Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Debrief Season 4, Episode 8: “The Laws of Inferno Dynamics”
This episode was, to be completely honest, just a little bit flat for me. It tied up plenty of loose ends, but it also was able to expertly set up one major plot twist right at the very end. It felt much like how most mid-season or season finales feel these days: satisfying, though perhaps not as exciting as penultimate episodes, you know?
Anyway. Usual disclaimer: spoilers. Like, no, seriously, spoilers. You’re reading a recap. If you didn’t know there’d be spoilers, I seriously can not help you.
Shall we, then?
We begin in medias res, which is to say we’re right in the thick of it from the get-go. A member of the Chinatown Crew (still not over that terrible name) confronts Eli Morrow about the LAPD and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents surrounding their building. Eli, who’s busy playing Minority Report with particles and things, refuses to listen to the gang member’s complaints.
After a comment about payment and a predictable “pay me my money” speech from the gang member, Eli goes ahead and does just that–by turning the gang member’s lungs into unrefined diamonds. Eugh.
Anyway. Back at HQ, Director Mace tries his best to smooth over the media, who are reporting on the major operation. So okay, no joke here: when they showed the file photo of Director Mace as he was chatting with the reporter on-air over the phone, I was going to make a “that is so not my best side” caption joke. Imagine my surprise when the show beats me to the punch as Mace says, “And that picture of me in the background…” to which his aide replies, “Agreed, not your best side. I’ll schedule a reshoot for this week.”
AoS: 1 Jessica: 0. This isn’t over yet, Marvel.
May, Coulson, and Mace discuss the team they need to put together to stop Morrow. Coulson wants to bring in Daisy, Yo-Yo, and Robbie, the three of whom he calls their “biggest guns.” Mace suggests also bringing Aida, to which Coulson (very hesitantly) spills the beans to Mace that she’s actually an android. Mace flips out, bringing up the Sokovia Accords (can’t forget to tie-in where you can), and even name drops Ultron.
But he realizes he’s backed up against a wall, so he greenlights the team and the mission.
Just as they’re about to part ways, as May is going to pick up Aida while Coulson assembles the team, they have a very Garrus/Shepard Mass Effect 3-esque conversation about the bottle they’ve still got to open. “When this is over, it’s time. We are cracking that bottle,” says Coulson. “You don’t have to twist my arm,” replies May. Coulson says, “I wouldn’t dare, you might whip my ass.”
To all of which Jessica replies, “Haven’t you two ever seen any television dramas? These conversations are always tragic foreshadowing! What have you done, Coulson? Why have you done it?”
May gazes longingly at Coulson as he walks up the Zephyr’s ramp. Two guesses as to what she’s “gazing” at.
The team preps on-site, and everyone trades some solid quips.
Robbie: I don’t wear a mask.
Mack: That’s a balaclava.
Robbie: I thought that was a dessert.
Yo-Yo (to Daisy, as Robbie approaches): Here comes Burning Man.
Nice. Daisy’s rocking some new gauntlets, which is another way of saying she’s essentially gotten her powers back in time for the mid-season finale. Joy. And really, it’s just always a pleasure to see Yo-Yo back on screen. She’s one heck of a character. In fact, the conversation between Daisy, Yo-Yo, and Robbie has to pass some kind of Bechdel-Wallace-type test with people of color talking on screen about someone who isn’t white, right (in this case Eli)? Is that a thing yet? If it isn’t, it should be.
Anyway, Yo-Yo uses her speedster-like power to enter the building for some recon. As she steps into a puddle of water, it splashes part of the wall, causing the chemicals on it to burst into flame, and she’s high-tailing it back out.
She barely escapes, with only her arm catching fire. As Daisy tends to her,
Burning Man Robbie steps in, because, you know, Ghost Rider is made of fire and all.
May arrives on the Zephyr with Aida in tow. They’ve brought along the tech for the interdimensional portal from the last episode, as well. Mace pulls Coulson aside to share his “secret plan” with him, which is basically that he intends to join in the mission, going out into the field. Lest we forget, Mace is an Inhuman with super strength. His skills wouldn’t be unwelcome, let’s say. Coulson has issues with the plan, but they seem to stem from his distrust of Mace. They actually have it out right there, with Mace calling Coulson out for his somewhat loose behavior, which feels particularly egregious because Coulson was already the director. If he’s got a problem with Mace, he should just take it back, basically.
