So far, despite the appendage to its name, Agents of SHIELD has managed to keep Ghost Rider’s screen time surprisingly minimalistic. The gentle use has been a clever way to keep us interested, and it also means that episodes such as this, wherein Robbie’s secrets come to the surface, are all the more intriguing.
It’s a mostly Ghost Rider-centric episode this week and it feels worthy of its position. In many respects, this is an origin story for Reyes, bringing together the pieces we know and bricking them together to see the whole picture of Robbie’s grisly transformation. It gives him the narrative depth that Gabriel Luna has been portraying in the role since the beginning and veers purposefully from the simple act of telling the Rider’s story. The episode does more than that, acting as an impressively beautiful study on the relationship between Robbie and his brother. As twisted and mangled as the car wreck, the maze of emotions between these two is an excellent place for this episode to hook into and exploit, which it does with elegance and care. It’s a fight between good and evil, monster and man, and the will of two brothers. What could be more epic than that?
Indeed, it feels like a climatic point and it has to be said that Gabriel Luna hits the notes perfectly in a quietly restrained manner that is so opposed to the Ghost Rider we’ve seen before (in retrospect however, it’s impossible to be less restrained than a screaming, burning Nicholas Cage). However, the show has yet to close off the possibility of a cameo from Johnny Blaze later down the line, particularly with the mysterious nature of the titular “good Samaritan”.
Last week, we distinctly remember making a few complaints about Lucy being a relatively weak villain that would benefit replacement and, quite surprisingly, she has been – in the shape of Eli. Eli’s betrayal is a pretty good twist by all means; though it does seem to put under question the ways that Eli and Lucy’s stories and interactions have previously been told by the show – it seems as if shock value rather than validity has been a focus here. It does however provide a much more emotive villain for the show, considering the weight of guilt and rage that will be intermingled in Robbie’s pursuit of him. It’s a wise decision by the writers and will only improve the show, despite the inconsistencies.
Eli is not the only villain coming to light. Director Mace remains somewhat ambiguous, neither villain nor hero, yet not an anti-hero or purposefully midway character. It feels as if we are waiting to see a definite action from him to either side of the spectrum; a Schrödinger’s character so to speak. While there is reasoning behind many of his actions, there’s no denying that they are antagonistic. This episode he sets out to arrest Daisy and Ghost Rider, which, while understandable, proves Mace’s distrust of the team and was probably not the greatest conceived plan. Mace stands no chance against Ghost Rider and it was proven oh-so-speedily in the episode. We also got to see a delightfully satisfying culmination of tensions between him and Coulson, which was simultaneously tense and amusing. It was the kind of ultra-polite, office-politics double talk that follows us everywhere in the workplace and in the news and the awareness of it even in the fictional realm of SHIELD was a nicely placed zest of reality.
Mace also seems to be plotting behind the scenes as much as he is in plain sight as he sends Simmons off to an undisclosed location. It will probably be revealed next episode, but with a hiatus next week (those pesky elections and all that!), it’ll be a long wait before we get that particular answer. We (and Fitz), will just have to wait anxiously for her whereabouts till then.
And it’s not only Simmons that has been sent elsewhere. In trying to stop Eli, a wave of Zero Matter energy hit Coulson, Fitz and Robbie, begging the question – what exactly has happened to them? Have they been de-matterized (it can be a word!) and turned into ghosts? Are they trapped in the Upside Down? (guess who is still making Stranger Things references?) Whatever the case, the build-up of questions this episode leaves us with a frustrating cliff-hanger for the hiatus.
After such a shaky history and some worryingly decreased ratings, one would want to criticise this season of Agents of SHIELD. One would think that the ratings indicated its quality or that the shows derogatory reputation as the not-Netflix show was proving itself true. But the thing is, this season is good. And even a sceptic like myself has to admit that the show isn’t getting its fair share when, in reality, it’s working darn hard to deliver an entertaining and engrossing experience for us all. The trekkie in me is reminded of a phrase that Jean-Luc Picard once used: “It’s possible to make no mistakes and still lose” and it seems to me that that is exactly what is going on with AoS. The ratings might not reveal it, but there’s been very few mistakes in this season to boot.
“The Good Samaritan” gets 4 out of 5 impossible-to-break “poly-adapted doors” (Jeffrey Mace wasn’t the only thing that Ghost Rider destroyed this week!)