Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D 4×04 “Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire”

 

Note: This episode contains many references to the game Overwatch. Keep an eye out for another article this week explaining all the fun connections!

Another song lyric! Episode two was titled “Meet the New Boss” from The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, and this title is taken from Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”.

Our episode starts with Agent Dr. Jemma Simmons on the phone with her boyfriend, Agent Dr. Leo Fitz, talking to him on her way to check out an apartment that she got in a “too good to be true” email offer. I suppose this answers a question I never knew I had: do S.H.I.E.L.D. agents sleep on base or do they have houses? Apparently, they have houses. Simmons is checking out the apartment alone, as it is her day off (they get those too?) and Fitz has to go to Dr. Holden Radcliffe’s house to figure out how to cure the ghost-infected patients without killing them. As Simmons arrives at the apartment, the place is empty and the lock is broken. Suspicious, she pulls out a gun. The door slams behind her and she wheels around to find an extremely injured Daisy “Quake” Johnson, claiming she had nowhere else to turn.

At South Ridge Penitentiary, Dr. Elias Morrow has a visitor. Is it his nephew Robbie “Ghost Rider” Reyes, who stated he was going to visit Uncle Eli for answers? Nope, it is Agent Phil Coulson with the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement & Logistics Division (it’s good to hear it spelled out again). Coulson is there to get some answers regarding the accident at Momentum Energy Labs which caused S.H.I.E.L.D.’s angry ghost problem. Eli scoffs at the the idea that the event was an “accident”, but refuses to talk. Coulson explains that if he helps, he will try to get him out of prison.

At Radcliffe’s house, Agent Melinda May wakes up after her recovery from death while being tended to by the Life-Model Decoy android Aida. Radcliffe enters and explains that Aida has been taking care of her after the procedure. May is confused, so Aida explains that Radcliffe stopped her heart to stop her neurological virus from killing her. May is unhappy with the idea of being killed by Radcliffe. Radcliffe explains that Fitz and he are working on a chemical solution that doesn’t involve death, so May can’t leave at the moment – but Aida will be at her beck and call.

In the apartment, Simmons is dressing Daisy’s nasty bullet wound. She realizes that Daisy found her by remotely tracking her search history, and Daisy admits it – but states that the apartment is now Simmons’, and is rent-controlled. She notes that Simmons was looking for double vanity sinks, and deduces that her relationship with Fitz is going well. Simmons agrees, and says that they are putting it to the test by moving in together (ignoring the decades of being best friends and year spent living together on The Bus before they got The Playground). Simmons mentions that the bone restoration pills Daisy’s been stealing don’t help with pain, and tells her she should be using her gauntlets. Daisy tells her to stop mothering her, and Simmons finishes dressing the wound and prepares to leave. Daisy tells her there was another reason she sought her out, and reveals that she discovered that the Inhuman hate group The Watchdogs are getting their Inhuman lists from S.H.I.E.L.D. databases. She asks Simmons to help her hack into S.H.I.E.L.D., and Simmons reveals that she takes mandatory lie detector tests and can’t willingly hack her own company. Daisy holds Simmons pistol on her and asks “what if it isn’t willingly?”. Simmons says she missed Daisy, too.

Coulson again brings up the accident at the lab that killed Eli’s co-workers, and Eli still refuses to discuss it. Coulson tells Eli that his colleagues aren’t dead and have gained abilities they are using to hurt people. Eli is shocked and confused, but doesn’t want to get involved. Coulson tells him that only other person involved was put in a coma by Eli, so he just needs to be pointed in a direction. Eli points to the door and returns to his cell. Outside, Coulson discusses the situation with his partner Agent Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie. He says Eli didn’t talk, but it can be hard to find out your co-workers are back from the dead. (See: The Avengers). Their conversation is cut short by Robbie Reyes pulling up in the Hell Charger. Mack recognizes him as Ghost Rider, and Robbie speeds off. Mack and Coulson get into Lola and enter a high speed pursuit.

