[SPOILERS for those not caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ahead.]
Previously on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the show's Life Model Decoy arc was quickly reaching a boiling point, as mad scientist Dr. Holden Radcliffe and his android assistant AIDA developed a digital universe called The Framework that they can upload real humans into. Meanwhile, both Agent May and Jeffrey Mace have been captured, the powerful Darkhold remains in the possession of the bad guys and the L.M.D.s are seemingly growing daily in their sentience.
With so much going on, speculation among fans as to what the title of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s forthcoming episode - 'The Man Behind The Shield' - could be referring to has been rife. Whilst the more optimistic viewers are hoping for a Captain America cameo, the majority of the show's audience expect the episode to center around either Phil Coulson - given that he is essentially the human embodiment of the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization - or the team's current leader Jeffrey Mace, otherwise known as The Patriot.
In a new teaser clip for the episode recently released by ABC, Coulson and the gang seem to be on the hunt for Mace and May and make a reference to having previously found their noble leader's Patriot suit. The trailer also shows Mace's current predicament under the hospitality of The Superior who is clearly enjoying torturing a man of high stature. Although the S.H.I.E.L.D. director doesn't seem to be holding up as well as other heroes might, it appears he is merely bait in order for the evil Russian criminal to lure out his true nemesis - Coulson.
The clip certainly adds weight to the argument that 'The Man Behind The Shield' will focus on the group's official director, Jeffrey Mace. The character has undergone heavy development in recent episodes, going from a stereotypical office boss that no one entirely trusted to being outed as a fake Inhuman being used as nothing more than the public face of S.H.I.E.L.D. in an attempt to win back some of the organization's credibility. This week's episode will likely show viewers exactly what Mace is made of - though given his character's overall lack of importance to the plot, it's far from guaranteed The Patriot will make it out alive.
The addition of Jeffrey Mace in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fourth season may not have had as much of an impact as the likes of Ghost Rider and AIDA but the character has played a vital role in establishing the fictional S.H.I.E.L.D. group as a legitimate entity once again in the wake of Captain America: Civil War. It has also been entertaining to see Phil Coulson as a regular Agent, rather than as the Director and fans have finally witnessed a romantic subplot between Coulson and May (well, L.M.D. May, anyway) that may not have occurred, if the one-handed friend of the Avengers was still the group's leader.
With that said, the idea of an episode focusing largely on Jeffrey Mace at such a critical point in the show's L.M.D. arc may not incite excitement for every member of the show's fanbase. As things stand, there is plenty going on with the Darkhold, The Framework, rescuing Agent May and the growth of the L.M.D.s themselves and some may argue that throwing another spanner into the works with the capture of Jeffrey Mace gives the show too much to do, with only two episodes left before another hiatus commences.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues with 'The Man Behind The Shield' February 14th on ABC.