If I hadn’t set a calendar reminder, I would’ve forgotten that Agents of SHIELD was coming back. The quarter-season finale felt interesting, but ultimately didn’t land like a giant cliffhanger that warranted a huge break. Anyone who has ever watched TV before knows that nobody actually died, and it wasn’t hard to assume that they’d be ghosts or something. And that’s what they were.
Ghosts, or something.
That’s not to say that this episode was bad, it wasn’t. There were some fun moments, and even a few beats that felt clever. But, ultimately, it was just sort of okay. Which is a shame, because the structure Agents of SHIELD went with could’ve been really damn awesome.
The basic premise is far from new. We see the same story told from two different perspectives, and the second time around we get new information that recontextualizes everything. Ideally, this adds suspense and raises the stakes. Here? Not so much. It felt more like a march of mandatory reveals rather than actual plot twists. Probably because they were super telegraphed.
Nearly every scene of the episode is shown twice. Once without our “dead” friends Robbie, Phil and Fitz, and once with them. Most of the time, they’re just sort of standing about and yelling at the other characters to listen, but obviously they can’t.
These sequences use a very muted color palette, which is effective for what it is, but it might’ve been more interesting to write a regular 43 minute episode and just have it switch from shot to shot. The effect would have been more hectic and urgent, and we wouldn’t have to watch Agents of SHIELD run around in circles.
In fact, we see this work perfectly during AIDA’s interdimensional portal sequence. We switch back and forth, and it’s not even remotely jarring since they’re in the same room. The fact that the lighting effects were only, initially, visible to our ghost friends was a nice touch. Sadly, that’s the only time they do that.
Anyway, aside from my griping on structure, things did happen in this episode. Most of it was actually interesting, if not padded.
Mack And May Can’t Go See A Dead Body
Our episode opens with our titular Agents of SHIELD running around the Roxxon power plant, searching for the other Agents of SHIELD. No bodies, no radiation, and also a crazy man walking around with pointy stick made entirely of carbon. So, like, a freaky looking oversized pencil.
Apparently, SHIELD believes that this is a deadly weapon despite it having the stopping power of a really pointy stick.
Morrow then kills the four red shirts by transmuting their bones into pure carbon—I think?—and impaling their internal organs from the inside out. Which is awesome but also if he could do that why did he make a wall of pure totally-breakable-carbon behind him? Somehow I feel like he’s at the level where he can stop bullets, but maybe he got bored since he’s a Mad God now.
May gives us a fun one-liner, based on the fact that there is no ‘v’ in Eli except when you use the word ‘evil’ and we’re off to the races!
Discount Bruce Wayne Needs Everyone To Act Like Agents of SHIELD
Jeffrey, in a classic Jeffrey move, seems to be the only level head on the Zephyr as the team figures what to do next. Mack wants to run headfirst into a man who can kill you with his mind, while Daisy is so totally sure that her friends aren’t dead based on the fact that, again, she is genre-savvy.
Man, she has used that excuse a lot lately. And, funny enough, the fact that Robbie’s head lights on fire is the least strange on her list.
Anyway, nobody listens to Not-Entirely-Batman, because he’s not entirely Batman and just their boss, which means everyone begs for Simmons to come back. Because she’s the only person who could possibly solve this mystery, and they’re kind of right on their thinking. Fitz and Simmons solve all of their crazy problems, so why should this time be different?
Well, probably because Simmons is actually part of some weird prisoner transfer deal with Senator Nadir and her resident gestating Inhuman. Of course, we only find out about that part once we circle back around to this scene and Fitz walks through a wall to listen in on Jeffrey’s phone conversation.
Admittedly, it’s nice to have even more confirmation that the new director of SHIELD isn’t evil and is just doing what he can to make sure the organization can continue to operate. But on the other hand…you seriously didn’t put a tracker on one of your most important assets?! Holy crap, dude, Phil would’ve made sure Simmons made the fanciest one possible for herself! Rookie mistake, Director!
Pass The Book, Pass The Demon’s Head
Naturally, May immediately goes to the
Crime Bible Darkhold to see if more evil magic can counter the other evil magic. It…does, and she was totally in the right, but—actually, no. No buts. You were doing exactly what you should have done in this situation, Melinda May. You even managed to avoid getting possessed all over again/going completely insane by not giving two craps about an android’s feelings!
