This episode starts with a flashback, before Dr. Lucy Bauer was a dangerous ghost and Dr. Joseph Bauer was in a coma. The couple breaks into the cellar of the person who killed the previous owner of the Darkhold, in search of the mysterious book. The basement is filled with (among other things) a motorcycle, a motorcycle helmet, a chain, a leather jacket, and a “Quentin Carnival” poster featuring a motorcycle stuntman.
That’s right, folks – we’re in Johnny Blaze’s basement! Two Ghost Riders for the price of one!
Lucy finds the book under a trapdoor, and after observing the ambigram “DARKHOLD” on it’s cover, they open it – only to find it is blank. The pages then fill up with words and diagrams in their native tongue; English for Lucy and German for Joe. They deduce the book is “reading” them as much as they are reading it.
This memory is cut short by Agent Phil Coulson snapping Joe back to reality. He is in his hospital bed, recently awoken from his coma, and is in a panic because Lucy’s ghost touched him, infecting him and causing him to see the demonic “ghostface” hallucinations on Coulson and his partner Agent “Mack” Mackenzie. They try to interrogate the hysterical man, but he expresses regret over ever using the Darkhold and claims he buried it where he found it. He tells them it is too late as Lucy already knows where it is, and succumbs to his fear-disease, dying.
In the basement, Lucy’s ghost uncovers the Darkhold, excitedly – only to grow enraged when the pages are blank, as she is a ghost and the book can’t “read” her.
Aboard the plane Zephyr One, Coulson, Mack, Agent Melinda May and Robbie “Ghost Rider” Reyes discuss the book. Coulson refuses to tell the S.H.I.E.L.D. director Jeffrey Mace, as he feels he is untrustworthy, and the fewer people who know about the Darkhold the better; even previous director Nick Fury was afraid of it. They conclude that Lucy probably has the book by now, and Mack suggests they speak with Robbie’s uncle Eli Morrow, since he knew Lucy and where she might be taking the book. Robbie reminds him that Eli won’t speak with S.H.I.E.L.D., but Mack says they won’t give him a choice. Coulson arranges to call S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters and give an alibi as they investigate the prison Eli is being held at. Robbie decides to join the mission, but Coulson and Mack refuse to let him leave the plane.
Angry that he isn’t allowed on the mission, Robbie vents to Daisy “Quake” Johnson in a docked Quinjet. She comments that if he left the plane now, he’d be somewhere in rural Utah. She tells him that right now, the best thing is for Robbie to trust S.H.I.E.L.D. to do their job. He claims that if she herself trusted S.H.I.E.L.D., she wouldn’t be on the run from them, but Daisy denies this, telling him that she keeps her distance from S.H.I.E.L.D. because it is best for everyone. Robbie agrees, to Daisy’s dismay.
In the lab at the S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters The Playground, Agent Leo Fitz is telling his girlfriend/boss Agent Jemma Simmons about how he was able to formulate an antidote for the ghostly fear-disease with his business partner Dr. Holden Radcliffe, thanks to Radcliffe and Simmons’ experiment involving killing and reviving the infected May. He goes on to discuss Coulson’s mission regarding the Darkhold, but Simmons asks him to stop. Fitz points out that is the first thing she has said to him today, and she tells him that she has her mandatory lie-detection today and doesn’t want any more secrets than she already has, such as her affiliation with the vigilantes Quake and Ghost Rider, and Fitz and Radcliffe’s illegal experimental Life-Model Decoy android Aida. They argue about Aida, before Simmons reveals she’s just stressed about the polygraph. Fitz offers to help her practice lying, but she tells him to go help Coulson. She declares that she will not get fired today, but expresses her doubts once Fitz leaves.
Coulson and May pass through the metal detector and enter the South Ridge Penitentiary, where Eli is being held. Coulson is trying to talk to May about her recent death, as he has died too, but she refuses to talk about it. They meet with the warden of the prison to discuss the transfer of Eli into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, when a prison guard locks the door. The warden pulls out a shotgun and fires at May and Coulson, revealing himself to be infected by the ghostly disease, and they hide a desk. May knocks out the warden, and the guard starts firing. Coulson activates his holographic Captain America shield from his cybernetic prosthetic arm, shielding him and knocking out the guard. More prison guards run into the hallway, yelling about demons, so Coulson bars the door. Coulson deduces that the ghostly “Peanuts Gang” (Lucy, Hugo and Vincent) are there, and May points out their I.C.E.R. tranquilizer guns are in lockup. They call Mack on the plane and inform him of the situation.
