TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - S4 Ep 4 "Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire"
EPISODE 4: "Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire"
SYNOPSIS: As Ghost Rider’s quest for vengeance brings him into an explosive confrontation with S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson and Mack must rely on an unlikely ally in their time of desperate need; and Daisy reunites with a familiar face to stop the Watchdogs.
REVIEW: EOver the past three episodes, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been jam-packed with subplots and stories that have seemed disparate and all over the place: from Daisy and Ghost Rider to S.H.I.E.L.D. and the mysterious ghost virus, the Watchdogs and the Senator seemingly at odds with the Inhumans and the Sokovia Accordss. Usually, S.H.I.E.L.D. saves these threads from coming together until near the end of the season. Instead, we get the paths crossed right now before the halfway point of the first half of the season. While there are still numerous unanswered questions, the puzzle pieces make a lot more sense now than they did last week.
The episode starts out with Simmons househunting for an apartment to share with Fitz. It seems innocuous and charming, but quickly turns into a trick staged by Daisy to get medical help from her former coworker. Daisy's use of her powers is rapidly descending into a nightmare of body horror proportions as she deals with broken bones and excessive bleeding. She also uses the opportunity to get Simmons to help her track Inhumans via the S.H.I.E.L.D. servers which leads them back to James. You remember James, right? The Inhuman who can control fire that joined Hive last season? Yeah, he is back and now is working for the Watchdogs due to his distrust of how he was treated last season. It is not exactly the most subtle twist that this series has had, but it really serves as an entry point for his face off with Robbie Reyes.
Coulson and Mack finally cross paths with Ghost Rider in this episode when Coulson goes to meet good old Uncle Eli in prison, asking about the accident at Momentum Labs which resulted in the creation of Lucy and her ghostly companions. Confirming what we have learned over the last couple of episodes, Eli is the connective tissue between the two major plot elements. His involvement with a particle generator experiment that went wrong thanks to the use of the evil book Darkhold is both responsible for Robbie being Ghost Rider as well as what created the virus that almost killed May. While Eli initially refuses to help S.H.I.E.L.D., it was nice to see Coulson back in is suit with his badge and it allows for a great chase scene through Los Angeles and he and Mack use Lola to pursue Robbie.
When the S.H.I.E.L.D. folks and Robbie finally meet, it is united in a path to stop the Watchdogs before they can get to the Darkhold. It is also so that everyone can prevent Lucy and the ghosts from getting it as well. That's right, the Darkhold is our central focus at least for the first half of this season which allows for the narrative to become more streamlined while also taking it in a more ethereal direction that links back to the mystical and spiritual direction the MCU is delving into with DOCTOR STRANGE next month. At the same time, Aida and the Lime Model Decoys subplot is developing nicely with May being fooled by the robotic being which will go a long way into substantiating her existence for S.H.I.E.L.D.. Aida seems way too central so far this season to be a side story and I am sure her lack of humanity will go a long way towards helping to save the team.
Even though I am not convinced that the Watchogs narrative is all that interesting, it does work to bridge the gap between beings that are Inhuman and those that are created by other means. It is by no means a long enough fight, but what we do get to see occur between Hellfire and Ghost Rider is pretty cool. Hellfire/James creates a flaming chain, something teased in the trailers for this season, which falls into the hands of Robbie, giving us a classic pose for the Ghost Rider character. There were mixed feelings about this iteration of Ghost RIder but so far Robbie Reyes is the best aspect of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fourth season. I would absolutely not mind seeing him get his own spin-off but I have a sneaking suspicion that his powers may be too easily wrapped up and ended before this season is done. I sincerely hope that is not the case, but you never know.
The cliffhanger ending of the episode involves SImmons realizing that Aida is not human which could spell doom thanks to her mandatory lie detector tests but I think that is a non factor. Jeffrey Mace may be a by the book leader, but the prospect of what LMDs could mean for S.H.I.E.L.D. and the world at large will be the more integral focus of what comes next. Overall, this was my favorite episode of the season thus far specifically because everything is coming together so early. It also makes me want to lower my assessments of previous episodes even more because it completely undermines where characters have been to this point. Having Daisy and Ghost Rider on their own for the first three episodes now feels like the show has been spinning it's wheels until this hour. If the writers had condensed everything into one or two episodes to get us to this spot faster, we wouldn't have missed too much. My biggest complaint with this series is how much filler there is. If the showrunners were forced to fit their ideas into a shorter season, we would be better off for it. In the meantime, at least we can now breathe in knowing that things are headed in the right direction.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES: The Darkhold is called out as being pursued by everyone from Whitehall and Red Skull to Nick Fury himself.
NEXT ON MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.: "Lockup" airs October 25th - As Robbie Reyes struggles to control the Ghost Rider; S.H.I.E.L.D.infiltrates a high-security prison to unravel the secrets that haunt them all.