This season seems to have two themes going on at the same time, and even though this episode actually showed us the Darkhold and had a maybe little Dr. Strange connection and a pretty cool Ghost Rider (the one with the Donorcycle, not the Dodge) reference, it feels like it spent more time exploring the conflict between truth and lies and how they affect everyone. The last two episodes had some obvious indications that once this whole ghost story is finished, the next hurdle will be the morality of lying and its effect on AIDA and the rest of the gang, what with AIDA being told it was okay to lie in certain situations and Simmons having to confront the mandatory lie detector tests.
Some of us have been following this rag tag team of SHIELD agents from Season one, and spent an (as some would call it) excruciating amount of time getting to know these people before Hydra went and fucked everything up. In those early episodes, we got to know the characters and watched as their trust of each other grew and grew until Ward maybe or maybe not shot that dog. Then in the second we watched as they lost some of that trust, and eventually earned it all back. Then in the third season, Daisy lost some of that trust when she realized she was Inhuman, and again learned to trust the team. Now it’s the fourth season and guess what? DAISY IS GOING TO HAVE TO LEARN TO TRUST THE TEAM AGAIN. I have a feeling we know how it will turn out (well), but still.
Right now, this show is about a bunch of lying liars who lie. Fitz had to lie to Simmons about AIDA and
her it’s true nature. No one trusts the new LMDirector, and apparently for good reason. LMDirector Mace lied to everyone until he came “clean” about his true nature. Robbie has been lying to his brother and uncle about his true nature. Senator Nadeer is lying about her true nature. Hell, I bet that guy administering the lie detector tests is hiding something. TELL ME YOUR SECRETS, REDSHIRT.
So here we are, and its time for people to start coming clean. Daisy needs to tell Coulson and May what really is going on. Fitz and Simmons need to come clean about AIDA, even though I’m positive May already knows. And I still think LMDirector Mace is lying. He isn’t Inhuman. He’s an LMD, a fact that will come out near the middle of the season. He’s using the convenient existence of “Inhumans” to hide what he really is. Robbie is going to have to come clean not only to his brother (which according to the preview next week he does) but to himself as well.
Come on. This is a safe space. Spill it.
1. Earlier I referenced a Johnny Blaze reference. At the very beginning, when Lucille Ghost and Joe Dirt found the Darkhold in that basement, there was a poster for a Carnival. The exact carnival was the Quentin Carnival - which was owned at one time by Johnny Blaze. I’m not sure if this poster was for a real carnival in the MCU or just something someone made, but it seems to indicate that Johnny is out there somewhere, fucking shit up. Maybe we will get that awesome Punisher moment one day. I would die (but not like Punisher, who didn’t.)
2. My favorite moment from this episode was when Coulson and May were going through the security post at the prison and Coulson gave May sass while waving his hand at her. That gag will never get old.
My second favorite moment was the HAND SHIELD. My third? When Mack used the Shotgun Axe while shooting at those ghosts. I’m happy that this show does a somewhat decent job of remembering the cool shit everyone has and can do. Look at other shows. The hero will learn a new trick and never do it again. Look at Star Trek Into Darkness: This blood will reanimate a dead guy! Lets never mention it ever again despite it’s obvious uses! Half the shit Barry learns he forgets by the following week, but that can probably be attributed to his timeline fuckery. If we can’t keep it all straight, how can he?
3. I continue to maintain that May knows that AIDA is a LMD, or at least is not human. When May and Coulson sat down in the Warden/Psychologist’s office, she immediately recognized that something was off due to the coffee pot steaming, the guard locking the door, and the un-returned calls. As soon as Warden Norton got up, she knew something was going to happen.
Go back and watch May’s interaction with AIDA and Fitz. AIDA practically said she was made in China, and Fitz got all awkward and panicky. She has to know something is up. You watch. She’s playing the long con, giving Fitz a chance to come clean.
4. I died when the lie detector tester asked Simmons if she was or ever had been an agent of Hydra, and she replied “Of course!” His reaction was priceless. I’m still sad that it wasn’t a Koenig giving the test, though.
5. I bring up the Koenigs for a reason. When we were introduced to the Koenigs, something seemed off. The show made a bunch of subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) hints that they were LMDs. Hell, even Trip kept asking how many brothers there were, and felt like something was going on.