Daisy ends up wandering into the conversation, bringing up Mace’s deal with Senator Nadeer. Earlier this season, we know that he entered into a deal because he was essentially blackmailed into it. The senator had information and damning proof of Daisy and Ghost Rider working with S.H.I.E.L.D. Instead of going public, the senator worked out a deal with Mace, which included sending Simmons to examine the mysterious figure trapped mid-Terragenesis last episode. Mace pulls back the curtain on these secrets, and Coulson and Daisy seem to feel a bit like heels as they realize Mace was just trying to protect the agency.
Dang, y’all. Mace wasn’t lying when he said all that… that stuff about… about teams that, uh… what was it? Oh, yeah. Teams that trust. Or something.
Back in Eli’s stronghold, Robbie finds Eli’s mystery box, which Fitz and Co. have figured out is actually something of a dead man’s switch–there’s a nuclear device inside that’s set to explode if the little hatch within the box slams shut. Robbie walks into the box to examine it (against Fitz’s warnings, which he can’t hear anyway), only to be interrupted by Eli. After some vague posturing and threatening, Robbie begins to transform into Ghost Rider. Sadly, his transformation’s cut short as Eli stabs him from behind with a carbon stalactite–or is it stalagmite, I can’t tell, is there a name for one that grows sideways out of a wall?
Robbie gets Eli monologuing, wherein Eli actually opens up about some fairly relatable issues. He speaks about how hard he worked to get even half the recognition of his peers. He mentions condescension, judgement, and all sorts of issues, basically falling just shy of naming racial bias or prejudice as something he’s had to fight against. He speaks a lot about the effects and symptoms of having to deal with that, and while a straight up naming of such issues (like, seriously, play that race card, we know what you’re talking about) would’ve been nice to hear, I think what we got was just fine.
Like I said, it’s a relatable story, but not necessarily so for Robbie. Eli feels justified in his murder of people in pursuit of power (which, for the record, I do not relate with). Consider this in opposition to Robbie, who feels justified in his murder of people on the basis of “they had it coming.” Robbie isn’t exactly in pursuit of power per se, but rather he’s in pursuit of justice. Harsh, cold-blooded justice, but justice nonetheless, I suppose.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, it seems.
Their talk is interrupted by the arrival of Coulson, who, thanks to the magic of television exposition, clues the rest of us into how Eli’s powers work. Basically, thanks to the Darkhold generators he built, Eli’s able to steal matter from another dimension in order to manifest things in this one. He’s not exactly “rewriting the laws of physics,” like he says, but rather, he’s just stealing. “Thus, thief,” as Coulson says.
Eli doesn’t believe him, seeing as how the Darkhold madness has all but entirely consumed his senses. He truly believes he’s becoming a god.
Meanwhile, below them, Aida, Fitz, Simmons, Dr. Radcliffe, and Daisy are constructing the same interdimensional portal that they used to save Fitz and Coulson last episode. They’re basically planning on dropping Eli’s nuclear device and the entire box into another dimension (sorry, anybody who lives on that plane of existence). Unfortunately, every time Eli uses his powers to steal from said other dimension, it causes seismic activity in this one. That’s where Daisy comes in; she’s there to absorb the quakes so they can quickly build the portal, which requires a lot of finesse and careful construction.
The quakes are piling up, and Coulson realizes that he’s out of time. Topside, he tells Robbie to try his best to escape, then tells all teams to “go hot.”
May comes charging in, guns blazing, wrecking some poor guy’s day. Mack shotgunaxes a poor henchman. Mace stalks in, fully armored and suited up like a superhero (wow), punching a guy so hard he goes sailing through the air.
Yo-Yo… well, Yo-Yo just destroys all the bad guys. In fact, her sequence is very Quicksilver-esque, with her running in and moving things here and there to set folks up. She moves Mack’s shotgun so he’s not chopping someone anymore, but rather, he’s aiming at another henchman. She takes a gun away from one of them and hands it to Coulson, who had his hand extended the whole time, waiting for it. She also plants a device on Eli, which sends him sailing back into the box with Robbie.
