Old scores, alternate dimensions and a new Ghost Rider in the latest Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Dec 18, 2018, 11:00 PM EST (Updated)

Spoilers ahead for “Deals With Our Devils,” the latest episode of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

The short version: Coulson, Fitz and Robbie are out of phase with reality and have to fight their way back. Mack gets possessed by the Ghost Rider and it is awesome. The LMD Aida saves the day, but now she may know too much.

The good: Dual storytelling, Ghost Rider Mack, Fitz takes charge

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is almost always at its best when it’s trying something outside the usual formula (see last season’s Simmons-centric tale on the alien planet for an example), and “Deals With Our Devils” found its own way to upend the typical S.H.I.E.L.D. approach. The entire episode follows the same events from two separate angles, after Coulson, Fitz and Robbie are trapped out of phase with our reality after being blasted with energy from the Darkhold experiment being conducted by Eli. It’s a gimmick, sure, but they use it well. From the opening scene where Coulson and Fitz don’t actually realize they’re invisible, to the one-sided conversation between the Ghost Rider and Robbie, the entire episode felt like a great puzzle that fit together really well. They also take advantage of some visual nods to show the alt-universe where the gang is trapped, as things slowly get darker and darker for Coulson, Fitz and Robbie as the episode goes on. It’s a subtle way to build the stakes and show time is literally running out, while proving a unique visual.

This episode also introduced us to a brand-new Ghost Rider, after the Spirit of Vengeance jumps out of Robbie (the Rider has been where he’s being pulled, he says, and doesn’t really want to go back) and into Mack. We don’t learn this until the second trip through the scene (dual storytelling!), and it’s a cool reveal to explain why he went rogue. We also get to see Mack go full-on fire-head. Which is awesome. This was a great little story element, and really felt like something straight out of a comic book story. Also, a Ghost Rider with his own shotgun axe? Yes, please.

He doesn’t get all the pub, but Fitz is easily one of the best characters on this series. Bar none. Four seasons ago, he was a geek in tech support, and he’s gone through an amazing (and earned) transformation into a confident hero who isn’t afraid to face off with the worst odds and keep on swinging. From talking down Coulson, to jamming his finger in the S.H.I.E.L.D. director’s chest, Fitz is not someone you want to mess with these days.

The bad: Simmons’ little side story

For the most part, this was a very solid episode with a great story and narrative flow. Well, except for Simmons’ little side story to help a new Inhuman who has been trapped in Terrigenesis for several months. The best guess is that it’s someone related to the senator who is blackmailing S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Mace, but it just felt like a strange fit for a B-story in this specific episode. Hopefully this character turns out to actually be of some importance down the line? Hard to say at this point. Hey, maybe it’s Ulysses from Civil War II?! (kidding, kidding).

Lingering questions

There are a lot of these. First up, we see Robbie fully embrace his role as the Ghost Rider when he cuts a new deal with the Spirit of Vengeance to get it out of Mack and finish his search for his Evil Uncle Eli. After that? Robbie has agreed to serve the Ghost Rider indefinitely, meaning the odds of an eventual spinoff being considered just got a little bit higher. Speaking of Evil Uncle Eli, he apparently has the ability to create carbon weapons and walls, and the gang will be going after him next week. 

Also, did anyone else get a total ‘shipping vibe from May and Coulson this episode? Her comment to herself about waiting, Coulson seeing her and deciding to fight his way out of the hell mouth? Hmm. They could be setting something up, there.

Well, the secret is officially out about the first ever LMD Aida. The team uses her to read the Darkhold (she sees it as ones and zeroes, binary style) and uses the knowledge to build a portal for Fitz, Coulson and Robbie to escape. The hope is that the knowledge can’t corrupt her robot brain, but the stinger scene at the end shows her constructing a magic brain (for herself, maybe?) or something. So, yeah, there will be fallout from opening the book. 

Lines of the night:

My axe is plenty sharp. And a shotgun.” -Mack

Do we look that stupid on comms?” -Coulson

Next week: The winter finale, and it’s Robbie vs. Evil Uncle Eli. All day, baby.