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Recap / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S4 E9 "Broken Promises"

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S.H.I.E.L.D. makes plans to prevent abuse of the Darkhold, unaware of the consequences coming from its most recent usage. Aida makes plans beyond her intended programming.


Tropes in this episode include:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Discussed heavily by Mack, but eventually subverted. Aida wasn't a rogue AI, she was doing exactly what Radcliffe wanted her to.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Both Fitz and Dr. Radcliffe express sorrow after AIDA is killed. While the latter is faking it due to his hidden agenda and the fact that he has a second AIDA, Fitz's grief is genuine.
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  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Aida seizes control of the Playground in order to break in and steal the Darkhold. Fitz and Coulson both lampshade how frequently such attacks happen.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Senator Nadeer doesn't like killing her own brother, in fact it brings her to tears. For about five seconds, before she callously shoves his body off of her.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Of a sort. Mack and Yo-Yo make a bunch of lighthearted references to various A.I. Is a Crapshoot movies as a way to explain why Aida is a bad idea, despite the fact that the MCU has had some very real problems with artificial intelligence very recently. It's even more jarring because in previous episodes characters had listed Ultron as a reason why Radcliffe's LMD program was a bad idea. They may just be joking.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Basically the entire episode. It seems to build to Aida achieving self-awareness and setting up a revolution of LMDs against humanity. However, it turns out that Aida was never self-aware, just following Radcliffe's programming.
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  • Bait-and-Switch Boss: After being hyped as the show's next Arc Villain, Aida is killed only for Radcliffe to be revealed as the true antagonist with Aida as The Dragon.
  • Batman Gambit: Aida shuts down LMD May, fakes some injuries, then locks her in a room with Coulson while wirelessly monitoring her audio and visual input. She hopes that Coulson will expose where the Darkhold is being hidden, which he does.
  • Become a Real Boy: Subverted. It appeared that the Darkhold had given Aida a soul and corrupted her in the process, but the truth is that Radcliffe was the one who was corrupted, and he faked her apparent emotions.
  • Big-Bad Ensemble: Senator Nadeer and the Watchdogs who want to eliminate S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans, and Radcliffe and Aida who want the Darkhold to "help" humanity.
  • Bond One-Liner: After Mack decapitates Aida, he says, "Roll credits."
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  • Cement Shoes: Vijay is shot by his sister, Ellen, and dumped in a lake tied to a very large rock. He's apparently not dead, though, as he enters another Terrigenesis cocoon upon hitting the bottom.
  • Chekhov's Skill: While discussing the possibility that the Darkhold gave Aida emotions, Fitz notes that a regular human would have their whole lives to process emotions, while Aida would have had only days might have been overwhelmed. This becomes a very important plot point toward the end of the season.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Vijay and Ellen Nadeer reminisce over the day their mother died during the Chitauri attack.
    • Daisy and Simmons share their previous experiences with getting head-bagged and taken to unknown locations.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Yo-Yo's suggested punishment for Radcliffe building a killer robot is to make him watch all the Terminator films.
    Mack: ...even Salvation?
    Yo-Yo: He brought this onto himself.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Senator Nadeer clearly loved her parents very much. She also loves her brother, but not enough to stop her from killing him for being an Inhuman.
  • Everything Is Online: Aida is able to take over a good part of the Playground and a Quinjet by means of Hollywood Hacking. Lampshaded by Fitz, who reveals that he and Simmons built a completely offline mainframe for the base specifically because of this possibility. Once he hooks it up, they can get control back.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Radcliffe was corrupted by his brief glimpse of the Darkhold — his desire to atone and do good has been tainted by its darkness.
  • Failsafe Failure: Radcliffe built safety precautions into the base LMD design, including a tracker and a remote shutdown capability, but Aida found and disabled them before anyone realized that she'd gone rogue — or so everyone believed. In actually, the trope is subverted: he masterminded the entire incident and Aida was doing exactly as he planned. In fact one could say he invoked this trope to better sell the deception.
