Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S04E06 “The Good Samaritan” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- In flashbacks throughout the episode we see Lucy and Joseph back in the day developing their quantum experiment at Momentum to the point where they’re creating matter out of nothing. Eli is suspicious of their methods and learns of the Darkhold that’s powering the experiments. He wants the book for himself but it’s hidden, so he “kills” all the other scientists instead using the quantum chamber – though instead they’re turned into the ghostly forms we’ve been seeing all season.
- So Uncle Eli is actually evil! Boooooo!
- In the present, Daisy collects Gabe and takes him to meet his brother on the Zephyr. Gabe assumes Robbie is a secret agent. Robbie looks pained.
- At SHIELD HQ, Mace sends Simmons on a secret mission, so secret Fitz can’t get hold of her all episode.
- Fitz is on the trail of Lucy Bauer; he works out she needs a LOT of energy. He learns that some of the equipment at Lucy’s lab was made by Isodyne but because he still hasn’t ordered Agent Carter season two on Blu-ray yet it takes him ages to research the company.
- Mace boards the Zephyr. After the tip-off from Nadeer he wants to know where Daisy and Robbie Reyes are.
- They’re actually hiding in a containment module clinging to the hull of the Zephyr.
- While they’re in there they pass the time by listening to Robbie admit the truth to Gabe; he’s not a spy, he’s the demon known as Ghost Rider.
- Flashback to the night when hired gunmen fired on Robbie and Gabe while they were out for a drive in Uncle Eli’s Hell Charger (or what’ll become the Hell Charger, anyway). Turns out Joseph Bauer actually hired them to take out Eli.
- Anyway, Robbie died in the shooting but then along came what Gabe recalls as a “good samaritan”.
- Robbie explains the good samaritan was actually the Ghost Rider who passed on his demonic possession to Robbie in return for saving Gabe’s life.
- Gabe isn’t very grateful; he’s just disgusted at how many lives Ghost Rider has taken, and no matter how high Robbie makes his eyebrows go up in the middle – like a black labrador that’s really sorry it’s just poo-ed on your best trainers – Gabe is having none of it.
- Luckily this story takes precisely the time to tell that it takes for Mace to realise the containment module is missing and have it pulled back inside the Zephyr.
- Robbie turns Ghost Rider and breaks out. There’s a big Mace vs Ghost Rider fist fight until Gabe talks his brother down. But Gabe is still disgusted with him (wait till he learns the truth about Uncle Eli).
- Fitz pinpoints the location where Lucy intends to repeat the quantum experiment; he does so after learning that Isodyne has been brought out by Roxxon, and Roxxon has an abandoned, but still operational, power plant handy – like you do.
- Coulson argues with Mace that he needs Robbie on this mission because he’s the only one who can kill the ghosts. Mace agrees, because although he’s company man, he’s a practical company man.
- Team SHIELD descends on the power plant. Robbie kills Lucy but not before she’s told him the truth about Uncle Eli.
- Elsewhere, Uncle Eli gets the new quantum chamber up and running and steps inside. There’s an explosion of energy that hits both Robbie and Coulson.
- Then Uncle Eli steps out and start playing with his matter-controlling abilities.
This is more like it. Though still foisted with Agents Of SHIELD’s least inspiring arc so far, old scripting trooper Jeffrey Bell manages to craft the material into the most satisfying and downright entertaining instalment of the season so far. Not bad for an episode that’s half flashback, half Star Wars tribute band.
Things didn’t start off well with an overlong flashback to a bunch of scientist who’ve been humdrum all season doing science they way they used to do before Hollywood introduced the concept of “sciencing the hell out of this”. But after the SHIELD logo kicks off the episode properly thing properly kick into gear for a very pacy 40 minutes or so.
Mace quickly writes Simmons out of the episode, sending her off on a secret mission with a hood over her head, which is all very intriguing and keeps Fitz in an antsy mood all episode ’cos she’s not replying to his texts. Considering their low-level bickering has become a bit tedious in the last couple of weeks, this new way of keeping their relationship woes bubbling is actually a welcome change.
Then we get the Coulson vs Mace, with “company man” Mace once again actually coming across as more sympathetic than rebel leader Coulson. Mace might think Coulson sees himself as Han Solo, and Coulson might see himself as Admiral Ackbar, but to be honest he’s coming across more like Jar Jar Binks at the moment – irritating (was the geese remark supposed to be funny?) and making stupid decisions that are likely to get everybody killed. Having said that, watching these two sparring with each other is hugely enjoyable and it’s good to see that that the “big bad boss” is allowed to be written as intelligent – working out Coulson’s ruse with the containment module.
Threaded throughout this we get Ghost Rider’s origin (well the origin of the Robbie Reyes version, anyway), complete with fan-pleasing cameo from Johnny Blaze, the original Ghost Rider. This whole flashback is a great sequence, with some gorgeous visuals, atmospheric direction and sumptuous cinematography that are so often missing on this show. The way the mood changes from light-hearted banter to tragedy is especially effective and this is one of those all-too-rare occasions when Agents Of SHIELD does indeed look like it’s set in the same universe as the big screen MCU.
Talking of light-hearted banter, how refreshing is it to see Gabe in a good mood when he briefly thinks his bro’ is James Bond. Of course it doesn’t last, and the pain of the lie, then having to reveal the truth, means that Gabriel Luna has to spend the entire episode with his eyebrows stuck in an inverted V formation, like a worried face emoticon. His forehead muscles must have been screaming by the end of shooting.
Things lose their way a little when SHIELD catches up with Lucy, and Eli uses the quantum chamber to turn himself into a supervillain. It’s all a bit SHIELD-by-numbers, with lots of running, shouting and overwrought music. But now that Eli finally has some proper, evil, Darkhold-inspired superpowers, hopefully this “Ghost Rider” arc can step up a gear.
- The Ghost Rider origin flashback was excellent; the shot of Robbie hitting the asphalt after flying from the car looked like it must have really, really hurt, while seeing the Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider in the MCU for the first time was a fanboy thrill. Plus, it was shot beautifully.
- The Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider has a much more traditional-looking skull which not only fits in with the comics but looks very effective.
- “Thanks. I feel so much better knowing that if I die in a fiery explosion, my eyeballs will survive.” It’s not often one of the bottom-of-the-cast-list guest actors gets one of the best lines in an episode.
- “You, too, Ironside!”
“Hey, screw you, Black Kojak!” Mack and Gabe bond over who can be the most un-PC.
- “It’s Director Mace, and I’d be more amenable to your suggestions if you’d been honest with me from the start.” Once again we have to find ourselves siding with Mace against Coulson. Mace may or may not be in league with Nadeer (honestly, we doubt it) but Coulson has been making questionable call after questionable call this season.
- “They were conducting experiments on something called ‘Zero Matter’, or ‘Dark Force’.”
“Who names these? Are there focus groups for evil things?” Mack keeps things real.
- The shot of the containment module clinging onto the Zephyr may not be a complicated effect but it looked great.
- Why didn’t Robbie go to fetch his brother Gabe in person? Sending Daisy was asking for trouble.
- Lucy’s death was totally unthrilling. Okay, she’s been a pretty uninspiring villain throughout but even so, you’d expect her demise to have a little more impact.
- So now Eli’s chief villain? Okay, to it’s supposed be a big twist, but’s difficult to get excited when he’s been about as interesting as cold porridge so far. And turning an ice cube into coal isn’t exactly the most dynamic bit of villainy ever screened.
- Let’s face it, most of problems of this episode are inherent ongoing problems in the overall arc – dull bad guys, doing technobabbly arcane things that aren’t very exciting in drab sets.
And The Random:
- Is it just is, or does the Johnny Blaze version of Ghost Rider look like he has flaming chest hair?
- Did you notice that directly after the conversation between Coulson and Mace about Star Wars characters the episode cuts to a shot of the containment module hiding on the outside of the Zephyr, in a manner that directly parallels the Millennium Falcon hiding by attaching itself to the hull of Star Destroyer in The Empire Strikes Back?
- “Oh. Oh, I’m sorry. Well, in that case, you should check under the microscope and in the fridge, ’cos those Inhumans can be tricky bastards. Yeah, you can tell the Director this is just one giant snark hunt. That’s British for ‘a bloody waste of time’.” You might think Fitz is using the word “snark” in its modern meaning here (as in a contraction of “snide remark”) especially as his previous comment is full of snark. But he’s actually referring Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem The Hunting Of The Snark (1876).
- Maybe it was just because of all the Star Wars references in the episode, but we initially thought Lucy in this shot was a Wookie.
- This episode’s talk of Dark Force, Zero Matter and Isodyne all tie into the plot of Agent Carter season two.
- Now the cat’s out of the bag about Eli being evil, we can say a bit more about his comics origins, which are very different (but the fact he was a bad guy may have given something away to viewers who don’t read the comics). He first appeared in All-New Ghost Rider #1 (2014) and was a criminal and devil worshipper whose spirit, after his brutal death, possessed a Dodge Charger that came into the possession of his nephew, Robbie Reyes. Bonding with one another, Eli and Robbie became the new Ghost Rider. Eli hid his true nature from Robbie and attempted to corrupt him by feeding his lust for vengeance. Robbie eventually learned to suppress his uncle’s influence.
Review by Dave Golder