The last new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. before Halloween manages to keep things spooky in one of the best episodes of the season so far. We start “Lockup” with a look into the past: Lucy and her beau Joe in a musty old basement, to be exact, looking for the mystical spellbook called the Darkhold. In a scene reminiscent of the Evil Dead franchise, they find the book buried in the earth and open it to find that the text written in it appears differently to different people, with Joe reading it in German (as that was his first language). The Darkhold is a big part of the Marvel Universe in the comics, as I’ve mentioned in previous recaps, so seeing it here is still an amazing sight. Hopefully we’ll get even more mysticism from its pages throughout this fourth season, with maybe an appearance being set up for the movies themselves.
Meanwhile, in the present, Coulson and Mack manage to find the bedridden Joe, who has already been visited by the ghostly Lucy, infecting him with the hallucinogenic virus that nearly killed Agent May. Luckily, the team has found a cure in a fun little injection that must be placed into the base of the skull of the victim in order to be effective. Cue the team, with Quake and Ghost Rider in tow, deciding to learn more about the book through Robbie’s uncle, Eli, who is currently being held in prison for the “deaths” of Lucy and her gang. Robbie and Daisy has established themselves as the outsiders, but their relationship with one another is solid in that we were given time to really see their characters interact with each other in previous episodes. Coulson also manages to stay his dry, witty self with a number of cracks sent Reyes’ way as the spirit of vengeance reels with having to now be a part of a team.
Fitz and Simmons still demonstrate their great dynamic as a power couple, looking out for one another while still grappling with past secrets. The scene of Simmons freaking out about her upcoming routine polygraph test was especially humorous as Fitz did his darnedest to give her the best advice to little avail. In the middle of her lie detector test, she’s pulled out by current S.H.I.E.L.D. director Mace who informs her that he needs her help in a debate with Senator Nadeer, which just so happens to be starting in fifteen minutes. Director Mace continues to be another good recent addition to the crew and manages to surprise audiences here by revealing to the public that he too is an Inhuman. While I’m not quite sold on the idea of Mace being in the Senator’s pocket following her display of incriminating evidence inadvertently created by Coulson and the gang, his character and personality have been solid so far, so hopefully that continues and we don’t got the stereotypical “secret antagonist” route.
Coulson and the Scooby Gang manage to break into the prison, bringing along Reyes in case they run into any ghosts. What follows are some fantastic, choreographed action scenes for Daisy, and some interesting chats between Phil and May, as they discuss her recent experience dying. Lo and behold, the Watchdogs have been recruiting inside the prison which gives plenty of challenges for the team to overcome outside of the supernatural variety. Daisy acts in her usual brooding, self-sacrificing manner, while Robbie barely manages to keep a lid on the monster inside of himself. The Ghost Rider seems to have been the exact right choice that the show needed in terms of not only bringing in an established name from the Marvel Universe, but also by injecting a loose cannon into the team that it could have used from the start. Daisy somewhat filled this role in the past, but her allegiances never truly seemed to be in question, while Robbie’s darker half is dangerous, allowing for a new tension that’s weaved into the show’s fabric.
When Robbie comes across a member of the gang that paralyzed his brother during a drive-by, the Ghost Rider appears in his flaming glory, killing the man and, in a humorous scene, having the escape prisoners instantly start locking themselves back up in their cells. Once again, the special effects on the Ghost Rider himself, along with the transformation of Reyes into him, are top-notch and manage to really capture the character from his comic book origins, even better than the last two movies! Ultimately, Reyes gets chewed out by Phil as he allows Lucy to kidnap his uncle in an ambulance to help her read the Darkhold once again.
When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is at its best, it manages to find something interesting and worthwhile for each of its cast to dig their teeth into, and this episode is one of the most on-point examples of that we’ve seen this season. The antagonists are scary, the heroes are charming and brave, and the setup genuinely has me curious into how all of these subplots will come together as the series drives toward the finish line. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Spirit of Vengeance has truly elevated the show this season, and will hopefully continue to bring more of this compelling, darker edge that the series could have used from the very beginning.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good