As Aida, Mallory Jansen has been hitting it out of the park in every episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s LMD story arc. Despite being an android, Aida feels more multifaceted than many of her human counterparts. She's both funny and frightening, charming yet chilling.
So, one can't be too surprised that the showrunners decided to bring their MVP up for a second at bat, resulting in one of the already-excellent season's most powerful episodes yet.
On Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 Episode 13, Coulson and Mack tracked down the human woman who inspired Radcliffe's creation of Aida: his former colleague and ex-girlfriend, Agnes.
An Australian woman (conveniently allowing Jansen to use her real accent) with an inoperable brain tumor, Agnes is attempting to live out her last days in the glow of the Spanish sun, alone but in peace. However, Coulson is not content to let her.
I'll mark you down as shocked, but not surprised. Which is surprising.Coulson [to Agnes]
Coulson convinced Agnes to help him track down Radcliffe – and hopefully, the human May. Or so he thought. Instead, an angry Agnes confronted Radcliffe according to plan, only to then be seduced by his promise of a world without death.
That world is the framework created by Radcliffe and Aida to keep human May at bay. Even as her body dies, Agnes' consciousness can live forever in a virtual world without end.
In the framework, her consciousness will live forever. The body always gives up, eventually.Radcliffe [to Aida]
It's very Ready Player One, a book that, frankly, I despised for it's excessive, geek-baiting kitsch. But Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s take on fully immersive virtual reality is far more intriguing – and heartbreaking.
The differences between the human Agnes and her android counterpart are immediately striking, even if they do appear to be physically identical. Obviously some of this is due to good writing, but it also has a lot to do with Jansen's great acting.
I wake up and face death every day. Do you think I'm scared of you?Agnes [to Coulson]
In their skin-deep similarities and clashing personalities, Agnes and Aida reminded me a lot of Orphan Black's Cosima and Rachel. Agnes is an artistic romantic in flowing bohemian sundresses, while Aida comes off as a cool corporate drone.
Jansen's ability to play both characters without resorting to gimmickry shows that Tatiana Maslany isn't the only actress on television who can multitask like a boss.
Doctor, you designed me to read social cues. You're being evasive.Aida [to Radcliffe]
I truly felt for Agnes and was rooting for her to team up with Coulson and get all kinds of vengeance on Radcliffe for breaking her heart. Unfortunately, the lure of immortality was too much for Agnes. And why wouldn't it be? After all, she is only human.
Aida implied that Agnes' life could not be sustained by the framework, and I'm sure that's true, but I also got the sense that Aida did not want to share Radcliffe with the woman who had inspired him to create her.
Can LMDs harbor jealousy – especially in regards to their human counterparts? It's starting to feel that way.
Radcliffe took something from me too. Her name is Melinda May, and she means everything to me.Coulson [to Agnes]
LMD May seemed envious enough of the human May and her lifetime of memories with Coulson, and I felt the same vibes emanating from Aida as she looked at a photo of Agnes and Radcliffe once upon a time, as a happy couple.
Watching Aida coolly remove the necklace from around the unconscious Agnes' neck as she lay in the framework was a deliciously sinister moment on which to end the episode.
All this talk of basing LMDs on real people reminds me that we still have not encountered LMD Grant Ward, as I predicted so many weeks ago.
I'd be the first to admit that I follow my worst instincts at times.Coulson
However, I would still bet money that we see Brett Dalton's handsome mug back on our screens in the coming weeks, whether it be as an LMD in the real world or as a virtual character in the framework currently holding May hostage.
The Agnes-Aida drama was intensely emotional, but it wasn't the only big twist in this episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
First, Watchdog leader, Ivanov henchman and Andrea Pirlo wannabe Shockley accidentally transformed into an Inhuman when he released Terrigen crystals in Senator Nadeer's office. Then, he exploded, killing Nadeer!
Please, don't sugarcoat it, Doc. And by that I mean, please sugarcoat it.Director Mace [to Simmons]
I was not expecting Senator Nadeer to die in such a way; I assumed the show was building up to a big showdown between her and S.H.I.E.L.D.
But now, it has become clear that, despite her political power, Nadeer was just a pawn in the game orchestrated by Ivanov, also known as the Superior.
I'm pretty disappointed, mostly because a U.S. Senator who is also a woman of color feels like a far more compelling and original villain than yet another Russian gangster.
It's not easy to find your place when you're working with heroes and gods.Coulson [to Director Mace]
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might boast one of the most diverse casts on TV, but that doesn't mean they need to add in more sketchy white men in need of showers. We have enough of them, both on television and in the real world. Let them be in the minority, for a change.
But, alas, it is all about the Superior now. And he's got Director Mace as a hostage, mistakenly believing that he is a true Inhuman.
In this episode, Director Mace struggled to figure out his place in the team after being exposed as just a normal guy with a gift for public relations.
He felt useless and, quite literally, powerless to help the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. – especially after Simmons warned him that the serum he was injecting to gain his powers was potentially lethal.
I know Talbot was trying to replicate what was done to Steve Rogers, but you'll never be Captain America.Simmons [to Director Mace]
One of Jason O'Mara's biggest strengths in the role of Mace is the way he makes the man's sheer desire to do good always shine through, even when his actions seem questionable or selfish.
You might not like what Mace does or says, but you cannot deny that it all comes from a place of goodwill towards Inhumans.
In the end, Director Mace used the serum anyway, and took on the Superior's crew so that the rest of the team wouldn't get sucked into his trap. After so much time feeling like a fraud, he finally got to be a real hero, but now he's desperately in need of a rescue.
One odd downside to all of the various guest stars shining throughout the second half of this season is that I have find myself growing a bit bored with the main team, who feel increasingly one-note with each episode.
Daisy has morphed into a stone-cold super agent again, with little to do but show off her powers, while Fitz and Simmons merely seesaw between science-fiction technobabble and awkward, angry warnings that the other one stay out of danger.
The three of them feel as though they have been sacrificed, Director Mace-style, for the greater good of the storyline. And while I am thoroughly enjoying said storyline, I think these members of the original team deserve some better material.
Nonetheless, this is by far the best season yet of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I can't wait to see where it goes next.
What did you think of "BOOM"? Do you think Agnes will ever be able to come out of the framework – or that Aida would even let her if she could? What do you think the Superior has in store for Director Mace?
Remember, you can watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. online via TV Fanatic.
Lee Jutton was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She went into retirement in July of 2017. Follow her on Twitter.