Monday, November 28, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 6, "The Good Samaritan" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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So this review is incredibly late—sorry about that!  When the episode first aired I was dealing with computer trouble, and since then I’ve had a whole lot of other stuff going on.  Hopefully I will be able to get back into a consistent routine now, at least for the next two weeks (the final two episodes of the half-season).

Considering how tardy this is, I will keep it pretty brief and try to offer something of a refresher so you’re ready for tomorrow’s new episode.

I want to start off by saying that I absolutely love what they are doing with the two newest heroes this season.  Gabriel Luna as Robbie Reyes, a.k.a. Ghost Rider, is the runaway star of the season for how well he brings the character to life.  He is brooding and dark, but also emanates a sense of barely-restrained power.  I think the best analogy for his character is Bruce Banner/the Hulk as both characters possess a breathtaking level of raw power, and both characters are only barely in control of that power.  However, while Bruce Banner works to restrain the Hulk, Robbie has little problem allowing the Rider out.

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This episode offers an incredibly faithful origin for Robbie’s powers.  Like the comics, he and his brother Gabe are in a serious car accident caused by a drive-by shooting targeting the true/previous owner of the Ghost Car.  However, the show takes some definite liberties with the origin, primarily in terms of how Robbie’s “deal with the devil” takes place:  rather than being possessed by the spirit of his dead Satanist uncle (Eli Morrow), Robbie is actually “saved” by a Ghost Rider (a man on a motorcycle with a flaming skull), who offers him a chance to avenge his death.  This previous Ghost Rider is unnamed, but I think it’s a good bet that the previous Rider is Johnny Blaze.  This sets Robbie apart from his comic book version by establishing that Robbie is possessed by an actual Spirit of Vengeance, giving him the full strength of any of the traditional comic book Ghost Riders.  This is a very well-done origin, and using Gabe as the point-of-view character who hears the story is a very nice touch.

Jason O’Mara’s Jeffrey Mace is the other clear standout this half-season.  By comparison to Ghost Rider, who is clearly searching for vengeance by punishing any guilty parties, Mace’s motivations are much murkier.  In fact, this half-season has done an excellent job of making him both likeable and very unlikeable.  For every “good” move that he makes, there is at least one that makes you question his loyalties; for every “questionable” move, there is at least one that entices you to trust him again.  In this episode he sends Simmons off to help Senator Nadeer with something and hunts down Daisy and Robbie on the Zephyr, but he also agrees to work with the vigilantes and explains himself as working to safeguard S.H.I.E.L.D. from accusations such as those by Nadeer.  This keeps his loyalties and motives rather mysterious, which makes him even more interesting as we near the end of the half-season.

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One of the more fun moments in the episode comes when Mace raises the containment pod back into the Zephyr, revealing Daisy, Robbie, and Gabe.  Watching Robbie and Mace fight was really cool because it wasn’t your typical “heroes meet, have a misunderstanding, and fight.”  Instead, the two of them have a major ideological rift over how they are to use their powers (sounds a lot like Civil War).  Mace represents (until proven otherwise) “lawful good”:  He firmly believes in the rule of law and believes that powers should only be used for lawful purposes.  Robbie aligns most closely (as I figure it) with “chaotic good”:  He does what is right regardless of the consequences.  According to his understanding of the situation, Mace views Robbie as a vigilante taking the law into his own hands and killing with little provocation.  Consequently he must bring Robbie in before he endangers not only the public good but S.H.I.E.L.D. (which he kind of did when he murdered a helpless prison inmate on camera).  Robbie, however, views Mace as a potential threat to his mission of rescuing his uncle and preventing Lucy from unleashing the horrors of the Darkhold.  In the end Robbie clearly possesses more raw power than Mace—and is only prevented from injuring or killing Mace by Gabe’s intervention—but the fight helps Mace recognize their need for Robbie’s help in stopping the Darkhold.

The sequence with S.H.I.E.L.D., Daisy, and Robbie infiltrating the Roxxon power plant was really cool, particularly seeing how the whole team works together.  Robbie destroying Lucy and discovering his uncle’s treachery was a good twist—one I really didn’t see coming, though it seems obvious in retrospect.  There is very little to indicate exactly what happened to Eli beyond his new mysterious power of spontaneous matter generation, and there’s also little to indicate what happened to Robbie, Coulson, and Fitz.  That is a huge loose thread for this week’s episode to tie up, and one which I am very excited to see.

One plot hole that I still do not quite understand deals with Lucy’s willingness to work with Eli, even though she knows exactly what he is and what he has done.  She had to have known that he would betray her, right?  I realize he was the only one she knew who had any idea what the Darkhold was and how to use it, but I still question her willingness to trust him alone with the Darkhold.  Maybe she thought that he would fix her before causing his own brand of apocalypse, but that was a very poor decision.

The other issue I had was not with the episode itself but with the decision to skip most of November.  I understand deciding not to air a new episode on election night (even if watching Coulson avert the apocalypse would have been a nice change-of-pace from the apocalyptic prognostication on Election Night!).  However, I don’t understand why they didn’t resume the following week.  I suppose since there are only 2 episodes left in the half-season (more of a third-season, really), they didn’t want to end their run in mid-November and miss out on the possible December viewership.  Hopefully the second half of the season will make clear why they needed the extra episodes on the back half—and will make good use of them.

Long story short, I really enjoyed this episode, particularly for the possible connection to Doctor Strange at the end (no idea if it will actually connect, but it could).  I can’t wait for tomorrow when we will find out what happened to Robbie, Coulson, and Fitz!

What did you think of this episode?  If you’ve seen Doctor Strange already, do you think the show will tie-in at all with the movie?  Let me know in the comments!

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