It’s only been a week, but welcome back, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!
If you feel like we’ve had this episode title before, you aren’t going crazy. Like comic books, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tends to have multi-part arcs. Daisy’s turn to the dark side was called “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Fallen Agent”, we are currently in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Ghost Rider” and the rise of HYDRA was called “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Uprising.” The more you know!
True to her word, our former Secret Warrior Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez is in Miami celebrating her friend Maria’s bachelorette party with her friend Leticia, as an amateur magician “The Amazing Mertz” amuses them with party tricks. Yo-Yo gets a call from her “will-they-won’t-they” man Agent “Mack” Mackenzie, but her friends start teasing her and she declines the call. Maria takes her phone and calls him back, laughing at his nickname for Elena “Yo-Yo”, when suddenly all the power goes out in Miami. I’m talking all power – lights go out, cell phones die and helicopters crash.
The “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” title card glitches and is replaced with a message: a silhouette of a man in a beret with a voice changer claiming responsibility for the blackout and professing to be working on behalf of the Inhuman Resistance. As the new director (and Inhuman) Jeffrey Mace watches disturbed, the silhouette demands that Inhuman registry via the Sokovia Accords be stopped, or more blackouts will occur. He calls his experts – Agent Anderson, Agent Burrows, Agent Dr. Fitz and Agent Mackenzie. Fitz tells him that it looks like it wasn’t a hoax or a nutjob; this is an organized attack. The blackout wasn’t caused by Inhuman powers (since Lincoln Campbell was the only known Inhuman capable of shorting a city and he’s both a good guy and dead), so it must have been an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) device. This means the Resistance is more than capable of enacting more attacks. Mack tells Mace that they lost communication with their contact Elena Rodriguez, so Mace decides to send Mack, Fitz, and Agent Phil Coulson to Miami to investigate (while Burrows complains this is a PR nightmare). Mack tells Mace to instruct Coulson of the order himself, as he was not very happy with the previous order (to send Agent Melinda May for classified mental treatment).
In the lab, Coulson and Special Advisor Agent Dr. Jemma Simmons are remotely monitoring May’s vitals, which are dangerously unstable. Simmons is arguing with the head of the May’s facility on the phone, who is claiming that May is stabilizing. They hang up on her, and so a pissed Coulson asks where May is being held and who is treating her. Simmons sadly tells him that that information is classified, until Mace arrives and tells him she is in a CDC facility in upstate New York. Mace starts to give Coulson his new mission, when the Chinatown Mob leader Chen suddenly and violently dies on a nearby gurney. Simmons informs Mace that May was infected with the same mental virus, and the same thing will happen to her in 24 hours if they don’t treat her properly. Mace gives Simmons leave to do whatever she needs to save May. Coulson announces that he is going with, but Mace denies this and tells him that he is going to Miami, because he is the best agent for the job.
In Miami, Maria complains that she has no way of reaching her fiancé, and wonders how a blackout can kill a cell phone. Yo-Yo deduces that it was probably an EMP. A guest suggests they leave the rooftop and look for somewhere with power and Maria agrees, despite Yo-Yo and Leticia’s protests that it is safer on the roof.
Across the country in Los Angeles, Robbie “Ghost Rider” Reyes and Daisy “Quake” Johnson are filling up the Hell Charger at a gas station while Robbie fills Daisy in on some details. He thinks the ghosts at Momentum Labs are connected to his uncle, Elias “Eli” Morrow, an electrical engineer who worked at Momentum and is currently in jail for attempted murder. As they discuss the situation, they hear about the blackouts in Miami and now London over a nearby car radio, and that the Inhuman Resistance will black out a major city every hour until their demands are met. Robbie hopes the blackouts don’t reach L.A., because his wheelchair-bound little brother Gabe rides the subway through a rough neighborhood, and people during blackouts think they can get away with anything. He muses that they will have their hands full if it happens in L.A., but the traffic lights go out and cars stop in the street before he can finish his sentence.
