Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. And Ghost Rider Go Into "Lockup" For An Unremarkable Episode!

The Good: Performances are fine, A few moments of banter, Special effects
The Bad: Dull plot, Mediocre characters/light on character development
The Basics: "Lockup" is much more familiar Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. than it is anything new and audacious.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had a rough time establishing itself in its fourth season. To be fair, there has not been a season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. thus far that has had to work so hard to incorporate or lead into the next big Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster like the fourth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had to do. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe prepares for Doctor Strange, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has softened the audience up by infusing the show with supernatural elements. The first few episodes of the fourth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been so unremarkable that before each new episode, I have to go back and read my reviews of the prior episode in order to remember what happened.

"Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire" (reviewed here!) led into "Lockup" by introducing Robbie Reyes's uncle, who knows about the Darkhold. It also restored Daisy to Coulson's team and had Robbie Reyes more or less joining the team. "Lockup" also continued the b-plot that involves Aida and Simmons having to lie about it. "Lockup" is what one gets when someone conceives a mash-up between Ghostbusters and Prison Break and, in many ways, it is a traditional haunted house thriller once it finally gets underway.

Opening in the past with Lucy and Joe Bauer discovering the Darkhold, the book that contains the spells that supposedly turned them into "ghosts." When they open the book, though, they are horrified to discover that it is reading them; translating itself into English and German. Now, Coulson and Mack interrogate Joe, who has come out of his coma long enough to reveal where he hid the book, before he dies. Lucy has indeed found the Darkhold, but she - in her ghost form - is no longer able to read it. While Simmons fears her impending lie detector test, Coulson asks May about her death experience. But checking May into the prison where Elias Morrow is kept, the pair discovers that Lucy Bauer has already arrived and she has had an effect upon the humans in the prison.

While Lucy and her ghosts search for Morrow, Mack leads a team that includes Reyes and Daisy to try to beat them to the goal. Simmons, mid-lie detector test is called out by Director Mace, while Daisy extracts Coulson and May, to pick her brain for facts and figures to help him with a live debate on the Inhuman War On Humans. As Daisy fights the anti-Inhuman Watchdogs at the prison, Mack and Reyes find Morrow. Mace comes out publicly and when Reyes makes a detour to try to learn something about his past, Morrow falls into Lucy's hands!

"Lockup" was established with a very complicated problem with a stupidly easy solution. In prior episodes of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. have alluded to the Darkhold and claimed that it was so very lost to the world that the Red Skull and Nick Fury never found it. But, well before the end of the teaser to "Lockup," the Darkhold has been found twice!

Mack is pretty awesome in "Lockup" and it is nice to see Henry Simmons used well. He is not simply a physical presence with awesome armament in "Lockup," he is an efficient team leader as Mack infiltrates the infected prison. When he, predictably, gets infected, Simmons is able to do an awesome badass move of injecting himself to the brainstem with the antidote!

"Lockup" has Coulson, Daisy and May figuring out how the Watchdogs have been recruiting and there is something instantly ridiculous about the Watchdogs in prison recognizing S.H.I.E.L.D. agents right away. Why they would be able to make that assumption is unclear and the duality of being that perceptive, but not noticing Daisy's gauntlets to leap to the conclusion that she is the Inhuman is silly.

Director Mace is finally fleshed out in "Lockup," thanks to the live debate that he has to improvise during. Mace is the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he has not been given the chance to show much in the show thus far to put him on par with Director Fury, Director Coulson or, frankly, even faux-Director Gonzales. "Lockup" finally puts him in a place where he has to illustrate a measure of integrity and accomplishment to rise to the occasion and Jason O'Mara plays him with an appropriate level of gravitas for the part.

Unfortunately, Gabriel Luna is not able to show viewers anything truly new as Robbie Reyes in "Lockup." Luna's character is based on the actor's ability to play angry and in the prior episodes since Reyes was introduced (the special effect for Ghost Rider does not require any performance ability from Luna!) Luna has played that consistently. Luna gives Reyes a slow burn in "Lockup" with a c-plot story that has Reyes encountering a criminal in prison related to his backstory. But the character's direction, that where Ghost Rider will manifest and deliver vengeance, is obvious and Luna telegraphs the character's direction with his performance.

"Lockup" is another episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. that suffers because of the scattershot method of storytelling the series has been employing as it has expanded its cast over the years. Unfortunately for fans of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., the changing specifics do not negate the painfully familiar general elements of the story and characters. Morrow being captured by Lucy is presented exactly the same way as Dr. Radcliffe being captured by Hive last season. The parallels are uncanny and as Daisy whines her way through "Lockup," it only serves to remind the viewer how overplayed the relationship between Daisy and Lincoln Campbell has become in retrospect. The two barely had a relationship and Daisy reacting as she has this entire season to Campbell's death makes no character sense when compared to how quickly Daisy bounced back from having her long-lost family reunited and taken from her before that.

Mashed together with unremarkable plot and character elements are pretty awesome special effects. Ghost Rider looks cool and it is always awesome to see Phil Coulson use his shield. But the flash of the few seconds worth of special effects cannot hide the unremarkable nature of the rest of "Lockup."

For other works with Maximilian Osinski, please check out my reviews of:
"Repairs" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In Time
Love And Other Drugs

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the fourth season here!


For other reviews of elements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of all those reviews!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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