The line between scientist and mad scientist is paper thin, Aida observes human behavior, and The Superior is playing by the old rules.
The Watchdogs now have May and Mace as their prisoners, and Fittz-Simmons’ analysis of Radcliffe’s Framework reveals the massive scope of the virtual world that serves as May’s prison. As Coulson and the team travel the world, following clues left by the Superior, Mack has his own thoughts on the science that they now face, putting blame on Fittz for his work with Radcliffe. Mack’s words send Fittz down a path of self doubt, but Simmons does her best to remind him of the good his work accomplishes.
Following breadcrumbs left by The Superior throughout Russia, Coulson pieces together who he is and the vendetta he holds against Coulson. Early in their career, Coulson and May were sent to retrieve an 084 discovered in Russia. While learning to work together, and a lot of flirting, they manage to extract the 084 and escape the Russian unit sent to stop them. The Superior was part of that unit. In their failure to capture Coulson and the 084, many of The Superior’s comrades were executed, and he has sought vengeance against Coulson ever since, studying his life and career, and believing him to be behind the world’s Inhuman and alien threats.
Finding The Superior’s base, Coulson and Daisy lead the team to rescue Mace and take down the Superior. Finally having his confrontation with Coulson, he’s disappointed to find out that he is just another “red shirt” to Coulson, a blip in his history with SHIELD that Coulson barely remembers. Instead of Coulson, Quake takes on The Superior, dispatching him easily by dropping a ceiling on him. With Mace rescued, the team returns to base to regroup and form a plan to find Radcliffe and May, but Fittz-Simmons discovers that Coulson, Daisy, Mack, and Mace, have been replaced by LMD’s.
“The Man Behind the Shield” is very meta in its approach to peeling away the layers of The Superior and his “origin story.” Even Mack refers to him as a “Bond villain,” lightening the overall tone of this enemy, and admitting that he’s not a serious threat, or not as serious as Radcliffe and his use of the Darkhold. But, overall, it was an exciting and entertaining episode. The flashback to Coulson and May in their early days, while crammed with more evidence that Philinda has always been a thing (*eyerolls*), it was nice to see the old Coulson, before TAHITI or losing his hand. Don’t get me wrong, I like the development of Coulson and the rest of the characters on this show, but it’s a nice reminder of where they came from before they’re lives were affected by various events.