I’m noticing a lot of the same type of hints around LMDirector Mace. When he asked Simmons to help him with his debate with Senator Nadeer, he remarked that he wanted to have the information that was in Simmons’ head. When Simmons responded that SHIELD did not have that type of technology, LMDirector responded with a “Sure it does!” and after a beat held up an ear piece. Also, everything about his responses to Senator Nadeer’s questions and his “confession” of being an Inhuman (technically correct is the best kind of correct!) were extremely calculated. Watch that scene again: Simmons starts talking and feels like he is ignoring her, but before she even finishes her sentences he has perfectly crafted it into a response to her questions. When Senator Nadeer put him on the spot about the Prison, he kind of stalled for a moment before giving an “everything is under control” statement.
Keep an eye on that LMDirector. He’s tricksty.
6. Vote. Seriously. I said it last week and I’m going to say it next week. Go vote, wherever you are. Hell, if you’re not eligible to vote in the United States, at least get educated about the issues and the people running wherever you are, be it nationally or in smaller, local elections. I’m in Southern California, and we had a SHITLOAD of measures and propositions and whatnot this time around. I’m sure there is a lot of the same in other places, too.
I bring this up because the show somehow very topically addressed some of the issues that are present in these trying times. Senator Nadeer was a proponent of the “Humans First Movement.” Sounds like she is open to the idea of erecting a yuge wall and stopping people from coming into the country until the situation can be figured out. She assumes every Inhuman is bad and dangerous, despite empirical evidence to the contrary. She doesn’t think an Inhuman is the right person for an important job. DID YOU HEAR THAT DOG WHISTLE?
Whether your choice is a withered Cheeto or a LMaDame President or Gary “Aleppo” Johnson, make one. Because not making a choice is just as big of a choice. MAKE GOOD DECISIONS.
7. Daisy’s prison cafeteria fight was tops. TOPS. Netflix style tops. As soon as those doors opened in the prison cell, I had Hallway flashbacks. I had Punisher flashbacks. And Daisy’s fight was amazingly well done. It reminded me of her tracking fight through the lab while being chased by Hydra agents and Ward - a fight scene that was choreographed by the same people that did the first Daredevil hallway fight that started it all.
But my favorite scene was Ghost Rider destroying that Fifth Street Gangster, and everyone running back to their cells as he walked out. He’s on that Luke Cage level. He hardly has to say or do anything any more - people just comply.
8. Phil Coulson is life. Phil Coulson is love. Apparently Phil Coulson is death, too.
9. Liar! We had a lot of references to LMDirector being at the singing of the Sokovia Accords and being a hero by saving lives in the aftermath. When he called Simmons out for lying on the lie detector test, she turned the tables and called his bluff regarding his own heroics. Now she’s exempt from all further testing (yay!), but now I have questions. Was he really at the UN when Zemo bombed it? Those pictures looked awfully suspicious. Maybe he was edited in to provide backstory while he was stored away like a Winter Soldier or AIDA. AIDA might just be learning how to lie, but SHIELD perfected that technology some time ago.
10. At the beginning I referenced a Dr. Strange connection in this episode. I suggest you stop reading at this point unless you want some of the movie spoiled for you.
Are you still here?
Alright. You made your choice! Remember: MAKE GOOD DECISIONS!
Well then. When Lucille Ghost and Joe Dirt were looking at the Darkhold, there was a shot of what appeared to be a portal of some kind. I’m not talking the glimpse at the end when Uncle Eli was looking; I’m talking about the very beginning after the Darkhold was first discovered. If you look at the drawing of the portal, it looks very close to what it looks like when Dr. Strange and the Ancient One use those portals. The spinning and sparking outline around a perfect circle.
Here’s where the spoilers come in, though: In Dr. Strange, it’s revealed that The Ancient One is thousands of years old, and that she has been using the Dark Dimension to maintain her health and longevity. In Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter, we have referenced the Dark Dimension and Darkforce and Zero Matter a few times now, and it appears that the Darkhold will have some connection to the Dark Dimension, given it’s author and all. Maybe Chthon escaped to the Dark Dimension after he wrote the Darkhold, and some of the spells and secrets The Ancient One learned while keeping herself alive included the use of those portals, which are inherently abuses of spells in “reality?”
Also: Senator Nadeer referenced Hong Kong for some reason, and in Dr. Strange, there are three Sanctums that provide protection for Earth: London, New York, and Hong Kong. Maybe the events of Dr. Strange happen concurrently with the past few and next few episodes of Agents of SHIELD? Marvel has moved away from the roughly real-world chronological order of the movies. Luke Cage was after Jessica Jones, but concurrent with Daredevil Season 2. Maybe instead of a direct Dr. Strange connected episode next week or the week after it’s release, there is a fluid, rolling connection that already started?
Only the time stone will tell.