One generally assumes that androids would be less feeling than their human counterparts, and less susceptible to their emotions (and that's if they're advanced enough to have any emotions at all).
After all, they're almost physically indestructible; why wouldn't they be emotionally indestructible too?
Well, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is here to throw an ironic wrench into proceedings.
On Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 Episode 11, we were treated to an hour of amazing acting by Ming-Na Wen, who is currently pulling double duty as both the captive Agent May and her android counterpart, who I refer to as LMD May.
Both versions of May draw from the same host of human memories, but one contains programming from Radcliffe that makes her impulses...different.
LMD May can't fight back or resist in the same indefatigable way that the real May does; Radcliffe has programmed her so that she finds herself unable to attack him and reveal her true identity to the team.
Question. Why does it matter if the original May is dead or alive?Aida [to Radcliffe]
In these ways, despite her mechanical body, LMD May is far more vulnerable than her human counterpart.
She can't defend herself in the same way; the freedom of expression and action that makes the human May, well, May, is absent.
No one would ever expect the real May to follow orders she doesn't believe are the right ones; the LMD May has no choice in the matter.
Watching Ming-Na Wen seesaw between these two variations on the same character was remarkable.
Playing two subtly different roles so well is, in my opinion, far more impressive that playing two drastically different ones, where the actor can rely on more obvious tics and mannerisms in order to convey the differences between the two.
I like you, Agent May. I don't wish for you to suffer. I promise to make this quick and painless.Aida
Here, one only really notices the differences between the two Mays when the LMD May confronts Radcliffe about her identity and her mission, both of which he purposefully kept secret from her.
Watching LMD May realize how helpless she was to resist Radcliffe's programming was absolutely heartbreaking.
I thought the episode was relatively slow and uneventful up until this point, but this scene drew me in and made me care again.
Even better: it made me care about a character that isn't even human. Especially when Radcliffe tried to pry her true feelings for Coulson out of her.
Dr. Radcliffe knew that the best way to keep you busy was to give you something to fight.Aida [to May]
Now, I am not a fan of #Philinda. I firmly believe that there are not enough pairs of male and female platonic friends on television. Every single time I become invested in a pair's friendship, it devolves into yet another stereotypical, slow-blossoming romance.
(The last time this happened, it was with Wes and Laurel on How to Get Away with Murder.)
I love May and Coulson as best friends and confidants. They have great chemistry in that way. The romance, to me, feels forced.
However, when LMD May struggled to control her emotions under Radcliffe's questioning, I found myself grow fractionally more interested in the idea. Just fractionally.
LMD May: Today wasn't great.
Coulson: Cauliflower isn't great. Today was a kick in the balls.
This is mostly because I find it interesting that LMD May is more capable of wearing her heart on her sleeve than the human May, despite not having an actual beating heart.
Watching her interactions with Coulson, she seems more flirtatious and softer around the edges than the real May would be. She is, as I noted earlier, more emotionally vulnerable than the steely agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. she is impersonating.
Do LMD May's feelings for Coulson stem from the real May's feelings from Coulson, or have they developed independently? If LMD May embarks on a relationship with Coulson, would human May want to continue it, or would she want to remain just friends?
He believed in me before I believed in myself.Daisy [on Coulson]
I am curious to see where this odd take on a love triangle might go, even if I don't actually want to see May and Coulson together.
While LMD May was wrestling with these startling revelations, the human May was trapped in a simulation that involved her repeatedly trying to escape, only to be apprehended by Aida every time.
Coulson: You know, no one likes a smartass.
Yo-Yo: That hasn't been my experience.
Considering how heavily they foreshadowed May having a more difficult simulation in the last episode, it was easy to guess early on that May's grand escape was fantasy, not reality.
But watching human May vow to get further and further in the simulation until she could beat it was an inspiring show of strength from one of my favorite Strong Female Characters.
When Aida and Radcliffe decided to mix things up by forcing her to relive Bahrain instead, I was horrified. But then we were treated to a lovely surprise at the very end of the episode: in the simulated version of Bahrain, May succeeds in her mission and saves the girl.
If she discovers you've launched an unauthorized investigation into her, she'll launch an investigation into you.Talbot [to Coulson]
The fact that May was able to alter an established, traumatic memory inside her head shows that she is getting even stronger, despite Radcliffe and Aida's best efforts. I can't wait to see what happens when she is ready to take them on in the real world.
I was incredibly started that Radcliffe was apprehended by the rest of the team so soon, but of course, because this is S.H.I.E.L.D., there was a twist. The Radcliffe that was apprehended was actually an LMD, while the real thing is still at large, and getting cozy to Senator Nadeer.
This is politics, Phil. That means politicians. They are a festering cesspool of toxic waste fires.Talbot [to Coulson]
Speaking of Senator Nadeer: I love Parminder Nagra as Nadeer and Adrian Pasdar as Talbot, and always look forward to more scenes featuring them. But I felt that their storyline was the weakest in this episode.
It just lacked excitement in comparison to the Tale of Two Mays.
Hopefully this changes in the coming episodes as Nadeer starts her S.H.I.E.L.D. witch hunt. It sucks to see the team being targeted as criminals again, but it will at least raise the stakes for them again.
And who the heck is the Superior? I kind of hope it's a Mother Superior. As in a nun. Just for laughs. (But seriously, I can see nuns being very anti-Inhuman, can't you?)
I'm happy Turtle Man came out to play this morning...Yo-Yo [to Mack]
One subplot I did really enjoy in this episode featured the one couple I this show that I do ship really hard: Yo-Yo and Mack.
First, we were treated to some steamy post-coital scenes thanks to the show's 10:00 pm EST air time. Then, we got to see some sweet emotional bonding as Mack poured the secrets of his past out to Yo-Yo.
In a show full of outrageous, obviously fantastical events, Yo-Yo and Mack's romance remains grounded in reality. These two are just amazing together and the entire scene felt very genuine and relatable.
What did you think of "Wake Up"? Do you think LMD May will be able to channel her human counterpart enough to rebel against her programming?
Were you shocked by the Bahrain scene at the end? And what do you think Senator Nadeer has in store for S.H.I.E.L.D.?
Remember, you can watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. online via TV Fanatic.
Lee Jutton was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She went into retirement in July of 2017. Follow her on Twitter.