In his home, Dr. Holden Radcliffe rambles a complicated demand consisting of several acronyms to his robotic Life-Model Decoy Aida. Aida pauses to cross-reference the multitude of acronyms in her internal dictionary, but Radcliffe angrily explains and then apologizes for snapping at her – he was contacted by Simmons to help save May, and it doesn’t look very promising. Aida helps him get all his equipment set up, and then he puts her away in her secret charging pod behind his bookshelf. Simmons works for S.H.I.E.L.D. after all, and S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t supposed to know Aida exists. Simmons, Agent Dr. Nathanson and Radcliffe bring May in on a gurney, but she is hallucinating and screaming at the agents. They sedate her and Radcliffe asks what they are dealing with. Simmons tells him they have ruled out all possible theories except Mack’s ridiculous (and coincidentally true) one: she was touched by a ghost. As they get started, Simmons warns Radcliffe that she theorizes that they have less than six hours until May dies.
Aboard the Zephyr One, Coulson, Mack and Fitz watch a news interview with Senator Rota Nadeer, an anti-powered individual who claims that Inhumans are weapons that need to be stopped or humans are simply digging their own graves. Coulson remarks that people are already taking up their pitchforks, but points out that London, Moscow, Los Angeles and Miami have all blacked out seemingly by Inhumans within the last five hours. He admits that something feels fishy about the whole situation, as S.H.I.E.L.D. had relocated Inhumans to all four cities. Fitz displays his idea on how to pinpoint and stop the EMP signal, but they need to work fast – riots have started in L.A. and it’s getting ugly.
In L.A., thugs are breaking car windows with baseball bats during the blackout. Gabe Reyes sees them, and starts wheeling his cheelchair away. As the Hell Charger weaves through traffic (being an electronic-free car built in 1969 that also tends to sometimes run on hellfire itself), Daisy asks Robbie what he is – he isn’t Inhuman, and she doesn’t believe he sold his soul to the devil. He tells her he doesn’t give a damn what she believes – he’s the one stuck with it. For the first time, Daisy realizes that Robbie doesn’t want to be Ghost Rider. He tells her that at first he thought he had to settle a score to get rid of it – kill the gangbangers that put Gabe in a wheelchair. Then he tried settling other peoples’ scores. Then he tried settling his uncle’s score – he always claimed that the person he beat up was the true criminal. He believes that if that doesn’t do the trick, he will have to ride as Ghost Rider forever. The thugs notice Gabe watching them try to break into a car, and they decide to steal his wheelchair when Robbie pulls up in the Charger. One of the gangsters puts his hands on the car, and refuses to take them off, saying he’s just “admiring her”. Robbie’s eyes flash and the man’s hands start burning. The thug with the baseball bat swings at Daisy, and she proceeds to beat up the gansters with Robbie. One puts a gun to Gabe’s head and Daisy uses her seismic powers to blast him away, which injures her fractured wrists. Robbie takes out the last of the crooks, introduces Gabe and Daisy, and they load Gabe and his wheelchair into the car.
Several miles away in Miami, Yo-Yo tries to convince Maria to stay, because her fiancé wouldn’t want her wandering around with the power off. A group of mercenaries show up with weapons, and announce that there is an Inhuman present – turn them over, and no one gets hurt. Coulson, Mack and Fitz drive to the hotel where Yo-Yo is being held. Mack points out that it doesn’t make sense – the EMP shouldn’t have shorted out Yo-Yo’s phone if it was off.
(Note: Not only do EMPs short out all electronics, off or on, they fry them and render them unusable. But this is fiction and they can do whatever they want!)
