I have a soft spot for prison riots. Not the real kind, those are tragic. Talking about the fictional variety where it’s just a fantastic setting for any action heavy sequence. Locked into one location specifically designed to keep people in, and our protagonists fighting their way through cell blocks full of angry prisoners. Makes for great drama, and it’s easy to give every key character something to do since the setting is so large.
And boy, did Agents of SHIELD really make use of everyone this week. All of those plot threads that weaved together last week, believe it or not, actually show some payoff. And the plot moves along at a pace I’m rather surprised by. This show has a bit of a track record for letting things drag way too damn much, so to see everyone so focused on moving things forward was awesome. Even better is that it didn’t come off as forced or rushed!
So, let’s dig in, shall we?
Pissed Off Scientist Ghosts
There’s something to be said about the writers anticipating all the nitpicking fans inevitably do. The fact that the Darkhold was in some fancy English lettering gave me pause, considering how old it apparently was, but they cleared that up right quick. See, you don’t just read the book. The book reads you. Which is, y’know, really silly, but it’s the good kind of silly. Comic book silly.
Which is exactly what those THEN and NOW blips denoting the flashback were. Extremely comic booky. No specific date or place, just THEN and then we zoom back to NOW because that’s really all you need to know. Stuff happened, and now that stuff has consequences. The transition from Lucy discovering the book to her husband having a Ghost-Seizure, with Mack and Coulson urging him to divulge the location of the book was something I appreciated.
We’re dropped right into the action. No treading water or running in circles across the planet cleaning up after Thor’s mess. Nope, Agent Coulson has a job to do, and that job is to steal a book! Oh, and then the husband dies right after telling them where the book is just before cutting to Lucy finding the book! Except she can’t use it, because the book can’t read ghosts!
Boom, no wasted space. Man, I hope they keep this pacing up, because it is just, as a I said last week, really damn fun.
Phil Coulson: Agent of SHIELD
One of the best choices the showrunners made this season was to bump Phil back down to an agent, and every episode that becomes more apparent. He’s in the trenches, he’s invested in the moment, and it’s no longer super weird to see the Director of SHIELD go on missions. Y’know like how in Star Trek the Captain, 1st Officer and Chief Medical Officer would all leave the ship for an away mission? None of that here!
The moment that exemplified this, to me, was that little bit of parlay with Robbie regarding how he could just kill everybody on the plane and leave. This is maybe the third time he’s said that, but each time feels fresh. For me, it’s because Phil treats it less and seriously and more like something Robbie has to do in order to feel like he’s still in control. So, when Phil grins and tells Mack that Robbie is growing on him, well, that’s him loving the job.
And boy does he ever. I mean, when he sits down in the warden’s office, we start to see all the red flags through May’s perspective—which is always a treat—but Phil just smiles and keeps talking. The moment things go wrong, he’s not even surprised or worried. Probably because he has a hard-light SHIELD Shield projector in his cybernetic hand but that’s really more like a bonus.
Thanks to Radcliffe, Totally-Not-A-Sex-Robot and Fitz, SHIELD has developed a cure for Ghost Madness. It’s like an epipen except better because you have to stab it into the back of their head. I’m not a doctor, but I’m not really sure how that’s better than stabbing a leg. More efficient sure, but still.
Also, doesn’t this mean they managed to cure fear itself? So, maybe market that for those that suffer from panic attacks or are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Eh, probably overthinking it.
When Mack got ghost’d, after making so many Ghostbusters references, I was so sure that the cure would fail, or that one of the ghosts would eat it, but lo and behold. It worked just fine. Once again, this show surprises me with its awareness of the “easy” tropes and narrative choices.
For example, in most stories, Daisy would’ve crippled herself for life by using her powers in a last stand against the rioters. Or Robbie killing that old prisoner would’ve just been a thing he did instead of furthering his own personal plotline. Yes, Robbie’s lust for vengeance meant his uncle was kidnapped by Lucy, but hey the season couldn’t end that soon!
