AIDA may have made her “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” debut in the Season 4 premiere, but the mid-season finale was her real coming-out party. “The Theory of Inferno Dynamics” revealed the shocking truth: AIDA has replaced Agent Melinda May with a lookalike Life Model Decoy. Though May is still alive, the fact that an LMD has taken her place and no one has noticed launches a disturbing new story arc, ushering “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: LMD” onto the stage.
So where does the show go from here? It’s a big question, with a possibly even bigger answer. While S.H.I.E.L.D. was dealing with Ghost Rider and Eli Morrow, AIDA was hard at work, and while we have at least one piece of the puzzle on the table, we’ve barely seen what she’s been up to, never mind what her end goal is. There’s a wide range of possibilities that the “LMD” storyline could explore, and here, we’ll examine what we know so far.
First, we need to talk about AIDA’s objective. Unless he was lying to both Fitz and AIDA herself, Holden Radcliffe made it clear in the season premiere that he’s developed LMD technology to help save lives. That is to say, LMDs would take the place of actual human S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in the field; as such, human causalities would be lowered, because the androids have a lower chance of getting injured or destroyed — something that wouldn’t matter to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the long run, as LMDs wouldn’t be considered people despite their artificial intelligence. As such, AIDA’s primary objective is to save lives.
And that’s exactly what she’s done — so far. Coulson, Fitz, Simmons and, yes, even May owe her their lives. She has rescued Coulson and Fitz from the void between dimensions. When Eli Morrow’s men came after them in the mid-season finale, AIDA blocked the bullets intended for Fitz and Simmons, even though it caused her great pain. Though she has been holding May captive, she saved the fallen agent’s life during her ghost sickness, even if the act was a little more indirect.
So why keep May prisoner? Well, frankly, probably to save her. See, here’s the thing about AIDA: she’s incredibly literal. This isn’t her fault, per se. It’s the way she was programmed. Language is complex; idioms, even more so, and often they’re region-specific. In the few times AIDA has been on screen, she has failed to understand common phrases and colloquialisms, strictly taking words at face value. In the mid-season finale, Radcliffe even remarked that he would need to update her language processer to include idioms soon.
That being the case, AIDA may very well believe that she’s simply following protocol by replacing May with an LMD. AIDA witnessed first-hand the danger May put herself in when she was infected by the ghost sickness; nothing could have prepared May for this danger, nor could she have avoided it, because she didn’t know that the risk existed. As such, AIDA may have replaced her with an LMD in order to protect her from future harm, having seen the danger May encounters because of the job. What’s more, AIDA had unparalleled access to May, in a way she hasn’t with the other agents so far. May was helpless when she was sick, and she was left in AIDA’s care, which was largely unsupervised.
But isn’t it against AIDA’s directive to lie to Radcliffe? Yes — and no. When AIDA was being kept a secret from Coulson and his team, Radcliffe had to cover up some of the things she said in order to hide the fact that she was an android. These actions puzzled AIDA, and she asked him about it when they were alone. Radcliffe then explained that it was okay to lie as long as it was to protect someone. This will likely end up being his greatest mistake, as AIDA — who takes everything literally — likely took this advice as license to do whatever she wants when it comes to protecting people. This is probably what led to her self-made upgrades, as we saw in the preview for the next episode; it’s probably also her reasoning behind holding May captive. After all, the last scene showed AIDA taking care of May. Though May was clearly drugged, AIDA tended to her, wiping blood away from her forehead and reassuring her that everything would be okay.
More importantly, AIDA apparently believes she has license to kill in order to protect. After all, she snapped the neck of the poor S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who discovered May, who AIDA may very well believe she’s protecting. Just how far will she be able to go under the guidelines that Radcliffe has presented her with? So far as we’ve seen, quite. The second half of Season 4 will surely explore the lengths AIDA will go to accomplish her directive, whether or not it truly is to protect the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — which may include replacing the rest of Coulson’s team with LMD lookalikes.
And then there’s the Darkhold. Aside from Eli Morrow, AIDA is the only “living” creature to know the secrets hidden in the mystical book. As an android, AIDA has what we could call a photographic memory; that is to say, she has instant recall of everything she learned from the book, and it appears as though she read it front-to-back. This is what enables her to tap into mystical energy, much like Doctor Strange does in his film. As such, she has untold power, and we’ve only just scratched the surface of her capabilities. In the latter half of Season 4, she could whip out technology that Radcliffe, Coulson and his team have never even dreamed of.
