Friday, October 28, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 5, "Lockup" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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First off, I am sorry for the long delay in publishing this review.  If you (still) play Pokémon Go, you probably have some idea what I’ve been doing since Tuesday that has kept me distracted from this!  If you were playing Pokémon Go and stopped, this might be a good time to return during the first Pokémon Go event.  In essence, between now and Tuesday you receive twice the candies for hatching, catching, and transferring Pokémon, and your buddy Pokémon earns candies four times as fast.  So I’ve been cycling through eggs and buddy Pokémon as quickly as I can since Tuesday!  Good thing I just got new shoes…

However, I didn’t want to just let this review fall by the wayside, so here is my (belated) review of this week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Lockup.”

I feel like a broken record saying this, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is on a serious winning streak this whole season.  The addition of Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider has been a breath of fresh air, particularly with the way his story has ties in with those of Daisy and S.H.I.E.L.D.  This episode was no different as we saw both heroes team up with S.H.I.E.L.D. to extract Robbie’s uncle, Eli Morrow, from the prison, which is simultaneously under attack from the ghost-people.  Putting Robbie and Mack together against the ghosts is a brilliant move, considering Mack’s protective attitude toward Daisy and mistrust of things he doesn’t understand.  He doesn’t trust Robbie, who is a much darker and more brutal character than any “hero” S.H.I.E.L.D. has encountered previously, and it turns out to be with good cause.  They make a good team fighting the ghosts, but as soon as they split up it starts going wrong as Robbie sends Eli out without him so he can settle a score with the sole remaining Fifth Street Loco.  I think everyone saw the twist coming—Robbie leaves Eli alone for revenge and Eli gets captured by Lucy (who by my count is the sole surviving ghost)—but it is still a good character moment for him.  Considering that next week will be his origin story, I’m very interested to see where this is going to push him.

The Darkhold plot is really interesting as a way to introduce magic into the show (in anticipation of Doctor Strange introducing magic to the wider audience).  I especially like the back story they give it as being a MacGuffin that everyone has been hunting for the entire recorded history of the MCU—exemplified by Red Skull, Whitehall, and Fury—as a way to work magic into the fabric of the universe.  However, I’m not as interested in the ghosts themselves.  When they were first introduced I thought they were ridiculously flat and acted terribly.  This episode really didn’t do all that much to change that opinion.  The two ghosts that Robbie torched didn’t get much screen time, but Lucy got more screen time than she has in any previous episode.  I thought the back story at the beginning of the episode was good for how it showed what she and Joe were like before the Darkhold was in the picture.  Actually, I thought her acting as a human was much better than as a ghost—which makes me wonder if the ghosts’ flatness was actually an intentional choice.  If so, it definitely comes through, but I’m still not a fan of it.

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The other half of the infiltration team—Daisy rescuing Coulson and May—is a huge part of the episode for how it develops Daisy’s character.  Daisy’s duty to S.H.I.E.L.D. comes into conflict with her fight against the Watchdogs (who represent a major threat to her people), and she chooses to stay behind and fight the Watchdogs so May and Coulson can escape.  The fight sequence was awesome, particularly since Daisy had to do everything without using her powers.  It was completely expected that May and Coulson found another way into the cafeteria to save Daisy at the last moment, but that was a really powerful character moment for all three of them.  Daisy is still pushing S.H.I.E.L.D. away because of her guilt over Lincoln’s death, but May and Coulson care too much to let her go.  Even after they save her, Daisy continues to withdraw.  That May is the one to reach out to her is a good character moment, as Daisy is essentially mimicking May’s reaction to Bahrain.  I like how they tease the solution to Daisy’s problem of hurting herself with her powers in this episode but still haven’t really answered it.  The resolution of that particular internal conflict will probably come around the midseason finale.

The secondary story of Simmons and her polygraph was a bit of a surprise as it did not go the direction I expected.  Instead of actually beating the polygraph, Simmons beats Director Mace by giving him a compelling reason not to make her retake it.  She still isn’t particularly adept at lying, but she has proven to be excellent at coercion and blackmail.

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On that note, I really liked the direction this episode went with Director Mace’s character.  The interview between Mace and Nadeer was interesting, but it didn’t show us anything about Nadeer that we didn’t already know.  She doesn’t like Inhumans, and she doesn’t mind manipulating the facts to suit her purposes (like a lot of politicians).  The best part of the interview was easily when Mace revealed himself to be an Inhuman, followed by learning more about Mace’s history.  I like how they tie Mace’s origin to the U.N. bombing in Vienna and the signing of the Sokovia Accords, but I am now very curious what he is lying about in his public story.  I doubt that he will be a villain per se, but it is entirely possible that he was not as “heroic” as he claims.  I really hope that we will find out more about him:  when he underwent Terrigenesis, when he revealed it to the government (and under what circumstances), and how his origin is connected to the bombing.  However, before learning about his origin (or in connection with it) we also will need to find out exactly what “favor” Nadeer is forcing out of him to keep Ghost Rider and Quake out of the news.  My guess is that she will want immunity for the Watchdogs or James, but that would be way too obvious.

Overall I really enjoyed this episode, as I have all the episodes so far this season.  The introduction of magic—and tying it in to Ghost Rider—was a brilliant decision, even if the ghosts aren’t all that interesting.  I am very curious to see how the Inhuman and Darkhold plots will be resolved, particularly as they are both being given roughly-equal time so far.  Might they introduce an Inhuman whose power is a greater connection to magic?

What did you think of this episode?  Which plot are you most excited to see moving forward?  Let me know in the comments!

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