Mack decides to split up in two teams: Daisy will lead a team to rescue Coulson and May from the warden’s office, while Mack will rescue Eli Morrow from cell block E. Robbie demands to go along as Eli is his uncle, but Mack refuses, saying that Ghost Rider only kills those who deserve it, and all the prisoners deserve it. Daisy points out that Ghost Rider is the only thing that can hurt the ghosts, and Mack decides to take him along on the condition that he doesn’t leave his sight. The team gears up, and Daisy puts on her new Quake gauntlets. Mack echoes Simmons’ previous warning about breaking all her bones by quaking before healed, and Daisy tells him that she didn’t always have powers and did fine. Fitz’ quinjet docks, and he boards the Zephyr One with antidotes for the disease. He instructs them how to use them, and they depart, noticing there are no visible guards outside the prison.
At the Playground, Agent Harlan is administering a complicated lie detector test to Simmons. He asks her if she has ever been HYDRA, and she says yes; she worked there undercover (in season 2) but her allegiance has been with S.H.I.E.L.D. always. He asks her if she has any sensitive information she has neglected to report to the director, and before she can answer the polygraph starts acting up. He asks if she would like the question repeated, and she refuses but claims the question is “wide-ranging”. Mace enters the room and sternly demands Simmons come with him.
As Mack and Robbie walk through the prison, Fitz informs them via monitor that Lucy and the ghosts have not found Eli yet, but that they are currently invisible. Robbie confronts a prisoner he recognizes from a gang The Fifth Street Locos, but Mack stops him, warning him to control himself. Daisy and her S.T.R.I.K.E. team take out the infected guards with I.C.E.R.s and rescue May and Coulson. They antidote the guards and decide to backup Mack and Robbie. As they work their way through the prison, Daisy notices the Watchdog tattoo on many prisoners, realizing that the anti-Inhuman terrorist organization is recruiting through prison. Prisoners start heckling the agents for supporting Inhumans, when Lucy becomes corporeal long enough to pull a dead man’s switch, releasing all the prisoners.
Why is Lucy doing this? What reason does she have to stop S.H.I.E.L.D. from helping her?
As the prisoners exit their cells, Coulson asks Fitz for an exit. Fitz explains that if he unlocks the door, all the doors in cell block A open. Coulson orders him to do it anyway, and they make their escape, chased by prisoners.
Mace calls Simmons into his office, and tells her he knows that she is keeping stuff from him, and asks if he can trust her. She says yes, and the relieved Mace asks her to find facts to back up his case for a debate he has coming up with anti-Inhuman Senator Ellen Nadeer on the news. She offers to make a PowerPoint, but he says no – he needs exactly whats in her head to be put into hers. Worried, she says that S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t have that technology, but Mace informs her it does. He produces an earpiece and tells her to simply feed lines to him, and that they’re live in 15 minutes.
That was a rollercoaster.
As they make their way through the electrical room, Mack and Robbie talk about what happened back there. Robbie says that his uncle can’t know he’s Ghost Rider, so he’ll “keep it down” for him. The ghost of Vincent appears and goes to attack Robbie, so Mack tells him to duck and fires at him with his shotgun axe. Robbie grabs a chain, and when Vincent reappears he charges it with hellfire and whips it at him, wrapping around him and killing him. The ghost of Hugo appears and phases through Mack, infecting him. Mack tries attacking him to no avail, and Robbie burns Hugo to death with hellfire too. Mack looks at Robbie and sees a ghostface, and realizes he is infected. He injects himself with the antidote.
Prepare to get meta: On ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, they are interviewing Senator Ellen Nadeer (previously stated to be Rota Nadeer, but okay), who is an advocate for the Humans First movement, and Director Jeffrey Mace, the “patriot” (I see what you did there) who saved people during the U.N. bombing in Vienna from Captain America: Civil War and is now S.H.I.E.L.D.’s director.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really like Jeffrey Mace as a character. He can be lovable and altruistic and he can be intimidating and calculating; in fact, it’s usually both at the same time. The gang doesn’t trust him simply because you can never tell what he is thinking. Is he a genuinely good guy, a superficial psychopath only interested in his own public image, or a paranoid controlling supervillain? A bit of all three?
