Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Returns With The Surprisingly Successful "Deals With Our Devils!"

The Good: Decent character development, Good performances, Awesome effects
The Bad: Derivative plot, Lack of larger themes, Obvious seeding
The Basics: "Deals With Our Devils" brings together a number of threads to make a successful Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode!

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been having an unfortunately forgettable fourth season. The show has yet again shaken up its team and introduced Ghost Rider to the narrative, which has done nothing to make the show charming or interesting. Instead, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has become so derailed by redefining itself and explaining Ghost Rider that the established, main characters have stagnated or been involved with tangent arcs that are hardly compelling. After a few weeks off the air, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns with "Deals With Our Devils" and the return of the show comes as the fourth season episode is overshadowed by news that Marvel is developing The Inhumans for television (isn't that pretty much what Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been doing the last two years?!).

"Deals With Our Devils" follows on the events of "The Good Samaritan" (reviewed here!) and the film Doctor Strange (reviewed here!) and the hiatus for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. could not have come at a worse time. "The Good Samaritan" was a Ghost Rider-heavy episode that put Dr. Morrow with Lucy and has Director Mace now under the thumb of an anti-Inhuman Senator . . . but all of the main characters start "Deals With Our Devils" in an entirely unmemorable limbo. While "Deals With Out Devils" does not reference Doctor Strange explicitly (though it is hard to deny that the chamber Aida works is not the same type of technology as seen in that film), it does appear to be laying some of the framework for The Inhumans.

The S.H.I.E.L.D. team enters Morrow's facility, where Coulson, Reyes and Fitz have disappeared. Eli Morrow illustrates his power by killing agents by simply materializing carbon spines through them. Reviewing the footage, Daisy advocates searching for the lost team members, while Mace advocates cutting the lost members loose. Simmons has been brought to a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility where she is shown an Inhuman in the process of becoming, encased during terrigenesis. May advocates opening the Dark Hold and using it to recover the three lost team members, but Mack is against the idea. Mack opts to go rogue to find the lost team members.

Out of phase with the others, Coulson and Fitz witness May and Mack looking for them. Coulson, Fitz and Reyes leave the facility together and follow the unphased team members. Reyes starts to succumb to the effects of being out of phase because of the Ghost Rider. The Rider takes over Mack and motivates him to go after the Chinatown crew. May brings Dr. Radcliffe the Dark Hold to try to figure out the transdimensional boxes, but he is terrified of using it.

In many ways, "Deals With Our Devils" is the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. version of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Next Phase" (reviewed here!). It is quickly established that Fitz and his team are just out of phase with the main characters and the out-of-phase people work to find a way to communicate with the main crew.

"Deals With Our Devils" affords Agent May a decent role as she quickly realizes that Mace is lying about talking to Simmons early on. She also spends time on her own emotionally talking to herself about her feelings, especially for Coulson and that is a welcome development.

The Simmons subplot might just be a set up for The Inhumans, but it is well executed. Simmons is kind to the person in the terrigenesis cocoon and when she talks to the inanimate person, Elizabeth Henstridge does an amazing job of emoting opposite the prop. Simmons might have a brief role in "Deals With Our Devils," but Henstridge makes the most of her scenes.

Mack becomes the Ghost Rider in "Deals With Our Devils" and that affords a lot of potential for the character in future episodes. At the other end of the spectrum, Aida suddenly becomes a relevant, vibrant character when the Dark Hold comes into play. Aida is outed in "Deals With Our Devils," but her character finally makes sense with the mix of characters Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. currently has.

The conflict between Fitz and Coulson is smartly presented in "Deals With Our Devils."

The special effects in "Deals With Our Devils" are good and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally returns to a place where it has some witty barbs and good dialogue to it. There is a cool effect with Morrow creating carbon, both for the walls and as weapons. The Ghost Rider looks awesome in "Deals With Our Devils" and it makes the climax of the episode particularly gripping.

"Deals With Our Devils" is a surprisingly good return for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., which does a decent job of tying together multiple elements from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While it might have gotten here roughly, "Deals With Our Devils" arrives at an engaging place that is almost enough to restore one's faith in the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

For other works with Clark Gregg, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 3
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 2
Brightest Star
Lego Marvel Super-Heroes
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 1
The Avengers
Iron Man 2
Iron Man
In Good Company
The West Wing
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
State And Main
Sports Night
The Usual Suspects

[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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