One of the mercenaries explains to the group that Inhumans are attacking their cities, and they are there to protect the people. He tells the group that there is an Inhuman present, and it is the guests’ duty to turn them in. Maria complains that this is ridiculous, and claims that if one of those “freaks of nature” were there, they’d know. Yo-Yo retorts that Inhumans are people too, and deserve to be there as much as humans do. Maria disgustedly asks if this is what L.A. did to Elena, and asks if she’s vegan too. The guest who suggested they leave the hotel rooftop earlier tells the merc that The Amazing Mertz is an Inhuman, as he was doing magic earlier. They grab him as he swears he isn’t Inhuman.
Director Mace calls Coulson and tells him that six cities are out, and people are panicking. He tells him that he spoke with the president, and he will have to do something drastic if they don’t have answers soon. They enter the blackout zone, and the feed cuts off and the car rolls to a stop. Fitz speculates that it was another EMP blast, and Coulson confirms this, asking for help removing his robotic arm from the steering wheel. Fitz looks through the equipment, and realizes that none of their equipment will work – it wasn’t a second EMP pulse (Electro-Magnetic Pulse pulse?), it’s a series of them. Fitz decides they will have to do it “old-school” without tech or weapons. As they walk to the hotel, Fitz remarks that Ghost Rider would be a good non-electronic light source. Coulson expresses regret that he missed out on seeing him. Mack tells him he shouldn’t be disappointed, and Fitz agrees that the flaming skull is unsettling.
At Robbie and Gabe’s house in Los Angeles, Robbie mentions that they will need to do something about Daisy’s fractured arm, and they agree she can’t go to the hospital. She asks him what he does when he gets hurt as Ghost Rider, and he explains that has been stabbed, shot and run over and he doesn’t seem to get hurt. He decides it would be best to take advantage of the darkness to get some medicine and supplies and tells Gabe he has to go to work at Canelo’s to prevent looting. He whispers to Daisy that Gabe doesn’t know about the “night job”, and he never will. As he leaves, Gabe tells Daisy the man in all their photos is their uncle Eli, who raised them. He gets some food and welcomes her to join.
As the mercenaries beat up The Amazing Mertz, he continues to insist he doesn’t have powers and that his magic is simple sleight of hand. They asks if he can make a bullet disappear, but the thug goes to reach for his gun and it’s gone – Yo-Yo had secretly used her extreme super-speed to whisk it away and hide it in a nearby flower pot. They continue to blame Mertz, so another merc cocks his gun and aims it before it too disappears from his hand. Maria sees Elena hide it in a flower pot, and a horrified Maria and Leticia turn Yo-Yo in as the Inhuman. As the mercenaries turn their attention to her, a flare shoots in the sky and Mack, Coulson and Fitz make their way onto the scene. They beat up all the baddies until one grabs Maria and puts a knife to her throat. Yo-Yo takes the knife from his hands and they knock him out too. Yo-Yo tells Maria she doesn’t need to be scared – she’s the same person. Maria tells her to get away, and that they are no longer friends. Mack asks Yo-Yo if she is okay, and she bitterly responds that at least she doesn’t need to wear a bridesmaid dress. She asks Coulson how the mercs knew where she was; people on the Sokovia Accords were supposed to be protected. Coulson realizes that his worst nightmare may have come true – the Accords have fallen into the wrong hands.
Radcliffe and Simmons make a 3D map of May’s brain to try and figure out what is going wrong. They realize that the part of her brain involved in the sleeping/waking up function is overactive, keeping her in a series of vivid waking nightmares that is driving her into an extreme fight or flight mode – essentially, the patients are dying of fear. Radcliffe remarks that there is no way to cure fear. As they run out of time, Radcliffe decides to the only way to save May is to kill her; shutting down brain activity and then reviving her will allow for a “reboot” of her mental processes. Out of time and options, Simmons reluctantly agrees, noting they only have seven minutes once the heart stops beating before May suffers from irreparable brain damage. Simmons injects May, killing her.
