Review: ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Finally Lets Ghost Rider Off the Flaming Chain
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire”:
Late in the climax of tonight’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson remarks of two fiery foes finding their way into a pit of fireworks, “had to see that coming.” He’s right, of course, and bonus points perhaps for an obscured Simpsons reference to story payoff, but “had to see that coming” feels easily tailored to “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire” as a whole. Of course Coulson and Ghost Rider would wind up racing Lola and the Hell Charger, of course James’s flaming chain would pay off for Ghost Rider’s timely arrival, and of course Season 4 would inevitably shuffle Daisy, Robbie and Coulson into the same room for one singular story goal, to say nothing of an otherwise worthwhile hour.
Naturally, there’s a lot of fun to be had with pairing the arrogant Robbie with the collected and wry* Coulson, and the car chase between the two easily marks one of the most ambitious practical setups the series has ever undertaken. It’s equally fun to have Simmons and Daisy paired up for the hour, that for as much of a sisterly bond as the two share to discuss the former moving in with Fitz, Simmons can still surprise her estranged friend with her new professional confidence.
*Re-legitimizing S.H.I.E.L.D. is a big deal the movies will of course ignore, but it was nice to have Phil back in action, suit, sunglasses, badge and all. Reminded me a bit of the One-Shot days, which is where S.H.I.E.L.D. began in the first place.
And while the flaming chain that heralded Ghost Rider’s arrival* made it equally certain we’d see Axle Whitehead’s James at some point again, “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire” definitely managed to surprise with the character’s self-loathing, Hive-withdrawn heel-turn. You could tell by the time James struggled to open the storage unit that his nervousness would telegraph some kind of betrayal, but the twist was well hidden with James seeming more subdued and depressed early on. Not for nothing, he’s also the first registered Inhuman we’ve met without the excitement of a globe-trotting superhero lifestyle, better illustrating the season’s point that registration takes a significant toll. Not only are vigilantes in terrible masks taking aim at you, but they make you wear a monitor watch 24/7.
*At the time, the flaming chains on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Comic-Con trolleys seemed like an obvious reference to James, who memorably made use of them last year, offering some striking imagery in the process. It wasn’t until Season 4 started casting for roles that fit Robbie Reyes and his brother that Ghost Rider reports made sense, but I’m glad writers didn’t ignore the show’s first use of the concept.
Still not crazy about whatever’s going on with “Lucy” and her terrible ghost effects, but the introduction of Robbie’s uncle Eli at least started to sharpen that end of Season 4’s focus, especially in uniting Robbie, Daisy and S.H.I.E.L.D. under a common goal. The Eli Morrow of the comics had a slightly more sinister relationship with Robbie, and I imagine there’s more to their story of particle physics, “Darkhold”s and revenge than we got tonight, but the overarching point seemed largely to get Coulson and Daisy face to face, and coldly reintegrate her with the team.
It also doesn’t seem as if Season 4 has the clearest handle on intent for its Life Model Decoy storyline (for my money, I’d bet the plan was much more immediate before the 10:00 move/Ghost Rider intro), as all we saw tonight was Aida skirting around detection with May. Simmons pretty quickly figured out what Radcliffe and Fitz had been up to, and it’s better we not linger on the secrecy angle for too long, but there’s still a number of balls in the air right now. We still have to contend with whatever Jeffrey Mace’s reaction will be, not to mention how Parminder Nagra’s anti-Inhuman senator fits into any of this.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- I’d imagine Ghost Rider FX are expensive enough, without adding back in a flying car, but the Quinjet resolution to the race was effective enough.
- There’s no way May would have missed Fitz being that agitated at Aida’s presence.
- No Daisy-Robbie romance just yet, so I’m staying positive!
- Incidentally, does Robbie have enough control over the Rider to spare James? It’d be helpful if Season 4 starts drawing that line, as Coulson didn’t give him too much hassle for the murders, either.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 will continue Tuesday, October 25 with “Lockup,” airing at 10:00 P.M. on ABC.
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