Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 4, Episode 4: “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire”
Early on, juggling multiple storylines was not exactly Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s strong suit. Over the course of the following seasons, the show has become good at weaving these threads together in creative ways. Two or three times a season it will give things a tug at the right time, and a mess of strings becomes something useful like a hat, mittens, or a team-up.
Daisy couldn’t stay out in the wilderness forever, the prodigal daughter was bound to return home to S.H.I.E.L.D. sooner or later.
When we meet Daisy, she’s in pretty rough shape. An encounter with some Watchdogs has left her with a bullet in her back and her arms broken from using her powers without protection. She uses Jemma’s nesting instinct and search history to arrange a meeting in an empty apartment. Daisy needs Jemma’s medical expertise and access to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s inner workings to confirm where the leaks about the Inhuman registry are coming from.
Coulson is on a mission of his own, tracking down where the ghosts came from. It leads him to a prison to talk with one of the last living survivors of the energy company that presumably spawned the ghosts in the first place. That prisoner just happened to Robbie Reyes’ uncle. A chance encounter in the parking lot leads to a Corvette vs. Charger car chase through L.A. that ends courtesy of a cloaked Quinjet.
This mixes up the personnel pairings to an entertaining degree. Daisy’s infiltration plan is short-circuited by Jemma merely exercising her authority. We get a reminder why Agent Coulson is lightyears better than Director Coulson ever was.
Once the strings are pulled, the two teams end in the same place. Daisy and Jemma discover that Hellfire is next on the Watchdogs’ hitlist, so they go to the fireworks store where he works, and Coulson and Ghost Rider go there, responding to an Inhuman asset that went off-line.
Of course, it’s all a huge trap. Hellfire, who has become just as big a ball of self-loathing as Daisy since we last saw him, is working with the Watchdogs to lure the infamous Quake out of hiding. The trap works up to a certain point; Daisy uses her powers to make an escape before getting cornered in a storage locker.
Ghost Rider comes in for a fun fire vs. fire battle with Hellfire surrounded by fireworks. The aftermath is predictably explosive, but Robbie does prove his good nature by bringing Hellfire back alive as ordered (the squad of Watchdogs … not so lucky).
We get a terse yet loving reunion between Papa Coulson and Daughter Daisy, along with the next stage of the mission. The Inhuman attacks are insignificant next to the Darkhold, the magical book that the ghosts are seeking. An impassioned plea leads to a fragile alliance and Daisy back home again with a MacGuffin to keep out of the wrong hands.
This episode felt like it was running in circles for most of the hour, but it snapped the trap shut at just the right time, like a good action show should. It also demonstrates S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s more nimble storytelling approach. In the old days, a change of momentum like this would have required two episodes and a guest spot from an Asgardian. Now it’s just another day at the office, much to everyone’s benefit.