Warning: The following contains spoilers from the fall finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you haven't watched yet, you might want to bookmark this page and return once you have. Proceed with caution.
Raise your hand if you saw that one coming, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans. Because we sure didn't.
A quick recap: In tonight's fall finale of ABC's Marvel thriller, the Ghost Rider arc came to its fiery conclusion with poor Robbie Reyes (Gabriel Luna) disappearing with his evil uncle Eli into whatever dimension it turned out the wannabe-god was stealing matter from. In the process, Daisy (Chloe Bennet) found herself reinstated to the team by Director Mace (Jason O'Mara), Mack (Henry Simmons) and Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) finally gave in to their attraction, and sparks continued to fly between Coulson (Clark Gregg) and May (Ming-Na Wen).
Oh, and Aida (Mallory Jansen) killed an unlucky S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (RIP, Nathanson. We hardly knew ye. Seriously.) after he made a shocking discovery in Radcliffe's (John Hannah) lab, revealing that the May sharing that celebratory drink with Coulson at HQ isn't May at all.
That's right—we're officially in Life Model Decoy territory!
During a recent visit to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. set, Wen and Jansen, along with executive producers Jed Whedon and Jeffrey Bell, spoke with reporters about the show's transition to this new phase of the season—what they're referring to as Pod 2—and how the LMDs differ from the other AI we've seen in the MCU recently.
You may recall that Wen was given a similar task in season two when Agent 33 disguised herself as May, creating an opportunity for the actress to play a character playing her character. But don't make the mistake of believing this to be a simple retread. "It will be fun for the audience to try and figure out is this the real May or is this the LMD May. And I know we've sort of broached that storyline in season two with the nanomask, but what was interesting about playing that character differently was it was actually another character trying to be May without really knowing who May was," Wen explained. "But with the LMD May, it's May. Confusing, isn't it?"
As for why Aida took the surprising leap to murderer in the episode's final moments, Jansen was customarily tight-lipped. (This is a Marvel production, after all!) But she did offer up this tantalizing tease: "I was made a specific way. And anything I do is really what I think is right, you know? Or what I'm programmed to do." Oh, Dr. Radcliffe. What have you been up to?!
And before you cry foul about the MCU's return to AI, the creative powers-that-be want you to know these LMDs aren't anything like Ultron—even going so far as to namecheck that big baddie in tonight's episode.
"We said at the beginning of the season that they were mimicking human behavior, but we've seen that Aida took some sort of leap and built a brain of her own. The real difference is that they represent people that we know and that it's not a big robot baddie," Whedon explained. "I mean, there is some of that, obviously, but right now we know that there's one among us who is someone we know. And how much they know and how much their agenda is mixed with their own emotions, and those sort of questions are what we're gonna dive into, but I think the main difference is these are our people. And that's what makes it scarier."
"And they're not omniscient. They don't have access to all knowledge and all information and all other machines the way Ultron and, to a lesser extent, Vision did," Bell added. "We're much more interested in the knowledge that that person has and how does this being deal with that."
One thing's for sure: Trust may have been an issue for this team before, but we clearly haven't seen anything yet.
As you ponder what this new wrinkle means to the future of our favorite agents, check out the fresh key art just unveiled for Pod 2 and hit up the comments below with your reaction to this thrilling insanity!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 10 pm. on ABC.