Friday, September 30, 2016

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 2: Meet The New Boss

So far, so good! Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be firing on all cylinders this season (granted, this is only the second episode).

I wasn't sure about Ghost Rider joining the cast, as I thought it was a bizarre direction for the series to take. Turns out it was just the shot in arm the show needed. I definitely like this new version of the character.

I'm also very appreciative that the show isn't wasting time spinning its wheels, waiting for the mid season finale to wrap up their storylines. They hit the ground running last week with a bunch of different storylines, and they all progressed very rapidly this week. 
More shows could learn from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s pacing (I'm lookin' at you, recent seasons of The Walking Dead!). 

This week we finally got to see the new S.H.I.E.L.D. Director, who had a genuinely shocking secret that I did not see coming. We also found out more about the Ghost Lady who was hiding in the chest last week. As I suspected, she's not really a ghost— and she has company!

Agent May's deterioration proceeded with breakneck speed this week as well. I gotta tell you, it was disturbing to see the usually Vulcan-like May completely lose her mind. Scary stuff!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
We open as the Ghost Lady from last week (who can "infect" people and make them see demons or something) passes through a little boy's room. He tells his dad he saw a g-g-g-ghost, and of course he doesn't believe him. That is until Ghost Lady appears and asks what the hell they're doing in her house. The terrified dad says they've been living there for years, causing the Ghost Lady to scream and fly through him. The dad then starts seeing his son as a black-eyed demon.

Meanwhile Robbie Reyes, aka Ghost Rider, drives to work at Carmelo's Auto Body in his souped up '69 Dodge Charger. Inside the shop he sees Daisy talking to his boss. She pretends she's old friends with Robbie, obviously having hacked into his records and brushed up on his history. Robbie pulls her aside and asks what she wants. She says she's checked him out and knows he, or rather Ghost Rider, has been going after The Watchdogs. She thinks he's an Inhuman like her, but he says he's something else, as he sold his soul to the Devil.

Daisy brings up Robbie's little brother Gabe, which infuriates him. He grabs a tire iron, ignites it and knocks her across the room with it, fracturing her arm. Ouch! He warns her to stay away from him and his family or else.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., FitzSimmons studies the Ark Of The Covenant the Chinese Mafia chest that Coulson and Mack found last week
— the one that contained the Ghost Lady. Even though it looks empty, Fitz discovers it's filled with advanced, invisible technology. Mack examines the security footage from their meeting with the Chinese thugs, and sees the Ghost Lady on the tape. Somehow they figure out there may be a connection between the box and Momentum Alternative Energy Lab in Pasadena. Fitz and Mack take a Quinjet to investigate.

Meanwhile, Coulson and May meet with Jeffrey Mace, the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. He orders Coulson to give a tour of the base to a group of influential politicians, who could increase S.H.I.E.L.D.'s funding.

Ghost Lady somehow finds the Momentum Lab (I think maybe the kid's dad she phased through worked there?), and wanders into what looks like some sort of reactor room. She finds more boxes like the one she was in, and opens them, releasing several more "ghosts." We see they're not ghosts at all, but humans who've been partially phased in some sort of scientific accident. 

Hugo, one of the phased scientists, asks Ghost Lady, who's name is Lucy, what's going on. She says they've been transformed into transparent phantoms and have spent years inside the boxes. She releases several more of the ghosts. One of them blames Lucy for their state, saying she should never have used the Darkhold in their experiment. Lucy assures them she'll recover the Darkhold and reverse their condition.

Agent May, who was infected by Lucy in the previous episode, keeps seeing demon faces in everyone around her. She goes to the containment unit to visit Chen, the Chinese Mob boss from last week. She asks him what's going on, and she says "they" are everywhere, and starts banging his head against the glass until he's sedated.
Ghost Rider ties up Daisy and tells her it seems like she's serving penance for something. She mentions Momentum Lab (Jesus, how does everyone know about this place?) and Ghost Rider immediately heads there. Daisy breaks free and jumps on top of his car. It bursts into flames and she's forced to leap off.

Mack and Fitz arrive at Momentum Labs. As Fitz examines the equipment, one of the ghosts appears. Fitz warns Mack not to let it touch him (which Mack already knows from earlier). The ghost backs Mack up into the containment chamber, and locks him inside. The chamber then starts powering up with Mack inside, which seems like a bad thing. Fitz tries to shut off the chamber, but the ghost chases him away from the control panel. Just as it's about to touch him, Ghost Rider enters. He grabs the ghost and burns it to a crisp (?). Quake then arrives, frees Mack, and Fitz shuts down the chamber. Ghost Rider sees an old photo of the Momentum staff, picks it up and leaves.

Mack treats Daisy's injured arm, and tries to get her to come back to S.H.I.E.L.D. He says they've got medicine that could heal her injured bones. He stops when he realizes that his pal Yo-yo has been stealing the drug and secretly giving it to Daisy, which pisses him off royally.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., May starts seeing more and more demons, and freaks out. She starts attacking everyone she sees. Coulson tries to calm her down, but she's suspicious and starts kicking his ass. Suddenly the Director appears. May attacks him, but he's completely unaffected. We realize he's actually a super-strong Inhuman. Gasp! Now that's a plot twist! He knocks out May easily and has her restrained.

