Agents of SHIELD Recap: “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire”
Why does every car chase in LA end up in the canal?
Spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 4 follow. But you already knew that because you understand that this is a recap, right? Right.
Glad you could join me here as we recap the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Let’s not beat around the bush and let’s get right to it, shall we?
From the beginning of the season, we’ve been slowly watching as each of our favorite agents try to make a go of being a solo act. Episodes 1, 2, and 3 each show how disjointed and on edge each of our faves are since being separated by the powers that be (both literally and figuratively). Here, though, we’re treated to a memory of what things used to be while looking ahead to a vision of what this might all become.
This episode starts with Simmons on the phone with Fitz on her way to scope out a potential apartment for the two of them. One wonders, is there is a special craigslist for secret agents or something? Like, the needs of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent must be unique enough to warrant such a startup/site, right? I should talk to their HR or something.
But special network or not, Simmons apparently has found a place.
It’s within their price range, has hardwood floors, a breakfast nook, a bay window, and is cozy and charming. Most of all, and perhaps the most unbelievable thing in this entire show next to the concept of superpowered humans and shadowy spy agencies is the fact that such a wonderful place is within anyone’s price range. I mean really, what’s the catch here?
It’s Daisy, who reached out to Agent Simmons by way of a too-good-to-be-true e-mail offer on an apartment. So does Daisy like, just not realize how ubiquitous spam e-mails that say the same thing are, or does she really know how gullible/desperate FitzSimmons are?
After the (really moody) title intro, we’re in prison, where (if we remember last week’s episode) Eli Morrow, Robbie (AKA Ghost Rider, AKA Agent Skully)’s uncle, is doing time. We’re led to believe that it’s Robbie who’s stopping by to pay him a visit, but as it turns out, it’s Coulson, who’s gone back to his old dapper, well-tailored suit days.
Apparently Morrow’s something of an engineering genius, and as Coulson reads him his personal history (you know, for exposition, not necessarily for him), he plays the “one bad situation/one bad mistake” card, backing it up with an offer of freedom.
Cut to: Agent May, freshly back from the dead and none too happy about it.
She meets Ada, the android that Radcliffe secretly designed in all that spare time he had not watching Ex Machina. She perfectly fulfills the role of assistant/nurse to Radcliffe, taking vitals and helping May. Her bedside manner’s decidedly much better than Radcliffe’s, so hey, there’s something. They talk about how they had to kill May in order to save her from the ghostly sickness that had previously killed some other detainees who had been exposed to… well, something otherworldly.
The “procedure” (as Radcliffe called it) May underwent is helping them develop a way to cure and help other people who might end up getting afflicted with the same condition. Except, you know, they’re trying to find out a way to do it without all the killing. To do that, May’s pretty much confined to her bed as they run more tests, which I’ve come to learn from television is basically code for “we just don’t want you to go yet.” He then leaves her in the care of Ada.
Ada, in her uncanny valley-type delivery, tells May, “You can trust me with your life, Agent May.”
Back at the craigslist listing from hell, Simmons is helping patch up Daisy in the middle of the spacious, well-lit, living room slash dining area slash den slash operating table.
In some small way, it’s really great to see the two of them together again, even though one of them is wounded. Their banter and back-and-forth were some of my favorite moments in the older seasons, and the sisterly friendship I think they share is well on display here. Daisy says that the place is theirs, actually, and that it’s rent controlled (really, I mean what). As she’s patching Daisy up, Daisy takes a swig from a bottle of vodka, which, well, I guess can also serve as a disinfectant or something, but come on. There’s better alcohols to be self-medicating with, lady.
After getting patched up, Daisy reveals that she’s also after something else. As it turns out, the Watchdogs have been tracking down Inhumans and killing them by hacking into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s servers, previously thought impenetrable. That’s actually how Daisy got shot, as she was chasing down some Watchdogs herself to find the bloody list she hands to Simmons. Why she didn’t hand it to her while she still had her gloves on, I don’t know, but I guess Daisy missed the Bloodborne Pathogens lab class portion of Agent training.
Daisy asks for Simmons’ help, not necessarily to track down the Watchdogs, but to help her get into the Inhuman database so she can maybe head these jerks off at the pass. When Simmons refuses (why does everyone always ask Simmons to be the double agent), Daisy pulls a gun on her, forcing her hand and giving her some form of plausible deniability at being involved. After they share a very knowing, somehow comforting smile, they join up together.
