Since they first announced that Robbie Reyes was buckling up in his Dodge Charger, we’ve been waiting for this moment. From the outset, we knew that the greatest fight in SHIELD history was going to go down. The grand slam of all battles. The show-down of legends. Crunch time.
Ladies and gentlemen, Lola defended her position as SHIELD’s top car valiantly this week.
It took the help of the Quinjet to do it, but it’s the effort that counts.
All joking aside, Coulson was complaining last week that he hadn’t met Ghost Rider and this episode he got the chance to go toe-to-toe with him. Or, more forcefully, bumper to bumper. The car chase that happens between Lola and the Speed Demon (your choice as to whether I’m referring to the car or the owner here), is a great example of the kind of highly fuelled energy we’re treated to this episode. The addition of Ghost Rider this season has definitely added a pace to the show that had been slowly dwindling last season.
But to shift it down a gear for a moment, the episode begins on a less action-centric start line as Simmons shows us that even SHIELD agents have domestic lives, as she apartment hunts. Or at least, she tried to have a domestic life, if not for the seriously injured Daisy asking for her help. So, heroes don’t have normal lives after all (or if they do, they share it with, as Tony Stark complains in Civil War, the world’s worst roomies). It throws the pair back into working with each other again and, honestly, it’s somewhat of a relief. While the notion of Daisy developing her persona as Quake alone is interesting in theory, last episode did smell of staleness. There’s the possibility that the writers simply don’t know what to do with Daisy on her own and the quick team-ups with both Ghost Rider and now Simmons has swiftly got her back to a familiar charted course. In any case, it adds an interesting dynamic as Simmons will be forced to lie to the Director in her routine polygraph tests. Surely, if Simon Pegg can do it in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, it’ll be a doddle, right?
So while one lone rider seeks help from a friend, another lone rider is getting a less than friendly opportunity to team up. The aforementioned chase between Ghost Rider, and Coulson and Mack was a fun way to pick up the pace in the episode. The buddy cop-like chemistry between Coulson and Mack flew as fast as the cars, demonstrating why SHIELD’s ensemble nature is one of its finest features. There was never any way that Lola could match Ghost Rider’s skill and speed (sorry, Coulson), but the chase wasn’t played out obviously, nor did it end so.
After a bit of coaxing, the meeting between Coulson and Reyes served a purpose in revealing the puzzle piece that’s been dangling since Ghost Rider first appeared. The coincidental nature of capturing Robbie resembles some of the more obvious writing that AoS can be criticised for, but it serves a viable purpose in moving the story along at a reasonable pace. At the end of the day, AoS is, and was never intended to be like its Marvel Netflix cousins. Being a weekly show dependent on viewing figures, it’s about moving at a quick-sharp pace, so one can forgive the odd coincidence or two.
In any case, we finally get to meet Uncle Eli and learn the story ofthe spirit that’s was hinted to us last week. It’s a tale mixed with magic and science (the kind which Marvel is so accustomed to using) and explains that the ghost is a Dr Lucy Bower, a scientist working on a particle generator, whose husband (the man Eli put in a coma) killed the team he was working with. The idea of a teammate turning on his team is poignant for AoS, the theme being one of its most prominent plot points in the early seasons and it’s interesting to see how this thread seeds through so many arcs of the show. In any case, Lucy is a ghost and she’s looking for the Darkhold. A book which Coulson is now hot on the trail of (cue suspenseful music here).
There’s a lot of subplots playing out this episode and while the central Ghost Rider plot is definitely the most clearly defined, one’s vision of the writers room this episode of one of cluttered storyboards and connected strings of red thread. Overall it was well managed, but they mind find the amount of storylines troubling later on as they start to develop into bigger plots. While Coulson, Mack and Robbie tackle the main line, Simmons and Daisy are on their own mission to track down Hellfire, who is next on the list of targeted Inhumans.
Another coincidence, though one we really didn’t need. Did anyone actually care where James went off to? I mean, he’s fun and all, but the inclusion felt like a bit of an unnecessary throw-back. The revelation of James’ true connection to the Watchdogs however is a brilliant twist and allows the episode to land with, literally, a bang as Ghost Rider shows up to finish the fight. Another slight coincidence, no? And it just so happens that this fire based fight occurs in a fireworks factory. Okay, but at least this one was given an almost-meta nod at by Coulson and Mack who check in on the absurdity of the situation. It’s witty, it’s fun, it’s everything Agents of SHIELD wants to be on its best day.
Besides all the explosions and the car chases, we do also have a few moments of quietly seeding threat in the form of AIDA this episode. It reminded me a little of the early seasons of the Battlestar Galactica remake, in which the Cylons were hidden amongst the humans, with few confidants. The fact that Simmons worked out AIDA’s reality as a LMD not only gives her another thing to lie about to the Director, but also to the team. As the lies spread, so does the concern over AIDAs true nature.
It’s a multi-faceted episode with enough plots and subplots to keep all manners of viewers interested. AoS is not slowing down for anyone and it might just be making it the best season yet.
I give “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire” 4.5 fireworks. (I coincidentally couldn’t find the other .5)