Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S04E02 “Meet The New Boss” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Daisy tracks down Robbie to his place of work and tries to guilt trip him into helping her with the gangs and the Watchdogs. He’s having none of it, and after a brief fight, he knocks her unconscious.
- She awakes to find herself tied to a chair, with Robbie trying to find evidence in her belongings that she deserves to die so the Rider has an excuse to kill her. Instead he realises she is a hero with a death wish.
- What he does find is evidence that the “superweapon” from last week’s episode was stolen from a place called Momentum Alternative Energy Lab. He clearly recognises the name and jumps in his car to race off to the place.
- Daisy escapes and follows him.
- Meanwhile, at SHIELD Mack, Fitz and Jemma’s research into the unopenable “superweapon” leads them to the same lab.
- Well, two of them. Jemma has to stay at the base to take part in the new director’s PR campaign to impress a visiting group of government officials.
- New SHIELD director Jeffrey Mace is on the verge of taking SHIELD public again and the PR charm offensive is part of his masterplan. He also ropes in a reluctant Coulson.
- The PR exercise is almost scuppered when May – who’s hallucinating and seeing ghouls – goes bonkers, and there’s also a bloodbath in the containment cells holding the similarly-afflicted bad guys from last week.
- With the government reps out of the way, Mace deals with May, revealing himself to be… gasp… an INHUMAN!
- This was apparently Coulson’s idea – to have a known Inhuman whom the public respect as the new boss (we don’t know yet why Mace is respected by the public but there are fan theories – see “Random” below).
- But now Mace is boss, he fully intends for fulfil his role in the way he sees fit, which means blocking Phil from matters regarding May and Daisy.
- At which point we see a screaming, writhing May strapped to a gurney being flown off… somewhere.
- Meanwhile, everyone else in this week’s plot meets at the ghost-infected Momentum Alternative Energy Lab.
- The ghosts are after a book called the Darkhold which will allow them to reverse their condition.
- Mack and Fitz blunder in and are coming off worse in a face-off with the ghosts when Ghost Rider rides to their rescue. Seems he can incinerate the otherwise untouchable ghosts.
- Then Daisy turns up and helps Fitz stop a reactor – which appears to have some connection to the ghostly activities – from exploding.
- Mack and Fitz are grateful for the rescue but not keen on Daisy aligning herself with Ghost Rider.
- Daisy basically says, “Tough,” and aligns herself with Ghost Rider…
- …who admits that he thinks he is the connection between the ghosts, the superweapon and the Watchdogs.
Here’s a rarity – an episode that gets better as it goes along. To begin with “Meet The New Boss” is slow and talky, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (there are plenty of good lines) but the problem is they’re slow talky scenes involving new characters. It’s always difficult to get an audience invested in slow talky scenes when they’re not familiar with somebody who’s delivering a huge chunk of those lines. Even more problematic here is that one of those new characters – “The New Boss” – is introduced as a bit of a dick, while the other – Robbie Reyes – isn’t exactly the chatty type.
Admittedly there is some fun to be had with new boss Mace (yes, that is his second name – see “Random” below) and his PR-driven approach to steering SHIELD into its next chapter, partly because (at the start of the episode at least) there’s a kind of David Brent sliminess to his corporate jargon that makes him almost a fascinating grotesque. And Reyes gets to go flaming angry, which is always good viewing.
But there’s something undeniably listless and meandering about the first two thirds of “Meet The New Boss”. Like last week, it’s still a lot of disparate plot elements, none of them particularly gripping in themselves yet, failing to combine into a more interesting whole. The ghosts are marginally more interesting antagonists than last week’s by-the-numbers hoodlums and gang bosses, but all their half-explanations and hints of what’s going on (“What that backstabber did to us…” “It wasn’t just him. It was you…”) frankly become rapidly tedious. They’d be more fun if they said nothing at all.
Then suddenly things do start coming together, and the final few minutes of episode leave you far more hopeful about where this season’s going. Some fans are bound to smugly boast they guessed Mace was an inhuman all along, but it blindsided us and provided a great, “WTF?!” moment when he effortlessly subdued May. Plus, it does make some kind of crazy sense. Double plus, post-Inhumanity revelation Mace is about 100 times more interesting. The calm way he puts Coulson in his place makes you wonder if this man only pretends to be a dick to put people off their guard. He’s so self-assured it’s possible he could turn out to be either the best or the worst thing to happen to SHIELD (the organisation, not the show). But now there’s a lot more potential in the character.
