You’ve gotta be kidding me. There were plenty of things I liked about this episode but we need to talk about that ending. Last week, I spent a considerable portion of my review saying the entire AIDA plot, along with May’s entire story, had been pointless so far. After this week’s episode, I’m pretty sure the writers are just trolling us. While I got deep into my concerns last week, I think it’s important to at least acknowledge what a waste of time the May/AIDA/Radcliffe plot has been. While the “AIDA saving May, thus forcing Simmons to accept her” possibility existed the last episode, here they waste May’s and our time by having her sit around all episode so they can get her to like AIDA and prove that she can pass the Turing Test and fool everyone else. Everything was going swimmingly until the tag matter-of-factly just had Simmons figure it out, be cool with it, and invalidate all the time we’ve spent watching pretty much everything involving these characters so far this season. While I appreciate the writers once again avoiding TV clichés, namely not having Fitz’s secret cause a rift between him and Jemma, her acceptance of the entire situation was laughable. Hopefully, now that all of that nonsense is out of the way, we can move on with all of these characters, cus this entire C story has been a joke.
As much as that whole debacle didn’t work, it fits with how all of the other storylines in this episode dovetail into one central arc, similar to when FitzSimmons revealed Hydra’s secret origin and brought together all of the many plot threads last season. While I’ve never had a problem with Daisy’s loner phase, given, as this episode highlights, she had one hell of a whirlwind few years and is essentially still recovering from an insane addiction and the loss of her boyfriend, I’m glad to see her back in the fold. I enjoyed the show’s new pairings and getting to explore Daisy in a different light, which was also the key for naturally bringing Robbie into the show. That said, I think this show does great work when all plots are operating together. By connecting the Ring Rejects, Robbie’s origin, the Watchdogs and Daisy’s mission, and even throwing in one of our remaining Inhumans, James aka Hellfire, we now have the S.H.I.E.L.D. team firing on all cylinders (smirking emoji) as they work on taking down a more singular threat and finally getting some answers as to what all this talk of devils and demons is really about.
With that said, we have to get something out of the way that I’ve been avoiding. I typically don’t like to spoil comic book plots in the reviews, especially one so new as the story of Robbie Reyes, but the show is really forcing my hand, so if you don’t want a big plot point from the first 12 issues of All-New Ghost Rider spoiled, you may wanna skip down to the next paragraph. So if you’ve read the comic, or simply don’t care about spoilers, you’ll know that one of the big reveals about Robbie Reyes as a Ghost Rider is that he’s not possessed by a Spirit of Vengeance like the other Riders. Instead, his powers come from the soul of his dead uncle, Eli Morrow, who happens to be a serial killer. I think it’s safe to say, after this episode and our introduction to the MCU’s version of Morrow (José Zúñiga), that the show is altering that plot-point significantly. Normally, I’m all for this show and the rest of the MCU tweaking origins and removing parts that don’t work while adding in bits to help connect it to the larger universe, but I have issues when those changes fundamentally undermine keys aspects of the characters. Just like eliminating the Hell Charger or Gabe would risk removing elements that make the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider who he is, I’d argue that him being possessed by an insane, murderous serial killer who happens to be the ghost of his uncle is a pretty crucial part of what defines this character. I’ll hold off judgment until we get the full picture about Robbie’s MCU origin, but for now, I’m not very pleased with this complete alteration of a key character attribute.
What did work for me was everything else with Ghost Rider. Gabriel Luna has done a great job bringing this character to life and the effects still look amazing. Better still, we got to see the race between the Hell Charger and Lola that we all hoped was coming (“I get to keep his car now, right? That’s how this works?”) and, as I predicted in a previous review, it’s Hellfire who inspired Robbie to start using a chain. The flame chain was one of my favorite parts of the back-half of Season 3 and a great way to introduce a cool comics element shared by two characters, one of which we assumed we’d never see. When the show started using a flaming chain in marketing for Comic Con, and then revealed that Ghost Rider would, in fact, be joining the show, rather than Hellfire somehow be weirdly more prominent in the series, it seemed like only a matter of time before the connection was made. I really enjoyed James last season, so I don’t know how I feel about him turning self-hating (Daisy makes a solid point about him being obsessed with going through Terrigenesis), but I suppose it works given how traumatic the Hive infection was and the fact that James is kind of a douche so it makes sense that he would flip-flop on his convictions. Though he’s still alive and could continue to play some role in the future, this was a good note for him to go out on if it truly was his last hurrah. Seeing our new hero grab Hellfire’s chain and then realize he’d just found his soulmate was a great moment, and while I would have loved a longer battle between them, ending their scuffle by having the two fire guys fall into a giant warehouse of fireworks (as Mack succinctly puts it) was a great climax for the episode.
3.5 Breakfast Nooks out of 5. Another solid episode, but major points lost for the whole AIDA plot, sidelining May for another episode and drastically changing Robbie’s origin.
Speaking of breakfast nooks, Fitz and Simmons are at the “I love you” phase! Aww.
I just noticed that Robbie is rocking classic Vans, which is a nice touch given their L.A. origin and their black and white design.
As I’m not completely caught up on the comics, I missed that the Darkhold is currently involved in a Carnage plot, so looks like Marvel is attempting to push the book back into prominence. I think it’s safe to say that Cletus Kasady is a character we won’t be seeing pop up on this show, but if you want more info on the Darkhold, check out this piece on our site by Butch Chalkley.
While Coulson would normally be correct that firing a gun in a fireworks store is a bad idea, this gun happened to be Mack’s shotgun ax so all is forgiven. It really is the running gag that keeps on giving.
Fire is always hard for special effects, so I give the fireworks explosion and Robbie’s chain a bit of a pass, especially since GR himself looks so cool, but that Ring Reject sticking her fingers in her husband’s brain was just too much terrible. I really hope those ghosts pay off in an interesting way cus they look so bad and they’re being featured a lot more than I thought they would be.
Daisy’s warming up to the name Quake! The MCU really makes characters work for their superhero names.
If you wanna dig even more into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., check out the weekly Breakdowns by Adam Barnhardt.