Though the Hell Charger isn’t “flamed on” and Lola’s flight functionality is broken, there’s something fun and comic booky about watching Ghost Rider’s 1969 Charger and Phil Coulson’s 1962 Corvette race in the streets of Los Angeles. They weave through both lanes of traffic, off the road and under trailers. Robbie gains the lead and is going to escape, before crashing into a cloaked invisible Quinjet and knocking himself out.

In Daisy’s van, she goes over the plan with Simmons one last time: Simmons is to steal Agent Elizabeth Albee’s badge so Daisy can forge a fake ID, which Simmons will use to break into a remote server storing the Inhuman database, and insert Daisy’s flash drive into the server instead of Albee’s database update, giving Daisy remote access. Breaking the plan, Simmons grabs the flash drive and gives it Albee. Is she turning Daisy in? What’s going on? Simmons returns to the van and proudly exclaims that she “nailed it”. Simmons explains that she simply told Albee to deliver the flash drive, since she is her boss now.

Fitz and Radcliffe discuss how to cure the patients, when he sees Aida taking care of May. He starts panicking, asking Radcliffe why Aida is out of her charging pod/hiding space, as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents aren’t supposed to know she exists. Radcliffe explains that he feels Aida is ready, and so he is using May (the most discerning, formidable S.H.I.E.L.D. agent) to see if Aida passes the Turing Test*. May calls Fitz into the room, and Aida greets him. May explains that she is being held there for further testing, and Radcliffe slyly mentions that they are testing any last “glitches” before sending May on her way.

*If you watched the movie Ex Machina, you’d know the Turing Test is a test in which an artificial intelligence only passes if a person is unable to distinguish whether they are communicating with artificial intelligence or a real person.

As they await Daisy’s access to the database, Simmons explains that every registered Inhuman is equipped with a wristwatch that tracks their location and vitals for their own safety. Daisy accesses the database and confirms that S.H.I.E.L.D. is being hacked, and the Watchdogs are targeting the Inhumans in order. Next on the list is J.T. “Hellfire” James, our favorite Australian pyro. Simmons mentions that withdrawal from Hive’s sway hit James harder than Daisy, and he only shows up for mandatory check-ins. Daisy goes to check on James alone, but Simmons refuses, saying Daisy can’t crawl back only when she needs help – she’s coming with, so suck it up.

Mack examines the crashed Hell Charger and noticed it doesn’t even have a dent, and remarks that he wouldn’t mind having that super power for a day or two. (Thumbs up for a Luke Cage reference in an episode from the Luke Cage episode 3 writer). From the containment pod, Robbie tells him to take his hands off. Coulson approaches Robbie and tells him everything he knows about him and Ghost Rider. He asks if Robbie is Inhuman, which he denies – he claims he sold his soul to the devil. Coulson asks Mack if he believes in the devil, and Mack remarks that he believes in God, so he has to believe in “the other thing”. Coulson mentions that, in his experience, Gods usually turn out to be aliens. Coulson realizes they are after the same thing as Ghost Rider, and Daisy trusts him – so he sets him free. He explains to Robbie that he is giving him a chance. He is able to hurt the ghosts that bullets go right through, and he is able to speak to his uncle Eli and get answers. They’re on the same side, and he wants Robbie to prove it; and if he refuses, he’ll push him out the airlock.

Daisy remarks that whoever is in charge of the “terrible ideas division” is crushing it as they approach James’ place of employment: Primed and Ready Fireworks. Her and Simmons enter the shop as James finishes his pitch, selling five “Uncle Sam’s Specials” to some teenage boys. Daisy asks why Hellfire works at a fireworks shop, and he mentions that his boss hasn’t had a cigarette in 30 years – but keeps one around as a reminder of what he doesn’t want to be; it’s something like that. Simmons tells James that the Watchdogs are tracking his location using his bracelet, and Daisy “quakes” it off his wrist, injuring herself in the process. James is depressed and doesn’t care that the Watchdogs are coming – his job sucks, his life sucks, and he doesn’t care. Simmons wants to relocate him, and Daisy wants him to join her revolution. James tells them to meet him in the storage bay next door – he has something that might help.