The rather silly, comic-action climax to the ghosts/Mack and Fitz/Daisy and Ghost Rider plot is great fun too. Even better, it looks like next episode we’ll finally be getting some explanation from Robbie about what his connection is to all this guff, giving the arc plot a bit more momentum. Robbie’s also rapidly becoming a far more interesting character than the Human Torch/Punisher/Hulk hybrid he came across as last week. The scene with him trying to find a reason to kill Daisy but discovering the complete opposite is particularly intriguing. Is this a kind of mental coping mechanism for his dark side?
It always helps, too, to have Fitz and Mack on a mission together. They make an unlikely double act, but an enjoyable one, and there’s always that bromance bubbling away just under the surface.
What this season desperately needs, though, is some good villains. Either a big bad or just interesting villains of the week. Pretty please.
- “Because she’s turned her back on us, Mack! Because something terrible happened, and she didn’t want our help getting through it… Well, we’ve all been through terrible things… all of us… and we’ve never turned our back!” Fitz’s rant about Daisy is another blinding, and raw, performance from Iain De Caestecker. It’s such a small moment, yet punches above its weight when it comes to emotional impact. And… he has a point.
- The revelation that the new boss is a human is a cracker.
- Plus, after initially coming across a prat, Jeff shows some intriguingly steely determination towards the end of the episode. When it comes to Coulson’s attitude to May and Daisy… he has a point. Although he’s a hard to man to like, he looks set to be a character we can enjoy.
- Daisy is still using her powers with gay abandon. Her leap onto Ghost Rider’s car was a great piece of superhero silliness.
- We loved the way May forced Piper to call her May, not ma’am, or any other military term.
- There was also the usual smattering of great lines:
• “Maybe they’re discussing new ways to implement bureaucracy.”
• “This room … does it seem…?”
“Like it was decorated by someone who needs to unclench?”
• “I’m a mechanic, not an accountant.”
“You’re an engineer, Mack. And a small tank.”
• “Word of advice … everything she does is hugely fascinating and I understand none of it, so feel free to smile and nod.”
- Plus, the way all the government officials revert to schoolkids at the chance to see inside a quinjet is very amusing.
- All the double meanings in Daisy’s initial chat with R0bbie are laid on way, way too thick (“You look so different from the last time I laid eyes on you…” “out of nowhere, it just burst into flames…”). What exactly is she trying to achieve?
- The “ghosts” are a particularly unexciting bunch of antagonists.
- “Somehow you tracked me down.” Well, yeah, you do have the most recognisable car in LA, Robbie.
- The Ghost Rider visual effects are already being rationed.
- The episode gets off to a very slow, meandering start. The first scene with the “new boss” feels like it goes on way past its sell-by date (luckily he becomes more interesting as the episode goes on).
- May is probably the worst character to choose for the ghost infection; she’s always been portrayed as the sort of cool, self-analytical pragmatist who’d go, “Hey guys, I seem to be hallucinating,” as soon as she saw her first “ghoul”.
And The Random:
- Although only referred to by his first name, Jeffrey, in the actual episode, Marvel’s publicity material makes it clear that the new SHIELD boss is Jeffrey Mace, though a very different one from the Jeffrey Mace in the comics. He was a superhero (though, like Batman, one without superpowers) called the Patriot, introduced way back in 1941 in Timely Comics’ The Human Torch #4. Timely would eventually morph into Marvel Comics, at which point the company ret-conned the character’s history, explaining that he was the third Captain America (following a guy called William Nasland) who filled the role while Steve Rogers was on ice. It’s a nice touch in the episode that the TV version of Jeffrey Mace is also called into action because Steve Rogers has gone AWOL following the events of Civil War.
- The “ghosts” in the episode are searching for the Darkhold, which is a grimoire that exists in the Marvel universe having been introduced in Marvel Spotlight #4 (which featured Werewolf By Night). It was principally authored by demon God Chthon who has rubbed up against – guess who? – Doctor Strange on various occasions. For a while, Doctor Strange even kept the Darkhold in his Sanctum Sanctorum. Anyone else smelling crossover potential?
- “Peggy Carter herself oversaw construction of this base. Most people know the legend of Peggy Carter, but there’s so many stories that were never recorded.” Yeah that’s because ABC cancelled her series! We think this is a new bit of MCU info, though.
- “Maybe a multidimensional event caused it. Like Tobias Ford.” That’s a reference to the character in the season one, episode nine, “Repairs” who became caught between two worlds.
- So the feisty one on May’s Strike Force has a name now – Piper. That means she may last slightly longer than the others.
- Hey, look, Mack’s still using that ax-rifle thing he made himself in the season three finale.
Review by Dave Golder