Setting us up for the Halloween spirit, this episode features ghosts, mystical spell books, and two hellfire-wielders going toe-to-toe in another solid entry of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Fitz and Simmons have continued furthering their much needed relationship–after three seasons of tiptoeing around the issue–and have begun house hunting. While Simmons looks at apartments, she learns that one in particular was set up as a trap to meet an injured Daisy, who’s suffering a bullet wound inflicted by the Watchdogs.
While Daisy’s plan to hold a gun on Simmons in order to bypass the “mandatory S.H.I.E.L.D. lie detector tests” that the plucky scientist must ritually go through is a good one, her status quo as a fugitive could have been stretched and explored a bit further in these early episodes of season four. The idea of Quake acting as a “Robin Hood” style character could have been a great one to explore, but her path constantly intersecting with the Agents took that away relatively quickly. It’s a trap that could hardly be avoided in an ensemble piece such as S.H.I.E.L.D. but still, I wish they had dived deeper into her character in that headspace.
Meanwhile, Coulson and Mack are on the case to figure out what the story behind the Ghost Rider truly is by grilling Robbie Reyes’ uncle, Eli, currently in prison for manslaughter. Finding little in the way of actual answers, the S.H.I.E.L.D. duo does have a nice interlude where they stumble upon Reyes himself in his souped-up hellfire wagon. What follows is a fun, breezy scene of the agents racing after Robbie in Lola–Coulson’s trademark ride–careening through the streets of Cali. Luckily, while they couldn’t hold a candle to actually keeping in step with Robbie in his muscle car, Reyes accidentally smacks right into a camouflaged Quinjet, promptly ending up being captured. The chase scene here was probably one of the highlights of the season so far for me, not just because of the well-paced choreography, but the spotlight on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s strengths with Mack and Coulson trading barbs the whole time. Where Agents shines is really in its combination of typical Marvel action fare and the sense of wit that seeps throughout the MCU, as it does from time to time here.
While Daisy and Simmons are attempting to find the Inhuman watchlist that has been cracked by the Watchdogs and Coulson, Mack, and Reyes are forming an unlikely alliance, May recovers in Radcliffe’s care as the “not-so-mad” scientist begins integrating his Life Model Decoy project into the world with Ada. At times throughout the series’ history, balancing a number of different storylines has been something of its downfall when it comes to quality, however here, you can definitely see that the showrunners have learned from their mistakes in previous seasons and are managing to juggle ghosts, robots, and criminals wearing dog masks with a certain amount of aplomb. While the need for secrecy with Ada is still somewhat mind-boggling when all’s said and done, introducing the concept of which characters know her true nature and which don’t was an interesting twist. This latest installment felt like it was taking a page from Battlestar Galactica and Ex Machina with how Ada was taking in the lessons she learned from Dr. Radcliffe and the situations she found herself in. The Life Model Decoy has always been a stalwart in the comic book history of S.H.I.E.L.D. so it’s nice to see a somewhat different approach presented here.
Back to the Inhuman side of the equation, Daisy and Simmons learn that the next target on the Watchdogs’ list is James, the Inhuman named Hellfire that was taken over by Hive last season. James was always a welcome addition, good or evil, with a charming demeanor and a nice wisecrack thrown in every once in awhile. Ironically enough, Hellfire now finds himself working in a fireworks store, hoping to keep a lid on his powers but unfortunately is discovered by Daisy and Simmons to be a self-loathing nutcase who willingly offers to help the Watchdogs in order to eradicate the Inhumans. After trouncing Quake, James finds himself face to face with the Ghost Rider as Robbie hits the scene. In a fantastic fight scene, Reyes and James tangle hellfire user to hellfire user, eventually landing straight into the fireworks themselves, blowing everything up to kingdom come. This sequence was a blast to watch when all was said and done, as it’s the sort of thing Marvel fans were clamoring for since before the giant Marvel Cinematic Universe began: outlandish fights with established Marvel characters.
While we didn’t have a return of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. director Jeffrey Mace in this episode, I’m certain this was for the best as the episode was almost teetering on the edge of capsizing with the amount of subplots and characters running around. However, “Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire” was wall-to-wall fun and managed to adequately bring a lot for the audience to enjoy while moving the plot along at a nice clip. I’m anxious to see where this season goes as there are many interesting elements bouncing off one another at present, and it seems that the inclusion of Ghost Rider, and the elements that come with the spirit of vengeance, was definitely the shot in the arm that the series needed for this darker season.
Grade: ★★★★ Very good
Agents of M.I.S.C.E.L.L.A.N.E.A.
– The idea that Ghost Rider gets his chain from Hellfire got a good chuckle out of me, especially considering the original marketing for the fourth season had everyone believing that the spirit of vengeance wasn’t going to appear at all with all signs pointing to James’ M.O. being on display.
– Lucy Bauer’s situation is an interesting one and her simple appearance as “the ghost” always does manage to give a nice creepy tone whenever she appears.
– I look forward to seeing how the Darkhold is further utilized. In the comics, the Darkhold was usually presented to normal people by the “Darkhold Imp”, a tiny man who acted as something of a deal-making devil who traded for the book itself.
– Also in the comics, Robbie became the Ghost Rider thanks to a homicidal spirit named “Eli”, so I’m sure the fact that his uncle shares the same name here is no coincidence.
Eli – “S.H.I.E.L.D.? Still a thing?” Coulson – “We’re making a comeback.”
Radcliffe – “We had to very gently…kill you, ever so slightly.”
Mack – “It’s him! The matchstick guy!”
Coulson – “You wouldn’t fit behind the wheel anyway!”
Coulson – “I get his car now, right? That’s how this works?”
Coulson – “With a penchant for spontaneous combustion.”
Simmons – “Is he your sidekick now? Quake and the Amazing Bomb Boy?”
Robbie – “Funny, I was going to say the same thing…without the accent.”