Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 04×02 – Meet the New Boss

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Source: ABC // Agents of Shield

Even with the knowledge that the title is taken from The Who’s song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, that title is a little on-the-nose.

For this family in Pasadena, it’s a calm night in America like any other – the lights are out, the kid is in bed with stars projected on his ceiling, and a ghost is rummaging through the house. The son wakes up and notices the spirit, and so he wakes up his father. The doting dad tries to usher the son back to bed, before noticing a broken picture frame where the son claimed the ghost had been. As he examines the photo, the ghost from last episode (her name is Lucy, but we don’t know officially that yet) demands he leaves the house and starts calling for “Joseph” before rushing into the dad. The dad looks at his son, who’s face starts deforming into the grey darkened zombie-face that May and the druglord Chen saw last episode when affected by the ghost, which I will now dub “deadface” for lack of a better term.

Does this feel a bit like Supernatural to anyone else?

In California, the Ghost Rider himself Robbie Reyes is casually driving the Hell Charger through L.A., without noticing a certain hacker van on his tail. As he arrives to his job at Canelo’s junkyard, he notices the van pull up as the other employees talk about the game last night.

In the lab at S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters The Playground, Agent Dr. “Leo” Fitz and Special Advisor Dr. Jemma Simmons are analyzing the box Lucy came from, trying to figure out what was inside that seemingly caused the Chinatown gang members to go insane. As far as they can tell, it is a simple empty box – but when shining ultraviolet light on it, are able to see a bizarre containment pattern field that doesn’t reflect technology from our world. Agent “Mack” Mackenzie arrives, and tells them about the case with the father and son earlier. They come to the conclusion that all the victims are suffering from the same hallucinations, until Mack shows his recovered security footage from when the cameras went down at the Chinatown warehouse showing the ghost – they weren’t hallucinating.

As Agent Phil Coulson and Agent Melinda May wait for a meeting with the new director in a room riddled with “SUSPECT IT, REPORT IT” signs, May theorizes that the director is making them wait on purpose, and warns Coulson that the director won’t go easy on him. Coulson says he will simply apologize and leave, and admits that he doesn’t miss this part of being director. May tells him he would still be director if he put up a fight, and then comments on the oppressive room decor. Coulson says that his plane the Zephyr One feels like his home now – it’s the only thing they can’t take away from him.

Robbie Reyes continues to do his job, but keeps noticing the van parked outside. He grabs a tire iron and goes to investigate, but Quake isn’t there. As he re-enters the shop, he finds Daisy Johnson – Quake herself – talking to Canelo. She acts like her and Robbie are old friends, dropping his name and the name of his high school to show him that she has done her research on him and means business. She claims her van burst into flames, and Robbie is the expert – so she came to reconnect. Robbie, continuing the code, tells her if it’s on fire she should leave it alone. She loudly starts proclaiming more information about him, such as his elementary school, the arcade he used to hang out at, and him being picked up by his uncle. Robbie “fixes” her van to tell her to leave, so she uses her powers to break it again, faux-sadly declaring they will have to stay there longer.

Two hours later, Coulson and May finally have gained an audience with the new director. The director’s bodyguard Cecilio won’t let them through, but the director calls them in. He is surrounded by a crowd of people as they work out schematics and plan S.H.I.E.L.D.’s public announcement coming up. The director, Jeffrey (listed in the subtitles as Mace) greets May and Coulson warmly, and asks for his entourage and Cecilio to leave the room.

Comic fans may know Jeffrey Mace as the 1940’s hero Patriot, who briefly took up the mantle of Captain America while he was frozen in ice. This Mace seems different, being very “Wall Street”, using corporate buzzwords like “P.R. optics” and catchphrases like “a team that trusts is a team that triumphs”.

Coulson starts to apologize to Mace for his unauthorized mission to find Daisy, but Mace immediately tells him it’s alright and that he’s impressed. He tells him, however, that since S.H.I.E.L.D. is preparing to go public again, it’s a bad time for a former agent to be robbing banks. May feels that Mace’s focus on public relations is trivial, but Mace reiterates that they are on a very delicate stage and public opinion is about to matter a great deal. He asks May to leave the room so he can discuss matters with Coulson privately, but as she leaves she notices him going all deadface from her interaction with the ghost earlier. Once May is gone, Mace comments that she is a riddle he would like to solve, and tells Coulson he has a special mission for him.

