Since season four of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. began, there’s always been something off about Director Jeffrey Mace and his politician’s grin. Now, thanks to “The Patriot,” we finally know why. This week’s episode featured the return of General Glenn Talbot, who — it turns out — knows Mace’s secret. Yet, the episode didn’t quite nail its mark. Instead, “The Patriot” underlines a few of season four’s recent shortcomings.
Director Mace, the Pretender
This time, the major weekly plot twist of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the fact that Jeffrey Mace isn’t actually an Inhuman. Instead, he’s been colluding with Glenn Talbot to secretly gain his super strength via a biochemical formula. (No, not that formula.) In an even more troubling twist, Talbot’s scientists derived Mace’s formula from that of Daisy Johnson’s mad father, Calvin Zabo.
As much as actor Jason O’Mara has portrayed Mace as a shifty and not-quite-likable character, the fact that he was Inhuman made him compelling. Now, that appeal is gone. In its place, we have the revelation that Mace is basically a whitewasher. Using this elaborate façade, Mace posed as a member of a persecuted minority to gain likability as the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s an appalling scheme, and “The Patriot” doesn’t examine its ethical implications to the extent that it should.
The fact that Mace is a fraud cheapens the entire series’ depiction of Inhumans as a social minority. Season four has struggled to maintain the Inhumans’ relevance, and this doesn’t improve matters much. Can you imagine the public outcry if our own intelligence community pulled off a stunt as bad as this? Moreover, how will characters like Daisy and Elena Rodriguez react to this farce? I certainly hope that future episodes examine this issue further, because “The Patriot” didn’t do it justice.
Coulson Goes Along With It
Perhaps the most unsettling part about Jeffrey Mace’s charlatanry is the fact that Phil Coulson goes along with it. Yes, Coulson understands the gravity of the fact that Mace has been lying to the world about being an Inhuman. Nevertheless, the atrocity of Mace and Talbot’s scheme seems to matter less to Coulson than getting his old job back. Coulson encourages Mace to remain the public face of S.H.I.E.L.D. on the condition that Coulson regain control of the agency’s internal operations.
To be clear, Coulson has never really stopped being the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Our previous Recap and Reactions have examined how Coulson has basically retained his leadership duties despite ceding control of the agency to Mace. As a result, the fact that Coulson regains oversight of the agency’s operations in “The Patriot” lacks any impact. All Coulson does in this episode is step back into the role that he held throughout seasons two and three. And he’s doing so at the expense of letting a pretender like Mace remain the agency’s official leader.
Since Coulson is a prominent advocate for Inhumans, it felt out of character for him to propagate Mace’s scheme. When it unravels — and it will, because this is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — it will do irreparable damage to the scant credibility that S.H.I.E.L.D. has regained since its public relaunch. What’s more, we’ve already seen Coulson as the director of the agency’s operations for two seasons, so “The Patriot” does nothing to change his role on the series. Season four has retread too much old ground for the series. Now, more than ever, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to innovate and evolve.
- Dr. Holden Radcliffe‘s mad scientist routine really isn’t cutting it. His subplot in “The Patriot,” with him and Aida struggling to keep Melinda May under sedation, didn’t offer any meaningful developments for the whole L.M.D. storyline.
- At the beginning of the episode, actress Chloe Bennet does a superb job of showing how uncomfortable Daisy is in the public spotlight. Watching Daisy reluctantly participate in Jeffrey Mace’s press conference made for some hilariously cringe-worthy moments.
- Mace’s late publicist, Agent Burrows, has become quite the caricature of the callous side of marketing. Caring more about Jeffrey Mace’s public image than the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who died during the attack on Mace? Hate to say it, but I wasn’t sad to see Burrows die.
- Even though I like actor Adrian Pasdar (General Talbot), his character’s appearance in “The Patriot” didn’t quite fit. His gung-ho attitude is entertaining enough, but it didn’t feel like he had a meaningful role, beyond serving as a plot device to reveal Jeffrey Mace’s farce.
Elena/”Yo-Yo” will be back next week, so hopefully she can help the series break out of the cycle that it’s stuck in. Catch “Wake Up” next Tuesday, January 24.