We’re back, and do we have a lot to unpack. Given the multi-week break we took, this episode almost felt like a midseason premiere. As such, it had to pull the double-duty of resolving a number of ongoing threads while setting up some plot points for the future. Since the episode is, in reality, bringing us into the home stretch of the first half of the season, it also featured the break-neck pace that’s come to be the hallmark of this series as it moves towards the winter finale. All of those competing impulses could have made for some muddled TV, but the unique framing device used for this episode, mixed with some solid character work, created an overall enjoyable installment.
I appreciate that this show has been building one long arc for this entire season, slowly pulling things together and revealing a bit more. I’m equally as pleased that Robbie isn’t gone for good, as I thought his disappearance during the climax would put him on the sidelines until later in the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the intent at one point, but I think his popularity means he’ll be sticking around to dole out vengeance, which I’m very excited for. Even better, it looks like we’re getting a Ghost Rider Team-Up as Mack joins Robbie on his crusade. I know this is probably impossible, but I wouldn’t complain if the writers cheated a bit and found some way for Robbie and Mack to share the Rider. It’s fitting that in a season involving so much talk about devils and demons, the show would choose to explore the darkness in each character. Daisy and Robbie have been doing most of the heavy lifting in that department, but it looks like it’ll be Mack’s (and still Robbie’s) turn to shoulder some of that burden. Though we finally have a bit of an understanding as to how the Ring Rejects worked, Eli’s carbon powers open up a whole new chapter of WTF to explore. It’s for the best that the show didn’t try and get to the bottom of all of this in one episode, and it’s now safe to assume that Eli will serve as the Big Bad for the remaining episodes before Christmas (I think we know what Uncle Eli is gonna fill Robbie’s stocking with).
If all those shenanigans weren’t enough, we also got some major fuel added to the slash fic fire that is Philinda. Early in the show’s run, I would’ve been upset that these two couldn’t just remain colleagues and friends, but after all this time it just feels natural. It was barely on the radar until recently and given all that they’ve been through, I buy it and would be lying if I said I wasn’t half-hoping they were gonna kiss after Coulson came through the dimensional gate. Speaking of traversing alternate planes of reality using geometric laser constructs, any chance Aida’s light painting is connected to Strange’s mandalas? Considering the concept of Doctor Strange‘s battles existing in a side universe means our heroes are likely none the wiser about the events of the film, we’re never gonna get an explicit reference. I’d like to think the gate, and given the fact that the knowledge of it came from some ancient book, counts as a connection. Either way, the writers finally made Aida useful! I’ve given that story a lot of guff, all of which I still stand by, but it was good to see her and Radcliffe finally brought into the story in a meaningful way. I’m sure Aida will be fine with all of that information in her head now, right? Let’s just get drunk and play guitar and leave her to her own devices. What’s the worst that could happen?
And then there’s Mace. The writers can’t seem to decide whether we’re supposed to find him untrustworthy, or basically just a carbon copy of Coulson who makes reckless decisions, thinking they’re in everybody’s best interest (Fitz even calls Phil out on this very trait). Case in point, his mysterious deal with the sapien supremacist senator isn’t left as a secret for us to ponder. Turns out, the big, Earth-shattering reveal is just that she wants Simmons to hang out with her brother who’s been in a Terrigenesis cocoon for 7 months. Luckily, she’s a genius who figures out a scientific way of hatching him: basically just flirt with him (ugh). But then the stakes are ratcheted higher as they have a fleeting introduction before she’s black-bagged and dragged off to god knows where! Oh wait, she just goes back to the base and everything’s fine. Sigh. Thankfully, Simmons has already had some good moments this year or I’d be worried about where the writers are taking her. And even though Fitz’s throwdown with Mace was aborted by Simmons’ return, they’ve both got some serious questions to level at the new director. Here’s hoping that the writers pick a lane for Mace, cus his “deceptions” are too obviously meant to misdirect us for me to feel that he’s actually a threat and not just a bit out of his league.
4 Mysterious Wallet-Sized Photographs out of 5. I couldn’t make out the month and day, but the “Hope” and “06” are likely the most important bits. I want to believe this isn’t a dead significant other, as I enjoy Mack and Yo-Yo and don’t want any more relationships fraught with drama. Either way, Mack is both sad and pissed, which spells doom for anyone who crosses him and his partner, Shotgun Axe.
Aida would be a lot of fun at a rave.
The only disappointing thing about Mack as a Ghost Rider is that Shotgun Axe didn’t shoot hellfire buckshot.
While I loved Mack as the Ghost Rider, can the writers please find someone else to possess next time. Give that guy a break!
“Driving off against orders! Without a helmet! Mack knows better.” Best line of the episode, but between that and Mace calling the missing agents his friends, does anyone else feel like he’s just slowly being turned into OG Coulson?
More car drift fighting, please.
Poor Nathanson. He doesn’t even get an IMDb credit!
Any theories as to a comic book counterpart for Eli?