In the lab, Fitz, Simmons and Mack conclude that the ghost Lucy is causing people to go insane by physical contact, but Fitz and Simmons, being doctors, are having difficulty trying to scientifically rationalize her incorporeality. Mack points out that she might just be a ghost, which amuses Simmons. Further researching the alloy in the box, Fitz finds out it was only manufactured in three defunct facilities. Mack recognizes that one of the facilities is in Pasadena, CA – where the family checked into the ER earlier. Mack requisitions a Quinjet for him and Fitz, but Simmons is stuck behind, forced to lend her expertise to a base tour of the Playground.

Walking through the hallway, Coulson expresses surprise over his special mission – giving a tour of the base to U.S. congressmen and congresswomen. He feels his expertise is better suited for the field, but Mace points out that no one is better at history and S.S.R. trivia than Coulson. Coulson is reluctant, but Mace reveals that due to being legitimized, their budget relies on the Sokovia Accords, which involves impressing these people.

At the abandoned Momentum Alternative Energy Lab in Pasadena, California, the ghost Lucy stalks the halls. Several containment boxes like hers are hooked up to a large machine, and she shuts one down, opening it and freeing the ghost of a man named Hugo. He asks what “he” did to Lucy, but then realizes they are both ghosts, and asks where the others are. Lucy says they are in the containment boxes. Hugo says that “he” needs to pay – they could have been in there for hours. Lucy tearfully tells him they were in there for years.

With a moment alone in the shop, Daisy confronts Robbie about his kills. He repeats the point he made earlier – it’s vengeance. They were all people who deserved it. She tells him that the Watchdogs are hunting Inhumans like them, and a confused Robbie tells her he isn’t an Inhuman – he sold his soul to the devil. He tells her that she can try to turn him in; he has nothing to lose. She points out that Gabe might be sad to lose his big brother. Canelo calls into the shop saying he needs to leave, and Robbie agrees to lock up. His eyes start glowing and he tells Daisy that she shouldn’t have mentioned his brother, and lights a wrench on fire. She uses her seismic powers to throw a car at him, but he dodges it, rips the exhaust off, and lights that up with hellfire too. She blasts a tool cart at him, but he dodges and swings, hitting her with the flaming pipe and punching her out.

In the Playground, May tells Agent Piper to get the S.T.R.I.K.E. Team ready for training. Piper responds “yes, ma’am” which confuses May. Piper is flustered and doesn’t know what to call May, trying “sir” and “commander”, before May tells her to stick with “May”. Piper says she can do May, then corrects herself that she can stick with May. She awkwardly leaves.

Best interaction ever.

On the tour, Coulson tells the congresspeople that the base was constructed by Peggy Carter in 1949. He tells them that many people have heard of Agent Carter, but there were so many stories that were never recorded – which is a great shot at ABC for cancelling the series. As the congresspeople pass May, she sees them go into deadface and is freaked out. She decides to go to the containment cell where the Chinatown Mob gang leader Chen is located, asking if he sees the deadfaces too. He wonders why no one else can see it, but May says that she can. Chen says that she can’t help them, it’s everywhere – and starts banging his head repeatedly against the glass, almost killing himself, until Simmons remotely gases him via control panel. She goes to ask May what happened, but May is already gone.

On the Quinjet, Mack and Fitz wish Simmons could have came along. Mack is getting sick of the long deployments, saying that Coulson loves them but the isolation is getting to him. Fitz asks if he sees Yo-Yo (referring of course to Elena Rodriguez, his “will-they-won’t-they” lover), and Mack says they Skype occasionally. Fitz is just happy they aren’t on a wild goose chase for Daisy anymore, but Mack doesn’t see it that way. Fitz confirms they are due for landing in an hour.

At the Momentum Lab, another ghost Frederick is free. Hugo is panicking that his wife is still out there, but Lucy tells him to calm down. Frederick points out that it wasn’t just the aforementioned “him” who did this – it was Lucy, too. She protests that it wasn’t her fault, but Frederick says that they shouldn’t have used the Darkhold and Hugo points out that this is all because of her obsession with that “damn book”. Lucy claims that the book can fix them now, but Frederick says she will just use it to get the power she wanted in the first place. Hugo expresses doubt that they will find the book years later, and Lucy proclaims that they will find it and kill “him” – and anyone who stands in their way.