At the house, Gabe asks Daisy how she knows Robbie. She claims that she doesn’t, and he offered her a ride – but Gabe tells her Robbie doesn’t offer rides. He asks how she hurt her arms, and she says she got hit by a car; she asks how he ended up in a wheelchair, and he claims he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He admits that he knows Robbie goes out at night, and isn’t sure if it’s gambling, racing again, drugs, or worse – but he knows bad things come from bad people, and he’s trying to deduce if Daisy is one of those.
As Fitz tries to determine time between pulses, Coulson interrogates a merc, who claims he’s just a concerned citizen and asks what side Coulson is on. He replies “not yours” and shoots the man, causing Mack to freak out. Coulson points out that concerned citizens don’t wear advanced military-grade bulletproof vests. Coulson realizes that the Inhumans aren’t behind the attacks – they are being set up and hunted. Mack sees the man’s Watchdogs tattoo and realizes who is doing the hunting. Coulson theorizes that someone is behind the Watchdogs as the attacks are worldwide, and Yo-Yo finds a list of registered Inhumans on one of the unconscious Watchdogs. Coulson says that he doesn’t believe the leak is from S.H.I.E.L.D., but several intelligence agencies have the list, as well as every government who signed the Sokovia Accords. Coulson needs a way to contact the other cities, so Fitz starts making makeshift compasses to detect the location of the pulses. He points out what we all already knew from Dustin on Stranger Things – the needles will point to the disruption in the electro-magnetic field, so he asks Yo-Yo, Mack and Coulson to call out the degrees as they spike, and he traces them onto a map, pinpointing the place where they cross over.
As May reaches minimal brain activity threshold with two minutes on the clock, Simmons grabs the shock paddles and goes to defibrillate May. Right as she charges the paddles, the Watchdogs strike again – power goes out in Washington.
Pardon my French, but putain de bordel de merde! My jaw literally dropped. What horrendous timing! Turn it back on! In the immortal words of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, undo it! Undo it!
Simmons starts panicking and performing chest compressions on May to restart her heart, which I thought was for lungs only, but I learned something while Googling this to try and call the episode out on a fallacy. Serves me right! As Radcliffe tries to figure out what happened to the back-up generator, Simmons continues to do chest compressions and begs May not to die. She gives May a direct order to not die. She cries out to Radcliffe to get her ice and keep her cold. Radcliffe sadly points out at this point that won’t help, and laments that they don’t have a battery to jump-start the defibrillators – then remembers Aida charging. Simmons gives up and starts to cry, apologizing to May, when Radcliffe shows up with Aida’s battery; a magnetically shielded clean energy source for a “prototype of something he was working on in his spare time”. They charge the shock paddles and after a few shocks, revive a grumpy May. An emotional Simmons hugs her and welcomes her back, which confuses her, and she asks if she missed something.
With D.C. out as well, Director Mace receives another call from the President of the United States, Matthew Ellis, who tells him to turn on the TV. Broadcasting is our silhouette with a beret, who says seven more cities will black out soon if their demands are not met. Mace asks for one more hour, and President Ellis tells him if they do not get this handled in time, he will send troops into the blackout zones to take out all Inhumans by any means necessary.
Fitz, Mack, Coulson and Yo-Yo make their way through an abandoned building, where several Watchdogs are guarding the EMP device. The team realizes they are hopelessly outgunned, so Yo-Yo sprints into the room and takes all the Watchdogs’ weapons before they can blink, in a great slow motion sequence. While the mercenaries are distracted, the group takes them out. Fitz turns off the pulse and the power comes back on in Miami. Coulson calls Director Mace to tell him that have a solution to the problem.
In Los Angeles, Gabe asks Daisy if she believes Inhumans caused the blackouts like the reports are saying. Daisy lies and says she has never met one, she just knows people hate them because they are different. He sees Daisy’s bruised fractured arms and remarks that she should be in the E.R., and she claims it won’t do any good because there is no power. As she says this, the power flickers back on. Gabe jokes that that excuse won’t work any longer “Daisy – if that is your real name”. She dryly responds that she has had a few, and Gabe asks if one of them is “Quake”. He reveals that he deduced her identity when she quaked the guy with a gun to his head, and refused to go to the hospital. He tells her that her secret is safe with him – as long as she leaves and stays away from Robbie. He tells her that Robbie needs good people around him, and that’s not Quake. Later that evening, Robbie returns with meds and asks Gabe where Daisy is. He lies and says she must have left while he was sleeping.
