‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 4.07 Recap: “We’re into Nightmare Territory Here”

‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ took a couple weeks off, and I guess I just assumed that the show was already on its midseason hiatus. I guess not. It’s back this week and, sadly, we’re still on this Ghost Rider thing. I’m ready for a change in theme.

We last left off with the revelation that Robbie’s uncle Eli was evil. He stole the ‘Darkhold’ book and used its black magic science to build a “Quantum Chamber” that he stepped into and activated, causing a shockwave blast that hit some of our characters. When he stepped out of the chamber, Eli had the power to conjure matter (just pieces of carbon so far) out of thin air. Oh boy, look out, world. Here comes Charcoal Man.

Mack and May sweep through the old power plant expecting to see a giant blast crater. Instead, the room is fine. It’s just empty. Coulson, Fitz and Robbie are missing. On his way out, Eli is confronted by some random S.H.I.E.L.D. troopers. He kills four of them using carbon stalactites. Ouch.

Reviewing security camera footage from the scene, Coulson, Fitz and Robbie simply vanished when hit by the energy wave. It sure looks like they got disintegrated in the blast, but Daisy doesn’t believe they’re dead. S.H.I.E.L.D. has dealt with weirder stuff than this before. Everybody else is ready to write them off. Director Mace says that he’ll notify Jemma (who’s off on a Top Secret mission he sent her on) that her boyfriend just bit it.

Jemma, while, has been whisked off to an undisclosed location, made to dress up in an environmental suit, and ushered into a room where a person-shaped figure is frozen in a Terrigenesis cocoon. Normally these things only last a few minutes before the subject emerges with new powers, but Jemma is told that this one has been cocooned for seven months.

May now has the ‘Darkhold’ book. She wants to open it and use it to save Coulson and Fitz. Mack argues that they shouldn’t mess with dark forces. Besides which, Coulson ordered them to never use that book. May hides the book when speaking with Director Mace. She and Mack intend to go investigate the Chinatown gang from previous episodes. I’m not sure what that’s going to gain them, but they think it’s important. Mace orders them to stand down and stay put. Moments later, acting very much out of character, Mack defies orders and goes rogue. With a shotgun strapped to his back, he hops on a motorcycle and rides away. Daisy jumps into Robbie’s car and chases after him.

We return to the power plant. Coulson and Fitz are alive after all… sort of. Everything looks dim and gloomy. May and Mack enter the room and we realize that this is a flashback. They were there the whole time, but nobody can see or hear them. They’re ghosts, like Lucy and the other scientists were. Fitz theorizes that they’re out of phase with their reality. Robbie is in this same state. He can’t even flame out.

The three of them follow the S.H.I.E.L.D. team back to Zephyr One, where we continue to rewatch scenes we just saw a few minutes ago. This time, Fitz follows Mace when he’s supposed to call Jemma, and we learn that he turned her over to the evil Senator Nadeer and isn’t allowed to speak to her or know where she is.

Robbie is suddenly overcome by an intense feeling of cold. The three ghosts feel themselves being dragged down to some darker plane of existence. The demon inside Robbie refuses to go. It leaps out of him and into Mack. This explains why Mack is acting strange now. He’s overcome with the Spirit of Vengeance. When Daisy gets in his car, Robbie tags along as well. They chase Mack to Chinatown. The demon demands revenge on those gangsters.

May brings the ‘Darkhold’ to Dr. Radcliffe and explains what it is to him. She wants him to read it, but he believes that it’s too much for a human mind to bear. They argue about this for a minute until Aida volunteers to read the book. Ghost Fitz and Coulson look on, and Fitz has to confess that Aida is a robot. Radcliffe likewise reveals that info to May. If the book is too much for a human, Aida’s robot brain can surely handle it. When Aida looks at the pages, she sees binary code. In their ghost state, Fitz and Coulson can’t see anything on the pages. Radcliffe and May refrain from looking.

Jemma determines that the person inside the cocoon is scared, so she talks to him soothingly until his heart rate calms down. When the shell starts to crack, she slowly peels it away from the man’s face until they can speak. She barely gets a chance to introduce herself before someone shoves a hood over her head and drags her away.

Mack tries to take out the Triad gangsters but Daisy interrupts. He goes full Ghost Rider and flames out on her. The demon can see Robbie even as a ghost. “Your time is over,” it tells him. Robbie offers a new deal. If the demon will jump back into him and help him get revenge on Eli, he’ll help the demon settle all of its own scores. The demon leaves Mack and Robbie disappears. Mack tells Daisy that he went to Hell.

Using instructions provided by Aida, Radcliffe builds an electronic arch. Aida puts on a pair of fancy gloves and makes a lot of furious hand gestures in front of the arch. It doesn’t look like she’s doing anything to Radcliffe and May, but Coulson and Fitz can see her weaving strands of laser light into an elaborate web.

Coulson feels himself being dragged away by dark forces. Fitz tries to pull him back. When Aida finally completes what she’s doing, Radcliffe turns on the gateway. Looking through it, they can now see Fitz and Coulson. The two of them manage to run through the arch and are returned to corporeal form.

Fitz yells at Director Mace for lying about Jemma, but just then she’s returned to the base. Fitz runs to hug her.

When everything has settled down, a sad Mack sits in the room with the arch. It suddenly turns on and Robbie comes through. He asks, “Wanna help settle my last score?”

Off in Radcliffe’s lab, Aida uses those laser gloves to conjure a holographic image of a brain. That’s probably not going to end well. Seriously, did no one learn anything from the Ultron fiasco?

Episode Verdict

This has been pretty much the least interesting season of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ for me, and I’m so over Ghost Rider. I don’t have much to say about this specific episode. It doesn’t evoke strong feelings from me in any direction. It moves the season’s narrative forward only incrementally. The stuff with Coulson and Mack turning into ghosts feels like a filler plot to stall for time. I also found the episode’s structure, in which a lot of scenes we just saw are replayed again with the addition of the ghosts looking on, rather annoying. Watching the same scenes from the ghosts’ perspective rarely added anything substantive to them. Honestly, it seems to be an excuse to film half as many scenes as usual but stretch them to the same running time.

2 comments

  1. Guy

    The show ditched Hydra and Ward finally stopped overstaying his welcome, so I’ve been way more satisfied with this season than I was last year. I still had fun with last season, but I was ready for them to wrap up the Hydra and Inhumans storylines that had been cooking for a few seasons. I know we are simply at a subjective disagreement about the Ghost Rider/supernatural elements showing up (and there’s no right answer there), but I’ve personally welcomed the shift to a different side of the Marvel universe.

    Mace’s color inside the lines approach was funny this week. Whether it was in the script or an addition thrown in on set, kudos to whoever decided that Mace would be offended not just that that Mack took off without permission, but that he’d dare ride a motorcycle without a helmet on. Such a hilarious little aside.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      At this point, it’s not just that I don’t care for the addition of magic to the show. Robbie is a boring character. He’d still be boring if he were one of the standard Inhumans without any magical backstory.

      I did laugh at the line about the helmet.

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