Simmons and Blackmail Beat The Polygraph
Okay, first of all, Brandon Keener played the man administering the lie detector test. Brandon Keener is the voice actor for Garrus Vakarian, a fan-favorite companion/possible romance option from the Mass Effect series. So hearing his voice, along with Jason O’Mara’s Discount-Bruce-Wayne made my head spin a little. See, for those of you who aren’t aware, there was a point in the Mass Effect trilogy where Garrus went to lawless asteroid and basically became Space Batman.
Also I just really like his voice.
Moving on: that little moment where Not-Entirely-Batman pops out of the shadows in a way that’s totally not ominous, only to, predictably, diffuse the situation by asking for help was, well predictable. Except for the twist that followed immediately. Old school Cyrano de Bergerac-style intel feeding! I was chuckling pretty hard with how chipper Jeffrey was about this whole “hey by the way if you mess up so many people will die because I didn’t prepare for this whoops!”.
The actual “debate” itself wasn’t even trying to be subtle about the dangers of unchecked hatred and prejudice. While I was watching it go down, I couldn’t help but think that Supergirl pulled this off far, far better the day before. Senator Nadeer says some stuff, Jeffrey says some other stuff that Simmons feeds him, and we get a nice moment that links him to the UN Bombing from Captain America: Civil War.
And then he goes off-book, and once again I’m just plain surprised that Agents of SHIELD played this card so early in the season. Jeffrey reveals himself to be an Inhuman, and boom somehow his approval ratings go through the roof? I guess it’s possible, but people were pretty scared of Inhumans an hour ago, so maybe it’s just his handsome face and heroism that changed their minds. Or they just polled everyone on the base.
The Spectrum of Security Returns
Yes, I noticed. Yes, I grinned and became quite gleeful. Two mentions in one episode, after such a long drought was so great. Nothing quite regarding the colors, or any clarification on all that, though, but still. I’m not the only person to remember that bit from the season premiere!
In fact, it even has a fun payoff, since Discount-Bruce-Wayne is not who he seems. Or, more accurately, his origin was fabricated to some degree. Simmons facing down the Director, and then proceeding to use his own catchphrase against him is just fantastic. Before this moment, I have a feeling Jeffrey considered Simmons to be an essential asset, but ultimately somebody he could manipulate if it was necessary.
Yeah. That ain’t happening anytime soon.
For a moment there, I seriously thought she was going to say that he’s not really an Inhuman, but just got a dose of the Super Soldier serum and the whole thing is a PR move to make sure people don’t hate Inhumans. That, honestly, would’ve been brilliant. A little gross, but genius for winning those juicy “hearts and minds”. And who knows, that might still be the case!
Wrap Up Thoughts
- Daisy’s Action Sequence wasn’t particularly new or exciting, but it was wonderfully brutal. Especially since she couldn’t use her powers.
- Senator Nadeer and Discount-Bruce-Wayne striking a deal isn’t that surprising, but it is interesting. “A team that trusts is a team that triumphs!” , and yet Jeffrey still isn’t a bad guy. Kinda waiting for that to happen, but I hope it doesn’t.
- May trying to convince Daisy to let people in was touching, even though she tried to invoke Lincoln. Ugh. He’s dead. Let him stay that way.
- Simmons calling Totally-Not-A-Sex-Robot an “it” instead of a “she” was shot and performed in a way that leaves us thinking that she’s “jealous”. Except she’s not. Simmons wasn’t jealous when she first met the android, and she’s correct about the pronoun use. If it can’t pass a turing test, and isn’t fully sentient, it’s not alive and thus can’t self-identify as anything. Tl;dr it’s a robot.
- Daisy shoved a dude in a refrigerator. I really hope that was as clever as I think it was. A nod to Gail Simone’s Women In Refrigerators meme/list/movement/website in the midst of a woman beating the snot out of a legion of angry men is so, so perfect.
- I get that ABC broadcasts the show, I do. But why wouldn’t Senator Nadeer say she’ll be sending the video to every major news network. Why only ABC? That’s so weird.
- Phil joking about how both he and May have died before, and getting T-shirts made is so comic book-y and I love it. It’s like the Dead Robins Club.
Images courtesy of ABC & Marvel