Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Season 4 Episode 4
“Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire”
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD takes the first steps towards bringing Daisy back into the fold as everything starts to converge.
Four episodes is a good amount of time for Daisy to be out on her own and punishing herself for her mistakes. It does get to a point where she needs to be interacting with the other characters. This show has always been at its strongest when the team is together and working well.
It appears that everyone is after the Darkhold -also known as the Book of Sins. It contains the key to some untold power so it makes sense that a lot of people are after it. Coulson even mentions that everyone from the Red Skull to Doctor Whitehall to Nick Fury himself were trying to find it and couldn’t. Those names tell us that this thing is a big deal but we don’t yet know why it’s a big deal. That’s fine at this stage because we learn along with the characters and they are very much in the dark on this one.
I can’t imagine what will happen when this item is found because the implications are fairly large. If they follow the comics then the Darkhold will contain powerful magic but have dire consequence for those that use it. I wonder which member of the team will experience that first hand. My money’s on Mack as he seems to be the frequent punching bag in this show.
The past few episodes have been heavy on setup without really suffering for it. It’s good that we start to see some pay-off on some of it before things start to feel repetitive. This season is moving along at a nice pace and the characters are mostly being represented in interesting ways.
Daisy reuniting with the team starts with Simmons who patches her up while supplying information about the Inhumans to help Daisy protect them from the Watchdogs. It’s good to see Daisy and Simmons together again and they pick up their friendship pretty much right where it left off. It is revealed that Daisy keeps tabs on her old teammates and is genuinely happy that Fitz and Simmons are at the stage of their relationship where they are moving in together. There’s a warmth to their scenes together that shows there are no hard feelings between them. When Daisy reunites with Coulson later he tells her that he’s glad that she’s safe while discounting everything she has done. It reinforces their father/daughter relationship.
Daisy and Simmons’ team-up takes them to visit James who seems to be consumed by self loathing to the point that he has almost completely given up on life. His one desire was to go through Terrigenesis and now that he has all he feels is emptiness. A lot of that has to do with the aftermath of being under the thrall of Hive and feeling like part of a much larger organism. It was mentioned last season that his influence had the same characteristics as an addiction and James had to go cold turkey once Hive was killed. It’s easy to see why he would have given up and it’s almost tragic.
I say almost because James still isn’t that good a character. He’s supposed to be charming and funny but he comes across as irritating to me. It’s no surprise that his offer of help was a trap and it’s even less of a surprise that he’s working with the Watchdogs. His self loathing is the root of the reasoning for him doing all of this but still it doesn’t surprise me that he would do that. It is surprising that Daisy and Simmons wouldn’t see it coming since they have no reason to trust him.
At least we get a cool -if short lived- fight between James and Robbie who makes very quick work of him. Robbie is very powerful so it makes sense that an Inhuman wouldn’t give him too much trouble but seeing James try was really entertaining. Extra points can be given for the fight taking place in a fireworks shop that results in an expected yet awesome explosion.
Robbie is brought into the fold a bit more when Coulson and Mack track him down. This results in the highlight of the episode when Coulson chases Robbie in Lola and lures him to the cloaked Quinjet for a head on collision. It’s a great sequence involving some very impressive stunt driving as well as keeping an impressive pace throughout. It was inevitably going to happen since much of Robbie’s image can be attributed to his car and Coulson is so attached to his that he names it.
Robbie’s capture lets him interact with Coulson and Mack who struggle to get their head around the fact that he’s not an Inhuman and genuinely believes that he has made a deal with the Devil. Things are definitely getting stranger and they are doing their best to accept it but when everything they’ve know has been grounded in some kind of explainable science then it can be difficult to accept that the supernatural exists.
Robbie’s story looks even more unlikely when it is revealed that Lucy and the rest of her ghostly gang ended up this way because they were messing around with a Quantum Particle Generator. This bases their current ghostlike state in hard science that can be investigated and understood whereas Robbie’s abilities can’t be defined in that way.
I like that Robbie is confrontational yet reasonable and proves himself to be an asset to S.H.I.E.L.D. rather than an obstacle. He understands the need to work with others as he also wants to find the Darkhold and will definitely need help to do it. I imagine that his methods will be unpredictable and not quite mesh with what Coulson would like but that’s part of the fun of these unconventional team-ups.
One thing that is left unanswered is what Director Mace will think of this. None of this was run by him as far as I know and he’s all about transparency and public image. I doubt that it would be easy to sell the fact that a government agency is working with a supernatural being and a known criminal to find a magic book. It’ll be interesting to see his reaction to all this as it seems like Coulson has gone off book on this one.
The most interesting part of the episode was Dr. Radcliffe using Aida to subject an unsuspecting May to the Turing Test. May is frustrated that almost dying comes with so many follow up tests that prevent her from going back to work. These scenes are really layered as there is a lot going on in them. First of all we have Fitz’ anxiety at the fact Aida is out in the open and is close to being discovered. Radcliffe is eager to run this experiment as May is one of the sharpest agents you could find so if Aida can pass for human in her eyes then she could convince almost anyone.
It all goes really well and May is actually impressed with Aida’s directness and professionalism but there are certain things that don’t quite add up such as Fitz quickly stepping in to deliver lies about Aida’s upbringing when she is incapable of doing so. May is definitely smarter than that and should have been suspicious at the very least.
Aida’s inability to lie is fascinating by itself as it shows that she is still an artificial life form despite how human she seems. She points out that her core directives are never to lie and never to do harm. Radcliffe teaches her the value of lying in certain circumstances. The fact that she can learn and understand these things suggests there is the potential for sentience within her and I wonder if it will go down that route. Mallory Jansen does an excellent job playing Aida as almost human enough to show emotion while still having it seem slightly artificial. It’s subtle enough to only be noticeable to those who know the truth.
Jemma seeing through Aida right away isn’t unexpected and causes severe issues for her as she now has to decide whether to start lying to Mace or not. She decides that she will because Fitz believes that Radcliffe’s work is worthwhile and that’s more than enough for her. Seeing how she gets around the lie detector test might be interesting but the fact that she has been put in this difficult position creates plenty of possibilities.
Another excellent outing that starts to move the plot along and brings Daisy a few steps closer to reuniting with the team. Seeing Daisy and Simmons team-up was a lot of fun despite it leading to another uninteresting and predictable encounter with James. Robbie agreeing to work with Coulson and Mack has a lot of potential that starts to come through in this episode and the fast paced car chase was great. Fitz and Radcliffe using May to test Aida’s ability to pass for human is fascinating as there are hints at growing sentience for Aida as well as some fascinating exchanges allowing Mallory Jansen plenty of opportunity to show her acting skills.
- that car chase!
- Daisy and Simmons’ genuine friendship
- May being an unsuspecting candidate for the Turing Test
- Mallory Jansen’s subtle and layered performance
- James and his predictable betrayal
- Some clunky dialogue