Which, okay, honestly that’s just refreshing. Look, I know AIDA has the charm of a far more advanced Sex Robot, but c’mon, that doesn’t work on May. Remember when they killed her brain so they could save her life? And how she just sort of rolled out of bed and grumbled at everyone? Yeah you do.
Back to the Zephyr. Mack, Jeffrey and May discuss whether or not to use the book. Jeffrey is totes cool with using pure evil because nobody tells him anything, while Mack has the guts to use May’s first name in a heated argument!
Mack suggests that they should go crack some heads open to find out where the Chinatown gang is hiding out, since they were operating with Eli while he was in prison and Jeffrey isn’t for that. As he correctly surmises, they need to take a step back, do some recon and not charge headfirst into battle with no other plan than “punch people until things work out.”
Or, in other words, they need to sharpen the axe so they can cut down the tree.
Let’s just take a moment to applaud how perfectly absurd that line is, and how nobody reacts to it.
Oh, Agents of SHIELD. You just can’t decide whether or not you want to be clever, can you?
Mack does not take too kindly to having his input ignored, so the Ghost Rider jumps out of Robbie’s doomed body, into Mack’s, and rides off to bust some heads right before the Zephyr goes wheels up with Daisy close behind in the Charger. If you ask me, the whole “twist” was far too easy to call.
For one, Mack doesn’t have super-strength. Also he’s way more prone to cars than bikes, so he’d steal the Charger if it were really him in control.
Jemma Simmons: Mummy Counselor
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, Jemma finally gets that bag taken off over her head and is taken into a clean room to reveal…a still gestating terrigen cocoon! Gasp! Yeah, so apparently this dude has been stuck in that rock prison for seven months and is still alive. Also he’s that guy in the Senator’s home from many episodes ago, so that’s not creepy at all.
Jemma immediately gets to work, proving that all of the people around her are entirely unnecessary. She finds his heartbeat, tells them to go away to impress their boss and proceeds to calm a terrified man down instead of turning the room into some sort of test chamber. Because a little human decency goes a long way.
After a little elbow grease, Jemma manages to start removing the cocoon, because I guess they never tried that, and is immediately kidnapped again the moment she gets his face out in the open air. People are just not gracious these days…
AIDA Steals Doctor Strange’s Magic Effects, Saves The Day
While Daisy is off punching some mafia dudes and Robbie is arguing with the Ghost Rider, our third favorite British mad scientist and his Sex Robot are doing productive things! For instance, listening to May when she says things and then doing the things she says. Mostly, anyway.
After Radcliffe shows an extremely uncharacteristic amount of restraint and sanity by not reading the demon book, he states that a human mind cannot bear all of that information. Fitz yells at AIDA through dimensions, trying to tell her to read the book because she’s a computer and would clearly have come to that conclusion anyway, and then all is revealed to both Phil and May.
Except for the catchphrase, apparently. Radcliffe wants to keep working on it.
What follows is, as I stated above, pretty cool. The special effects they use in the portal scene, along reality folding in on itself like shards of glass is meant to evoke the Mirror Dimension from Doctor Strange. Whitewashing aside, that movie was actually good, so in the end it did connect the show to the films in a way far more organic than any of the other times they tried that.
Like that time The Winter Soldier destroyed their entire premise, or when Thor: The Dark World did some stuff. Age of Ultron, Civil War, etc. It’s the first link I’ve felt was real since Nick Fury actually showed up in this damn show. So, props to Agents of SHIELD for putting a step in the right direction!
Well, since I started doing these reviews we’ve gone through two site re-designs (right?), and I happen to like this one the most! I’m saying that because there’s no place for me to put a star rating, or a review box thing at the bottom here. Always felt super forced when I had to do that, even if I came up with clever names for the categories, as I’m want to do.
If I had to rate this one, I’d say 3 out of 5. Not great, not bad. Nothing too monumental, but overall a relatively solid entry in a show that will probably go to its grave before it decides if it wants to be great or mediocre.
Oh, and also Mack did something spooky that I really can’t quite parse.
He’s a big sweetheart so it’s probably nothing to worry about.