Nadeer and Mace debate, with a nice reference to last season’s Kree invasion with “blue-skinned killers in Wyoming”. They discuss the blackouts and Inhuman DNA before Senator Nadeer brings up the prison that S.H.I.E.L.D. has under lockdown in L.A. right now. Mace and Simmons both have no knowledge of Coulson’s mission, and Mace simply states that it is under control. They go on to discuss the Sokovia Accords, and Nadeer states that Inhumans don’t believe in the same core values as humans and that Director Mace isn’t the right person for the job. Simmons tries to get him to stick to the facts, but he turns off the earpiece and announces that he is an Inhuman and should not be hunted down.
At South Ridge, Coulson, May and Daisy barricade a door, which doesn’t last long as they run through the cafeteria. Coulson and May make it through, but Daisy closes the door after them and breaks the doorknob, saving May and Coulson and locking herself in the cafeteria with the prisoners. Coulson radios Fitz to find them another way into the cafeteria as Daisy fights off the prisoners. One prisoner knocks off her gauntlets.Robbie and Mack make their way to Eli’s cell and break him out. He asks them not to do this, but Mack informs him that Lucy is looking for him, and has the book plus power to walk through walls, so they should leave. Eli agrees.
Coulson and May make their way under the kitchen to the garbage chute, which Fitz has informed them is the quickest way. As they prepare to climb to the cafeteria, Coulson again asks May what she saw when she died. She admits that she saw him. They arrive in the cafeteria as a prisoner is choking out Daisy, and take out the escaped convicts. Daisy argues that they shouldn’t have came back and she’s fine, but they shoot it down and ask Fitz Mack’s status. He reveals that they have Eli in custody, something Lucy also realizes, angrily.
Mack, Robbie and Eli make their way through the prison, when Mack sends Eli and Robbie to go ahead as he frees some locked up guards. As they make their way through the chaos of the cell block, Robbie notices the gang member he saw earlier sitting in his cell as everyone else riots. He sends his uncle Eli ahead, saying he has to take care of something. Robbie approaches the criminal and accuses him of ordering a drive-by on two kids a few years ago, leaving one in a wheelchair (Gabe!). The gang member admits that he heard about it, but denies any involvement. He says it was an ordered hit, but he doesn’t know who ordered it, since the Fifth Street Locos were killed by Ghost Rider. Robbie says that there is still one left, and flames on as Ghost Rider. He burns the convict to death, and walks out into the prison in full flaming skull mode. The rioting prisoners quietly lock themselves back into their cells.
Outside the prison, Mack has called in the police and S.W.A.T. team. Coulson, May and Daisy approach and Coulson asks where Eli is. Mack says he sent him out with Robbie. Robbie shows up and asks where Eli is, and Mack says he was supposed to be with him. Meanwhile, Lucy loads Eli onto the back of an ambulance.
At the Playground, S.H.I.E.L.D.s head of Public Relations, Agent Burrows, is telling Mace that his approval numbers has gone through the roof. Simmons approaches and Mace dismisses Burrows, thanking Simmons for her help. He mentions that her polygraph had some alarming results, and asks her to retake it. Simmons mentions that micro-expressions can betray if someone is lying, and says that if she retakes the test they might ask her about Mace’s story about saving people in Vienna – which she knows he is lying about. Mace asks Harlan to exempt Simmons from future testing. Blackmail!
On Daisy’s docked Quinjet, May approaches and tells Daisy that she knows what she’s doing: trying to distance herself from everyone so she doesn’t hurt more people. She claims to have invented that move, but says it didn’t work because of Coulson; he dragged her from her cubicle, and isn’t about to give up on Daisy. She tells her Lincoln wouldn’t want her killing herself over what happened. Daisy says she’s leaving after this operation. May meets with Coulson, who states that Fitz found security footage of Lucy abducting Eli, but keeping him alive.
Taking Eli to an abandoned building with several dead S.W.A.T. team members (Momentum Labs?), Lucy tells Eli that she needs him to read the Darkhold because she can’t, so they can fix her. Eli opens the book, and looks fascinated as the words populate.
In our post-credits scene, Nadeer and Mace meet in a car and Nadeer shows him footage of S.H.I.E.L.D. working with Quake and Ghost Rider. She lets him know that they don’t know what Ghost Rider is, but he’s a killer and murdered a model prisoner looking for early release – and he came in and left with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. She threatens to send the footage to ABC News, and he asks what she wants. Double blackmail!
This was an interesting episode. I give it a 7.5/10; it didn’t advance the story in significant leaps, but it gave up much-needed information about Director Jeffrey Mace, Dr. Lucy Bauer, and the Darkhold. It even teased at some hints to Ghost Rider’s past.
Next week, we get Ghost Rider’s origin. Can’t wait! See you then.