Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 4, "Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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One benefit of a comic book-based TV series or movie is the opportunity to see radically-different characters interact with each other.  You wouldn’t expect a science-based hero like the Hulk, a technology-based hero like Iron Man, and a magic-based hero like the Scarlet Witch to work well on screen together, but put them into an Avengers movie, let them fight robots, and they’re all right at home.  That is a definite benefit of placing all these characters into a universe together in a logical fashion.

This episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire” (4x04), is a prime example of both the benefits and problems with putting radically-different characters on-screen together.

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Let’s jump right into it and talk about the chase scene.  Coulson and Mack are at the prison to see Eli Morrow when Mack recognizes Robbie Reyes.  Mack and Coulson take off in Lola after Robbie, who attempts to outrun them in the Hell Charger.  It’s definitely a lot of fun to watch them racing through the streets of L.A. and onto a dry stretch of canal.  However, I was really hoping that Robbie would “Ghost out” and Coulson would convert Lola to hover mode.  Unfortunately, neither of those actually happened:  Robbie stayed in human form the whole time (so the Charger was just a Charger), and Mack told Coulson it was too bad Lola couldn’t hover.  I think this is a pretty good indication that they don’t have any plans of showing Lola flying again.  That was rather disappointing.

However, the other moments like this do live up to expectations (more or less).  I think the best moment of the episode came when Simmons and Daisy were hiding from the Watchdogs and James/Hellfire found them and was about to kill them.  They are helpless, James winds up with his flaming chain, and suddenly Robbie just grabs it out of thin air.  Seeing Hellfire (who in the comics is a descendant of Carter Slade, the original Ghost Rider) take on the actual Ghost Rider was something I never even thought I wanted to see, but now I can’t imagine not wanting to see them square off!  Both have similar abilities—Hellfire charges objects with fire; Ghost Rider does roughly the same thing, but with a flaming head—with the primary difference being the source of their power.  However, Ghost Rider’s fire manipulation is vastly superior to Hellfire’s, as seen in their fight.  What we saw of their fight was absolutely incredible—the effects where really good for the most part (though the shot of the wall blowing out was pretty bad) and so was the choreography.  My biggest disappointment with the fight was just with how short it was.  I was hoping for something really long and detailed, but what we got was only about a minute long.  Hopefully since James survived the confrontation we will get another chance to see that matchup.

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On that note, I think James was a surprise standout in this episode.  His motivation for turning against the Inhumans is legitimate:  he was forced to undergo Terrigenesis against his will (even though he had wanted it before) and was instantly placed under Hive’s sway.  While under Hive’s control he hurt people and nearly caused the destruction of the human race.  Consequently, he actually agrees with the Watchdogs’ crusade against the Inhumans and has been helping them to hunt down and destroy his own people, with the intention of himself being the final victim.  This makes him a very unique character in comparison to the other villains in the MCU.  It also makes him a good foil for Daisy, whose driving purpose has been to protect her people in order to make penance for her part in Lincoln’s death.  I am very curious to see where James’ story is going to go from here.

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Another interesting character who could become very interesting down the line is AIDA.  In this episode Fitz and Radcliffe tested how well AIDA can pass for human, and she passed the test for May and Coulson.  However, in order to do so Fitz had to lie about who and what AIDA is, something which at first confused her until Radcliffe explained the concept of the “little white lie.”  Subsequently AIDA herself omitted the truth.  Modifying AIDA’s governing laws can only end in one of two ways (at least one of which we will probably see this season):  either she will continue to curiously explore what it means to be human (a la Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation) or she will determine that all her laws are flexible and may be violated if the desired good is great enough, and will follow the same path as Ultron in attempting to eradicate humanity to prevent such evils as climate change and war.  I would be fine with either option, but if they go with the latter, this would actually be a better version of Ultron’s origin in Avengers: Age of Ultron because we would actually get more opportunity to see just how AIDA changes and develops to the point where instead of protecting humanity and never taking a life she actively seeks humanity’s destruction.

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On the subject of AIDA, I really appreciated what they did with the ending of this episode, specifically when Simmons meets AIDA.  She immediately confronts Fitz about it, and both Fitz and the audience are led to believe that Simmons is about to accuse Fitz of spending so much time with Radcliffe because he is cheating on her with AIDA (who is unnaturally attractive).  This would then lead to Fitz having to confirm her accusation (to protect Radcliffe and AIDA from Simmons discovering that Radcliffe violated both his plea agreement and the Sokovia Accords by creating an artificial intelligence), which would create tension between Fitz and Simmons because why not.  However, to the show’s credit, Simmons immediately recognizes AIDA as an android and compliments how lifelike she is.  So instead of tension between Fitz and Simmons, the end result is that Simmons now has even more lies to tell on her polygraph the next day.  Between the two, I definitely prefer the way they handled it—creating relationship drama for the sake of creating relationship drama just plain isn’t interesting!

Simmons and Daisy have some great interaction in this episode, especially after everything that happened between the season 3 finale and now.  I especially enjoyed when Daisy was going over a ridiculously-complicated plan to hack into the Inhuman Registration database and Simmons just walked over and told the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent what to do.  Not only is it funny, but it’s also a reminder of how out-of-the-loop Daisy is, that she didn’t realize that Simmons was the other agent’s boss.

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I also really enjoyed the way that Coulson recruits Quake and Ghost Rider to help S.H.I.E.L.D. deal with the Darkhold situation.  It is very close to Fury’s role in The Avengers, but with some slight modifications that definitely improve on it.  He has to convince two incredibly-powerful vigilantes to set their own vendettas aside and work together with S.H.I.E.L.D. for everyone’s good.  I think by the end of this half-season we will get to see a full Secret Warriors team assembled, with Quake, Ghost Rider, Yo-Yo, and at least a few new heroes.  This is exactly what I wanted to see last season, so I am really hopeful that we will see some bona fide Secret Warriors this season.

Finally, one of my favorite parts of this series is that they make the story more realistic by showing S.H.I.E.L.D. prioritizing multiple threats.  In season 1 they had to put everything aside when there was Bifrost activity indicating that an Asgardian was about to visit (Sif).  In season 2 they had to put everything aside to deal with Hydra crediting S.H.I.E.L.D. with an attack on the United Nations.  This episode sees Coulson and Mack drop their investigation of the Darkhold when James’ GPS watch is deactivated.  Considering the scope of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s mission it is likely that they would have a lot of different things happening at the same time.  And considering how badly they were hurt by the Hydra uprising (and subsequently spend 2 years underground), they probably don’t have quite the resources to handle everything at once.

This episode is a lot of fun.  We get to see a lot of good character moments.  The action scenes could have been better, but where still fun.  On that note, I guess the biggest disappointment is the heightened expectations for awesome sequences involving those different characters.  I really enjoyed watching S.H.I.E.L.D. start putting together its own team of superheroes (again).  I really hope that this series will continue to improve this season and continue to tell good stories.

What was your favorite part of this episode?  Who would you like to see join the next iteration of the Secret Warriors?  Let me know in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. I loved this episode. Maybe it's just me but I don't watch AoS for the action sequences, I watch it for the characters and their various interactions. As far as I can see AoS has never been a show concerned with action scenes. Also, this is only episode four, if we were on episode 18 or 19 and we hadn't seen some big action set piece then you would have cause for concern but we have a long way to go.