Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S04E04 “Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire” REVIEW
- Uncle Elias has a prison visit, but not from doting nephew Robbie Reyes – instead it’s from Coulson, who fails to get any useful info out of the guy about his old employers, Momentum.
- As Coulson leaves and joins Mack who’s waiting outside, Robbie pulls up in his Ghost mobile. Mack recognises Robbie; Robbie recognises Mack. Cue Lola vs Ghost mobile car chase…
- …Which ends with Robbie ploughing his car into an invisible quinjet. Coulson and Mack take Robbie into SHIELD custody.
- Jemma goes to look at an apartment for her and Fitz, but the all-too-perfect-sounding pad is a lure created by Daisy who need Jemma’s help… and not just medically.
- Daisy is bleeding badly from a bullet wound after a run-in with some Watchdogs, during which she grabbed from them a list of Inhumans and their locations – a list they’ve apparently hacked from SHIELD.
- Daisy asks Simmons to help her hack into SHIELD’s servers so she can discover which other Inhumans have been compromised.
- When Simmons is reluctant because she has to take lie detector tests at work, Daisy holds her at gunpoint and “forces” her to help (although, since both sides know she’s never going to shoot so we’re not sure that’s going to fool Mr Polygraph… however, this’ll be the least of Simmons lie detector concerns by the end of the episode).
- Daisy wants Simmons to pretend to be a SHIELD agent working in a high security building which houses a server containing the Inhuman register, so that Simmons can insert a flash drive into the place’s systems which will give Daisy remote access.
- Instead, Simmons just asks an agent to insert the flash drive for her; as SHIELD’s Special Advisor in Science and Technology, Simmons is the agent’s boss. GO SIMMONS!
- From this they learn that one of the compromised Inhumans is JT James, aka, Hellfire who now works in a fireworks shop – oh, the irony (and, as Coulson later points out, who in the audience doesn’t see what’s coming?).
- It turns out he’s in league with the Watchdogs, and he leads Simmons and Daisy into a Watchdog ambush in a storage warehouse.
- Meanwhile Coulson and Robbie have struck an uneasy alliance. Robbie agrees to talk to uncle Elias and help SHIELD with the phantom Momentum staff.
- Uncle Eli reveals that Momentum and Dr Lucy Bauer were working on a machine to create matter from practically nothing. The machine blew up, apparently killing everyone except for Eli and Lucy’s husband Joseph. Ei blamed Joseph for the explosion and violently laid into him, putting him in a coma.
- Uncle Eli says that if Lucy is still lingering around somehow, she’ll be going after “the book”. Sadly, it seems he’s not referring to Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban.
- Cut to Joseph in his hospital room surrounded by the usual bleeping stuff that indicates, “not well”. Lucy appears, sticks her intangible fingers into his head, and wakes him up from his coma.
- Before SHIELD can follow up the new information about “the book” (the Yellow Pages maybe?), Coulson and Mack are alerted to the Inhuman register hack, and believe that James may be being targeted by Watchdogs. Robbie agrees to help them.
- When they get to James, though, they discover him and the Watchdogs attacking Daisy and Simmons.
- Luckily SHIELD’s pet flaming-skulled vengeance demon is more than a match for James’s naff pyrotechnical abilities, and Team Coulson wins the day, though many fireworks are sacrificed the cause in a very pretty warehouse explosion.
- Ghost Rider brings in James alive.
- Coulson guilt trips Daisy into coming back on board with SHIELD.
- He also reveals that he’s learnt that “the book” is the Darkhold, a book of infinite knowledge that such luminaries as the Red Skull and Nick Fury have looked for with no success.
- While all that is going on Fitz is getting palpitations when he learns that Radcliffe is letting AIDA attend to the convalescent Agent May.
- Just as he’s getting cool with the idea, Coulson and Jemma turn up at Radcliffe’s to pick up Agent May – and Jemma instantly realises that AIDA is an illegal AI.
- Which as Fitz points out, may not be a good thing with her lie detector test scheduled for the next day. D’oh!
One of the main problems with Agents Of SHIELD season four so far is that Ghost Rider is infinitely more interesting than Robbie Reyes. You spend each episode waiting for Robbie to “Hulk Out” or “Flame On” or whatever it is he does, before which he might as well be Charlie Brown’s teacher going, “Wah wah wah! Wah wah wah-wah!” And this week we get to see it’s a family affliction (the soporific speech patterns, that is, not the flaming vengeance demon thing) as Uncle Eli delivers some really crucial plot details in an infodump that insomnia support groups world wide are currently desperate to license.
Luckily when Robbie does finally don the kerosene afro it’s one of his best sequences so far. It may not be the longest or most complicated in terms of FX, but the fact that he grabs James’s flaming chain and thinks, “Hmmm, maybe I should accessorise” is a great fan-pleasing moment. Plus he looks the business wielding it moments later. The key to making Ghost Rider a success it to make sure that when he is Ghost Rider, he isn’t merely a special effect wreaking havoc, but to actually get a performance out of him. There are signs of that here.
There are loads of witty little touches throughout this episode thanks to scripter Matt Owens, who turns a fairly humdrum plot into something a lot more fun with some sparky character work… well, more fun when the Reyes family aren’t on screen, anyway. But let’s be honest – not an awful lot actually happens. The whole “the Watchdogs have got a list of Inhumans” was news last episode but nothing is added here (other than they’re prepared work with Inhumans if it suits them). Ghost Rider reluctantly joins SHIELD after a good talking to. Coulson joins the dots and works out Lucy is after the Darkhold (but the viewers knew that already as well). Daisy rejoins SHIELD. It’s not exactly Revelation City.
