TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 4 Ep 7 "Deals With our Devils"
EPISODE 7: "Deals With Our Devils"
SYNOPSIS: With the loss of half the team, the remaining members search for answers as the clock counts down for Ghost Rider.
REVIEW: After a brief hiatus for the World Series and Presidential Election, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. roared back tonight with an episode that ties up the cliffhanger fates of Coulson, Fitz, and Robbie Reyes. With only two more episodes after this one before the Marvel series takes another hiatus until 2017, this series needed to maintain the momentum of the last couple of excellent episodes to keep those viewers on the fence from tuning out. Well, this episode does the job very well and gives us a look at another Ghost Rider unique to this series as well as setting the stage for the villain in the second half of the fourth season. All of this on a show that many had written off as a failed, sanitized view of the MCU that has turned back into destination viewing for comic book fans.
At the start of the episode, the surviving team members grieve the loss of Coulson, Robbie, and Fitz, seemingly killed in Eli's explosion which left Robbie's uncle with the ability to control Dark Matter. But, the show then begins alternating between the real world and the out of phase reality that the trio have been sent to, one quickly being enveloped in darkness. We get to see scenes presented from two angles and following characters after leaving the first version of a scene, giving us further insight than we had before. It is a unique narrative device that works in presenting a difficult concept for viewers to grasp. But the real question is how will they get out of this parallel dimension? Ghost Rider isn't standing for it and opts to jump into Mack's body and heads out to hunt down the Chinese gangsters that Eli was working with. With Daisy in pursuit of the Rider, May recruits Dr. Radcliffe to decipher Eli's technology. Radcliffe brings along AIDA who ends up being much more useful than anticipated.
Coulson and Fitz struggle with trying to communicate with their friends but Daisy has the hardest job of trailing Mack who goes on an unstoppable killing spree through the city. For those disappointed to see Robbie and his muscle car will enjoy seeing the Mack/Rider riding a chopper like the Johnny Blaze version of the character. The chase sequence is well executed and Daisy soon realizes she can hear Robbie through the car's static radio. But the real cool stuff starts once Mack turns into the flaming skull Rider and doles out some harsh vengeance. Mack's physical presence makes the Rider feel much more intense than Robbie, but this also provides an opportunity for the former occupant of the hellspawn to directly speak with his tormentor. Robbie pleads with the Rider to help him finish his search for Eli. In exchange, Robbie offers a new deal in which he will host the rider until he complete all of his needs for revenge. The Rider accepts and returns to Robbie.
Back at SHIELD, Ghost Gitz overhears Director Mace on a call and learns he had sent Simmons on an unsanctioned mission which we actually know was due to a blackmail plot from Senator Nadeer who is essentially running the Watch Dogs. Simmons is shown in a lab where she is brought to help monitor a Terrigenesis coccoon, the same one we saw Nadeer with at her brother's apartment earlier in the season. While the other scientists are cold, Simmons uses her warm demeanor to calm the man inside the shell who soon begins to come out of his chrysalis. We see his face for a mere moment before Simmons is whisked away. We don't even learn what powers the new Inhuman has but from the brief glimpse we can assume it is likely Nadeer's brother. What impact will this subplot have on the remaining episodes this season? Likely none, but it sure seems like universe-building for the back end of the season.
May and Fitz both realise that AIDA can read the Darkhold since she is a machine. This, of course, means they have to reveal her true identity, but the plan works. AIDA reads the book and determines how to build a portal that they are able to use to pull Fitz and Coulson back through from the hellish parallel dimension just before the darkness swallows them forever. Daisy returns with Mack who is haunted by his actions as the Rider, Fitz reunites with Simmons just before he can reveal that he heard Mace's illicit phone call with Nadeer, and Coulson and May contemplate their need to decompress after catching Eli. As the episode wraps up, Mack is sitting by the portal as Robbie comes bursting through. Speaking partially as The Rider, he asks Mack for help in exacting his revenge. In the stinger scene, we see Radcliffe celebrating the positive reception of AIDA while the android is seen in another room building a brain. Is she enhancing her own or devising a new intelligence that will be more powerful than her and fueled by the Darkhold?
Another really solid outing for the series that balanced action, character development, and literally parallel plot narratives. The alternate dimension giving the writers the ability to showcase slightly different perspectives of the same scene came off as a very smart move. Ghost Rider continues to be the best part of this season but is seems like his time is coming to an end in just two more episodes. Maybe there is a chance that Mack will permanently take on the demon after Eli is stopped and Robbie's story is complete, but I doubt it. I did enjoy the twist with AIDA on the brink of becoming evil but it seems a little two close to what happened with Ultron. I have no doubt if she becomes the villain next year that we will hear plenty of AVENGERS references through each hour. Overall, this was a strong episode that kept the thrills moving and the story ripping along. With only two hours left in 2016, I hope the show can leave us with a satisfying mid-year ending.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES: There were no direct references this week.
NEXT ON MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.: "The Laws of Inferno Dynamics" airs December 6th- S.H.I.E.L.D. and Ghost Rider find themselves unlikely allies when the lives of all of Los Angeles hang in the balance.