Coulson tries to throw him a chain to help him escape the box, which Ghost Rider takes. But after Eli gets up inside the box, Robbie lets go of the chain, holding on to him. Eli begins to burst into flame as the box blinks out of existence, taking both of them into… well, who knows where.
The team working on the portal is found by a henchman, who ends up shooting Aida a couple of times. Believe me, I’m just as surprised as you are at the fact that Dr. Radcliffe programmed the poor android to feel pain. Sure, she explains that she’s supposed to be a decoy, and that pain produces more of a relatable, effective response. But… come on.
Daisy goes running outside, apparently unable to contain all the energy that she had been absorbing from the quakes. The moment she steps outdoors, she releases all the energy, sending herself flying up into the sky in her best “Neo at the end of The Matrix” impression; really, the only thing missing from that was Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up“.
She catches herself before she hits the ground, but finds that she’s landed amidst the reporters and media, all of whom descend on her to ask her about her involvement. Director Mace steps out to intercept, saying that yes, she had been present the whole time, and that Agent Johnson (haven’t heard that in a while) was there assisting. He basically clears her name, all but directly offering her a spot back on the team.
Later, Daisy and Coulson are in the Zephyr’s cargo bay, though, talking about how things have gone. Daisy admits that she missed being a part of the team, and that she’s glad there’s an Inhuman to be “the face of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Coulson says he had someone else in mind, referring to her, to which Daisy just laughs and says, “Maybe in the comic book version.” Oh, you.
Everyone’s assembled in the common room, watching the news report unfold on television. Yo-Yo is shown leaving, only to be stopped by Mack, who doesn’t want her to go. Yo-Yo’s tired of the back and forth (heh) between them and their constant on-again off-again romance. She wants to know what’s keeping him from wanting to be with her. Mack interrupts her mid-question with a kiss that was a long gosh darned time coming, I’ll tell you what.
Back in the common room, on the news report, Mace says that Daisy had been an agent all along, and that any work she had done to chase down the Watchdogs was a part of an undercover operation. Daisy’s presented with her lanyard (oooh, blue level. Daisy: “What does that mean?” Fitz: “I have no idea.”), and they even manage to sneak in an Agent Koenig reference.
Mace invites Dr. Radcliffe to continue his work under S.H.I.E.L.D. supervision, which, well, I’m actually kind of glad Dr. Radcliffe gets to stay on, along with Aida. Speaking of, Mace sent her back to Dr. Radcliffe’s home with his aide to retrieve all his research. We cut to Mace’s aide packing everything up in Dr. Radcliffe’s office. Suddenly one of the weird pod doors (a lot like the one Aida came out of) pops open in back, and he goes over to examine what’s inside.
We’re not shown right away, but it’s enough to cause him distress. Aida steps out behind him, and then apologizes, saying, “I know how this feels,” before breaking his neck and killing him.
In the post-credits scene, we’re shown that Aida’s opening up the door from earlier. She’s carrying water and a washcloth, which she sets on the floor. It’s revealed that it’s… freaking May in the cell, bloodied and knocked out cold (or worse). Aida says, “My apologies, Agent May,” before beginning to clean her up. At HQ, Coulson and May finally crack that bottle of Haig together. Though is that really May? What?!
- The back and forth between Eli and Robbie was interesting, I thought. It certainly was a bit drawn out in places, but the conversation they were having regarding justifying their means to their ends was intriguing.
- Yo-Yo stole the show, though, with her Quicksilver-like sequence. I find myself returning to it over and over cause it was just so damn cool to watch.
- There was still a lot of “exposition by dialogue” here, which is very much subscribing to the “tell, don’t show” school of storytelling. I get that it’s television and that this is just how some conventions are, I just find it a little bothersome at times.
- Aida turning evil was, perhaps, predictable. Mace name-dropping Ultron here should’ve been everyone’s final final clue (you know, in case her building a human brain last episode wasn’t enough of a tip-off for you).
- I’m going to miss the hell out of Robbie. I know he’s not gone, not completely, not yet. But as I keep saying, he was a very big part of why I loved this first half of the season so much.
- The epilogue felt very, very Westworld, didn’t it?
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Follow The Mary Sue on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, & Google+.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]