Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Agents of SHIELD Episode 4.05: "Lockup"

Over five years ago, scientists Jacob and Lucy Bauer break into the basement of an abandoned home, which features posters from the Quentin Carnival and other miscellaneous items.  Jacob comments that this is the home of the person who killed the previous owner of the Darkhold, so the book must be there.  They locate the book and discover that the pages are blank...until words magically appear in the first language of the reader. 

In the present day, Coulson and Mack visit the formerly comatose Jacob, who tells them that Lucy has the book before he dies.  However, when Lucy attempts to read the book, she finds that her ghostly state keeps her from being able to read it.  Coulson decides that they need to extract Eli Marrow from prison, believing that he may be Lucy's next target, but orders Robbie Reyes to stay aboard the Zephyr.  When Coulson and May enter the warden's office, they discover that he and all of his staff have been infected by Lucy; seeing the SHIELD agents as demons, the security guards attempt to kill them.  Mack leads a strike team that includes Daisy Johnson and Robbie into the prison to rescue the other agents; while Daisy convenes with Coulson and May, Robbie and Mack go to find Eli.  Lucy opens the prison cell doors, allowing a large number of prisoners to chase the agents, forcing Daisy to have a suicidal showdown that nearly costs her her life.  May and Coulson are able to locate and save her.

Meanwhile, as they make their way through the prison, Robbie finds the last remaining member of the Fifth Street Locos gang, Santino Noguera, in his cell.  Mack is able to keep him on mission, and they quickly encounter the other two members of Lucy's ghostly scientist team.  Robbie kills the two ghosts with a fiery chain, but not before Mack is infected and forced to inject himself with the antidote.  They locate Eli and break him out, but Mack has to stop and assist with rescuing some guards, telling Robbie to escort his uncle out of the prison.  On the way, however, Robbie again passes Noguera's cell and is unable to resist the need for vengeance.  He tells Eli to keep going through the prison to meet up with SHIELD outside, then enters the prisoner's cell.  Robbie asks about the drive-by shooting that left his brother Gabe in a wheelchair, and Noguera tells him that he was hired by someone else to do that job, but he doesn't know their name.  Robbie transforms into the Ghost Rider and burns the man alive, then walks out of the cell block.  Outside, he meets up with the assembled SHIELD agents, but his uncle is nowhere to be seen...he has, in fact, been caught by Lucy and is forced to drive them out via an ambulance as her prisoner. 

Later, SHIELD Director Jeffrey Mace meets with Senator Nadeer, who he had just had a television debate against regarding the Inhuman population.  She shows him security camera footage of the Ghost Rider, asking why SHIELD is working with a murderer, and blackmails Mace into doing her an unrevealed favor.

Thank Hell for Netflix, because it's been over a year since I stopped work on the Agents of SHIELD episode reviews!

It's actually a boon, though, to be able to go back and rewatch the Ghost Rider arc on the show, at least for review purposes.  It was thrilling to watch each episode as it first aired, but that also made some of the story elements harder to follow and made the ongoing Darkhold/Momentum Labs plot kind of convoluted (okay, ridiculously nonsensical) on a week to week basis.  Being able to binge, or even just watch an episode a night like I've been doing recently, has made things click together a lot better than I thought they did after those initial first viewings.

While the last couple of episodes took some side tangents into Inhumans related plots involving the Watchdogs, they did at least serve to bring Quake and Ghost Rider onto SHIELD's team in an official capacity, instead of being outliers doing their own thing in the periphery. This episode brings the Momentum Labs mystery to the forefront by finally revealing the Darkhold, which also had that wonderful flashback scene full of Ghost Rider Easter Eggs.  There was the Quentin Carnival posters modeled after the cover of Ghost Rider (1973) # 67, the leather jacket, and the chains...that was Johnny Blaze's house, right?  I mean, it HAD to be his house, especially given Bauer's comments about the home being owned by the killer of the Darkhold's last owner.

The Momentum Labs stuff continues to be a bit murky, but again the rewatch helps to clarify a lot of things I had lingering questions about, such as what exactly happened to the scientists and why Morrow was in jail instead of being a ghost himself.  The real star and rightful focus of the episode is Gabriel Luna, who continues to turn in a fascinating performance as Robbie Reyes.  He's what really holds this whole storyline together, and he's enough to make the convoluted Darkhold plot tolerable.  The other actors get some moments as well, with the Daisy vs. prisoners action sequence particularly notable as being high-quality entertainment. 

The Ghost Rider, naturally, only gets a few minutes of screen time, starting with that always impressive transformation sequence.  The special effects required to bring the character to the screen are obviously expensive, so I can forgive the show for not showcasing him as much as I'd like.  This time, though, it seems like it's TOO brief even with that caveat.  The next episode makes up for it with some great Ghost Rider moments, but this one still leaves me feeling unsatisfied. 

The show's Ghost Rider/Darkhold storyline still has a few episodes to go, and even on the rewatch is holding my interest and making me want to continue watching.  I think that's a pretty good sign of quality.