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One of the major plots this half-season was the question of Director Mace’s loyalties and the lack of trust between him and Coulson (despite Coulson having requested an Inhuman/enhanced become the new Director). Both of these questions have been fairly prominent throughout the half-season, but this is the first episode where it feels like they have really been resolved. Mace has had S.H.I.E.L.D.’s best interests at heart this whole time, and now Coulson recognizes it. Even though they have not trusted each other up until this point, they both demonstrate a willingness to trust each other, as evidenced by their joint leading of the operation against Eli. I thought that this was just about the right moment for Coulson and Mace to reconcile: not too soon for us to feel the mistrust, but not too drawn out.
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The fight against Eli was an extremely well executed sequence. It starts by “assembling” the team we were expecting to see—Daisy, Robbie, and Yo-Yo—but it doesn’t leave it at just that. By the end of the final fight sequence that team has expanded to include AIDA and Mace (wearing his own armored suit), along with a number of agents (Coulson, Mack, and May, specifically). That final fight sequence of the episode, especially, was very well done and a lot of fun to watch. There are two different speed shot sequences with Yo-Yo. The first was relatively uneventful when she went to scout and set off Eli’s booby trap. The second may have been the best speed shot the series has done to-date, though it felt a little like a repeat of the Quicksilver scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past. That’s not a bad thing; there are only so many things you can do with super speed, and the trick is to put them together in a fun and interesting way. However, I think the most interesting moment was went Ghost Rider chose not to try escaping and instead allowed himself to be teleported into the other dimension, ensuring Eli’s “death” as well.
Robbie’s part in this episode was quite interesting, but he didn’t have much in the way of action sequences. Instead, the focus was more on the personal motivation behind what was going on: he is hurt and betrayed by Eli’s actions, and Eli for his part regrets what happened to Robbie. Considering the relationship between them that was hinted at earlier in the season, this was a good moment for both characters. In the end, Robbie’s biggest moment—the one that sets up a potential Ghost Rider series or movie—is when he lets go of the chain and drags Eli down to “hell.” They have not announced a spinoff just yet, but Gabriel Luna indicated that Marvel Studios is discussing the possibility, and I would expect an announcement by April at the latest. Assuming that the spinoff does happen, it seems pretty clear that the focus would be on the Spirit of Vengeance seeking its own revenge in the other dimension before returning to the Earth dimension. After Coulson’s comment at the end of the episode about the “previous Ghost Rider” having made it back, I am curious to learn more about the Spirit of Vengeance’s history. Should Coulson’s comments be taken as confirmation that Robbie is not the first Ghost Rider S.H.I.E.L.D. has worked with? Is this a reference to Johnny Blaze? Both of these questions could potentially be answered in that spinoff.
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I was not expecting the plot with AIDA to go very far in this episode, and I think I was correct. However, what we did get was an incredible way to end the half-season and set up the next arc. Not only did AIDA kill Mace’s assistance (a clear violation of her programming, which prohibits both lying and killing humans), but she is keeping May a prisoner while an LMD body-double impersonates May. The idea of characters being replaced by doubles as part as some subversive, nefarious plot is not a new one—the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series did it twice (Ultron and the Skrulls), and the comics pull it out every so often—but it is a good place for them to take the LMD arc in January. Though we as viewers know that May has been replaced, there’s no way of really knowing how long ago she was replaced (the obvious answer is during this episode when she went to pick up AIDA and Radcliffe) and who else might have been replaced as well. What is AIDA planning to do now? When (and how) did she alter her programming to allow her to harm humans? What is she going to do now? It is entirely possible that the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: LMD arc will revisit some of the same plots from Avengers: Age of Ultron, but I actually think this could be more successful from a plot and writing standpoint than the movie was, since the series has had much more time to introduce AIDA and show her transition from life saving to body-swapping, and will have more time in the second half of the season to show the ramifications of this.
One question I do have about the season is: how many of these arcs will there be? The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Ghost Rider arc lasted for 8 episodes, leaving 14 for 2017. Will the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: LMD arc take up all 14 episodes, or will the second half be further divided, with another arc coming at the end of the season and tying in with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? There is also the question of whether the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Slingshot 6-episode digital miniseries is going to be counted as part of the 22-episode order for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4. They haven’t indicated that—and if these episodes were going to be part of the 22-episode order, they would probably be aired on ABC instead of just online—so my guess is that this is something entirely new in addition to this Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season.
I only really have one negative from this episode, which actually has to do with Daisy. I liked seeing her back in action with S.H.I.E.L.D., and watching her use her power to dampen the earthquakes instead of cause them was a good development of her powers. I even liked her conversation with Coulson at the end when he said he had wanted her to be the new face of S.H.I.E.L.D. However, I thought it was a little to on-the-nose for Daisy to say that “maybe the comic book version” would make a good Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. but she wouldn’t. I chuckled at it, but it leaned a little too heavily on the fourth-wall for this universe.
All in all, this was a great midseason finale and did a good job up setting things in motion for the second half of the season. There are 2 important dates to remember moving forward. The first is next Tuesday (December 13), when the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot 6-episode miniseries becomes available on ABC On Demand. The second is January 10, when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns.
What did you think of this midseason finale? What was your favorite part of the first half of the season? Let me know in the comments!