However, we should focus specifically on Eli Morrow’s proclamation that he could “create life.” During the mid-season finale, he told Robbie that the Darkhold gave him the power to create life. If that’s true, rather than the ramblings of a madman, that means AIDA may have this power as well. This is particularly interesting considering that she was seen examining a hologram of a brain just out of Radcliffe’s sight at the end of one episode. If she has a way to make life, could she build a human in much the same way as Radcliffe built her? If so, what truly defines “human?” And why would she seek to create life?
Well, that may just come down to one Mr. Leo Fitz. AIDA has taken up a rather pointed interest in him over the first half of the season. Of all Coulson’s team, he’s the one that humanizes her the most. Where most everyone else calls AIDA “it,” he calls her by female pronouns, emphasizing that she is more than a mere object. He also seems to have a connection to her, because he was able to communicate with her when he and Coulson were trapped between dimensions. He was the one who suggested she read the Darkhold, and she followed suit immediately after. It’s also gotten to the point where Simmons may or may not be a little jealous of the LMD, as she pointedly corrects him when he refers to AIDA as “she.”
If AIDA has developed her own motivations and acted upon them, is it possible, then, for her to have feelings? Her preference for Fitz almost borders on affection. If AIDA is showing signs of emotion, she may be attaching herself to the most immediate people in her life. Since Fitz was one of the first people to know about her, he would be close to her “heart.” Is it possible, then, that she’s building herself a body made of flesh and bone? Could she hope to be human enough for Fitz to fall in love with her? More importantly, what does that mean for Simmons? AIDA has proved herself capable of murder; what justification would she need for killing Simmons on her path to Fitz? These are, of course, big what ifs, but there’s plenty of groundwork for the show to work off of here.
We need also talk about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secret LMD program. Director Jeffrey Mace agreed to let Radcliffe continue his LMD program, so long as all of Radcliffe’s research was available to S.H.I.E.L.D. That means S.H.I.E.L.D. will have the capability to make their very own LMDs, which — in turn — means more AIDAs, who may or may not have their own independent thoughts, emotions and motivations. S.H.I.E.L.D. could unwittingly create an army of LMDs who don’t have human safety as their prerogative — much like “Avengers: Age of Ultron’s” Ultron, as Mace pointed out in the mid-season finale. Since that would simply retreat a plot from the movies, the show likely won’t go this route, but it’s certainly still on the table.
Additionally, there’s the matter of Senator Nadir’s meddling. Following the Season 4 premiere, I wrote about how LMDs could pave the way for Inhuman Sentinels, and that continues to be within the realm of possibility. Mace has shaken her off claiming that Daisy was on an undercover mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. all along, thereby voiding the blackmail she was holding over him, but she and her anti-Inhuman agenda won’t be gone for long. Simmons and Mace are both privy to some very sensitive information about her Inhuman brother, so she likely won’t be letting go of S.H.I.E.L.D. The chances of her striking back in the back half of Season 4 are strong, and — as a senator — she could very well have the government on her side. If the government gets hold of the blueprint for LMDs, she could gain access to it, and that would spell trouble for the Inhumans.
If Nadir gets her hands on LMD technology, that’s Bad News for the burgeoning Inhuman community and Daisy in particular, as Daisy has worked long and hard to protect NuHumans. With an army of LMDs and Watchdogs at her disposal, Nadir could defy the government and launch a full-on attack against the Inhumans — and that’s if the government isn’t on her side when the show reaches this point. As we saw in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” an army of robots is no laughing matter, even for super soldiers and Asgardian gods and men with flying suits of armor. Daisy, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhuman community would have a hell of a time going up against an LMD army, particularly where they look human; as such, there would also be a lot of confusion between destroying LMDs and killing actual humans. (S.H.I.E.L.D. is supposed to be the good guys, after all.) As such, it’s dangerous for Nadir to exist alongside LMD technology, and even more so now that LMDs have their roots down at S.H.I.E.L.D. She has strong-armed Mace before because she knows his weaknesses, so it’s entirely possible for her to do so again.
Of course, everything explored above is a possibility built on what we’ve seen in Season 4 so far. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of reason to see why LMDs are bad news for S.H.I.E.L.D. While AIDA may have noble intentions, she’s going about her directive in a bad way, and Coulson’s team likely won’t see it coming. AIDA is central to the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: LMD” storyline, but the show likely won’t stop there now that S.H.I.E.L.D. has the ability to mass produce the androids. Move over, Ultron — you’ve got some competition, and the end result is sure to be deadly.
Returning Tuesday, January 10 at 10 pm ET/PT on ABC, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” stars Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson, Chloe Bennet as Daisy “Quake” Johnson, Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May, Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz, Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons, Henry Simmons as Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie and more.
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