Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire Review
“Well, whoever is running the ‘Terrible Ideas Division’ is crushing it.”
After an odd detour that redirected Agents’s focus towards the Watchdogs during the previous episode, the focus seems to be back on point with Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire. The Watchdogs are still in the story, but their presence here is integrated better and thus feels less like a distraction. There are still some rocky elements within this episode that don’t really come across as natural though. Coulson’s decision that Robbie could be an asset almost appears to come out of nowhere. Sure, viewers and fans know that he’s a good guy and the fact that Daisy trusts Robbie carries some weight, but he jumps straight to setting him free. It would seem that a few steps were skipped in favor of expediency there. However, with the exception of Fitz and Radcliffe’s plotline, it appears that the various disparate stories have begun to converge. Furthermore, while AIDA isn’t currently relevant to the central story, the subplot involving her avoids feeling too much like a non sequitur. The end result is an episode that, due to some shaky and rushed character moments, is definitely imperfect, but succeeds in progressing the plot and contextualizing many of the events that, until recently, appeared to be just a scattered array of disassociated elements.
Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire begins with Daisy enlisting Jemma’s aid in finding out how the Watchdogs are tracking Inhumans and in the standard removal of ballistics from flesh. The scenes in which Daisy and Jemma interact work more than they don’t, but there is a sense that the interplay between them being sped up for the sake of time. Jemma’s tendency towards obstinance has proven to be occasionally annoying in the past, but it works effectively at contrasting Daisy’s newly formed martyr complex. Their investigation doesn’t lead to any massively shocking reveals, though it did answer a question that I had had about a particular character from season 3. The biggest question I have, at this point, regarding the Watchdogs themselves is how exactly do they connect to the supernatural plot. As an antagonistic force, they haven’t really established a proper presence, instead relying on faceless goons to ironically serve as the faces of the organization. Felix Blake has potential as an enemy, but he hasn’t been seen since last season. At this point, we haven’t actually witnessed any connection between the Watchdogs and the supernatural happenings of this season; we’ve only been told about it. It’s starting to look like a classic dismissal of the “show, don’t tell” rule, and the Watchdogs’ role, despite feeling more natural in this episode, still feels like a large question mark hanging over the narrative.
The plot surrounding Coulson also has its fair share of questionable factors, but it largely succeeded in winning me over by taking the various plot threads and tying them together. It wasn’t the most elegant knot, but Agents has finally gotten Coulson, Daisy and Robbie all in the same place at the same time, so it still comes with a sense of relief and it gets topped off with an enjoyable fight scene at the end. Admittedly, much of Coulson’s role in this episode is technically that of the team builder. He spends the first half subduing/recruiting Robbie, and spends much of the second half doing the same with Daisy. He does use the middle section to get Robbie to speak with his uncle, Eli Morrow, which offers up some exposition regarding what was occurring at Momentum Labs. Much of it is information that could already be inferred from context, but it serves to set Coulson upon the path to seek out the Darkhold. Morrow himself is definitely a significant departure from the comics, but there is relatively little to define him so far. He claims that he attacked Joseph Bauer, Lucy’s husband, because he had gone too far and ended up killing the rest of the staff with an experiment gone haywire, but most of his dialogue in this episode is expository. This isn’t actually a complaint, but, as far as motivations are concerned, he remains enigmatic.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Oh, and through all of this Radcliffe and Fitz are using May to run their own Turing Test with Aida. It’s not a bad subplot and there is humor in May identifying with a machine, but you can see how it feels a bit like an afterthought.
- The effects work on Lucy when she wakes up Joseph looks a bit sketchy. It’s a minor complaint, given the effects heavy nature of the episode, but it definitely looks odd.
- There is a slight tongue-in-cheek approach to the writing in this episode, as a lot of it feels slightly sillier than usual. Some of it works, like with Coulson’s “You had to see that coming,” when two individuals with fire based abilities fall into a warehouse filled with fireworks, and some of it doesn’t, like with Simmons’ completely oblivious line at the beginning of the episode where she states, “Honestly, it was almost too good to be true.”
- The car chase where Mack and Coulson pursue Robbie is fun, but there one obvious shot where Mack’s much paler stunt double can be clearly identified.
- Robbie gets a chain!!! Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where what sounds like a run-of-the-mill Home Depot visit is actually quite awesome.
Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire is a little bit of a mess, but it puts Agents in a good position to move forward. The episode serves to get most of the major players all on the same page of the same book, and hopefully this will allow the show to move forward with a sense of cohesion between its various narrative components that has been absent for a while now.