Back in prison, Coulson gets no luck with Morrow, who shuts him down and tells him to go. Outside, Coulson confers with Mack, who, as they’re discussing what to do next, spots Robbie in his incredibly conspicuous, really loud ride. They recognize each other, and Robbie, spooked, ends up peeling away from the prison, leading them on a bit of a chase.
I’ve got another question: they’re supposed to be in Los Angeles, right? Where the heck is there such a lack of traffic in L.A.? I feel like their chase should have been much, much shorter, ending when Robbie turns down a main thoroughfare and is greeted with a three hour traffic delay. Of course, that’s not the case, and Robbie’s basically led down another L.A. car chase trope: the drive through the L.A. canal.
Robbie’s car completely decimates Coulson’s (sorry, Lola) in a straight up drag race. That is, until Robbie comes literally face to face with the S.H.I.E.L.D. cloaking tech hiding their Quinjet. How fortuitous.
After Daisy and Simmons manage to get a hacked flash drive into the hands of some S.H.I.E.L.D. staff that would allow them access to the Inhuman database, we’re taken back to Radcliffe’s place, where Fitz finds out that Ada’s been let out of her bookcase cage and is interacting with May. Radcliffe reveals that he’s doing it on purpose as a bit of a final test in order to see if Ada’s ready to pass a Turing test and be released to the public.
Fitz is, of course, very uncomfortable with this plan, as it was his idea to keep her (and his involvement with her) hidden and secret for the time being. After checking in with May, and after a really bummer pun from Radcliffe (you can do better than that, pal), Ada and May are left to wrapping up some tests.
Daisy and Simmons get a little further in their search, finding out that James AKA Boomy McBoomface AKA Explode Guy was next up to be targetted by the Watchdogs. Together they devise a plan to extract him and potentially bring him over to help them fight the Watchdogs.
Coulson and Mack, are perhaps a step further than them in dealing with Robbie, who they’ve captured and put on the Bus. After some pretty great back and forth between the two of them, Coulson asks where Robbie’s powers come from. Robbie replies, “I made a deal with the devil,” doing the red-eye flashy thing he does. Coulson just walks away.
After talking it over with Mack, Coulson says he’s making a “deal with the devil” himself, freeing Robbie.
Meanwhile, Daisy and Simmons have tracked down James. Turns out that the guy who makes things explode now works at a fireworks shop. Someone in relocation services has a real sense of humor, let me tell you. They speak with James, and tell him that he’s being tracked by the Watchdogs. He takes the news shockingly well, though his comfort is probably helped by the fact that Daisy breaks the tracking watch from his arm, essentially setting him free.
In her conversation with James, we see just how much Daisy has changed since her days working for S.H.I.E.L.D. She’s compromised on many of her beliefs and values and is now willing to deal with smarmy, infamously unreliable characters in order to reach her goal of stopping the Watchdogs from harming the Inhumans. “Fight back,” she said. “That’s how you move on. Take control of your life again.”
Appearing to resonate with that sentiment, he tells the women to meet him at a storage locker where he has “some things” that might help in their fight against the Watchdogs. Yeah, no way that ends poorly. Nope. Nuh-uh. Nothing bad happens in warehouses on these superhero shows. Nope. Never.
Back on the Bus, Coulson and Mack lay out the deal for Robbie. They convince him to help them out with getting info out of Morrow, who they know will really only speak to Robbie about what happened.
They take him to see his uncle, who spills the beans to Robbie. Apparently the ghosts they’ve been seeing were all part of the same research and development team that Morrow was on at Momentum Labs. One of the ghosts is Dr. Lucy Bauer, wife to Joseph Bauer, the person Morrow put into a coma. They were all working together on a quantum particle generator, which is basically a machine that could create matter out of nothing. There was an accident during experimentation, which resulted in the deaths of the team (aside from Morrow).
