Photo Credit: ABC/Jennifer Clasen

‘The Man Behind the Shield’ Plot Summary:

The team goes on a daring rescue mission to save Mace (Jason O’Mara) and May (Ming-Na Wen) before it’s too late. Flashbacks reveal Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) history with the Watchdogs’ Russian leader.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. only utilizes flashbacks occasionally, so if an episode has them, the information they provide must be important. In this case, everything we find out about Anton Ivanov (Zach McGowan) the show could have just told through exposition. The real reason for the flashbacks is that they give us a glimpse at a different Melinda May than we know. And I mean super different.

If I’m not mistaken, these flashbacks predate everything we’ve seen of May. She was not as brooding before the “cavalry” mission, but before she started dating Andrew, she was more smiley, more willing to openly flirt with Coulson. She also had a different haircut (typical flashback material). Finding this out explains the lingering attraction between the two and why they became each other’s emotional anchor. It also makes the fact that they didn’t get together sadder. May did love Andrew, but perhaps Coulson would have been better to be with after Bahrain.

The flashbacks and the present storyline also confirm that May took out Ivanov’s unit. However, since he only saw Coulson’s face, he became Ivanov’s main target. Ironically, he seems unaware that he has the true culprit in his submarine. Ivanov has been a menacing villain, so it’s a little disappointing to find out he’s not that special. Still, it’s worth it to see Coulson smugly dismiss him, saying “Cool origin story, bro,” and telling Ivanov this is what he does. Clark Gregg somehow manages to make such a goofy line awesome, but I bet it took multiple takes for him, McGowan, and the production crew not to the laugh.

We also get some good stuff with Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), as he ponders the ethics of his scientific ventures. It’s a nice reminder that you shouldn’t do something just because you can. Fitz meant to help S.H.I.E.L.D. with the Framework though. He shouldn’t be held totally responsible for the current crisis. That crisis includes Aida (Mallory Jansen) switching out most of the team with Life Model Decoys.

I felt that the episode was going to end somewhat anticlimactically until this moment. What a great twist. What are the remaining humans going to do? And what does this mean for the identity issues of all these new LMDs? Will they think like the May LMD when they found out they’re copies?

Besides the enlightening flashbacks, this episode teases a man versus machine showdown and it’s going to be a doozy!

RATING: 8 OUT OF 10 (GREAT)

Aaron Sarnecky is Pop-Break’s Television Editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., 24: Legacy, and Designated Survivor, among other things. He is a TV/Film grad of Rowan University and the fraternal twin of staff writer Josh Sarnecky. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed.