Spoilers ahead for “Lockup,” the latest episode of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!
The short version: The team tries to track down Robbie’s uncle before the ghosts get him, which lands them right in the middle of a ghost-tactic prison riot. The new S.H.I.E.L.D. director goes on television to defend Inhumans, and reveals he actually is one. Oh, and Simmons plays hardball and it’s awesome.
The good: The prison riot, Ghost Rider, the little things
Though the first season was a bit slow to get started, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is actually a whole lot of fun these days. This episode was no exception. Much of the action was framed around the team's trip to an overrun prison to rescue Robbie Reyes’ uncle Eli Morrow (a truly bad serial killer ghost in the comic canon, though this is obviously a different spin on that story). There’s a lot of great action, and bringing the Ghost Rider and Quake back into the fold — even if it’s in a truly unofficial capacity — has proven to be a lot of fun the past couple episodes. This episode is action-packed, and Daisy gets a chance to remind everyone she can still kick a whole lot of butt, even without her earthquake powers.
We also get to dig a bit deeper into the backstory of Robbie Reyes and his version of the Ghost Rider. As the only person capable of harming these mysterious ghosts, Robbie gets an invite to the mission (it’s a good thing, too, because he saves Mack’s bacon at one point). But we also learn a bit more about Robbie’s backstory, and it turns out the car crash that put his brother in a wheelchair was actually a gang hit. But why? Does his ol’ uncle Eli circle back into this story on that end somehow? Knowing his comic origin, you have to wonder how long it’ll take before he goes bad (and the closing scene of this episode gave a pretty good indication it won’t be long).
Oh, the little things. This show has been around a while now, and it’s built up its own mythology in some excellent ways. This episode paid it off in spades. We got to see Coulson’s awesome, virtual shield in action again. Mack also had an opportunity to bust out his trusty shotgun-axe. It’s always a good episode with the shotgun-axe. We also got some subtle nods to “T.A.H.I.T.I.” between Coulson and May, and even dearly departed Lincoln got a shout out. S.H.I.E.L.D. really does have its own world at this point, and this episode made it feel seamless.
The bad: The ghost baddies are still a bit boring, the Darkhold (at least to this point)
This season is killing it (literally) in the hero department, but the villains leave a bit to be desired. The “ghosts” just aren’t all that menacing, especially now that S.H.I.E.L.D. has developed an antidote to the crazy-making virus. Yes, they’re apparently just a means to an end to introduce the Darkhold and get deeper into that story. But the ghosts could definitely be a bit more menacing. All they really want is to get turned back into humans, which is kind of understandable. Yeah, they’re killing people, but they don’t really come off as pure evil.
There’s also the Darkhold itself. We’re told it’s been impossible to find for decades, and it turns up in the opening minutes of the first episode where anyone is looking for it. Okay. There’s also the fact that it hasn’t actually been used for, well, anything yet. We keep hearing how powerful it is, but what can it actually do? More show, less tell. The Quentin Carnival signs in the basement were a nice easter egg, though.
Simmons had an interesting B-plot this week, as she bombed a lie detector test for keeping secrets then helped out the new director in a televised debate. We also get to see her play hardball with the new director by making it clear she’s done taking these tests, which frees her up to keep all of Fitz’s and Coulson’s secrets from now on.
There’s also the question of what the new director is hiding. We’ve been told Jeffrey Mace is a hero and a patriot, but Simmons’ cryptic comments about what really happened in the Vienna bombing (as seen in Captain America: Civil War) where Mace was supposedly a hero (though we obviously never saw him in Civil War, because God forbid we have any crossover action) certainly has our curiosity piqued. His C-story also offered an update on how Inhumans are being accepted into the world, and as we already knew, it's a touchy issue politically. Coulson’s rogue antics have left the new director holding the bag, so it’ll be interesting to see how he deals with Coulson’s unit in the coming episodes.
Line of the night:
“It didn't feel like a trip to Tahiti.” - May
Next week: We finally get to see Ghost Rider's origin story.