Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S04E05 “Lockup” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- In a flashback to Lucy and John first discovering the Darkhold we learn that the pages look blank at first, but when the text eventually materialises, it appears to be written in the first language of whoever’s reading it.
- In the present Lucy finds the Darkhold again, but it seems that the book isn’t ready to give up its secrets to her in her new ghostly form. So she goes off in search of Eli, Robbie’s uncle.
- SHIELD is after Eli too. Coulson decides they need to spring him from jail. He also decides not to inform Mace what they’re up to.
- But when Coulson & co (including Robbie, despite Mack’s reservations) get to the prison, Lucy has beaten them to it and infected the warden and some of the guards.
- The prison goes into lockdown and Coulson, May, Mack, Daisy and Robbie have to fight guards and escaped inmates to get to Eli, all the while avoiding Lucy and her ghostly pals.
- SHIELD frees Eli, but when Robbie goes all Ghost Rider to wreak revenge on a guy who belonged to the gang that gunned down him and his brother, he takes his eye off the ball and Lucy grabs Eli and whisks him away.
- (Meanwhile, Robbie learns that the gang was paid to kill him and his brother but the guy doesn’t know who the paymaster was.)
- Eli’s eyes light up when Lucy shows him the Darkhold. Maybe he’s not such a good guy after all.
- After Daisy almost gets herself killed during the prison action, May gives out to some tough love as regards Daisy’s deathwish.
- This is all very bad timing for Mace, who learns about Coulson & co’s fight at the prison in the middle of a live TV interview pitting him against anti-Inhuman campaigner, senator Nadeer.
- When she seeks to capitalise on this fact, he turns the table on her by declaring that he’s an Inhuman with super strength.
- As Mace is considered a national hero and loved by the public, this revelation helps the cause of the Inhumans and gives Mace a popularity boost too.
- But Jemma, who’s been worrying about her polygraph test and so is super-clued-up on signs that give away when somebody is lying, works out that Mace’s announcement wasn’t the whole truth. She uses this knowledge to blackmail… erm, bargain with her boss to get her out of the polygraph session.
- Later Mace has a secret meeting with Nadeer. She has found evidence that Coulson is working in league with Ghost Rider, a known killer. When she threatens to make this information public, Mace asks, “What do you want?”
S’okay. A bit boring.
Admittedly, not the most incisive analysis ever written, but it’s hard to raise enough enthusiasm about an episode as middling as “Lockup” to want to write much more. But we’ll give it a go.
“Lockup” is symptomatic of Agents Of SHIELD so far this season following that promising premiere. There’s nothing particularly bad to rip into, but little particularly good to rave about either. It’s all so wearingly mundane. SHIELD versus rioting prisoners? Really? That’s what the producers think viewers want from a superhero show?
The main arc isn’t really igniting either. The search for the Darkhold should be full of a doomy sense of foreboding but so far it’s felt more like an episode of Bargain Hunt. Lucy and her phantom friends are the dullest enemies. It might help if they looked more Crimson Peak and less Haunted Mansion. And while the MCU films effortlessly mix the mythic, the supernatural and the sci-fi, Agents Of SHIELD is fumbling about with its arcane elements like it’s slightly embarrassed by them.
Then we get Daisy worried about using her powers… again. We get Daisy going all death-wishy… again. We get Fitz and Simmons being all testy with each other… again. At least now May has had a word with Daisy that’s one element of deja vu that’ll hopefully be missing next week.
(Actually, one thing we don’t get is: if Daisy has a death wish, and Daisy’s Quake powers will kill her if she uses them unchecked, why worry about getting new gauntlets? This girl is conflicted, we tell you – conflicted!)
Having said that, salvation for this episode comes from an unexpected source: Mace. He is utterly brilliant this week, and is shaping up to be far more competent and savvy director than Coulson ever was. Indeed, Coulson’s decision not to tell Mace about his activities comes across not only as insubordinate but unnecessary and ill-advised – as is borne out by events. It’s left to Mace to get SHIELD out of a hole by some very quick thinking, and possibly a big gamble.
His revelation that he’s an Inhuman is a cracker. Even if you suspected it (and readers of the comics who know he’s also Patriot will have had a head start) the way the announcement is made is a great, air-punch of a moment. And then, brilliantly, Simmons immediately turns that jawdropper upside down by revealing that she knows he’s lying… so he may not be an Inhuman after all. Does his super strength come from some other source?
It’s all great stuff, and we don’t believe for a minute he’s capitulating to Nadeer at the cliffhanger. He’ll have some plan. And we hope it involves tearing that increasingly maverick liability called Coulson down a strip or two.
- Mace’s unexpected revelation (and, we’re guessing, personal sacrifice for the greater good).
- Simmon’s picking up on his lie and turning it to her advantage.
- Mace momentarily freaking out Simmons in the following exchange (she must have been thinking, “I don’t want you knowing what’s in my head!”):
Mace: “I think it might be better if I literally had what’s in your head… in my head.”
Simmons: “Even SHIELD doesn’t have that kind of technology.”
Mace: “Oh, sure it does.”
- Mack’s pained expression when he sees Fitz’s self-injection device.
- Coulson uses his personal SHIELD shield again.
- The FX when Robbie “kills” the phantoms are very impressive.
- About 95% of the prison-based scenes are really dull. Even the fights.
- Lucy and her phantom friends are proving to be utterly rubbish villains.
- If Simmons picked up on Mace’s lie so easily, presumably quite a few poker players in the audience could too.
- Okay, okay, we get it – Fitz and Simmons are heading for some big relationship trauma. But these weekly snide remark sessions are getting rapidly dull.
- Coulson and May’s conversation about what she saw when she died are really weirdly inserted into the episode, like the writers were going through checklist and went, “Damn, we forgot that bit of the brief… oh just bung it in anywhere.”
And The Random:
- In the opening scene, when Lucy and John are looking for the Darkhold, there’s a poster on the wall for Quentin Carnival. In the Marvel Comics universe Johnny Blaze, the original Ghost Rider, began working for Quentin Carnival in Ghost Rider #63 (1981). The poster bears an amazing resemblance to the cover of Ghost Rider #67, which can’t be a coincidence. Other members of Quentin Carnival over the years include Wolf, Kody, Corky the Clown, Red Fowler, Madam Olga, Great Vincenzo, Madame Yang Kwei Fei, Lobster Lad (and Lobster Lad II), Roach (and Roach II), Aura-Lee, Magdelena, Monster Man, Steel Wind, Eliot “Crafty” Franklin, Princess Python and Buster but oddly no one called Voltara, who features on another poster in that opening scene.
- At the start of the TV debate, the interviewer calls Mace a Patriot, which is the name of his superhero alter ego in the comics.
- “And yet every day, there are reports of disturbances in Hong Kong or blue-skinned killers in Wyoming,” moans Nadeer during the interview. The blue-skinned killers are presumably the Kree (they appeared in the episode 3.19 “Failed Experiments” which was set in Wyoming) while the disturbances in Hong Kong are presumably a reference to the climax of Doctor Strange. Which means (rather cleverly) both of Nadeer’s references are false news, because they didn’t involve Inhumans.
- Santino Noguera (the guy Ghost Rider flame grills) is reading a Spanish language version of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.
Review by Dave Golder