Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ghost Rider Resolved? "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" Tries To Sell That Idea!

The Good: Decent performances, Character development, Special effects
The Bad: Plot is basic and repeats the format of prior seasons.
The Basics: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to close off the Ghost Rider plotline with "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics!"

As some television shows go into their winter hiatus, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is managing to ramp up. While I have not been a huge fan of the introduction of Ghost Rider to the series and the way it has altered the narrative of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., even I have to admit that the show went into "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" riding high upon the momentum the show gained in "Deals With Our Devils." "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" picks up with a lot of plot threads going on and fundamental character changes - especially with Aida being outed and Mack making the unlikely turn to ally himself with Ghost Rider following being possessed by him.

"Deals With Our Devils" (reviewed here!) leads right into "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" and it is tough to discuss the new episode without some references as to where the prior episode went. "Deals With Our Devils" introduced a new proto-Inhuman (probably as a lead-up to the forthcoming limited series The Inhumans) and put more tension between the classic Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast and the new Director, Jeffrey Mace. "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" picks up with Eli Morrow menacing Los Angeles.

Eli Morrow is having trouble keeping his Chinese gang under his thumb, so makes a demonstration out of transmuting one of his thug's lungs into diamonds. Morrow has built an oversized interdimensional box and S.H.I.E.L.D. is under siege from the media during the active incident. While Coulson advocates bringing in the full S.H.I.E.L.D. team - including Yo-Yo and Reyes - Mace is shocked to learn Aida is an android, but he puts her in play anyway. When Yo-Yo attempts to infiltrate Morrow's facility, she sets off an explosive that wounds her, which necessitates Reyes entering the facility. Mace grills Radcliffe about Aida and the Dark Hold, with limited results.

Inside Morrow's lab, Reyes finds the massive interdimensional battery and Morrow is able to stop the Ghost Rider from manifesting. Fitz recognizes Morrow's device as containing a Demon Core, which has the potential to destroy all of Los Angeles. Mace comes into the field to defuse the plutonium core Morrow has as Aida and the transdimensional arch are put on the Zephyr. Coulson confronts Morrow, after Fitz determines how Morrow has cheated the laws of physics from an alternate dimension. With tremors menacing Los Angeles and the full S.H.I.E.L.D. team set to confront Eli Morrow, S.H.I.E.L.D. must step up to stop Morrow definitively.

"The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" continues to develop Morrow as a villain and Mace as a secondary antagonist to the S.H.I.E.L.D. team. Mace is characterized as a suspicious character in "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" and it is hard to believe that he can possibly be trusted at this point in the fourth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Mace has been outed as an Inhuman and in "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" he continues to advance the interests of the Inhumans in the public eye. Mace is given a cool new outfit and seeing him interact with the full team is good.

Morrow and Reyes finally come face to face in a way that allows them to be honest with one another in "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics." After the big explosions and action sequences, Morrow and Reyes square off for a pretty straightforward conversation. It is somewhat hilarious that the Marvel Cinematic Universe allows for the longest direct conversation between two characters only when one is impaled and immobilized! Morrow's anger at the world is finally explained in "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" and his progression into a godlike character is handled remarkably well. Indeed, by the halfway point of "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics," it seems improbable that any of the characters from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. could credibly defeat Morrow! As such, it is somewhat refreshing to see the protagonists of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. have to think their way out of the problem that Morrow represents.

Ever since Henry Simmons appeared on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., fans have been waiting to see him used effectively and well. In "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" fans get that wish fulfilled. Simmons plays Mackenzie with real force and charisma. Mackenzie is presented as both authoritative and willing to speak truth to power in "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics." Beyond that, Simmons smartly softens Mack for a decent scene that has him actually acting to protect Elena. The on-screen chemistry between Simmons and Natalia Cordova-Buckley is palpable and presented with subtlety and realism that can only truly be built by repeated scenes. "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" pays off the performances between the pair and the actors seem quite adept at developing the realistic romantic tension between the two.

Jose Zuniga plays Eli Morrow with an earnest quality that sells his progression well. Morrow could easily slip into being an over-the-top Marvel Cinematic Universe villain who is either all talk, no action or arrives at his destructive climax through somewhat ridiculous means. But Zuniga manages to land the expository backstory lines that characterize him as a guy who has been pushed down for years and who wants very much to take control of his life.

"The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" moves along the plot that has been built throughout the fourth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it is tough to guess where the season will go next. But despite the way "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" goes, the episode actually continues the formula that the prior seasons have established; the first adversary for the season is more or less out by the end of the episode and the next antagonist is introduced to keep the season going. Whether or not Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. can compellingly sell the new villain and plot remains to be seen, but "The Laws Of Inferno Dynamics" is a smart end to the shaky beginning of the fourth season!

For other Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes written by Paul Zbyszewski, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
"Parting Shot"
"Devils You Know"
"Frenemy Of My Enemy"
"Ye Who Enter Here"
"Heavy Is The Head"
"Nothing Personal"
"End Of The Beginning"
"The Magical Place"

[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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