  • Feels No Pain: Aida disabled the program that allowed her to feel pain, allowing her to ignore bullet wounds. Given the reveal later, either Radcliffe did this himself or she never really felt pain to begin with.
  • Freudian Excuse: Senator Nadeer lost her mother in the Battle of New York, sparking a hatred of anything alien — especially Inhumans, which have alien DNA. This even extends to her brother, who she intends to have executed by the Watchdogs. When that plan goes south, she murders him herself.
  • Genre Savvy: Mack isn't all that surprised that Aida's gone rogue, citing various films where that is the end result (at one point stating "This is how The Lawnmower Man ends"). Yo-Yo has the same reaction once she learns about it.
  • Gilligan Cut: A dark example as Coulson tells the May LMD about finding out who's running the Watchdogs and the LMD remarks "at least we know who our real enemy is." It immediately cuts to Radcliffe with the backup Aida LMD, revealing he's been the mastermind of all this.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: His brief glimpse of the Darkhold two episodes ago was enough to corrupt Radcliffe, as he's now convinced that it's the key to granting humanity immortality.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: After acting as if he's been on the side of right since he was turned at the very end of the previous season, Radcliffe, due to the influence of the Darkhold, is revealed to have gone through the revolving door and returned to being a heel responsible for the murder of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and the kidnapping of May.
  • He Knows Too Much: This is discussed in regard to Agent Nathanson, who's assumed to have seen something Aida didn't want known to others, hence why she killed him, but went out of her way not to kill others.
  • Hollywood Hacking: This is given a nod when it's questioned how reading a book could possibly alter Aida's operating system. It's pointed out that the Darkhold can read minds and knows the secrets of the universe. It's then subverted when it's shown Aida's supposedly real emotions are a deliberate emulation Radcliffe designed, so the book didn't actually change her core programming.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Even though Nadeer tried to have him killed for being an Inhuman and her associates tried to kill him in spite of her ordering them not to, Vijay still goes with her because she convinces him that S.H.I.E.L.D. would just turn him into a weapon. He doesn't even raise any objections to the lead Watchdog being on the helicopter with them. It earns him a bullet to the stomach.
    • After finding Agent Nathanson's body, neither Fitz or anyone else has Radcliffe's lab searched for any clues as to why she would murder him. Even a cursory investigation would have discovered May, who was hidden just a few meters away in a closet. Aida does make an excuse as to why she killed him, claiming it was just to keep herself from being shut down, but this is only after she invades the base. Radcliffe may have talked Fitz out of doing a search, but that's never covered.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Nadeer is convinced that Terrigenesis is the next stage of the Chitauri invasion; turning humans into aliens. She ignores (or just doesn't know) the fact that Inhumans have existed for thousands of years, were created by the Kree for an entirely different reason (though, in fairness, not a good reason), and that it's not a virus anyway but genetics.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: Out of a series of disparaging remarks about Aida, Radcliffe takes exception to her being characterized as a Sex Bot. He hasn't slept with her; they're just friends. Fitz just cringes while Radcliffe remains oblivious to why this isn't helping.
  • Just a Machine: Mack makes it very clear he doesn't see Aida as a woman.
  • Knight Templar: Senator Nadeer thinks S.H.I.E.L.D. is the reason the world is in so much trouble and people like her are what keeps it safe.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: May ends up on the receiving end of this. Her being abducted and replaced by an LMD is a direct result of her insistence on Radcliffe reading the Darkhold to find a way of rescuing Coulson and Fitz in the previous episode.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: After the S.H.I.E.L.D. servers are hacked — again — Fitz mutters that it "seems to happen all the bloody time" to which Coulson agrees and adds "At least once a year."
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Watchdogs and Nadeer report to someone known only as "the Superior", who apparently has the resources to take on S.H.I.E.L.D. directly.
