Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 4, Episode 10, “The Patriot”
This week, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes a diversion from relentlessly driving the plot forward for what is an entertaining filler episode about the backstory of Director Mace.
Filler episodes often earn their reputation for being sub-par servings of otherwise quality series, but they are an essential part of a network television season. There’s only so much time and budget to spread around a 20 to 22 episode season order, though it doesn’t mean that these scaled back episodes have to be creatively half-hearted. “The Patriot” is an example of how little bit of effort can turn a throwaway episode into something meaningful.
In this case, it doesn’t hurt that the series’ best director, Kevin Tancharoen, was at the helm of this episode, which improved its pacing and action sequences.
The primary story centers around exposing Mace for who he truly is, following an assassination attempt. Mack, Coulson, Mace and a couple of redshirt agents end up on the run after the sniper attack. The evacuation effort is sabotaged when the Quinjet is compromised, its communications jammed, and one of the redshirts is sucked out the door, holding a briefcase very important to Mace’s interest.
After the jet crashes (and the other no-name agent/pilot is impaled on a tree), the three surviving agents set off in search of the briefcase knowing that enemy agents, most likely ex-HYDRA goons working for the Watchdogs, are looking to finish the job that the sniper botched.
Meanwhile over in B-plot land, Adrian Pasdar comes back as General Talbot to ham it up, trying to interrogate the sniper who was captured by Daisy. Neither Talbot nor Daisy nor RoboMay can make the sniper crack under interrogation. This is another moment for Simmons, who it appears to be destined for greater things within S.H.I.E.L.D., to get the job done with a little help from the head of Aida that Mack chopped off last week.
Also, Radcliffe adds the Matrix trilogy to the list of movies he needs to catch up on, because his effort to keep a sedated May tranquil fails — May is not a hot stone massage kind of woman. He does have the genius moment where he realizes that conflict is the heart of May’s happy place.
Following a stomp through the woods, Mace, Coulson and Mack find the briefcase, just after the bad guys do. With a plan masterminded on the fly by Coulson, they recover the case, which contains Mace’s dirty little secret – it’s not an Inhuman and I’ll let Tony Stark handle the next part:
Yes Mace’s powers come from a chemical cocktail created by the Army. As Talbot would later explain, after another brilliant move from Simmons, there was no one who fit Coulson’s bill of a powered person within S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ranks to take over the directorship, so they made one. Mace was already considered a hero and he was a good soldier, willing to do what he was asked.
Mack, Coulson and Mace use a little deception and some stolen guns to make a last stand against the goons, or at least a stand long enough to allow the search and rescue team led by Daisy and RoboMay — who was wounded enough to secretly discover she’s not entirely human in the episode’s kicker — to come in and clean up.
With his secret revealed, Mace offers to resign, but not before a heartfelt speech about wanting to do right by the Inhuman. Coulson realizes that while his powers are fraudulent, Mace’s motivations are pure. Coulson takes over the operations of S.H.I.E.L.D. but lets Mace to be administrator, political animal and public face of S.H.I.E.L.D.
While we didn’t see San. Nadeer or the Darkhold in this episode, the hour led us past some important waypoints. The balance of power within S.H.I.E.L.D. is somewhat back to normal. Simmons is showing the mettle to one day be director, herself. S.H.I.E.L.D. is likely compromised (again). And, May is going to be a handful in both human and android form. All very satisfying developments from what is supposed to be just a bunch of filler.