Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S04E07 “Deals with Our Devils” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- The explosion at the abandoned Roxxon power plant has not only turned Evil Uncle Eli into a molecule manipulating supervillain, it’s also sent Coulson, Fitz and Robbie into a sideways dimension – the rest of the team think they’ve vanished but they’re actually still around, although in ghostly form, unable to interact with what’s going on and nobody can see them.
- And the longer they remain this way the more the real world is fading away from them.
- Evil Uncle Eli uses his powers to escape the power plant, killing a few SHIELD red shirts along the way, then vanishes.
- Ghostly Fitz, Coulson and Robbie follow the rest of the team back to Zephyr One.
- Daisy is convinced their teammates aren’t dead and convinces Mace to contact Jemma – who’s on a secret mission – to see if she can science a way to get them back.
- But Jemma – unknown even to her – is studying the cocoon we saw earlier in the season in Senator Nadeer’s house; it’s now in a special research facility. And Nadeer’s not letting her return until she’s got some results.
- Fitz learns of Mace’s “treachery” when – in his incorporeal form – he overhears Mace’s telephone conversation with Nadeer.
- May wonders if the Darkhold – which she procured during the attack on the abandoned Roxxon power plant – can help bring their teammates back. Coulson shouts at her not to open it… she can’t hear him but is interrupted by Mace before she has a chance to do anything with the book.
- The Spirit Of Vengeance isn’t happy about being in a body that’s being sucked into a dark dimension and leaps into Mack instead.
- Ghost Rider Mack leaps on his Harley and goes in search of the Chinatown Crew, because someone at SHIELD has finally put two and two together and worked out they were working for Evil Uncle Eli.
- Daisy gives chase in the Hell Charger. Unseen, Robbie joins her as the world’s most exasperated back seat driver…
- …Until his car actually seems to respond to his shouts of “Turn left!” and, through its indicators, helps lead Daisy to the Chinatown Gang’s hideout.
- Back at SHIELD HQ Radcliffe is brought in as a substitute Simmons, but doesn’t really know how to help return their lost comrades.
- May secretly shows him the Darkhold, hoping it might inspire him, but Radcliffe is scared by the knowledge it holds; he claims no human mind can read it without being warped.
- So AIDA reads it instead; she suggests this solution herself (or so it seems – though Fitz has been screaming at her to read the book so maybe he got through to her).
- This outs AIDA as an android but for the time being this only arouses mild concern.
- AIDA uses the Darkhold’s knowledge to create an Inter-Dimensional Gate using quantum coupling through which eventually Coulson and Fitz return.
- At the Chinatown gang hideout Daisy and Robbie find Ghost Rider Mack terrorising members of the gang.
- Robbie makes a bargain with the Spirit of Vengeance to become the Ghost Rider again – if the Spirit helps him nail Evil Uncle Eli he’ll help the Spirit settle all his old scores.
- The Spirit leaves Mack and Robbie vanishes, presumably leaving Daisy thinking, “What the f**k just happened?”
- Elsewhere Jemma helps the guy inside the cocoon to finally start busting out, but she’s bundled away before he can reveal too much about himself to her.
- Later, Robbie emerges from the Inter-Dimensional Gate (lucky that AIDA left it plugged in, really) and asks Mack if he wants to help him settle his last score.
- Coulson pretends to be annoyed at May for using the Darkhold but let’s her know he
wants to sleep with her… is cool with it, actually.
- Meanwhile, as Radcliffe celebrates being a bona fide hero, AIDA is secretly usi ng her newfound Darkhold knowledge to create a brain of glowing light.
While this Ghost Rider arc hasn’t been the most rip-roaring period in Agent’s Of SHIELD’s history (you can’t help thinking that episodes one to five could have happily been condensed into three – or better two – episodes) the show has perked up enormously in the last couple of weeks. “Deals With Our Devils” continues the momentum from “The Good Samaritan” and throws in yet another incarnation of Ghost Rider for good measure. Mack looks so cool in vengeance mode on his bike it’s almost a shame the Spirit Of Vengeance has abandoned him again by the end of the episode, but hopefully the experience won’t have left him totally unchanged.
The episode starts with some decent action, though it would have been nice to have seen Evil Uncle Eli flexing his new superpowered a little more than producing a few party-sized stalagmites and erecting a partition wall. The mystery of what’s happened to Fitz, Coulson and Robbie also keeps the opening scenes intriguing. The eventual reveal isn’t too surprising after a season full of ghosts, but good use is made of putting a new spin to that old TV and movie trope – watching the same scenes twice from different viewpoints.
The ghostly SHIELD sub team plot – specifically finding a resolution to it – also gives a very satisfactory excuse to both out AIDA as android and to set in motion the events that’ll dominate the show’s next arc. While it seems slightly odd that no one seems to worried that Fitz and Radcliffe have been indulging in seriously illegal activities (for now) the final stinger scenes suggest very, very strongly that soon, everyone will be very much down on Fitz and Radcliffe have been indulging in seriously illegal activities. Forget the Age Of Ultron; welcome to the Age Of AIDA.
It’s good to see Coulson finally make a good and logical defence of his decision to step down from the directorship. It doesn’t totally excuse many of his questionable decisions in the the past few weeks, but at least he feels more like the principled Coulson of old. At the same time, while Mace is this week shown for the first time to be doing something unequivocally dodgy, he’s also shown have genuinely concern for Jemma, which keeps you on his side. Plus, in a way, he’s only been forced into doing Nadeer’s bidding because of Coulson’s poor dubious choices, so we hope Fitz doesn’t hold a grudge for too long.
Talking of Fitzsimmons, while this week was an acting tour de force for Iain De Caestecker, let’s hope that his final embrace with Jemma is a watershed moment and we’ve seen the last of these two sniping at each other. It’s all felt a little too forced in order to create some relationship tension. There was nothing particularly interesting in having them nag at each other so soon after getting them together. If their relationship needs to be put to the test, it needs to be tested by something more compelling than not-getting-enough-time-together.
So, an episode with a great gimmick (the repeated scenes), some striking visuals (Mack as Ghost Rider, the interdimensional gate, the glowing brain), loads of great dialogue (“I’m building an interdimensional gateway with an android I built. If this works, I could die happy!”), intelligent character development (Fitz, Robbie, Couslon, Mace), a couple of great action scenes and a lot of intriguing setting up for the future… yep, this is a superior slice of SHIELD that leaves you desperate to know, “What next?”
- Mace still being genuinely concerned about Simmons even while he’s using her for dubious means.
- Mace being concerned about health and safety: “They are out of their minds. Driving off against orders… With no helmet?”
- Mack doing a great impression of the original Ghost Rider on his Harley.
- The excellent effects for AIDA using the laser-couple gloves to activate the arch, especially the panning shot from Coulson and Fitz point of view to Radcliffe and May’s point of view.
- Robbie’s chilling deal with the Spirit of Vengeance: “You’re right. I won’t survive this without you. But the truth is you need me, too. We had a deal! How about a new one? Give me my vengeance on Eli. Settle my score, and I’ll settle yours… All of yours!”
- Iain De Caestecker is one of the very best actors on this show, but this is the first chance this season he’s had to really go to town, with his increasing agitation at Coulson and Mace boiling over into blistering verbal attacks, then subsiding into a heartwarming reunion with Jemma.
- “Do we look that stupid on comms?” – Very good point.
- “So, first we sharpen the axe, and then we chop the tree.”
“My axe is plenty sharp… And a shotgun.” – Mack calls a spade a laser-guided super-spade.
- Radcliffe composing a blues song in celebration of his own genius while AIDA is quietly engineering his downfall next door…
“I saved the day,
I saved the day,
Don’t be dismayed,
The friends we made,
I finally made… Aida
The friends we made…
Don’t be dismayed…
No, I’ve said that already… Uh, what else rhymes with Aida?”
- There was something unintentionally comic about the sight of that guy’s face half-busted out of an Inhuman cocoon.
- Coulson getting sucked into the “dark dimension” (or whatever it was) looked a little silly as well.
- The problem with grading back the colours to signify scenes seen from ghostly Mack, Coulson and Robbie’s point of view is that SHIELD’s colour palette is notoriously drab anyway, so the difference isn’t as striking as it could have been. As we’ve said previously on many occasions, the main villains on this show are the production designer and the cinematographer.
- Nobody seems too bothered to find out that AIDA is an android. You’d have thought there would have been at least one, “Shit! How do we keep this from Mace?” exchange.
- The Darkhold is looking more and more naff as the weeks go by – it looks like a Goth’s doodle-filled science text book.
And The Random:
- Compare and contrast time: here are three different Ghost Rider skulls (from top to bottom – Robbie Reyes, Johnny Blaze, Mack). They’re all subtly different and the Blaze one has a hole in the forehead from when (in the comics) he was shot in the head with a holy bullet by a priest, and sent back to Hell. Robbie’s is the most angular reflecting his near geometric look in the comics.
- Although we don’t know from this episode specifically, that thing that AIDA is creating at the end is a quantum brain. It’ll become very, very important moving forward.
- No, we don’t know who “Hope 4/18/06 ” is, either… yet. You could Google it and spoil yourself, but it’s not something the writers want us to know at this point.
Review by Dave Golder