Very important sidebar here – the Darkhold is a book from the comics; a grimoire nicknamed the “Book of Sins”. Think of it as Marvel’s Necronomicon Ex-Mortis – this tome is responsible for demons, vampires, werewolves, zombies and ghosts. Just like the Darkforce ushered in a new era involving Agent Carter, Doctor Strange, and Cloak & Dagger, this could open up a whole new realm of possibilities – bigger than Ghost Rider and Doctor Strange. I’m talking Blade, Moon Knight, Mephisto, even Marvel Zombies!

At Canelo’s, Daisy is tied up in the office. Robbie tells her that her arm is fractured, not broken. He comments that Daisy claimed she deserved to die earlier, and is snooping through her stuff, looking for proof that she does. Once he finds it, she gets her wish and his problem goes away. As he looks through her stuff, he correctly deduces that she is looking for penance, and feels like she has wrongs she needs to right. He finds a picture of her recently-deceased boyfriend, Dr. Lincoln Campbell. Daisy claims they should be working together to stop the Watchdogs, because they are uniting against enhanced people. She mentions that they stole something from Momentum Labs in Pasadena, and this sparks a reaction in Robbie. He duct-tapes her mouth and goes to leave, but she uses her powers to break free, hurting her. He drives away in the Hell Charger, but she blasts herself onto the roof and hangs on until he blasts fire out of the engine.

In the lab, a fourth ghost is free – an irate man named Vincent who is so “far gone” that he cannot speak, scream or make noise. Lucy explains her plan to find the Darkhold and reverse this, and Vincent seems to disagree. She starts to form a strategy, explaining that she and Hugo will look for Joseph, but Frederick refuses to cooperate. He says that she can take the boxes, but he is done working for her – he is going to burn Momentum Labs to the ground.

In the Playground, as May is walking panicked through the base, Simmons meets with the director, Coulson and the congresspeople for the tour late, as she had to deal with the situation in the containment cells. The director suggests they go examine the containment cells as they have useful power-dampening abilities, but Coulson and Simmons tell him that this isn’t the best idea at the moment. They pull Mace aside and explain that there was an incident, and he decides to take them on a tour of the Quinjets instead. Simmons tells Coulson that May seems to have set Chen off.

Fitz and Mack make their way through Momentum Labs, and Mack opens the locked door with his trusty shotgun axe. They make their way into the room the ghosts were contained in. Fitz examines the terminal and tells Mack they have a problem, when the ghost of Frederick appears behind him and Mack shoots. Fitz asks if he scared him off, but Mack points out the chances of that are slim. Fitz tells Mack that he can’t let the ghosts touch him, when Frederick appears again and Mack swings at him, causing him to disappear again. Fitz reveals the reactor is set to explode, which could take out a few city blocks. As he tries to shut it down, Frederick hits Mack with a box and knocks him into the containment cell in the center of the room, locking the door. Fitz offers to help Frederick, but he tells Fitz he can’t and disappears.

In the locker room, May is frantically searching for whatever is turning everyone deadfaced, thinking it’s a real problem and not just in her head. She tells Coulson she won’t let them take him, and he tells her to take a minute and rest. She refuses, so he humors her – he tells her they should examine the blood samples on file to see who is infected, and suggests they go to the lab. As they walk through the hallway, the other agents start going deadfaced as May looks at them, and she starts to panic. She starts suspecting Coulson is involved for wanting her to go to the lab so badly, and starts fighting him and her S.T.R.I.K.E. team. Director Mace arrives and May starts punching him, and grabs a steel beam and starts hitting him – but he doesn’t react. She calls him a monster, but he says he prefers the term Inhuman. He picks her up with one arm and knocks her out against the stone wall.

