This review contains spoilers.
4.4 Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire
If you told me before season four of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. began that somehow the series would successfully balance plotlines dealing with the evolving Inhuman presence in the Marvel Universe, the introduction of the supernatural onto Marvel TV, and a storyline dealing with AI, I would have asked you what you’re smoking. But here we are with three divisive storylines running concurrently. It really shouldn’t work, but somehow it has been — and this week’s episode is no exception.
This week’s lead story somehow combines the ongoing Ghost Rider saga with the Inhumans arc. You see, the militant scumbags known as the Watchdogs are using S.H.I.E.L.D. files to hunt down the Inhumans. Daisy needs to hack into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s system to find out which Inhuman the Watchdogs are targeting next, so she turns to Simmons to get the info. It is really good to see Simmons and Daisy back together. These two OG S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have always had a great dynamic and (along with May) have made sure that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has passed the Bechdel test since season one.
This week, Daisy and Simmons team up to make sure the Watchdog’s next target remains safe, and that target happens to be the Inhuman known as Helfire. Remember that guy? The British dude obsessed with Terrigenesis from last season that ended up teaming with Hive? Yeah, he’s back this week and running a (get this) fireworks store. It seems that Helfire wants nothing to do with Inhuman drama, but, well, the Watchdogs give him no choice and attack him in his shop.
Meanwhile, Coulson and Mack make a new friend this week. It all starts off rather clumsily as the god of plot convenience allows Mack and Coulson to stumble across Robbie Reyes as he’s tooling around town. It’s all pretty ham-fisted and uninspired until Coulson and Mack give chase — in Lola. That’s right, the two most famous rides in the Marvel Universe go all Fast And Furious. It is an absolute blast with a hilarious ending and the capture of Reyes.
When Coulson and Reyes are face to face, the whole thing feels important. After all, when the Marvel Cinematic Universe began, it was Coulson who first met Iron Man and Thor. For a while there, it felt like a hero didn’t really count in the MCU until he got his face time with Coulson. And there is Reyes, eye to eye with Phil Coulson. And just like Tony Stark and Thor Odinson, Coulson trusts Reyes and a partnership is born.
So with Reyes partnering with Mack and Coulson, the three go to help Helfire. But it turns out Helfire doesn’t really want help as he is revealed to be a race traitor. You see, Hellfire now hates all things Inhuman and just wants to see the death of the race. He is the one that allowed the Watchdogs to track their Inhuman targets (like Yo Yo) last week. When all this is revealed, Helfire and his Watchdog cronies get the jump on Daisy and Simmons, so it’s a good thing that Reyes, Mack, and Coulson show up for the save. And hell yeah, you get Ghost Rider versus a fire-wielding Inhuman — inside a fireworks shop.
And get this Marvel fans: Helfire goes after Ghost Rider with a blazing chain — and we have the origin for the Rider’s most iconic weapon. Ghost Rider gets his hands on the chain and summarily kicks Helfire’s inflamed ass (wait, does that sound like he has hemorrhoids, because I meant it was literally on fire, not three Chipotle burritos on fire, but like, fire fire). How far Reyes has come: the Rider reluctantly teams with Coulson and company, but he also spares Helfire’s life as per Coulson’s request. So there you go, the violent Ghost Rider finding the ability to be a true hero and spare a life for the greater good.
Some other important things that happen this week include the origin of those ghosts that appeared a few weeks back. It turns out that in life the ghosts were mucking around with a particle accelerator or some such and shunted themselves out of existence as they searched for the Darkhold. We know all this because Coulson gets this information from Robbie’s imprisoned Uncle Eli. In truth, all this does nothing for me. The Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider has such an elegantly simple origin in the comics, that it’s kind of a shame to dilute it with all these extra moving parts.
More effective this week’s is the subplot involving Fitz, May, and Radcliffe. May is recovering from last week’s, well, death. Radcliffe has his AI AIDA serve as May’s nurse and wackiness ensues when Radcliffe and Fitz try to hide AIDA’s true nature. AIDA keeps screwing up by clearly understanding May’s Chinese curses (by the way, May says “Guo Pi,” which literally translates into “dog fart.” Guo pi is used by the Chinese the same way English speakers use the phrase “bullshit.” I know this because I married a Chinese woman who uses guo pi in conversation frequently — usually when yelling at me).
When Coulson and company pick up May, Simmons recognizes AIDA immediately as an AI, which could spell some trouble for our agents very soon. More troubling, Radcliffe teaches AIDA to lie this week, and we all know that’s the first step to Skynet. Seriously though, I dig the AIDA story but it just seems so redundant when compared to the utter perfect exploration of the same subject on Westworld.
Anyway, lots of moving parts this week as the season remains action-packed, fun, and intriguing. And that’s no guo pi!.
Again, we get to see Ghost Rider use his chain for the first time this week. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the Johnny Blaze version of Ghost Rider that first wielded the chain, but the 90s Daniel Ketch version. Since then, Blaze has adopted the chain in the comics as has the comic version of Reyes.
In the comics, Eli Morrow is not in any way related to Reyes. He was a serial killer that operated out of LA that bonded with Reyes when the young man became Ghost Rider. Maybe Uncle Eli will be this season’s big bad when it Is all said and done, but I kind of like the comic book take better where a demonic serial killer is trying to corrupt the pure Reyes. All this other stuff seems extraneous.
Have we had a mention of the devil in MCU yet? Marvel Comics has may devils to choose from. You have Mephisto, Satannish, Belasco, Beezlebub, and so many more. One wonders if the MCU will introduce an actual devil character or whether the horned one will remain metaphorical.
Coulson reveals that the Red Skull once searched for the Darkhold. Boy, there’s a story there to be told, huh? One has to wonder when the Skull conducted this search. Did the Skull return at some point? It seems like a throwaway line by Coulson but it could potentially open some serious story doors.
Read Marc’s review of the previous episode, Uprising, here.