication that the memories from this world will override those of the real world?

May helps Coulson prepare for his broadcast. And May admits to a feeling of déjà vu. Coulson says he gets it all the time too – he attributes it to being on the right track. Coulson admits he’s nervous, and May reassures him that he’ll be fine – just tell the truth. It was such a nice, typical May/Coulson moment – I’ve really been missing these. And it’s clear that Coulson is crushing on May too!

Daisy is having trouble hacking the Hydra system to keep the broadcast running, and Ward says that he’s got it covered – he’ll make sure it runs for as long as possible. He’s clearly planning on sacrificing himself. Daisy tells him no, but he insists that he knows he’s not going with them when they leave. There’s a nice shot of the two mirrored in the monitors that is a “reflection” of how this is a mirror image of the two of them – one world to another. What they might have been.

Ward puts his gun down and reaches out to stroke Daisy’s arm. She immediately stiffens up and he removes his hand with a sigh. He tells her that he would hate her to think that he was anything like the Grant Ward she knew over there. Ward asks if “he” got locked up for what he did in her world. And when Daisy doesn’t answer, he realizes that that Ward is dead. Dalton just about broke my heart when Ward asks if he gets his Skye back once Daisy is gone. She answers honestly that she doesn’t know – but she also points out that Skye is Hydra. Ward brushes it off with every relationship has its ups and downs.

Daisy tells him that for what it’s worth, she didn’t totally understand Ward, until she met him. She realizes there was some good in the other Ward, and she hopes that Skye comes back to him. Daisy never did understand how much damage Garrett did to Ward.

Alastair reports to Fitz that Radcliffe was conspiring with Daisy, but he’s prepared to die before he’ll say anything. Fitz suggests that they’ll give him a reason to live.

Coulson finishes his broadcast and May suggests they get out of there. Ward is clearly preparing to sacrifice himself, so Coulson tells him that the Patriot would have been proud of what they did there. Coulson shows the footage and reveals the truth. I loved how brave the show was to go there. Coulson tells the watching public that Hydra has been feeding them “alternative facts” to keep them afraid – and in line. And to keep them in power. Coulson tells them to remember that there are more of them than there are of Hydra – kind of like the electoral college vote. He asks the public if they are willing to make a stand – to hold Hydra accountable.

Burrows runs in to Ward and tells him that there are people outside. Ward picks up his gun, but Burrows clarifies – they’ve marched there to help them fight! Maybe Ward will finally get to be the hero in this reality too – like Mace.

Coulson goes on to say that a wise man once told him that “a person can do anything once they realize they are part of something bigger.” Fury’s words – and we’ve heard them before. Have I mentioned how much I love the writing on this show? Ophelia is among those watching and she looks sad while the others watching look hopeful.

Coulson finishes he broadcast by taking off his glasses and declaring that he’s not just a history teacher, his name is Phil Coulson, and he’s an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

In the final scene, Ivanov is not happy that his senses are not the same as when he was human. Aida has uploaded the final specifications for the machine. Ivanov is eager to have his restrictions lifted – he wants to put a knife through Coulson’s throat. Aida assures him that the restrictions on both of them will be lifted. Ivanov has also located the jet that Daisy and Simmons are on and his men are going to shoot it down as soon as they have a lock on it!

I thought this was a terrific episode. So many throwbacks and echoes. I also really like how they’ve revisited the Ward storyline and clarified why he was the way he was. This is the Ward that I always wanted them to be able to recover. There’s a really interesting parallel to Ward in the real world and Fitz in the alternate reality. How will this effect Fitz when he returns? I’m eager now to find out what the fallout will be. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!