But Simmons teaming up with Daisy brings out an amusing deviousness in Simmons that you feel has been bottled up because of all those lie detector tests she’s had to take. It’s great to see Simmons leaving Daisy dumbstruck at her audacity by simply asking a colleague to plug a hacking device into SHIELD systems, pretty please.
Coulson gets to drive Lola in a car chase and looks like he’s lapping it up. Fitz looks like he’s going to have a coronary when he realises Radcliffe is letting AIDA tend to May. Radcliffe gets to bond rather sweetly with AIDA (inferring he already thinks of her as alive). James gets to be a bastard and quote Overwatch (see below). Yep, there’s a lot to enjoy here but…
…It just doesn’t add up to much. It’s like the episode has a mutant ability to tread water and run on the spot at the same time, although it does tel some amusing gags while it does so. The fireworks are pretty as well.
- “Fight fire with fire” has always been one of dumbest of sayings, because the only thing you get if you fight fire with fire is a bigger fire. Which this episode brilliantly proved. But the Hellfire vs Ghost scrap was still great fun to watch plus…
- …We finally get to see Ghost Rider flinging about a flaming chain, his signature move in the comics. The fact that he gets the idea from Hellfire is an especially nice touch.
- The car chase was pretty damned decent to watch, even if the way it ended wasn’t (see below).
- We loved the way the episode kept wrong-footing us (Coulson being Uncle Eli’s visitor, not Robbie; the intruder in Jemma’s prospective apartment being Daisy) but the best unexpected moment was when Daisy was left with jaw agape by Simmons simply walking up to Agent Albee and pulling rank on her rather than pretending to be her. Simmons’s “Nailed it!” face is a picture.
- “Are you mad?”
“No, I’m just a scientist.” How come we’ve never heard this line before? Brilliant in its simplicity.
- “I believe in God, so I got to believe in the other thing.”
“Well, in my experience, gods usually turn out to be aliens.” Yeah, that’s got to make a man question his outlook on life.
- “Whose life was Fitz saving when he lied?”
“Why, yours.” This is almost tender, as Radcliffe reveals that he already considers AIDA more than a mere machine (we’re still worried about how much more, though, considering what he’s designed her to look like).
- “Did two fire dudes just drop into a warehouse full of fireworks?”
“You had to see that coming.” We did, but it’s good of the episode to acknowledge that.
- “You’ve been hiding Aida from me. It’s too bad. I like her. No nonsense, just business.” Agent May recognising a kindred spirit… which says more about Agent May than AIDA to be honest.
- The outline of the invisible quinjet is TINY!
- We know the Watchdogs don’t get any lines for budgetary reasons (you have to pay actors more if they have lines) but it does come across as very odd that none of them have anything to say to James. Not even, “Thanks.”
- How did Coulson make the leap from “She’s after the book,” to, “It’s called the Darkhold”? That’s one hell of an educated guess.
- Blimey, Eli’s infodump went on and on and on… Could have done with a flashback.
- We’re shocked that nobody in SHIELD seemed to consider the possibility that the duplicitous James could be in league with the Watchdogs. In an episode that kept pulling surprises, his alliance with the Watchdogs was disappointingly guessable.
- Radcliffe isn’t the brightest brilliant scientist if he doesn’t think that making AIDA incapable of lying is going to betray her as “not actually human”. Knowing when to lie is one of the things that makes humans human. Turing test FAIL!
And The Random:
- Agents Of SHIELD fans who also had an intimate knowledge of the videogame Overwatch quickly spotted amazing similarities between James’s dialogue and lines said by one of the game’s characters, Junkrat (see above). The episode’s writer, Matt Owens, came clean on Reddit that the lines were a deliberate homage, and that James’s explosive croquet balls were designed to look like Junkrat’s ammo.
- Owens also teased on Reddit, “A couple of Tracer [lines] too from Simmons. Subtle ones cause her quotes would be too obvious to sneak in” – Tracer being another Overwatch character. Simmons says, “Nailed it!”, “You got it” and “Just in time” – all Tracer lines.
- The title of the episode is a repeated lyric from the Jimi Hendrix song, “Fire”.
- Uncle Eli is reading The Positronic Man (1992) by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, a novel based on Asimov’s own novella The Bicentennial Man (1976), both of which inspired the Robin Williams film The Bicentennial Man (1999). It’s about a robot’s mammoth struggle to be legally reclassified as human, which is obviously pertinent to the AIDA storyline in SHIELD.
- The car chase scene is a homage to Grease (1978) which also features car chase between two “classic” motors racing along the dried up bed of the LA River. That’s why Coulson says, “I get his car now, right? Isn’t that how this works?” because that’s what happens in the film. Sadly he and May don’t later perform, “You’re The One That I Want”.
- If you want to know what the Turing Test is (as in Radcliffe’s line, “This is the ultimate Turing Test. I mean, who better to put Aida through her paces than the most discerning, formidable agent that SHIELD has to offer?”) watch Ex Machina (2015); we’re not being lazy by not explaining that, it’s just that we’re Ex Machina zealots and believe that everyone should see that film.
- “Fitz, art and science have their meeting in method.”
“Oh, do… do not go quoting bloody Bulwer-Lytton at me.” On the other hand, no one has made a film about Edward Bulwer-Lytton yet so we’d better tell you that he was an English novelist, poet, playwright and politician who coined the phrases “the great unwashed”, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and, “It was a dark and stormy night”. He also wrote lots of bobbins about art and science, including “art and science have their meeting in method” and, the near-impenetrable, “In science, address the few; in literature, the many. In science, the few must dictate opinion to the many; in literature, the many, sooner or later, force their judgement on the few. But the few and the many are not necessarily the few and the many of the passing time: for discoverers in science have not un-often, in their own day, had the few against them; and writers the most permanently popular not unfrequently found, in their own day, a frigid reception from the many.” Erm… er… what?
Review by Dave Golder