NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” are present in this review
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took a massive gamble in bringing Ghost Rider into the lead ensemble, particularly since the character hadn’t been previously introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In all respects though, that really turned out to be the right call, and that was especially apparent in this week’s midseason finale, “The Laws of Inferno Dynamics”, which brought the current Ghost Rider/Eli Morrow conflict to an apparent conclusion for now, and on an excellent note at that.
This was a very strong midseason finale overall, particularly in how exciting it was in portraying the final showdown with Morrow. Morrow is starting to learn to create even more elements on the periodic table, and that has him holed up with a small army of goons and convicts, along with all manner of traps that even Robbie and the Secret Warriors will need to watch out for! As Coulson and Mace try to put together an op that will neutralize Morrow before any serious damage is done, the press and crowds of Los Angeles gather outside, eager for answers as to what’s going on.
Bringing in the media and onlookers is something that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has rarely, if ever done during a live op, but the idea of challenging the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew’s reputation and ethics as they face an especially powerful enemy worked very well. Mace being brought directly into the operation balanced nicely with the truth coming out to the director about Aida, and the truth about Mace’s deal with Senator Nadeer coming out to the rest of the team. In Aida’s case, it was particularly highlighted how Aida made use of the Darkhold to bring Coulson, Fitz and Robbie out of a quantum state, which has Mace initially reluctant to approve Radcliffe’s Life-Model Decoy program. It’s still cool to see this show so effectively balancing science with the supernatural, something that Marvel Studios’ most recent Doctor Strange also did very well. That helped to make everything still feel strangely grounded, even as we’re watching an element-manipulating villain battle against a team of Inhumans and a guy possessed by a hellish spirit.
Surprisingly, there wasn’t much action in the final stand-off with Morrow, but truth be told, there really didn’t need to be. The psychological battle proved to be its own reward, as Coulson offers himself up directly before a brief scuffle with some of Morrow’s thugs, while Fitz, Simmons, Daisy and Aida try to rig a dimensional gate that will sink Morrow’s quantum battery before it can cause some serious destruction. Worse still is that the destruction is the point, with Morrow becoming so drunk on power that he plans to obliterate half of Los Angeles, simply so he can rebuild it. It’s effectively deranged, and makes a surprising amount of sense for an under-appreciated scientist who also ultimately went down as a criminal.
Even as Robbie is temporarily disabled, Coulson’s attack squad, which also happens to include Yo-Yo in this case, manage to knock Morrow into his quantum cell, where Robbie holds him until the cell is zapped away to parts unknown. This seemingly has Ghost Rider vanquished in the MCU at first blush, though Coulson is quick to point out to Daisy later that he has a feeling that Robbie will be back eventually. Even more exciting is that Coulson hints to Daisy that S.H.I.E.L.D. was already aware of the existence of another Ghost Rider in the MCU, one that also apparently died and later returned, once again suggesting that some incarnation of Johnny Blaze and/or Danny Ketch may exist in the MCU off-screen. Coulson could even be referring to the Golden Age Ghost Rider, Carter Slade, now known as the ‘Phantom Rider’ in modern Marvel lore. That would certainly be a very interesting element to bring into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. later as well.
With Morrow and Robbie warped off to who knows where, the show is switching gears into a new conflict for Season Four’s back half, and that becomes apparent by the end of the episode. The celebration of officially welcoming Daisy back to S.H.I.E.L.D., with Mace pretending she was an undercover agent all along to the press, is offset by an ominous scene of what’s to come. Right as Mace starts approving Aida and the Life-Model Decoy program for official authorization at S.H.I.E.L.D., Aida is shown to have her own agenda, as she murders the agent that’s supposed to be transferring her to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ! This was a standout curveball that came out of nowhere, and one that was executed exceptionally. We also see that Aida is secretly hiding a dazed and bloodied May in a closet, right as Coulson is about to finally crack open that special booze with… May? Looks like Aida has already taken it upon herself to design her own Life-Model Decoys, and an LMD of May infiltrating the team is something that is sure to upset Coulson’s forces very effectively when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns in 2017. What will Coulson say to having that all-important drink with a fake May?
This seems to position Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as not even missing a beat as it moves away from its supernatural conflict with Ghost Rider and Morrow, to return firmly to the realm of science in 2017. Mace even brings up Ultron from Avengers: Age of Ultron in passing within this episode, a well-placed reminder that mankind didn’t really learn anything from Tony Stark’s infamous A.I. creation. The difference between Aida and Ultron however is that no one suspects Aida of evildoing, and why would they? The idea of LMD’s being so convincing as fakes that they fool even Coulson’s own team is something with tons of promise, and that was merely the cherry on top of an excellent midseason finale to close out the show’s 2016 run on. With Agent Carter being cancelled at this point, it’s unknown whether Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will come back earlier next year, or if we’ll still have to endure a very lengthy wait until March or so, but regardless, I really can’t wait to see what happens next!
- Smart, exciting resolution to Ghost Rider/Morrow conflict
- Daisy returning to the team at last
- Aida's shocking secret agenda at the end