There’s a scientific principle that correlation doesn’t equal causation. In other words, just because there seems to be a connection between two things, it doesn’t mean that one makes the other happen. This is something that Watchdog Superior Ivanov clearly doesn’t have a handle on. He is convinced that all the aliens, big disasters, and enhanced humans are the fault of Phil Coulson. I kind of wonder how Ultron and the fight in Sokovia fit into that idea, since Coulson was nowhere near them, or the events of Civil War. Then again, the man’s a homicidal, prejudiced maniac, so who says he has to make sense?
Things don’t go wonderfully well for the Agents of SHIELD in “The Man Behind The Shield.” Despite the title, this has nothing to do with Captain America, or Steve Rogers. It does cover a lot of ground though. The opening has Coulson and Daisy sparring, and they’re going at it pretty hard. A few things seem a bit odd, but it’s when Coulson suddenly stops in mid-air that we know something’s off. Coulson and Daisy are in “The Framework,” originally designed as a training tool by Fitz, it’s what May is currently being held captive in. Fitz’s version here is self-contained, and they theorize about what the larger one must be like. They get a lead on the GPS in Mace’s suit, but it leads to a mostly dead end.
The not dead end part is Ivanov’s crazy wall — a collection of pictures and a few other things all featuring Coulson. While the team analyzes this chaos, they get a lead to an old outpost in Russia, and a joke from Coulson that this is why he doesn’t have Facebook. Well, that and being a secret agent who is believed dead and all.
Ivanov himself is at another base, which appears to be fairly large and has bays in it for submarines, which makes sense given what we’ve seen of him. Ivanov walks into Radcliffe’s lab area and glowers when he sees Radcliffe wired in to the Framework. Ivanov is about to yank him out when a very protective Aida stops him. After they have some words, Aida brings Radcliffe back. Ivanov and Radcliffe argue about Radcliffe’s use of the Framework, and then Radcliffe goes back inside.
There’s a series of flashbacks throughout the episode showing the early days of Coulson and May as they cross paths on an assignment that ends up being connected with the current danger, as well as Ivanov’s obsession with Coulson. It’s entertaining seeing Coulson not as together as he is now, or even when he first appeared in the Avengers movies. May seems about the same, aside from less angry.
Mace is chained to a wall and manages to free himself. He gets out of his cell, but not much farther. Somehow or other, Ivanov knows Mace’s secret as well, and intercepts him so they can fight. Mace has been relying far too much on his powers. The fight is short and ugly and doesn’t end well for the Director.
Mac tests out the Framework and comes out of it in a really bad mood. He pretty much blames Fitz for May being held captive, and for Aida. I vaguely see his point, but I think Mac’s pretty far out of line. Maybe he’s just grumpy because Yo Yo isn’t around this episode.
Director Mace continues to have a really bad episode. He’s tied to a chair now, and Ivanov is gloating and taunting. Mace finds out he’s pretty much bait for the rest of SHIELD. When Ivanov isn’t torturing Mace, he’s bickering with Aida. Ivanov’s bias against Inhumans apparently applies to LMD’s as well.
The team finds a grisly display of bodies at the abandoned facility they’ve been directed to. One of them has a cell phone in its skull, that gives an almost Ghost Rider-like effect when it rings. Ivanov is now taunting Coulson, blaming him for the deaths of the men. This triggers more flashbacks of Coulson and May’s earlier mission. After the call ends, Ivanov babbles at Mace more, invoking Coulson as some kind of shadowy, powerful figure behind Stark, Fury, and other Marvel figures. Mace dismisses this as a conspiracy theory. I have to admit, I’m amused that Gregg’s Coulson being a linking figure in the Avengers movies is now a plot point.
Fitz works out the particularly genius way Radcliffe has hidden his Framework code on the net, and it’s a slick plan. It also makes it harder to find Radcliffe, and, more importantly, May. After more flashbacks (what is this, Arrow?), SHIELD zeroes in on Ivanov’s base of operations, which cues a good Bond villain joke from Mac. It’s weird how Mac is getting the good laugh lines but also coming down so hard on Fitz. Simmons tries to reassure Fitz after he is plagued by doubts thanks to Mac.
Ivanov gives Mace a chance to denounce SHIELD, like most modern terrorists do. When Mace refuses, Ivanov admits to grudging respect, but that doesn’t stop him from letting some thuggish guards in to start beating on the captive Director. Aida looks on, enigmatically.
SHIELD bursts in to Ivanov’s base, and splits up to try and find Mace, May, and whatever bad guys they can work out their frustrations on. Coulson eventually finds Ivanov, and gives the Russian a classic verbal beat down. He ends with how unimportant Ivanov is to Coulson. Then the door burst open as Daisy blasts in. “Her, on the other hand,” Coulson says as he leaves the Russian to Quake’s tender mercies. Daisy shows how much she’s learned since joining SHIELD, and manages a nice combination of hand to hand skill and power control that reminded me of the comic book version of Black Canary.
Some of the red shirt (black jumpsuit?) SHIELD agents call in an Aida sighting, and Fitz hopes Aida could be their lead to the Framework and May. Mac and Coulson find Mace and save him from the vicious beating. Simmons and Davis, her assigned agent, get in a joke about the Labyrinth and Goblin King as the team meets back up but Aida gets away in Ivanov’s sub. Or at least they imply that heavily.
Back at the base, as Fitz works on some captured equipment, Simmons starts having doubts about the mission. She makes a few astute observations, and checks the sensor logs. What she finds out is really bad for SHIELD, and a big surprise I didn’t see coming. Ugly, but well executed. Aida finds Ivanov in the rubble Daisy left him in, which means that she didn’t leave in the sub, I guess. I’m not sure who was piloting the sub.
What I liked: The flashbacks were amusing, although they bordered on too much. Daisy’s fight with Ivanov was really impressive. Simmons used that impressive intellect of hers to find out something majorly important to the team. There were several good lines this week.
What I didn’t: Mac is getting to be really judgmental. First he was on his tirade about robots, and now he’s slamming Fitz for being an inventor. I’m confused about the end with Aida supposedly in the sub but then back in the base. Daisy made a dumb mistake in her fight with Ivanov.
It was a good episode, and that surprise ending makes up for the things I didn’t like. I’ll give this one a low 4 out of 5, and it’ll be really interesting to see how they pull themselves out of this one.