  • Manchurian Agent: LMD May doesn't appear to know she's a fake, judging by her attempt to attack Aida after the latter knocks Coulson unconscious. Aida remotely shuts her down, then modifies her slightly so that her audiovisual feed is piped to Radcliffe.
  • The Mole: LMD May is, seemingly unwittingly, being used by Aida and Radcliffe to spy on S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Radcliffe was corrupted when, despite his objections and clear worry, May kept insisting he use the Darkhold to find a way to get Coulson and Fitz back.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Radcliffe helps Fitz get the base systems off-line, which prevents Aida from being able to escape. He later bemoans the fact she'd come so close to getting away with the book, but she would have if Radcliffe had managed to delay Fitz for even a few more minutes.
  • Not Quite Dead: Once he's dumped in the ocean, Vijay enters another Terrigenisis cocoon.
  • Off with His Head!: Aida is decapitated by a swing of Mack's shotgun-axe.
  • Pop-Cultured Badass: Mack and Yo-Yo are given plenty of opportunities to show off their cinephile cred, and essentially end up treating Aida's assault on the base like a cheesy 80's sci-fi movie.
  • Properly Paranoid: Mack has always been paranoid about robots taking over, to the point he has a special clause in his life insurance policy covering his death by robot (with a very generous pay-off rate).
  • The Reveal:
    • When the May LMD goes to attack, Aida shuts her down. She then makes a cut on her head so when the LMD "wakes up," she thinks she was knocked out. This shows that rather than being a knowing spy, the LMD is unaware she isn't the real May.
    • Radcliffe is the true mastermind of the LMD scheme to get the Darkhold, having been corrupted like Eli Morrow before him by just the briefest glance of the book.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Fitz's backup system is an extremely obsolete PC that runs on large floppy discs. Once he plugs it into the main system, Aida's programming is unable to manipulate it. (By extension, it's implied that this is something Radcliffe didn't account for.)
  • Shout-Out:
  • The Stinger: Vijay's corpse is dropped into a lake and instantly builds another Terrigenesis cocoon.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Mack and Yo-Yo independently share the same reaction to Radcliffe building a robot.
  • Super Speed: Vijay's apparent power, though the fact that he enters a second cocoon at the end of the episode suggests there may be more to it than that.
  • Take That!: Yo-Yo suggests that Radcliffe be made to watch all of the Terminator movies due to his apparent ignorance of the A.I. Is a Crapshoot trope. Mack asks if this includes Terminator Salvation. Yo-Yo replies "He brought this on himself."
  • Thicker Than Water: Subverted with Senator Nadeer, as it first seems like she's protecting her brother, but in the end, shoots him herself. To her, she was keeping her promise to "do" him right if he was taken by the Terrigen mist.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Vijay claims that this is why he was in the cocoon so long; he was fighting the change, and ultimately won by coming out the other side completely human. The Watchdog captain finds this ludicrous, and he's ultimately proven right; Vijay is an Inhuman with Super Speed. He claims not to have known he had powers until he was forced to use them.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Vijay willingly goes with two people who want him dead, his sister Ellen and the lead Watchdog, and unsurprisingly gets shot as a result. He survives (apparently) through sheer luck when he undergoes a second Terrigenesis.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The May LMD is unaware she's an LMD, programmed to believe she's the real May.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: After Daisy accuses Jeffrey of using her for his own publicity, he accuses her of this, since he took the heat off her and she's now an official agent again.
  • Visionary Villain: His corruption by the Darkhold has reverted Radcliffe to his transhumanism roots, as he's now convinced the use of the book will move humanity beyond its mortal limits.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Radcliffe still plans to do (what he sees as) good, but is clearly corrupted and ruthless.
    • For all her murderous methods, Senator Nadeer believes she's working to save humanity.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Radcliffe appears to be Drowning His Sorrows over Aida's death, but then the screen pans out to reveal a second Aida, revealing that not only did Aida survive but was acting on Radcliffe's orders.
    • Vijay is dumped in the ocean, only to immediately be covered in another Terrigenesis cocoon.


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