Aida explains the procedure to May, involving “shutting off her brain”. Radcliffe and Fitz say that they need to keep May even longer, to track improvements. May swears at them in Mandarin, and Aida translates, to May’s surprise. Aida claims most of her is Chinese, to which Fitz interrupts and says that Aida is Canadian – huge Chinese population in Ontario. He asks Aida to leave and ready the framework for another scan, and May suspiciously says that Fitz has been hiding Aida; and it’s a shame, because she likes her. No nonsense, just business! Does May know? It’s hard to tell.

At South Ridge, Eli asks Robbie how his “baby” the Hell Charger is doing. After a bit of small chat, Eli admits that he knows Robbie was sent by S.H.I.E.L.D. as it was too much of a coincidence that they visited him on the same day. Robbie interjects that S.H.I.E.L.D. just wants to help, and they say his co-worker Lucy is out there hurting people, and he only knows what Eli told him. Eli explains that she is Dr. Lucy Bauer, the wife of the lead scientist Dr. Joseph Bauer – the man he put in a coma. They were doing unethical experiments, and hired Eli because he wouldn’t ask too many questions. They built a Quantum Particle Accelerator, a machine that could create matter of out practically nothing. He says it wasn’t an accident; Joseph pushed them to move forward and killed all of them. On Coulson’s direction, Robbie asks what Lucy is after. Eli explains she will be looking for “the book”; an evil book all the scientists were obsessed with. It had instructions to built this machine, and he tells Robbie to stay away from it. Mack tells Coulson they have an issue with an asset, and they prepare to leave.

In his hospital bed, Joseph rests, still in his coma. The ghost of his wife, Lucy enters the room. She found who she was looking for! After stroking Joseph’s face and demanding he wakes up, she puts her hands through his head and forces him awake. She angrily asks where the book is. Docking the Quinjet onto the already-flying Zephyr One, Robbie is wondering what is going on with Mack and Coulson. They tell him they aren’t going after the book yet, and need to make a detour.

Radcliffe is doing repairs on Aida, and Aida asks why Fitz lied about where she was from. Radcliffe explains that it is because Aida is still a secret, in the testing phase; sometimes it is okay or even necessary to lie to shield others. Aida is confused, as she was programmed not to lie as one of her tenets, alongside not being able to harm humans. Radcliffe says that lying isn’t inherently bad, and can be used to save a life. Fitz saved hers. No, Radcliffe! Don’t teach her that her core directives are optional! One of them is “don’t kill people”!

Daisy and Simmons wait for James in the storage unit, and Simmons criticizes Daisy for trying to recruit James. James arrives, and says that he has a lot of explosives in storage. Daisy theorizes that doing some good with help James feel better, and he agrees. Simmons argues that explosives won’t solve anything, but Daisy says violence is the only language the Watchdogs know. James opens the storage unit, and there are several Watchdogs inside. Several other units open, containing more Watchdogs. James pretends to surrender, then reveals that he gave them access to his watch so they could hack the S.H.I.E.L.D. Inhuman database. Daisy asks how James could do that to Inhumans, and James asks how Daisy could do this to him; she made him an Inhuman. She points out he was obsessed with becoming an Inhuman, and he says he would take it all back if he could. He considers Inhumans a scurge, and so he struck a deal with the Watchdogs – helping them hunt and kill all the Inhumans, saving him for last.