Back at the base, Coulson reports to Mace that someone with foreign involvement and huge pockets are backing the Watchdogs and have declared war on the Inhumans. Mace questions how they counter it, and Coulson suggests it is “time”. Mace dismisses this, saying it is way before planned. Coulson offers a bit of advice he learned from Fury: sometimes you need to throw out the plan. Mace asks if this is one of those times, and Coulson tells him that that is for him to decide. In the kitchen, Yo-Yo grabs a beer and Mack confronts her about secretly helping Daisy and sneaking her medicine. Yo-Yo states that Daisy doesn’t want to be found, and Mack angrily tells her that she is hurt, and in danger. Yo-Yo reveals that she knows about Ghost Rider too, and jokingly tells Mack that “angry looks good on him”. Mack tells her to stop shrugging this off, and that there shouldn’t be secrets between them. Yo-Yo responds that there is nothing else between them.
Coulson and Fitz enter the kitchen and Coulson asks if everyone has seen Ghost Rider but him. Fitz mentions that he hasn’t uncovered anything about him, but did find a list of personnel from Momentum Labs. Yo-Yo points out that Mace is on TV. The big moment!
At a press conference, Jeffrey Mace announces that the president asked him to address the recent blackouts. He states that Inhumans were not behind the attacks – instead, it was human extremists trying to spread fear. He says it won’t work, because an old friend is back in town, here to deal with this threat and any threats coming their way. That friend has turned their lights back on, saving countless lives. That old friend is S.H.I.E.L.D.
S.H.I.E.L.D. is back! S.H.I.E.L.D. IS BACK!
As Fitz wonders if stepping out of the shadows and going public was the right thing to do, May calls Coulson and tells him it should be him up there. Coulson disagrees, and says he is right where he belongs. As Daisy downs meds in her van, she turns off Mace’s address.
In the post-credits scene, Senator Nadeer is sorting mail and watching herself on news. On the broadcast, Nadeer claims that S.H.I.E.L.D. was a puppet of HYDRA and now are a puppet of Inhumans – she claims to have reputable sources telling her Inhumans were behind the blackouts despite what Mace announced. As she sorts mail, she gets a call. The pitch-altered voice of the silhouetted man with the beret tells her that, even though S.H.I.E.L.D. is back, they were able to eliminate 17 Inhumans worlwide, to Nadeer’s delight. She tells him that she is at her brother’s house, and will call back from the car shortly. She tosses the mail onto a large pile of mail on the ground, and asks her brother if he wants her to turn off the TV. Before he can respond, she decides to leave it on to keep him company, and tells him she will be back to check in in a few days. As she leaves, the camera pans over to show her brother in an unbroken Inhuman cocoon.
This episode was crazy. They killed May! This was a great mostly-stand-alone episode, one of the few that one could recommend to anyone regardless of their prior knowledge (see 4,722 Hours, Spacetime, F.Z.Z.T. and Melinda). I give it an 8/10.
You know, I think I like this Jeffrey Mace guy. In the comics, Patriot was a replacement to Captain America. This guy, despite his focus on public relations, definitely seems like a stand-up guy and a good boss – even if he is a little heavy-handed when it comes to compartmentalizing and classifying information. The fact that the team doesn’t trust him can either make him die a heroes death and redeem himself in their eyes, or switch him to a baddie. I’m not looking forward to either.
Until next week. Excelsior!
– I don’t have much. Who do you think Rota Nadeer’s brother is? How has it been so long without transforming? Has his terrigen process stopped halfway through? Does Nadeer have a “cure”?