Morrow then reveals that they were working from a design given in a book. This book has “all the knowledge that anyone could ever need,” he said. As one of the few voices of reason on this episode, Morrow then warns Robbie to stay away, telling him that the book is evil. Yep. The man’s right, dude. We’re then shown that Dr. Joseph Bauer in a hospital room, in a coma. Lucy comes drifting in through the wall (y’know, as you do when you’re a ghost), and revives him using Ghost Powers (what), trying to find out where the book they used has gone.
Later, Radcliffe is chatting with Ada, who asks him about why Fitz told a lie about Ada to Agent May in order to preserve the secret that Ada’s really an android (“You speak Chinese? Where are you from?” “Well, most of me is Chinese…” “–Canadian. She’s Canadian.”). Their conversation sounds like something right out of Westworld or Ex Machina, where Ada questions the nature of humans and lying and the ethics surrounding the things we say.
Back at the storage facility that’s totally not a deathtrap, James (much to everyone’s surprise somehow) opens his locker to reveal that it’s stuffed with Watchdogs. Watchdogs with guns. Angry Watchdogs with guns. James was the one informing them on the whereabouts of Inhumans, and in exchange he was offered the chance to be the last one to die. Wow, man. That’s heavy.
Just as they’re about to be captured, Daisy gets all Quake on everyone and knocks the Watchdogs down, majorly hurting herself in the process. Simmons gets her out of there, only to end up with the both of them cornered and hiding in a storage locker. James finds them, and he rips the chain from the locker’s door, setting it ablaze.
You know what comes next, right?
Robbie catches the chain as James winds up, and in a perfect comic book nod, Robbie looks at the flaming chain in his hand and just says, “Huh.” He takes the chain from James, and is just about to settle in to a fight with him. This gives Daisy and Simmons a chance to escape.
Daisy and Simmons end up running into Coulson and Mack, and all of them end up fighting off the Watchdogs, who were still trying to chase Daisy down. Robbie, all Ghost Rider’d out, backs James into a corner. James ends up breaking through the wall behind him, dropping them both into the fireworks shop next door.
My take on that encounter can be summed up entirely in what Mack said, which was: “Did two fire dudes just drop into a warehouse full of fireworks?” Coulson replied, “You had to see that comin’.”
Indeed you did.
They all escape as the fireworks shop behind them explodes in a display that would rival the best Fourth of July fail video on YouTube.
Apparently “not looking at explosions” isn’t a lesson they teach at the Academy, as each of them turns around to watch the fireworks show.
Robbie comes walking through the flames in a quintessentially badass moment, dragging James behind him, using the chain. James, still alive, is passed out, and Robbie never once looks at the explosion or the fire behind him. Now there’s a badass.
Back on the Quinjet, both Robbie and Daisy get a talking to from Coulson, who gives them the pitch that they’re definitely much stronger working together. His words echo that of the new director’s, who said something to the same effect at the end of the last episode as S.H.I.E.L.D. went public once again.
There’s also more exposition as Coulson reveals that they’re looking for a book called the Darkhold, which looks about as sinister as it gets.
Doctor Strange fans might recognize the book, as it’s something that’s passed through his universe a few times. This likely puts Agents on a direct path with the good Doctor, and once again reminds us that yes, Agents is, indeed, within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You know, in case you forgot.
To bring the rest of the band together, Coulson and Co. head over to Radcliffe’s to pick up May, who’s recovered and finished with testing. Ada’s out and about, and she ends up meeting Coulson, who doesn’t seem to be able to tell that she’s an android. May remains similarly convinced, and so does everyone else with the exception of Simmons, who pulls Fitz aside and compliments him on his work. Fitz tells Simmons that she can’t tell anybody, and that this will have to be one lie she has to tell on her regular polygraph testing.
Simmons replies, “Actually, I’ll have a few.” Yikes.
- It’s a joy to see the band back together, albeit under particularly dire circumstances. Seeing them separated at the beginning of the season and watching them lose their bearings because of it was a bit of a bummer.
- Gabriel Luna continues to deliver as Ghost Rider, and was able to show some range as he had a particularly emotional scene with his uncle. It’s a real joy watching him on this show.
- My gut wants me to believe that things just aren’t okay between Fitz and Simmons, and that this pure, wonderful ship might be heading into some rough waters. Say it ain’t so.
- Coulson and Mack make a pretty solid team, and the both of them are as witty as ever.
- If you weren’t aware, this episode’s title is a reference to Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”.
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