Fitz tries opening the cell to free Mack as the reactor is about to melt down, when the ghost of Frederick appears and exclaims that he will not go back, as it was hell in there. He is about to touch Fitz, when Robbie appears and grabs Frederick, and burns his own face off to reveal the skull of the Ghost Rider, much to Mack and Fitz’s surprise. As Ghost Rider gives Frederick the Penance Stare, Fitz tries to open the cell, but isn’t strong enough to turn the wheel. Daisy shows up and opens the cell with her seismic powers, and as Fitz and Mack turn off the reactor, Ghost Rider burns Frederick into nothing with hellfire. Ghost Rider walks up to a picture of the scientists of Momentum Labs pinned to the wall, which includes Lucy, Frederick, Hugo, Vincent and four others. He tears it off the wall and leaves. Mack grabs his shotgun axe, but Daisy tells him not to pursue him.

On the Quinjet, Mack is tending to Daisy’s fractured bones. He tells her she should have let him go after Ghost Rider, deducing he is the serial killer all over their radar in Los Angeles. She tells him that he only kills those who deserves it, and Mack takes exception to that. Daisy protests that Robbie saved Fitz life, and they question what they were up against. Mack asks Daisy to come back to S.H.I.E.L.D. so they can patch up her arm with a special S.H.I.E.L.D. issue bone growth pill. Heartbroken, he realizes that Yo-Yo has been stealing it for her and they have been in touch the whole time. He tearfully asks Daisy why she is doing this, and Fitz angrily chimes in that she has turned her back on them. He points out that they have all been through terrible things, and none of them turned their back. Daisy claims she’s doing what she needs to do, and Mack tells her it affects them, like it or not. She thanks him for the splint and leaves.

Wrapping up the tour, a congressman asks Mace for a group photo. He tells them not to post it online, as it is confidential until S.H.I.E.L.D. goes public. He wishes them a safe ride home. Coulson tells Mace that he has a plan regarding May, as he had a similar experience when he was director. Mace tells him that he has it handled. He tells Coulson that he is getting mixed signals, because Coulson stepped down and told the president that he didn’t want to be the face of S.H.I.E.L.D., but is still acting like the director. Coulson pointed out he had a lot of reasons for stepping down, and wanted a powered person the people could trust. Mace says that Coulson is one of his top advisors, but points out that he can’t be objective when it comes to May or Daisy. Coulson asks what treatment is being implemented, and Mace tells him it is classified.

On a the flight home with the congressmen and congresswomen, May is in a straight-jacket, frantically telling everyone to get away from her.

In Los Angeles, Daisy has trouble starting her van. The Hell Charger pulls up, and Robbie tells her that he thinks he is what is connecting these things. He opens the door to offer her a ride. They drive off.

This episode wasn’t as strong as the first one this season, which wasn’t as strong as some of the other season openers. It definitely hit the ground running, but so much is different that you need to collect yourself first. I enjoyed meeting the charismatic new director (whom I don’t trust one bit), and getting some more information on the ghosts (even if the Ghost Rider CGI budget makes their effects look a little cheesy). I am very excited for what the Darkhold might mean for the MCU, and am dying to know the surprise villain that helped create these ghosts at Momentum Labs.

I give this episode a 7/10, just because it is missing the lovable Dr. Holden Radcliffe and Aida, his new life-model decoy.

I’m excited to see where they go with the director Jeffrey Mace. This particular incarnation of Patriot didn’t have superstrength in the comics, though he was Captain America at one point. It’s great that they are introducing more classic comic characters so unashamedly. Two for two this season!

Here’s to looking forward to what happens the week after next, when S.H.I.E.L.D. returns!

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Author: Jesse "The Clairvoyant" Rolufs

Film star. Chemical engineer. Dancer. Comedian. I am none of these things. What I am, however, is a huge geek hailing from the frigid wastes of western Canada. I couldn’t even tell you when it started - I’m told the first words out of my mouth were “I swing my +2 DEX war axe and attack the dragon.” My name is Jesse (also known as “The Clairvoyant”) and I am a big nerd when it comes to video games, board games, movies, anime, TV, RPGs - and I am possibly the one of the world leading experts on comic books, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Joss Whedon. You can find me on twitter as @JesseRolufs. Don’t be afraid to check out my informative Joss Whedon-themed podcast @whedoncast, and my hilarious bargain-bin-movie-bashing podcast @BlindBuy!

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