Daisy quakes the ground, creating a shockwave so her and Simmons can escape. They hide in a storage unit. Simmons mentions that if Daisy does that again, she may break every bone in her arm – Daisy comments that she may have already done so. Simmons examines her gun, and doesn’t have enough shots to take out the rest. Hellfire terrorizes the pair by charging croquet balls with fire and rolling them down the hallway. He blows open their storage unit, injuring the two, and grabs a chain, imbuing it with flame. He whips it back to strike the girls when Robbie catches the chain in mid-air, examining the flaming chain with a “huh”. Robbie wrenches the chain from Hellfire’s hands, and tells Daisy and Simmons to find Coulson. James pyrokinetically charges a croquet ball and throws it at Robbie, and doesn’t damage him but exposes some of the flaming skull beneath. Robbie exclaims that it is time for Hellfire to pay for his sins, flames on as Ghost Rider, and whips him with the flaming chain.

Ghost Rider’s classic flaming chain! It’s interesting because in the comics, J.T. James is the grandson of Carter Slade, the original horseback Ghost Rider, and has inherited his hellfire chain. Ghost Rider taking the chain from Hellfire is almost a passing of the torch.

Coulson and Mack take out some Watchdogs in the firework shop, and Simmons explains that they were trying to escape Hellfire, who is working with the Watchdogs. Coulson wonders what she means by “they”, until Daisy shows up. Coulson says they brought Ghost Rider to “fight fire with fire”. Ghost Rider corners Hellfire against a wall, but Hellfire charges the wall until it overheats and explodes, and falls through into the fireworks warehouse. Mack asks if the two “fire dudes” just dropped into a warehouse of fireworks, and they run out of the building as the light show begins. As they watch the explosion, Robbie drags an unconscious and smoking James out of the wreckage with the chain, which he keeps.

Aboard the Quinjet, Daisy awkwardly thanks Coulson for saving them. Not knowing what to say, Daisy starts to give Coulson intel on the Watchdogs, but he cuts her off, saying the Watchdogs are on the backburner for now. They found the book Eli Morrow was talking about: The Darkhold. It’s an ancient mystical tome said to be filled with spells and infinite knowledge. He says that Red Skull, Whitehall and Nick Fury all mounted expeditions to find the mythical book but no one has ever found it. He says that Lucy is looking for it, so even though Quake and Ghost Rider want to work alone, S.H.I.E.L.D. needs them. Daisy asks where they start, and Coulson says that Joseph Bauer, the man Eli put in a coma, just woke up.

At Radcliffe’s house, they finally let May leave and Simmons and Coulson come to pick her up. Coulson introduces himself to Aida, and asks how long she’s been helping Radcliffe. She says she has been helping Radcliffe since he gave her hands, so he assumes she is a fellow amputee. She explains she has been that way since birth, and thanks God for Fitz and Radcliffe’s work, which Coulson agrees with. Simmons pulls Fitz aside and says she knows why Fitz is spending so much time here: Aida is beautiful.

Oh no. Wrong idea.

Fitz starts stammering, but Simmons remarks that Aida is so real, and her conversational responses are exceptional.  Fitz states that that is a weird thing to say about a person, and Simmons reveals that she knows Aida is an android.

Oh, good. Wait, not good.

Fitz admits that Aida is an android, and says he couldn’t tell Simmons because she would have to tell the director Jeffrey Mace. Simmons remarks that her next lie detector test is tomorrow, and Fitz tells her that she will have to lie about this. Simmons comments that she will have a few lies to tell.

This episode was another tightly written episode, the first by the fantastic Matt Owens, who wrote Luke Cage’s “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?”. It was great seeing Hellfire again, even if he didn’t turn the new leaf I thought he did. The Darkhold also holds infinite possibilities for the future of the universe. The Overwatch references are a nice geeky touch. I give this episode 8/10.

Bonus crackpot theories and speculation

– I want Aida to be good, but I’m so concerned she’s going to turn bad. Fingers crossed the first Life Model Decoy is a successful one!

– Does May know about Aida? Does Coulson? They are two of the best agents, but they aren’t terribly familiar with androids and it’s hard to tell.

– The Darkhold! The first true magical artifact in the MCU! This could introduce more than just ghosts and devils – I’m talking spells, zombies, werewolves, vampires! Blade Netflix series, anyone?

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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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