We then learn that Coulson stepped down from the Director position, and wanted Captain America to take over for him. That plan was scuttled by the events of Captain America: Civil War, so Coulson suggested the new Director be someone with superpowers that the public could trust. Apparently that someone was Jeffrey Mace. Coulson asks to see May, but Mace tells him he's handling the situation, and not to worry about it. We then see a Quinjet carrying the politicians back to Washington, along with a screaming May who's strapped to a gurney.


Ghost Rider meets with Daisy and says he thinks he's somehow the connection between the Watchdogs, the Chinese mob and the lab ghosts. They get in his car and roar off.

Thoughts:
• If the next episode isn't titled Same As The Old Boss, then someone on the writing staff needs fired.

• When Daisy questions Robbie Reyes, aka Ghost Rider, he tells her, "You get lost, or I'll get angry. So angry, I may not remember what I do to you."

So is Ghost Rider like the Hulk now, and transforms when he gets angry? Has that always been a thing in the comics, or something made up for the show?

• During the Director's meeting, he sends May out of the room so he can talk to Coulson alone. After she leaves, the Director says, "Melinda May. Now there's a riddle I'd like to solve!"

Wow, that was... kind of creeptastic. I know he's the boss and all, but if I said something like that in a meeting where I work, I'd be cleaning out my desk a few minutes later.

• Mack sees Ghost Lady on security footage, and speculates that her touch causes people to go nuts. FitzSimmons wonders how she became incorporeal. Fitz says maybe an interdimensional shift caused it. Simmons says yes, just like Tobias Ford.

Wondering who Tobias Ford is? Me too. He was in the Season 1 episode Repairs, who sabotaged a particle accelerator, which exploded and sent him into another dimension.

I freely admit I did not remember any of that, and had to look it up. Kudos to the writers though, for apparently remembering it.

• The Director says they need to make nice with the politicians so they'll increase S.H.I.E.L.D.'s budget, since it no longer has "anonymous unlimited funding" like it did before.

So who was funding it during Coulson's reign? Tony Stark, perhaps? Is even he rich enough to foot the bill for a massive secret spy organization? Maybe Peggy Carter started a savings account in the 1940s and the accrued interest amounted to millions?

I guess the real answer is none of our business, since the matter's immediately dropped.

• During the tour, Coulson tells the politicians that Peggy Carter oversaw the construction of the facility. It was nice that Peggy got a shoutout in the episode, but it was also a painful reminder of Agent Carter's untimely cancellation.

• In a similar vein, if you watched the episode live, then you saw a couple for ABC's new series Conviction, starring Haley Atwell. Way to rub our noses in the fact that you cancelled Agent Carter, ABC. Maybe it wasn't meant that way, but I can't help but feel it was a big middle finger to fans of the late series.

• Apparently Ghost Lady, aka Lucy, worked at Momentum Labs with Hugo and several other scientists. She used something called the Darkhold in an experiment, which turned them all into interdimensional ghosts.

Wondering just what the heck the Darkhold is? Get comfortable, it's a long story.

In the comics, the Darkhold is an ancient evil book, sort of like the Necronomicon in the Evil Dead movies. It was written by Chthon, an Elder God who was the first practitioner of black magic. He put all his evil knowledge into it. 

The indestructible magic book was passed down for thousands of years, and was responsible for the first vampire in the Marvel Universe, as well as the source of the werewolf curse. 

It's an incredibly powerful weapon in the hands of a skilled sorcerer. For those less powerful it can wreak havoc, as it grants wishes in the worst possible way. Doctor Strange once used the Darkhold to destroy all vampires on earth. It's pretty obvious that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is using the Darkhold to tie in with the upcoming Doctor Strange movie.

• Unintentionally (I think) hilarious line: When May goes nuts and starts attacking everyone, Coulson says, "She's sick, don't hurt her!" Ha! Note that he says this as she's spinning around like a dervish, kicking the asses of everyone in sight.

• The plot twist of this week's episode was the reveal that new S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Jeffrey Mace is an Inhuman. Did not see that one coming.

Believe it or not, Mace has appeared in the comics before. Way back in 1941, he was the superhero known as the Patriot. He actually became Captain America for a while, after the real Cap disappeared in the Arctic.

I doubt this version of Mace shares that same history, as I'm pretty sure the comic version wasn't an Inhuman. But it might help explain why Coulson thinks the public will trust him as the new leader of S.H.I.E.L.D.

• So the senators have to sign an Non Disclosure Agreement in order to tour SHIELD, but the Director lets them take photos? That... doesn't seem right.

• Last week I said it was odd that Daisy's quake powers were suddenly harming her bones, even though she used them freely all last season with no ill effects. I realize now it's because she no longer has her gauntlets, which protected her arms from her vibrational powers. So it's not a retcon after all. Never mind!

• I just noticed that Ghost Rider's car has little skulls on its door locks.

• Speaking of Ghost Rider's car: His '69 Dodge Charger is a pretty distinctive ride, and easy to recognize. Does anyone in LA ever see Robbie in it and say, "Hey, that looks just like the burning car I saw that murderous, flame-headed skeleton driving a couple days ago!"

• During the tour, the politicians ooh and aah when the Director asks if they'd like to see a Quinjet. At the end of the episode, they're riding back home in one, along with the babbling Agent May. 

If they're riding back in a Quinjet, then they probably came there in one. So why were they so excited to see one during the tour?

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